Scallop Shell Pies

Scallop shell pies are a nice touch in the savory pie world, I guess you could say it’s a seafood inspired twist on a classic!

We are only in the month of March, so there’s plenty of time to savor comfort food at its finest. Typically, pot pie does not have an abundance of ingredients so it is imperative to build a good flavor profile.

When making the sauce, I always use stock as opposed to water. Any thickened sauce depends on a roux. Making sure its cooked to a light golden brown helps to avoid the ‘flour’ taste and allows the other ingredients to come to the forefront.

Within the loose definition of a ‘pot pie’, its easy to add (or remove) flavors that interest you. Its all about creative expression!

When choosing the pastry, there are no right answers, just numerous possibilities that depend on the maker. Modern convenience embraces the use of puff pastry as a flakier, more delicate solution. You could call it a weeknight comfort food’s best friend.

This pot pie is made with a puff pastry ‘scallop shell’ lid and no bottom crust. The golden crust acts like a piece of bread and soaks up some of the decadence with every bite. Adding scallops to a creamy vegetable based filling creates an amazing meal.

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Scallop Shell Pies
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. Thaw puff pastry. Leave on parchment & cut out 2 shell shapes to cover your ramekins. Mark with the lines on them to replicate sea shells. Place in fridge until ready to use.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. Sauté leek, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings for a few minutes. Add cooked, diced potatoes, flour & seasoning.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. Sauté for another minute, making sure to coat everything with the flour. Add chicken broth, stirring well to dissolve the flour; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add scallops, crumbled bacon, cream & salt & pepper to taste; gently stir to combine.
  4. Remove filling from heat & divide between ramekins. Top with chilled puff pastry & brush with egg wash. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nice & golden.
Recipe Notes
  • When I have some pastry scraps leftover, I make a bit of cinnamon/sugar to sprinkle on it. It makes a few little tasty sweet snacks to nibble on.

Mushroom Meatball Wellington

Meatballs don’t have to be boring. Tender, juicy meatballs, wrapped in puff pastry and served with a zesty sauce makes an easy, inexpensive version of the classic beef wellington.

Economical and versatile, cooking with ground meat opens up plenty of avenues for experimenting. Beyond reliable beef, almost all meats can be ground, but each kind of meat should be treated differently to fully enjoy the benefits.

Consider the fat content of ground meat before you buy. Some fat content is desirable as it adds flavor and helps to keep meat moist during cooking. Choose different types of ground meat for specific dishes. For example …. fatty beef makes juicier burgers but leaner ground turkey or chicken works better served as smaller meatballs or in a sauce. Ground pork makes for a cheaper burger than beef, plus it is unlikely to dry out. Flavor pork with spices like mace, or herbs like sage, thyme and fennel seeds and of course always ensure its cooked through. Ground meat is one of those things that generally ‘you get what you pay for’.

These meatballs make a tasty meal that can be ‘dressed up or down’, depending on what it is served with.

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Meatball Wellington
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic until onions & garlic are soft & most of the moisture has been released from the mushrooms, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cooled veg mixture, pork, breadcrumbs & seasonings; mix all ingredients until incorporated. Shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs.
  4. Cut thawed puff pastry into thin strips. Wrap each meatball with a few strips of the pastry & place on the baking sheet. Brush pastry with egg wash.
  5. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden & meat is cooked through. Remove from oven & place on serving platter. These are nice to serve with steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.

Beef w/Porcini Risotto en Croute

Italy, often regarded as the home country of pasta, still has a deep love for another popular dish called risotto. Risotto like pasta can be dressed with an endless variety of ingredients.

Mushroom risotto is a delicious variation on this classic dish. The beauty of mushroom risotto is in its earthiness of the mushrooms you choose. Italians make mushroom risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms when they are in season in spring and fall. If you are unable to find some at an Italian store, dried porcini mushrooms make an excellent substitute in this recipe.

The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until its golden brown, is how long the item will spend in the oven.

Normally, Beef En Croute can be an expensive proposition. By using a well seasoned ground beef instead of ‘Beef Tenderloin‘, it can be transformed into a more economical meal but still have a degree of richness & elegance to it.

