Say the word pie and most people turn their thoughts to apple, cherry or coconut cream.
But long before pie was reserved for the dessert cart, pies were savory fare crusts filled with meat, vegetables and gravy, eggs, cheese, seafood or other sauces. Baking ingredients inside a crust was a good way to use up leftovers or to turn just a small amount of meat into heartier fare.
Turkey, chicken, beef or even ham, combined with gravy, potatoes and other vegetables, baked into a rich crust is one of the ultimate comfort foods.
Classic pot pie is one of the best-loved savory pies, and can be made with or without a bottom crust. Ladle hot filling into bakers or ramekins, and all the dish needs is a topper of pie crust or puff pastry to give it a golden brown finish.
While it looks time-consuming, a chicken pot pie can be quickly assembled using meat from a rotisserie chicken, frozen vegetables, and pre-made pie crust or thawed sheets of frozen puff-pastry dough.
Still, theres more to a savory pie than chicken pot pie. For inspiration, look to the British.
Tart It Up! (Mitchell Beazley, $19.99), a new book from British food television chef Eric Lanlard, is devoted to sweet and savory pies and tarts.
Lanlard offers all kinds of traditional European meat pies: French quiche Lorraine, Brittany seafood tart, and Iberian Chicken Pie laced with paprika and cayenne pepper.
British chef Jamie Oliver, in his new book Jamie Olivers Great Britain (Hyperion, $35), explores British pub fare and comfort foods, from shepherds pie under a crown of mashed potatoes to Cornish pasties, which were the traditional lunch for tin miners in Englands Cornwall County.
When those miners immigrated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for work, they brought the tradition of pasties with them, where it remains to this day. Eating these savory hand pies is still a big attraction for visitors to the Upper Peninsula.
With colder weather upon us, it doesnt take much work to bake some comfort food under a crust.
PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees and spray 6 (2-cup) ramekins with nonstick cooking spray.
PLACE the potatoes in a large pot of water, bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. (If potatoes are large, halve or quarter before cooking.)
HEAT the oil in a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken and peas and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
MELT the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour, salt and pepper and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add the chicken broth, whisking until thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Stir in the potatoes.
DIVIDE the filling among the prepared ramekins. Cut the puff pastry into 6 (5-inch) rounds and place over the filling. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puff pastry is golden brown. Let the pies sit for 10 minutes before serving.YIELD: 6 servings. Iberian Chicken Pie From “Tart It Up! Sweet & Savory Tarts & Pies,” by Eric Lanlard (Mitchell Beazley, 2012). 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 pound raw, boneless chicken, cut into bite-size cubes 7 ounces chorizo, sliced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained 2 teaspoon paprika 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 recipe flaky pastry dough (see recipe) All-purpose flour, for rolling out crust 1 egg, beaten Salt and freshly ground black pepper
HEAT the butter and oil in a skillet and saute the chicken over medium heat until it starts to brown. Remove and set aside. Add the chorizo to the skillet and saute for a few minutes until it starts to release its oil, then add the garlic and cayenne and cook a minute or so, stirring to make sure they don’t burn.
ADD the tomatoes and paprika and return the chicken to the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Spoon into a large 3- to 3 1/2-quart ovenproof dish.
ROLL out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Brush the rim of the ovenproof dish with some of the beaten egg. Cover the pie with the pastry and trim off any excess. Use the trimmings to make leaf shapes to decorate the top of the pastry, if desired, using the beaten egg to hold them in place. Press the pastry edges against the rim of the dish to seal. Brush the pastry all over with more beaten egg.
BAKE for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the pie is crisp and golden.YIELD: 6 servings. Flaky Pastry Dough Adapted from “Tart It Up! Sweet & Savory Tarts & Pies,” by Eric Lanlard. 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting 1 teaspoon salt 12 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chopped into pieces 1 egg, beaten 1 tablespoon milk
SIFT the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
MAKE a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Again using your fingertips, mix together to make a smooth dough.
TURN the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead two or three times. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes before using.YIELD: Enough pastry for a 9-inch tart pan. Early Autumn Cornish Pasties From “Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain” (Hyperion, 2012). Pastry: 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting Sea salt 8 ounces cold unsalted butter 1 large egg, beaten Filling: 12 ounces skirt steak 1 white onion, peeled 1 white potato, peeled 1 small zucchini 1 small carrot, peeled 7 ounces butternut squash, cut into 1/3-inch cubes 1 whole nutmeg, for grating Sea salt and white pepper A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme, leaves picked Olive oil
POUR the flour into a bowl, season it with a pinch of salt, then use your thumbs and forefingers to rub in the butter. Add 3/4 cup of water and use your hands to quickly mix it up. As it comes together, squeeze, hug and pat it together crudely and imperfectly. Add a bit more water if needed, but don’t overwork it.
PREHEAT the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the steak and the vegetables into 1/3-inch dice, then put into a bowl, finely grate over a quarter of the nutmeg and add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Finely chop the rosemary and thyme leaves and add to the filling. Drizzle in a little olive oil, then mix well and put aside.
CUT the pastry into 6 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour, then pat and push each piece of pastry out to the thickness of a quarter, dusting and turning as you go. Repeat until you have 6 rounds roughly 8 inches in diameter.
GET a little filling, compact it in your hand, and place it in the middle of one of the pastry rounds, leaving a border around the edge. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg and fold the pastry over the meat and vegetables. Place on baking sheet dusted with flour and repeat with remaining dough.
PRESS the edges to seal. Brush with beaten egg and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden.YIELD: 6 pasties. Recipes inside