Monday, August 12, 2013

Tame the tiger in the palm of your hand.

I love the Renaissance Faire! How can you not? It's a place where you can walk around wearing corsets and crazy masks and articulated puppets without being told to grow up or put on some real clothes. It's a place where real music still sometimes rears its head and honest to goodness fire-swallowers try their best to impress the heck out of you. (They always do.) The Ren faire is this magical idealized version of a time where there were not nearly so many privies scattered about or quite so many microphones sewn onto costumes, but we love it anyway for the charm and merriment and total weirdness it encourages. 

I go to the Pennsylvania Renaissance faire as often as I can and, being the person that I know you now suspect me to be, I spend a whole lot of time being enamored by the food. The Faire has been hoarding an ever-growing collection of imaginative and delicious vegetarian dishes, of which my new favorite is their Tiger Pie. 

Oh, what's that? You've never heard of a tiger pie? Hit up my buddy Google and you'll find that it is not a dish of the renaissance but rather, a dish of a small establishment in Australia. The simple concept of which is a flaky crust topped with your choice of filling, a generous helping of mashed potatoes, and a smattering of sweet green peas. You're also encouraged to spoon a bit of gravy in there if it suits you. Essentially, it's a classed-up, year-round version of every open-faced after-holiday sandwich you've ever dreamed of. Oh HECK yes.


Now if only you knew how to make it handheld. 

For mushroom filling:

3/4 cups chopped carrots
1/2 a diced onion
3 cloves fresh, minced garlic
10 oz. package cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
3/4 lb fresh, diced tomato
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 c. Dried lentils
1/8-1/4 c. Red wine
2 1/2 c. Hearty vegetable broth
Tiny splash of balsamic vinegar
Light sprinkling of salt and pepper

For crust:

3 cups flour
2 cups cold, salted butter-chopped into small cubes
1 cup cold water
Dash of salt

For mashed potatoes:

5 cloves garlic
4 c. cubed potatoes
1/2 c. Sour cream
1 TB. Fresh chopped chives
Plenty of salt and pepper to taste. 
Whole stick of butter. No joke. 

For minted peas:

1 c. Frozen green peas
3-4 fresh mint leaves
Wee bit of salt 

And, of course, a hearty dose of olive oil to lube every surface being used. 

This recipe is not difficult, but it does have a lot of components to it. If you're clever and manage your time well, it should take about 2.5-3 hours from start to finish, including time in the oven. But if you want to be more relaxed about it, do whatever you'd like. I'll be writing this for the efficient little freak in all of us in case yours decides it wants to play today. 

First, we start with the filling!

Just about every food I make starts out with some form of "take large pan. Put in oil. Chop garlic and onions and cook until translucent." THIS IS NO DIFFERENT. Well, maybe a little different. In addition to putting the 3 cloves of garlic and half a diced onion into the giant pan over medium heat, you will also be adding the cup of cut carrots. Don't know what carrots look like when cut and measured into a cup? Let me show you!

If I take another nondescript picture of onions and garlic in a pan I'm going to lose my mind. Figured we'd go for a change in scenery. 

Once the previously mention translucence of the garlic and onion is achieved, you should notice that the carrots are slightly softened. PERFECT. It's at this point that you're going to want to add your chopped mushrooms. I find I like the rustic randomly-hunked-up mushroom texture but hey, if you want your pieces thin and uniform that's your deal man, and I applaud you for taking your own path. Right on. 

While the mushrooms are getting themselves nice and sautéed with those onions and carrots, dice up your tomatoes. 

Mmm, tomatoes. The purpose of the tomatoes is to add a bit of acid and lliquid as well as a slight sweetness and that distinctly tomato-style savoryness that only this nightshade could bring. So, when you cut these bad boys, make sure to scoot all those tasty tomato guts straight into the pot, too. Then top the lot with your sprig of rosemary and cover it for a bit to encourage the tomatoes to soften and spread their sweet sweet lovin to the rest of the party. You're going to want to lower the temperature to medium-low rather than straight-up medium. Oh, and go ahead and give it that small splash of balsamic before covering it up. 

It's at this point that you'll want to start making your pie dough. 

I get a lot of flak for binge-watching cooking shows like Iron Chef but gosh darn if I don't somehow learn stuff from them! In one episode, someone started putting stuff in a food processor and all I can remember is Alton Brown saying "looks like they're going for a classic 3-2-1 pie crust!" The three being three parts flour, the two being two parts fat, and the one being one part water. SO. To make this as simple as possible, I went for the literal translation: three cups flour, two cups butter, one cup water. And a wee bit of salt because WHY NOT. 

