Fruit pies, cream pies, cute little tarts. Love ’em all. But one does not live by sweets alone.
We love savory pies, too. Hand pies like empanadas and pasties. Phyllo pies filled with spinach. Flaky, crusted pies packed with meats or vegetables or seafood. Cornmeal-crusted chili pies and shepherd’s pies with mashed potatoes handling top-crust duties.
It’s not surprising that pies – savory or sweet – resonate with us.
“It’s often the nostalgia and comforting thoughts they conjure up that make the pies seem to taste all the more delicious,” writes Angela Boggiano in “Pie” (Mitchell Beazley, $24.99), her book celebrating an array of savory pies, from beef and ale to fish.
For Warren Brown, it’s the versatility of pies that prompted his latest book, “Pie Love: Inventive Recipes for Sweet and Savory Pies, Galettes, Pastry Cremes, Tarts, and Turnovers” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95). The founder-owner of the D.C.-based CakeLove bakeries and host of Food Network’s “Sugar Rush” enjoys sweets, of course, but loves cooking savory. Which is why Brown has tucked five favorites (“recipes I make at home with my family,” he writes) among the book’s tarts and turnovers, including shepherd’s pie and Jamaican beef patties.
“You can just be very creative with a savory pie,” adds Brown during a phone chat. Especially with the color variations from different crusts, whether it’s the cheese crust he uses in a meatball pie or the paprika crust he suggests for a chicken pie.
His advice for novice crust-makers?
“Make a sandwich out of parchment paper, then use it to roll out the dough,” he says. “Think of the round as a clock. Roll out to 12 o’clock, then turn the dough five minutes, roll to 12 o’clock, turn five minutes – that really helps to do a nice round crust.
“And hold the pin itself, not the handles,” he adds. “If you hold the handles, you lose a lot of control.”
The following recipe is adapted from Angela Boggiano’s “Pie.” The author suggests using a shallow metal pan “to ensure the base stays crispy.” She also uses a good-quality sausage meat. Our test kitchen found a mix of ground pork (half regular grind, half coarser grind) worked well.
Sausage, Apple and Sage Pie
1¾ cups flour
½ stick (¼ cup) butter
¼ cup lard or shortening
2 to 3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 pound good-quality sausage meat or ground pork (half standard grind, half coarse grind)
1 tablespoon each: whole- grain mustard, chopped fresh sage
2 small apples, peeled, cored, chopped
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sift flour and pinch of salt into a bowl. Cut fat into cubes; add to flour. Use your fingertips to rub fat into the flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add water very gradually, stirring with a knife. When dough just starts to stick together, knead lightly until it forms a ball. (Or, pulse flour and salt in a food processor. Add cold butter; pulse until crumbly. Add lard and 2 tablespoons water; pulse. Add remaining tablespoon water; pulse again. Turn onto counter; shape into a ball.)
Wrap pastry ball in plastic wrap; let rest in refrigerator, at least 15 minutes. (Store for up to 2 days in the refrigerator; or freeze until ready to use.)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out a little less than half the pastry; use to line a shallow 9-inch pie plate. Roll out remaining pastry about ¾-inch larger than the pie plate; set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions; cook gently until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add meat to onions. Cook until meat is browned, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon and breaking up meat, 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in mustard, sage, apples and creme fraiche or sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well; allow to cool.
Pile cooled meat-apple mixture into pastry-lined pie plate. Brush edges of pastry with beaten egg. Top with remaining rolled-out pastry, sealing edges by pressing down well. Trim off excess pastry. Crimp edges with a fork or between your thumb and index finger. Brush top with remaining egg. Make a hole or several slashes in the top to release steam. Bake, 40-45 minutes.
Makes one 9-inch pie, 4-6 servings.
Per serving (for 6 servings): 508 calories, 37g fat, 13g saturated fat, 85mg cholesterol, 39g carbohydrates, 13g protein, 539mg sodium, 3g fiber.