Friday, May 12, 2017

Asparagus Mushroom Hand Pies

It's Spring! and that means local asparagus is finally available. Grill it, roast it, steam it, or bake it; serve it plain or sauced with hollandaise. Mmmmm, I do love that vegetable during the few months it's availableAn asparagus and mushroom galette spotted at a local bakery counter looked intriguing, so I purchased one as a taste treat. Gulp, $3.99 for a single-serving little pastry! 

The crust was crisp and flakey on top while the bottom tended toward soggy. The galette's generous mound of filling underperformed on taste, bland and lacking much flavor beyond the earthy essence of asparagus and mushrooms. Where was the punchy tang of goat cheese? "Hah!" I thought, "I could do this at home and pop that flavor."

Savory pies tempt me to indulge; sweet pies, not so much. What's more satisfying than a savory little homemade pie, it's flaky crust filled with seasonal vegetables and complementary seasonings? Answer: the same pie made with frozen pie crust dough. But that's just me, facing reality because I'm missing the requisite pie-crust making gene. No matter, a reliable red box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts had my back for this adventure.

Green onions, fresh parsley, dried tarragon, lemon peel and Parmesan cheese joined the basic filling ingredients of asparagus, mushrooms and feta cheese. Sour cream plus one egg added a moist binder to the mix. One circle of pie crust yielded four irregular squares, and the Hand Pie adventure was ready to roll.

The short version of the recipe is:
       Cook down the mushrooms
       Soften the asparagus
       Combine the filling ingredients
       Fill dough squares, shape, add egg wash for shine
       Bake at 400 F until golden brown

The first hand pies emerged from the oven with light, crisp crusts and mildly seasoned filling, an improvement over that purchased galette, but still not quite there flavorwise. Neighbor Marcie, recruited as a taste tester, suggested adding lemon zest, an acidic element to better balance the heavier mushroom and asparagus. Yes! swapping a lot of lemon zest for a little lemon powder made a subtle but noticeable difference in the second batch. Thanks, Marcie. Now I'm eager to play with some other Spring ingredients and flavorings in more hand pie or galette experiments. Sigh, elastic waistbands could become necessary wardrobe adjustments.

Asparagus Mushroom Hand Pies

Yields 4 individual hand pies

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned & thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon dried tarragon
5-6 asparagus spears, trimmed and chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
6 green onions, green and white parts, chopped
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon powdered lemon peel grated zest of 1 lemon 
1 premade pie crust (Pillsbury recommended)
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) goat cheese ( Greek feta), crumbled
beaten whole egg wash to brush dough
2 Tablespoons fresh Parmesan shreds

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet and saute the mushrooms until they brown. Add the pepper, vinegar and tarragon; cook until all liquid evaporates. Remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl to cool.

Snap off & discard the woody stalk end of each asparagus spear. Keep the tender heads intact and chop the rest of the stalks into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces. Place in a microwave-safe container with a Tablespoon of water; cover and nuke for 1 minute or until barely tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl use a fork to whisk together the egg and sour cream. Add the green onions, parsley and lemon zest; stir to combine. Add the cooled mushrooms and asparagus. Gently stir to combine, coating all ingredients with the eggy sour cream.

Unroll a single piecrust sheet onto a lightly floured surface; roll out to 1/8-inch thickness (if necessary) and cut into four squares, roughly 5.5-inches per side. (Use a straightedge if neatness matters to you - I went irregular and rustic).

Onto each pastry square place 1/4 of the filling mixture, typically a mounded 1/2 cup. Top each pie with 1 Tablespoon goat cheese crumbles. Fold each pastry corner onto the center of the filling, keeping the tips apart, and crimp the outside edges slightly. Brush the exposed dough lightly with some beaten egg wash and sprinkle with 1/2 Tablespoon fresh Parmesan shreds.

Place the hand pies on a silpat or parchment-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up the dough. Preheat the oven to 400 F while the pies chill.

To bake, place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated 400 F oven and bake for 15-17 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown. Rotate the baking sheet after 10 minutes to encourage even browning. Remove the hand pies to a wire baking rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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