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Beef w/ Porcini Risotto en Croute
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Ingredients
Risotto
Porcini Mushrooms
Pastry
Servings
Ingredients
Risotto
Porcini Mushrooms
Pastry
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Instructions
Risotto
  1. Dice onion & garlic finely. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a saucepan & cook until tender soft. Add risotto mix along with hot chicken broth. The rice should be soft cooked in about 20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan & 1 1/2 tsp butter. Your mixture should not be loose or dry. Set aside to cool.
Beef
  1. In a saucepan, saute ground beef along with diced onions, garlic & spices. Cook ONLY until beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Mushrooms
  1. Brush mushrooms with a clean damp cloth & slice. Heat oil in saucepan & saute mushrooms with thyme to release some of their moisture. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Brush one of the puff pastry sheets with egg white. Down the center of the pastry sheet, spread the risotto & top with half of the mushrooms. Next, top with the spiced beef & remaining mushrooms.
  3. Lay the second sheet of pastry on top & either braid the edges or press pastry together with a fork. Beat together egg yolk & remaining white plus a bit of water. Brush pastry evenly with beaten egg. Bake until golden about 20 - 25 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • When using dried mushrooms for this or any dish, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes, strain the liquid, & add it to your dish or save for another day. In this preparation, add it to the broth.

‘Cinnamon Roll’ Cherry Pie

This cinnamon roll cherry pie is a unique take on the classic cherry pie. Mini cinnamon rolls line the pie pan to form the ‘crust’ makes it look so special.

After I saw a photo of a similar idea on Pinterest, some of our sour cherries came to mind and my recipe development came into play once again.

Taking that classic cinnamon roll flavor and making the base of a fruit pie seems perfect. You would probably not want to use it with a key lime pie, but anything that already uses cinnamon such as pumpkin or sweet potato should work great with this type of ‘crust’.

After I made a small amount of sour cherry filling it seemed only logical to make a bit of cream cheese filling to go with it.

While my little culinary creation was baking, I mixed up a bit of lemon glaze for drizzling on it when it had cooled slightly. This turned out to be a seriously good cherry cream pie!

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'Cinnamon Roll' Cherry Pie
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador, German
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Fold in cherries & cool to room temperature.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, egg, sugar & vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. In a separate dish, combine cinnamon & cardamom spices.
Assembly
  1. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll puff pastry into a 12 X 16-inch (35 cm X 45 cm) rectangle. Brush on a thin layer of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Roll it up tightly, starting from one of the long sides. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes or until firm enough to slice easily.
  2. When pastry has chilled, slice roll into 18 pieces. Line a greased 9-inch pie dish with half of the mini spiced rolls. Lay them in the center first & work your way outwards. Press them down in the dish so they stick together & form a base for the pie. Top the pastry first with remaining cream cheese filling, then the sour cherry filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a sheet of parchment paper, lay out the remaining 9 pastry rolls in a circular shape. Place a second sheet of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, flatten the rolls slightly so they stick together to form the top crust. Pull off the top parchment & flip pastry over the filled pie; gently press it to conform to the pie edges.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. If top crust is browning too fast, cover outside edges with foil.
  5. In a small dish, combine powdered sugar with lemon juice. After the pie has cooled, drizzle with lemon glaze.

Nectarine Custard Tart

A nectarine is a variant of a peach …. one genetic step away and fuzz-less. White nectarines were the only kind available up until 1942, when a white one was crossed with a peach resulting in a yellow/red nectarine.

Just like peaches, both have similar sugar levels. However, white nectarines taste sweeter because they have less acid than the yellow varieties. Probably the most reliable way to pick a good-tasting nectarine is by its strong, sweet aroma. Traditional peach pies and cobblers can easily be interchanged with nectarines. Their firmer flesh softens when cooked but still holds its shape and leaving the skin on not only saves time but improves the flavor.

When nectarines are in season, I hate to miss out on the chance to incorporate them into whatever I can. To avoid getting into any long detailed procedures today, I’m going with this custard tart. It meets all requirements …. pre-fab pastry, egg-less custard and some of those wonderful nectarines, not to mention the bonus of how pretty it looks.

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Nectarine Custard Pie
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut six 1-inch wide strips of dough from the sheet of puff pastry (best to cut one from the top, one from the bottom & four from the side). Place a large (9 x 2-inch) pie plate on the uncut area of dough, trace a circle around it with a knife. Place the round piece of dough in the pie plate. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble & bake.
  2. In a saucepan, whisk together milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt & vanilla. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is hot, lower the heat to medium-low to prevent the bottom from burning. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove from heat & cool. When cooled, spread the pudding over puff pastry using a spoon to smooth it out.
  3. Halve nectarines, remove the pits & cut in even slices. Place the nectarine slices in the pudding cream, starting at outer edge, slightly overlapping, & working your way in.
  4. Take the 6 strips of dough from beginning & lay them in between the nectarine ring layers until the design is complete. Take the last dough strip, roll it up & place it directly in the center of the pie dish.
  5. Brush the puff pastry with egg wash. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. If you wish, brush apricot preserve over tart while it is still warm.

Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is as classic as it comes but pineapple tart or pie, not so much. The original recipe appeared in a fund-raising cookbook in the USA around 1924. Later Gold Metal Flour came out with a full page ad in a women’s magazine in 1925.

Since then, there are many variations to this classic cake. The sweet-tart flavor of pineapple works beautifully alongside a wide range of companion flavors and ingredients as well as the gentle spices of ginger, cinnamon and vanilla to enhance it just a bit more.

Because this particular fruit doesn’t ripen further after being picked, its good to look for a pineapple that is heavy for its size, with a rich, sweet fragrance.

Pineapple pie is not the number one star among pies. In the fall and winter season, its probably apple and in spring and summer, strawberry or maybe blueberry. However, I thought I’d make a ‘hybrid’ version of the old classic. This pineapple tart looks beautiful presented as one large ring, although it could easily be made into individual tarts as well. Of course, don’t hesitate to top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.

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Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart
Instructions
Spiced Syrup
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter then add ginger, cinnamon & sugar; stir to dissolve. Add orange juice & bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, add vanilla & allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to infuse flavors. Peel pineapple & cut into quarters. Remove the core, then slice into 1 cm chunks, then place them into a deep dish. Reheat the syrup; pour over pineapple & allow to marinate until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Roll the pastry out on a piece of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/8-inch, then trim to make a large circle. Cut out about a 2-inch circle from the center to form a ring. Cut any pastry that has been trimmed off into pieces & place on top of circle giving it a second layer. Transfer to a baking sheet & place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Strain the syrup from the pineapple into a small saucepan. Add cornstarch; place over a medium heat to thicken.
  4. Prick the pastry ring all over with a fork, then arrange the pineapple pieces in a fan around the ring.
  5. Dust the tart liberally with powdered sugar & bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is caramelized & golden brown. When ready to serve, drizzle with spiced syrup & top with a scoop of ice cream.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pot Pie

It probably seems odd that I would post this meal today instead of around St. Patrick’s Day. The truth of the matter is, corned beef is really not an Irish classic as most would think. So for us, it’s just a case of enjoying corned beef in a pot pie.

You cook this dish the same way you would cook chicken pot pie. Instead of roasting the corned beef myself, I picked some up at the deli counter. I had them slice it about 1/4″ thick then I cut it into small cubes. Logic would tell you that a ‘beef’ pie needs beef gravy, but corned beef is different. I used chicken broth in the white sauce, which is delicate enough to allow the flavor of the corned beef to come through nicely.

There is often debate whether pot pies should have one or two crusts. For me, its just whatever appeals to me when I’m making some. Today, since I’m using frozen puff pastry, I went with just a top crust. Draped over them, gave such a rustic look … just for the sake of eye appeal.

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Corned Beef & Cabbage Pot Pie
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a large Dutch oven or pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrot & cabbage & cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add flour & cook, stirring, for about 1 minute more. Add chicken broth, milk, mustard, thyme, salt & pepper. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in corned beef & cheese, cook, stirring until cheese has melted. Taste to adjust seasoning as necessary. Remove from heat & allow to cool 15-20 minutes.
  2. Cut thawed puff pastry sheets to suit your preference. I used 4 - 14 oz. (414 ml) ramekins with a top crust only.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place ramekins on a baking sheet & spoon cooled filling in to them. Place pastry squares over top. Cut several slits in the middle to allow steam to vent. Combine egg with water & brush top of puff pastry with it.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is bubbling. Allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

Savory Layered Puff Pie

That expression, ‘what’s old is new again’, definitely can be applied to so many things in today’s world. Very often, when you think you have come up with a new idea its really just a modernized version of an old one.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, Brion & I really enjoy casseroles. I happened to recall a casserole that was published in Good Housekeeping in 1958. My mother made a version of it at that time. Being mostly vegetables, it had such a nice flavor. It was called Seven Layer Casserole consisting of vegetables, rice, tomato soup and sausage or ground meat.

With that ‘taste of a memory’ in mind, my recipe development turned into a savory layered casserole. I used vegetables, rice, cheese and ground pork with a layer of puff pastry. When you prepare it, the sheet of puff pastry is on top so it gets crispy, but when it is baked, you flip it over and it becomes a bottom crust.

