Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Peas and Onions in Pastry

When Danny was little, Mr. ETB would say goodbye each morning by yelling, "Peace" as he walked to his car. Danny heard that as, "Peas." One morning, Mr. ETB jokingly replied, "Onions!" They still do this routine each morning as Papa heads off to work.

Some mornings, Danny stands at the door yelling, "Peas", and his Papa will reply with something like, "Scallions!" Today, he reached the end of the walk, turned and yelled, "Onion Pie! Ask your mother to make one." Thankfully, we live on a farm and the only people who might overhear these exchanges already know we are strange. Not one to turn down a dinner request, I started slicing onions.

The filling should be very well chilled before baking. I made the onions several hours ahead, though you could do this a couple days ahead with some planning. It would be delicious without the peas, and mini-tins would make a lovely nibble with a decent glass of red wine. Mr. ETB suggested they would make perfect street-food with a small paper cup of Port. In Nebraska it would probably be easier to get the liquor permit than the one for a food cart.

Originally, I would make the onions as a jam with a cup and a half of red wine. That wouldn't really work for a large serving, so I used 1 cup vegetable broth and 1/2 cup Port. That seemed like a good balance. The port burns off in the last, rapid cooking. I added peas, and cheddar cheese to the pies, but they would be delicious without. You could, of course do this as a full-sized, two crust pie, but then I would fill it out with some hunks of cooked potato. It is rather rich, and I can't envision eating a large slice, though I'm a pretty poor judge of that sort of thing as I get full from a glass of water.

Removing the pies from the tin takes some skill, but it works best if you let them stand out of the oven for five minutes. Use a sharp knife to loosen the edges, and sort of pop them out carefully onto a platter.

For The Filling:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions (1 1/2-2 lbs total) sliced in half, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable broth, beef broth, or Ruby Port
1/2 cup Ruby Port

1 cup cooked peas.

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (set aside until assembly)

Melt butter in a large pot that has a cover. Add onions and thyme stir, and cover. Cook ten minutes over medium heat. Remove lid. Cook over low heat until they are golden-about 30 minutes. Add sugar, stir and cook another 10-15 minutes until they carmelise. Add broth, and wine and bring to a boil. Cook rapidly to burn off alcohol. Cook until nearly all of the liquid is evaporated. You'll need to keep stirring so it does not stick. Cool. Stir in cooked and cooled peas. Keep chilled until you are ready to assemble pies.

For the pastry:

2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Sift the flour and salt together. Cut in the cold butter. Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together. Gather it in a ball and knead once or twice to mix. Roll out and cut in rounds. Fit into standard or mini muffin tins. Distribute the cheese between the tins covering the bottoms. This provides as extra layer of strength. Fill with well-chilled onions and peas. Top with more pastry. Crimp closed, cut a hole to vent (a decorating tip works great for a small circle) and brush tops with an egg wash. Set the filled tray in the fridge to chill 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

I would bake this on a sheet, but I hate cleaning the oven. If you're one of those people like my mother was that live for that sort of thing, don't let me deprive you of quality time spent with a bristle brush and cleaning foam.

Bake the pies for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and continue baking until they look done. They can withstand some over-baking. The pies will bubble and overrun the sides (I warned you) but the bulk of the filling remains in the pies. Cool 5 minutes in the tins before attempting to remove them. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

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