Last night’s dinner was really fun to make. I was reading a cook book my friend Tom had loaned to me and was really enjoying studying the recipes. The book is called Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni. It was written for Italians but was translated with recipes fully tested for countries like The United States and England. It was published in 1969. The approach to cookbook writing and publishing has certainly changed today. This book focused on the food, not the chef! The book is broken into regions which she talks about and then gives recipes for typical food from the area. The recipes are no-nonsense with no pictures. If you are a beginning cook it might be a little dry or hard to imagine what the final dish is going to look like?
I have to say, I found it refreshing. I love to read a recipe and do the task in my mind as I go. There were recipes for fish soups, anchovy pie, pickled eggplants, stewed pigeons (which we joked about making!), eels in vinegar – very intriguing. I may have to tell Tom that the dog ate the book!
Anyway, I read a recipe for a cheese pie and though the crust sounded easy and sturdy? I did not want to make a cheese pie but I though I could use the crust and make a meat filling with the ground pork I had sitting in the fridge. I also had cilantro and thought they would go well together. I used the same approach to making the filling that I might use when making shepherd’s pie (using flour to thicken and a broth and various seasoning ingredients). I wanted it to be simple, no vegetables – just a straight forward Pork Pie! I changed the crust recipe a little by adding another egg to the dough.
The pie was really great. It set up and sliced wonderfully. I cooked a few vegetables on the side and I felt like we were eating a medieval feast. There is something so old-fashioned about savory pies. I don’t know why, but I think of industrious country people cooking dinner for big crowds, rolling out doughs and filling them with meats and fish and cheeses which have all been grown or hunted from near-by fields ( a little romantic I know, but, that’s what food does to me) So, thank you Ada Boni for taking me to regional Italy in the 1960’s and inspiring the dinner I made last night!
Pie Crust Ingredients: 3 cups unbleached white flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (12 tbs or 6 oz), 3 eggs plus 1 beaten egg for egg wash.
Make the Pie Crust:
1 – Put flour along with salt in big bowl and use a manual whisk to incorporate. Add butter and work into flour with your fingertips until you have a crumbly meal consistency.
2 – Crack eggs into small bowl and whisk with a fork. Make a well in your flour and add 3 eggs. Mix until you have one solid ball of dough (use a wooden spoon or your hands). Set the dough aside in the bowl, (covered with a cloth) while making the filling.
Meat filling Ingredients: 1 1/2 lbs ground pork, 1 sweet onion, diced, 4 cloves garlic, chopped, 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coarse salt, 2 tbs flour, 1 cup chicken broth, 3 tbs butter.
1 – Put saute pan on medium and melt 1 1/2 tbs of the butter. Add the ground pork and garlic and break it up with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2 – Add the flour and cumin and mix. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro and stir. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3 – Add rest of butter to pan and cook the onion on low for 15 minutes until very soft.
4 – Turn heat up and add the stock. When it boils add the meat. Stir everything together and take off of heat.
Preheat oven 375*
5 – Divide dough into 2 pieces, one being slightly larger than the other. Sprinkle a little flour onto a work surface and flatten the dough with your palm into a disc. Using a rolling-pin, roll out until it is large enough to line your pie pan. (it doesn’t have to be perfect – mine looked like a weird amoeba, but it worked!)
6 – Scrape the filling into the shell with a spatula and roll the other piece of dough out to cover the top. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork. Pierce the surface with a fork and brush beaten egg over the surface – you will probably have egg left over. (You can get fancy and make shapes with the leftover bits of dough and add to the top with your egg wash?). Place in oven for 1 hour.
*While pie is cooking, make the vegetable side dish.
Side dish ingredients: 12 0z green beans, washed and cut in half or 3 pieces if long, 1 yellow squash, diced, 1 big shallot, diced, 2 cloves garlic, slices, 1 tsp mild curry powder, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil.
1 – Put pot of water on to boil. When boiling, add a tsp salt and add green beans. Time for 5 minutes. Drain and run cold water over them. Set aside.
2 – In the meantime put saute pan on medium heat and add the oil. Saute shallots and garlic for 3 minutes. Add squash and cook for another 3 minutes. Add curry powder and cook for another minute.
3 – Add broth and let it come to a boil. Add green beans. Turn off heat. Taste for salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.