Of course, we are talking about frozen puff pastry here. It seems it has become a supermarket staple, delivering all the glories of puff pastry without all the hard hours of work. This is a convenience food that’s perfectly useful for cooks of all skill and commitment levels.

All this talk of frozen puff pastry probably seems odd coming from someone who has made a living in the food industry. But lets face, to make it from scratch is either a labor of love or a sign of madness depending on who you are. So here’s my remake of that vintage 7-layer casserole.

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Savory Layered Puff Pie
Instructions
  1. Cook rice. In a skillet, saute onion in 1 Tbsp butter for a few minutes. Add ground pork, water & seasonings; scramble-fry until cooked. Drain well & remove from skillet. Add another Tbsp of butter to skillet & saute drained mushrooms then blot on paper towel.
  2. Grate cheese combo of choice. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line casserole baking dish with foil & butter.
  3. Start layering with mushrooms, cheeses, rice, meat/onion combo & frozen green beans. Top with puff pastry. Cut a few slits in the pastry for vents. Brush with egg wash.
  4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to stand for about 15-20 minutes then invert on a serving plate. Remove foil paper & cut into serving pieces. If you wish, serve the casserole with a brown gravy.

Bacon & Chicken En Croute

The debate between chicken thighs and breast has been one that’s continued over generations. Juicy, inexpensive and highly versatile, chicken thighs are the unsung heroes of the protein realm. You can enjoy them baked, glazed or simply grilled.

In the flavor department, chicken thighs naturally have a more intense and flavorful edge to them. As for fat content … yes, there is more fat on a thigh than on a breast. However, the monounsaturated fat in chicken thighs can help aid in weight loss, control and reduce cholesterol numbers and even lower you risk of heart disease and cancer.

From an economical point of view, in our part of the world, chicken thighs are generally more affordable than breasts. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, both chicken breasts and thighs are good for you. It all comes down to personal choice.

This meal is good, homey, comfort food that’s easy to prepare using frozen puff pastry but elegant enough to serve at a holiday supper with friends.

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Bacon & Chicken En Croute
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain; chop when cooled. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from skillet.
  2. Salt & pepper chicken thighs on both sides. Place in skillet with remaining hot bacon drippings & cook until browned. Remove & cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Add butter to the skillet, cook onions, garlic & mushrooms, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions have softened & mushrooms have lost most of their size & moisture. Stir in the bacon & chicken thighs; taste for seasoning. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Gravy
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then add the flour. Whisk until flour darkens & begins to thicken then add broth. Season with herbs, salt & pepper (to taste) & continue to whisk until gravy boils. Allow it to boil for 2 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens. Remove from heat & cool.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. At this point you can either make individual servings or bake as one long tart. Fit thawed puff pastry into tart pan or cut into 4 equal squares. You can roll the dough out on a floured surface to accommodate the size you need.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooled filling & gravy. Place evenly in pastry shell(s). Brush edges with beaten egg wash & bake for about 20 minutes until puffed & golden brown.

Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers

Years ago, a friend gave me a little jar of quince jam. We enjoyed the flavor but I never really gave it much thought. Recently, I came across quince paste in the grocery store. It looks quite similar to the guava paste I used in numerous recipes previously.

Of course, now its got my interest peaked to find out more about this fruit. It seems it’s a fall fruit that grows in a manner like apples and pears…… but the similarities end there. Quince are completely inedible when raw. Once cooked, they become soft and tender, usually with a nice syrup from the cooking process.

Quince fruit is native to Southwest Asia, Turkey and Iran. Historically, they were used to make marmalade. Quince cheese (also known as quince paste) is a sweet, thick jelly made from the pulp of the quince fruit. It is a common confection in several countries. Because this fruit is very high in pectin, it gels easily. Quince is sweetened with sugar and can be flavored with lemon juice, cinnamon and apple.

Quince paste is sold in squares or blocks, then cut into slices and spread over toasted bread or sandwiches, plain or with cheese. It is often used in filling for pastries or to glaze roasted meats.

I’m going to try it first in these pastries today and then maybe in a meat glaze another day.

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Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers
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Instructions
  1. Open puff pastry sheet on parchment paper & roll it out into 10 x 10-inch square. Spread the quince paste over the surface then sprinkle with cheese & walnuts.
  2. With a knife, very lightly score a line width-wise across the middle of the pastry. Starting at one side, roll up jelly-roll style, stopping at the score mark in the middle. Starting at the other side, roll up pastry to score mark.
  3. Wrap the roll in the parchment paper & plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove roll & slice into 3/8-inch slices (or larger if you prefer). Place cut side up on a lined baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in air-tight container.