First, the innards: good but not outstanding. I did feel like quite the farm wife, creating supper out of 'air', just cabbage, onion and hard-boiled eggs, especially here on the cusp of winter and spring when farm cellars would be running on empty.
Second, the crust. I experimented with two new ingredients, farm-rendered lard and whole wheat flour. (Do these strike anyone else as incongruous, one not as good for you, one very good for you? Do you suppose they cancel themselves out to a neutral?)
LARD in PIE CRUST Forever and ever, lard crusts have been coveted for their tenderness. But for the last 20 or so years, lard, as an animal fat, was considered 'bad' for us. These days, the belief is that lard is as good for us as -- butter, say -- so long as it's not hydrogenated. (Want more info about whether lard is good for you? Champaign Taste has an excerpt from a February 2008 Bon Appetit article.) Last fall, I bought a Canadian product, Tenderflake, a 100% non-hydrogenated lard. Heavens, it makes gorgeous pie crusts! And it's shelf-stable, like Crisco, so keeps. But so far, I've had no luck finding non-hydrogenated lard in my St. Louis supermarkets. So last month I purchased lard from a local farmer (for St. Louisans, Farr Out Farms). It's been in the freezer, waiting inauguration.
Even at room temperature, (at least this) farm-rendered lard has the consistency of cold butter, not cold Crisco. This makes it perfect for pie crusts -- and yes, wow, was this ever one of the most tender crusts I've ever made. There's also a slight -- very slight -- pork-y and bacon-y essence to the flavor, making this lard especially perfect for savory pies. I used my great pie crust recipe, Flaky Tender Pie Crust, just substituting the lard for vegetable shortening.
Now, farm-rendered lard has no preservatives so needs to be kept frozen until ready to use. Just today, I packed it into four-ounce packets and returned it to the freezer -- ready for more pie crusts, when the opportunities arise!
Question: Do you have access to non-hydrogenated lard in your stores? If so, please "name names", your city and where you buy lard. I'd love to know.
Note to Vegetarians
WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR Saturday I purchased 10 pounds of just-ground whole wheat flour -- talk about fresh. (Check with your local baker. Mine came from Great Harvest, a nationwide franchise, for $1 a pound.) For this crust, I used a 50:50 ratio of all-purpose:whole wheat flour, which created a nutty-flavored but slightly drier and heavier than preferred crust. Next time I'll try a 60:40 ratio but yes, whole wheat flour is a keeper for savory pies.
PIE LOVERS It's not too late to join pie fun! KitchenParade.com is hosting a special event for Pi Day today through Friday, March 14th. Head on over to see pie recipes and tips for making great pie crust from pie lovers across the world. I'll be collecting them throughout the week, so pop in often so see what's new.
Time to table: 2 1/2 hours
One recipe Flaky Tender Pie Crust
Preheat oven to 375F. Mix crust, refrigerate while cooking the cabbage filling. Once filling is cooked, roll bottom crust and transfer into pie plate. Refrigerate the bottom crust while rolling the top crust. Layer egg slices on the bottom crust, fill with cabbage filling. Dot with cream cheese. (Note: the inspiring recipe called for spreading this across the bottom. So the cream cheese soaked into the crust. I'd recommend putting it on top of the cabbage filling, or perhaps better yet in the center, so it can soak down into the filling itself.) Add the top crust, crimp edges. Brush the top crust but not the crust's edge with egg wash (1 egg yolk whisked with a tablespoon of water) and bake for 60 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, a great resource for new bakers or anyone wanting a well-tested compendium of baking recipes
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 pound cabbage, chopped
1 large fennel bulb (my addition, added sweetness)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Ground pepper to taste
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced thin (how to cook hard-boiled eggs)
4 ounces cream cheese (I used 1:1 cream cheese: goat cheese with some pesto stirred in)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms sautéed in 1 tablespoon butter (I forgot to buy these)
4 ounces thin-sliced ham (next time, I'd add this into the cabbage filling)
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