It's a Good Day to Eat Pie
Saturday is Pi Day -- 3.14.15. It's only going to occur once this century. So, naturally, you're going to want to celebrate by making some delicious, delicious pie.
But how? I hear you ask. What if I am no good at making pie crust?
I understand your worry. Pie crust is daunting if you've never made it before. And those refrigerator rolls of pie crust usually taste like you're chewing on a sheet of cardboard. But that needn't keep you from enjoying pie on Saturday. There are lots of ways to enjoy pie without giving yourself a crash course in pastry making. Here are five pies you can make without ever picking up a rolling pin.
Greek-style meat pie
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced fine
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (you can substitute ground beef if you can't find lamb)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried mint flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 6-8 oz. plain tomato sauce, like Hunt's
- 3 tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed
- Melted butter for brushing the pies
Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent, then add the garlic and saute for two minutes more. Add in the ground meat and cook until brown. Pour off the excess fat, then add the spices and tomato sauce and cook, stirring, until the whole mixture is warmed through. The mixture should be moist but not soaked in sauce. Mix in the pine nuts and cheese, then salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool.
Meanwhile, cut the phyllo dough in half lengthwise and cover with a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Place one sheet of phyllo in front of you, longways, and brush it with butter. Now place a spoonful of the meat mixture on the end closest to you, and fold the phyllo in half so that the meat mixture is covered. Take the right-hand corner closest to you and fold it toward the opposite side so that it makes a triangle. Brush with butter, then flip your triangle away from you, so that the triangle is on top of the phyllo dough, flush with the left-hand edge. Keep folding and flipping triangles, brushing with butter as you go, until you reach the end of the piece of phyllo. Repeat the process with the remaining phyllo and meat mixture. These can be made ahead and frozen for up to a week, or kept for several hours in the refrigerator, covered with a damp towel.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and bake on a cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. Serve with Greek yogurt blended with a few cloves of garlic for dipping. If you want the pies to have more of a bite, toss in a teaspoon or so of Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
Chicken and mushroom pot pie with biscuit crust
If you want something more pastry-like, you can top with frozen puff pastry instead. Just thaw and cut it to fit the size of your pan.
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 4 slices bacon, diced coarsely
- 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
- 1 1/2 pounds button or cremini (Baby Bella) mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry
- Biscuits (see below)
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, simmer the chicken in the broth until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve the broth in a measuring cup while putting the meat on a plate or in a bowl. Raise heat to medium-high, and saute the bacon until moderately crispy. Add onions and mushrooms to the pan, cooking until the onions begin to brown. While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken meat into bite-size pieces.
When the vegetables are done, add them to the plate or bowl with the chicken. In your now-empty pot, heat butter over medium heat until it has melted and begins to bubble. Stir in the flour and blend thoroughly. Cook until bubbling, then whisk in the milk, reserved broth, thyme and sage. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook, stirring with the whisk, until the sauce thickens, 2-5 minutes. Add back in the reserved chicken and vegetables, then top with your favorite biscuit recipe (a mix like Bisquick is fine; do not use refrigerator biscuits). Bake at 375 degrees until biscuit tops are golden and filling is bubbling, 30-40 minutes.
I don't need to tell you how to make this, do I? It's meat, slow-braised or ground, with some sort of tomatoish sauce, topped with mashed potatoes. You probably already have a recipe, but if you don't, Epicurious has good ones, both plain and fancy.
No-bake lemon pie with cookie crust
I could pretend I had my own recipe for this, but in fact, I just use this one, with great results. I prefer to use McVities Digestive Biscuits rather than graham crackers, an adaptation that was born out of necessity when I was living in England but turned out to be superior. Nilla wafers also make a nice cookie crust.
But these are more like ... cookies, I hear you say, in a small, uncertain voice. Yes, but they're called pies, and that's good enough for me. Also, they are awesomely delicious. I like this Emeril Lagasse recipe, but really, there are many good recipes out there, and you should feel free to pick one that sounds good. Unless it involves marshmallows. Those recipes are for people who have confused whoopie pies with Mallomars. You're not one of those people, are you?
See? You can have pie without needing to make pie crust. So go forth and celebrate!
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