Pie a la Mom
I’m not sure if it’s the cooler weather, if my mind is subconsciously preparing for the holidays, or if something deep within me is responding to year after year of attending “Pie Parties” in preparation for Asbury Pie Café – an outreach ministry in Albuquerque that serves over 15,000 slices of pie each year at the New Mexico State Fair and uses the proceeds to provide food for those in need via 10 local charities – but for some reason I have pie on the mind. Trying to visualize a pie party? Imagine Santa’s Workshop but swap out elves for church members and toys for pies and you’ve pretty much got it. I spent many a Sunday afternoon, along with a few dozen friends and family, preparing as many pies as possible. So, I guess you could say that pie has a special place in my heart as well as my belly.
Whatever the reason, pie has been making regular appearances on our table lately. In addition to the berry pie that’s been made no fewer than three times in the last few weeks, we’ve also enjoyed savory pies in the form of Chicken Pot Pie and today’s recipe offering, Shepherd’s Pie. I don’t know where I first encountered a Shepherd’s Pie but suspect it was probably in a Jane Austen novel. I can’t recall my mom making a Shepherd’s Pie when I was growing up but I distinctly remember the day I looked up the recipe in one of my cookbooks and decided to put those leftover mashed potatoes to good use. For those unfamiliar with this culinary treat, Shepherd’s Pie, or Cottage Pie as it’s also known, is essentially a one-crust pie with meat and veg that’s topped with mashed potatoes. While I think of it as a perfect way to use up extra mashed potatoes, the pie was originally conceived as a way to use up leftover meat. Evidently some people actually have leftover meat, not something I generally have to worry about with my carnivorous husband. The thing I particularly like about this dish is that it’s warm, filling, and hearty, offering the benefits of a full meal with all the fixin’s in one simple dish. Plus, when you’re using leftover mashed potatoes, it goes together in a snap. In case you haven’t noticed, brevity of preparation is pretty high on my list of requirements if a recipe is going to be made with any sort of consistency in my kitchen. It can even be made sans crust if you’re so inclined though I’m always looking for an excuse to sink my teeth into some flaky pie crust. My friends have a tendency to refer to me as the girl who “makes everything” which is not entirely true. I AM the girl who is game to try making just about anything because I thoroughly enjoy the cooking process and often find it tastes better and costs less. There are a few things that I almost always make from scratch and pie crust is one of those items. I find it takes all of five minutes and, in my opinion, the difference in taste is significant. So, I’ve included for you my new favorite pie crust recipe. I was able to get 3 crusts out of this one recipe which meant I had plenty of dough for my main dish and two more rounds of dough just screaming at me to be baked into a delicious dessert. You could also use one recipe to make an extra thick pie crust for a standard pie if you want or use a third of it and toss the rest into the freezer for later.
As we head into this holiday season, may you find the time to gather round with friends and family and dig in to some delicious pie!
The Home Grown Mom’s Perfect Pie Crust
3 c flour (white or whole wheat will work)
1 c butter flavored Crisco (I know, I know but it’s really the best.)
5 Tbsp. ice water
1 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1-2 eggs (1 for the mixture and 1 for the wash unless you’re making only 2 crusts in which case see note below)
- Combine flour and salt and use a pastry knife to cut in the Crisco till the mixture is well blended with mostly lentil-sized chunks.
- Crack one egg into a small dish and whisk briefly before adding to your crust. Wash that dish and add cold water and a few ice cubes. Swirl the cubes around to get the water nice and cold and then scoop out 5 tablespoons of ice water and add to your mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar and mix until the dough is well combined.
- Divide dough into thirds and shape each third into a round and somewhat flattened disk. Place each disk between two sheets of wax paper and set in the refrigerator or freezer to cool while you prep the insides. For what it’s worth, if you happen to have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend weighing each third to ensure you’re evenly dividing the dough. I always used to eyeball it and then purchased a scale to weigh my bread dough and discovered the source of my uneven loaves.
- When you’re ready to roll out your crust, take one disk out of the fridge but leave it in between the sheets of wax paper. Then, take your rolling pin and roll into desired size and shape while the dough is between the wax paper. Once you’ve got the size and shape where you want it, peel back the top portion of wax paper and place the dough in your pie dish then peel off the other piece of wax paper. My mom passed this technique on to me and it is absolute genius.
NOTE: If you want to make only two crusts, reduce as follows:
2 cups flour
2/3 cup butter flavored Crisco
3+ Tbsp. ice water (add more if your dough seems especially dry but do so in 1 tsp. increments)
½ Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. salt
Follow above directions EXCEPT, in step two, after whisking your egg, pour half of it into another bowl and set aside for later. When you’re ready to fill your pie, brush the inside of the pie crust with the egg, fill with desired filling, top with second crust and brush the top with the remaining egg. If you’re baking a fruit pie, be sure to sprinkle some sugar on top.
The Home Grown Mom’s Shepherd Pie
1 lb. ground beef
2 ½ – 3 cups mashed potatoes
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic
¼ c mushrooms, diced
1 c vegetables of your choice (I always use carrots and peas and typically throw in whatever else is laying around and sounds good. Feel free to beef up the vegetables per your tastes – there’s no wrong combination here! Also, I have been known to use frozen veggies – scandal!)
1 cube beef bouillon
¼ c flour
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 c water
3 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 Tbsp. dried
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. thyme
Salt to taste
- In large skillet, sauté onion and garlic until fragrant (about 2 minutes) and add beef. Brown meat until it is fully cooked.
- Add mushrooms and other vegetables and stir to combine.
- Crush beef bouillon on top of the mixture and then sprinkle ¼ cup of flour on top of that and stir to ensure the flour and bouillon are evenly distributed.
- Add 1 cup of water, Worcestershire Sauce, and seasonings. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken, approximately 5-10 minutes, adjusting seasonings to taste. NOTE: If you don’t happen to have a ginormous Rosemary bush in your front yard, feel free to come steal a few sprigs off of mine. I assure you I will not miss it.
- While the mixture is cooking, get your pie crust and roll it out to desired shape and thickness.
- OPTIONAL: Crack an egg into a dish and whisk briefly, then brush the inside of the pie crust with the egg to prevent the crust from getting soggy.
- Pour meat and veg mixture into your prepared crust.
- Top with your mashed potatoes then place in 400° oven and cook for 20ish minutes. At this point, everything but the pie crust is cooked so you’re really just looking to heat the potatoes through and get a nice brown color to your crust.
- Remove from oven and allow the pie to sit for just a few minutes before you slice into it. Then, dish it up and enjoy!