The Other Life of Pie [UPDATED]Published 4:27pm Monday, August 12, 2013 Updated 4:30pm Monday, August 12, 2013
Ahhh, pie – - which is your favorite? Apple, cherry, blueberry? Or perhaps, mashed potatoes, spinach, goat cheese? Wait a minute, I thought we were talking about pie? We are, but these pies have an alternate lifestyle away from the dessert category — pies that serve as a main course or a hearty side dish.
Historically, the first pies were probably not sweet, but rather filled with meats, cheese and various bits of other ingredients. Remember the nursery rhyme, four and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie? Early crusts were not light and flaky but were considered a “container” for the pie for ease of carrying. The life of savory pies awaits you. (PS: No blackbirds were involved in the following recipes!)
Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally a comfort food from the U.K. made with lamb and a few vegetables. This pie’s alternate lifestyle uses ground beef and Indian spices.
1# ground beef (could use lamb or turkey) 1 small onion, diced
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (corn/peas/beans/carrots), thawed and drained
2 T. tomato paste 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. freshly ground ginger root 2 T. flour
3/4 tsp. curry powder 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper 1-1/2 cups low-sodium beef stock
Paprika sprinkled for topping
Brown the ground beef in large skillet. Drain and set aside. In same skillet, saute onion and mixed vegetables until heated through. Drain and set aside. In same skillet, add 1 tsp. olive oil and “fry” the tomato paste about 30 seconds, until it releases some aroma. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder, and saute for about 1 minute. Add beef, salt, pepper, and flour. Fry for a couple minutes until flour is absorbed, then add stock and cook until thickened. Add vegetable mixture, stir until combined and heated through. Put this mixture into casserole dish (or divide between individual ramekins). Top with mashed potato mixture (below) by piping or simply spreading. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 400° for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. If you wish, you may put under the broiler for a few minutes to enhance browning.
Mashed Potato Topping
1 1/2# Yukon Gold potatoes 6 oz. soft “French type” goat cheese
1/2 – 3/4 cup half and half 2 T. butter Salt/pepper to taste
Boil or steam the potatoes until fork tender. Drain, then return to pan over low heat for a few minutes to get rid of any remaining water. Add butter and goat cheese, roughly mash. Add 1/2 cup half and half, whip with mixer – add remaining half and half as needed to create creamy mashed potatoes that will spread or go through a piping tube.
Greek spinach pie, Spanikopita, is one of our favorite savory pies. One of its characteristics is the use of flaky phyllo dough. This pie’s alternate lifestyle uses all the basics but adds easy preparation and some presentation “flair” by putting the phyllo on top. Serve as a brunch dish or as a dinner main course with a Greek salad. Your guests will be celebrating and shouting, “OPAH!”
1 T. olive oil 2 medium onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 pkgs. frozen chopped spinach,
(10 ounces each), thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 # feta cheese, crumbled 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs 2 T. dried dill weed
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 oz. phyllo dough sheets, thawed, thinly sliced into strips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare pan with vegetable spray.
Make the filling: In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 T. oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and 1 tsp. salt; cook until garlic is tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl; stir in spinach, feta, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, dill weed, and 1 tsp. pepper. Fold in eggs until combined. Pour mixture into a 9” springform pan or a 9 1/2” deep-dish pie plate; press firmly to pack and flatten.
Make the topping: Spread phyllo strips on large baking sheet to separate, spray generously with olive oil/vegetable oil spray, toss until coated. Cover the top evenly with phyllo, letting the strips have peaks and valleys. Bake until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Story by Sandra Thimgan Photos by Daniel Thimganᕩ