Thursday, May 31, 2012

hand to hand

from my hands in the kitchen, to our hands for lunch... small pies are only a few bites to eat, so much less untidy when out and about. This time I made two different fillings, my favorite Icelandic chicken (bacon/chicken/sage) and a not-really-spanikopita (spinach/mushooms/feta) and I made some "renaissance pastry" to use as a crust, basically a standard piecrust strengthened with the addition of an egg yolk mixed in. Used some of the good lard from New Seasons instead of butter, as the last time I used that there was a definite increase in flakiness and tastiness of the crust.

To prep the fillings, I sauteed a double handful of chopped up mushrooms, let them cool and mixed in spinach and about a third of a pound of mild feta. As an experiment, I tried the pre-chopped frozen organic spinach from Trader Joes. Never again!! Yes, it was chopped, but there were not only a LOT of large tough stems, but a lot of unknown undesirably yellow and brown leafage. It took over an hour to sort out the less desirable vegetation from the nice soft leaves. Next time I will start with fresh spinach, it is faster and cheaper. (with the spinach, it is always necessary to really squeeze out the excess fluid before using it as a filling, lest your pies be all watery inside) The chicken thighs simply chopped into chunks and partially cooked, again so as to be neither too juicy or to shrink down inside the pies.

The addition of one egg yolk makes a huge difference in how the crust handles. Rather than roll out and cut circles, I just cut the piecrust into a dozen even chunks and patted them out into rough circles, dolloped the filling (for the spinach), or layered a half bacon slice, some chicken chunks and a couple of fresh sage leaves, and just like playdough raised the edges and sealed them. It seemed like a good idea to differentiate the veggie from the chook pies, so the veggie got wavy crimps on top, and the chook got the crimps on the bottom and three little crust dots on the top. Final flourish was a bit of egg wash (an egg yolk stirred up with a bit of water, brushed over the uncooked crust.

Ta da... I may have been a bit overenthusiastic with the amount of filling vs the thinness of the crust, as a few of the spinach ones burst open a bit. Was okay, allowed a bit of taste testing on the one with the largest blow-out... Very tasty, if a wee bit bland. Next time will probably up the amount of feta, and add a bit more seasoning, there is always room for improvement, which is why cooking is an art and not a science. I know from experience that the chook ones are very tasty indeed, bacon and sage and chicken are a favored combination, and I had to restrain myself from testing one of those as well.

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