Yup, you heard me. Pie for dinner. Pie for dessert is grand, too. Heck you can have pie for both courses. That’s some serious pie-on-pie action. This week, however, I want focus on pie as a main course. Savory Pies by Greg Henry (the man behind SippitySup) is a fantastic cookbook with a wealth of pie recipes that you can have for dinner, complete with the wines to pair with them. There are meat pies, vegetarian pies, hand pies. . . no cutie pies although his photography makes for excellent food porn.
Pie is a uniting factor. Granted, some folks are crust people and some are filling people, but everyone likes some kind of pie. I think even the way pies look is a metaphor for unity. Pie is round, a full circle, so perfect and whole. I am equal opportunity when it comes to pie. Gimme crust, gimme filling, I want it all.
Some might say I’m obsessed. A friend and I even host ‘pie parties’ a few times a year. We come up with a theme, then I devise a fitting pie and a drink to go with it. The parties started as teaching sessions where I tutored friends in crust technique. But after a while I realized that they weren’t using the skills I taught them to bake anything. They knew if they kept hanging around, eventually I would make more pie and save them the trouble. What I’m saying is I am not really all that popular as a person. I just have food groupies.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Pie is great, but crust is a chore. With practice you can learn to finesse your crust with ease. But you want pie for dinner tonight. So I am sharing a recipe I’ve made several times-which is rare for me as I am always moving on to test the next recipe on my ‘To Make’ list. This is a mac and cheese pie in a potato crust. There is no crust rolling and crimping. There is only glory.
I’ve made different adaptations of this pie based on what was in my kitchen at the time, and it has always worked out. ‘Tis the pie for all people, ’tis the pie for all seasons. Oh, and for those of you who do abstain from gluten, if you make this with gluten-free pasta you’ve got a gluten-free pie. Glory indeed.
One more note. As I mentioned, Savory Pies includes wine pairings. This pie calls for a Soave Classico, preferably Soave Superioré, a wine from Italy’s Veneto region. I did not have that but if I did, I’m sure it would have been swell. Now that you’ve got your pie and you’ve got your wine, throw a pie party! You might get groupies too. One pie. One love. Go.
Potato-Crusted Mac-n-Cheese Pie adapted from Savory Pies by Greg Henry
- 1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (I used red-skinned, the book calls for russet)
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt plus more if ya need it
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. truffle oil, optional (didn’t have but added a smidgen of truffle salt)
- 2 green onions, white, light green plus a little of the green parts, chopped
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp. oil (for greasing pan, I just used nonstick spray)
- 2 cups milk (I used almond, book calls for whole)
- 3 cups loosely packed grated cheese (book calls for asiago, I used cheddar and swiss)
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (mine was jarred, book calls for freshly grated)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 pound uncooked tube pasta (I used rotini, the book says you could use penne, rigatoni or macaroni)
- 12 fresh sage leaves, cut crosswise into thin strips
- The book calls for 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto cut into 1/2 inch ribbons but I left that out, being vegetarian)
- 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat sandwich bread, the book calls for crustless white sandwich bread)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for the table.
Start your taters! Put the potatoes and 1/2 tsp. salt in a large saucepan and add water to cover them by one inch. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook. When potatoes start to fall apart if you poke them with a fork (20-ish minutes), strain them and put back in the hot dry saucepan. Put the heat on low and cook them, shaking the pan, to evaporate more water. This will be about 4 minutes. Take off heat, let them cool a little, then mash ’em (I used a fork) or put through a ricer. Add the butter, truffle oil (if ya got it), and green onions. Add some salt and pepper to taste and allow to cool a wee bit.
Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. The original recipe calls for greasing the bottom of a nine or ten inch springform pan with the oil, but I had made a scaled down version in a square loaf pan that worked out fine. I imagine a pie plate would probably be okay too. Once you’ve greased your pan, press the potatoes in evenly over the bottom and bake until the edges get a bit browned, around 25 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Take off heat and add the cheese, red pepper and nutmeg. Let cool a little then whisk in the eggs. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cook your pasta, following the directions on the package, until al dente. Drain it well.
Fold together the cheese mixture, pasta and sage. If you are using prosciutto add it in stages so it does not clump. Spread 3/4 of this mixture evenly over the potato crust, pressing down to fill and gaps. Take the rest of the mixture and just heap it in there decoratively. Top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Put on a rimmed baking sheet and cook until browned, around 40 minutes.
Allow to cool fifteen minutes. If you used the springform pan run a knife around the edge and remove the mold. Slice and eat warm, adding extra Parmesan to taste.