You would assume from this photo that I, too, performed the food processor maneuver. BUT YOU WOULD BE INCORRECT. Apparently my food processor has not miraculously recovered from the last time I used it to make hummus and tragically managed to destroy it. Having completely forgotten said event ever occurred, I was quite befuddled when the blade made but one rotation and then smelled suspiciously of burning electronics. 

Whatever. Just means you've got to squish the butter and water into the flour by hand. Gosh, what a terribly difficult solution. I recommend putting the flour Into a very large bowl and dousing it with the water. Mix them together until they're good and familiar with one another and start chucking your diced up butter in one handful at a time. Make sure to take care to evenly squeeze the butter chunks in throughout the dough between handfuls. 

The end result will be a bit chunky and uneven and that's EXACTLY what we're looking for. Those little hunks of butter studded throughout the otherwise firm dough are just how I remember it from the thanksgivings of my youth. That smooth and characterless dough they sell in supermarkets is a cryin' shame. 

Cover your dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in a not-warm but not-cool place. 

By now, the mushroom mixture should be Gettin' all bubbly-like. Perfect! Take this opportunity to add the lentils, veggie broth, and wine. Cover it again and let simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are plump and soft. 

Don't know a darned thing about wine? Neither do I! Neither the hunky-dreamy nor I drink so we were both kind of concerned that we'd end up getting stuck with a huge bottle of wine to throw away afterwards. NOPE. 

Turns out wine is sometimes sold in tiny little bottles! Perfect! Now I must say I suspect that this wine is of no actual quality for a number of reasons. One, I found it in the same isle as the boxed wines, which indicates to me that it's probably of the same assuredly lackluster character. Two, it's only two years old. As far as I know, wine is better if it's older. And three? It tastes and smells EXACTLY like Manischewitz. If they're willing to give that stuff to pre-teens then I'm pretty sure it's not worth drinking on the regular, so neither must this be. 

The point is, really, that you can probably use just any old wine. I'd been playing with the idea of adding some to compliment the rich, earthy flavors throughout the rest of the filling and it turns out to have been a smart bet. There's just a bit of warmth that the addition lends that I suspect would be missing without it but, hey, if you don't want to bother just use a little extra broth. 

You'll know the filling is done when most of the liquid is gone and everything is nice and tender. 


Pop a large pot of cold water onto the stove and set it to high. Simultaneously, wash and chop your potatoes into even cubes, chucking them into the pot as they accumulate. I don't remove the skins and I don't really wait for the water to boil before I throw them in, I just kind of let them get there eventually. Once all the potatoes are in, put in your five whole cloves of peeled garlic and let them boil with the potatoes. Trust me on this. They'll get nice and soft and mash right in nicely later on. 

Once the potatoes are soft and easily squeezed by a pair of tongs or slide right off a fork or whatever method you use to determine the mashability of a potato, remove them from the heat, drain them, and mash them together with the butter, sour cream, chives, salt, and pepper. Mash them to whatever consistency is your favorite, mine being mostly smooth with just a little bit of chunk for character. 

You are encouraged to make the peas before the potatoes are done boiling, but it's cool if you don't. It takes less than five minutes to throw some frozen peas into a pan, chop some mint leaves real fine and throw them in with the peas and a bit of salt over medium heat. The goal is really only to defrost and warm them, since they honestly don't need to be cooked much at all. 

Now it's time to go back to the dough! 

Preheat your oven to 360°F right now. 

Separate your dough into at least eight balls (though I would actually recommend aiming for 12) and roll them out into your desired shape on a very floured board. 

Try not to make it too thin so it'll still support the weight of the filling. 

Get a sheet pan, coat it with a bit of oil, and lay down your bottom crust. I also lined mine with aluminum foil because laaaaazy. Cleaning things is stupid. 

Top with the fillings in whichever order and amount you prefer. 

Take a second crust and lay it over the toppings, ensuring that it is at least big enough to be reunited with the bottom layer. You can either fold the two pie crust layers together around the circle, or seal them together by pressingly firmly with a fork all the way around the edges until you are certain they are sealed. 

I went for the folding method. 

Make sure to cut steam vents in the top, and then bake them in the oven for 1 1/3 hours at 360°F, or until the crust is firm and just barely golden. 

Pack one of these bad boys in your lunch and you'll be full for the rest of the week!

Just try not to think about quite how much butter was used per pie, is all. 
<3 Kat. 

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