“The pie is an English institution which, planted on American soil, forthwith ran rampant.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
It can be tough to find vegetarian savory pies because meat has been the filling of choice for several thousand years. Pies were eaten by nobles and commoners alike: live birds baked into pies topped with elaborate decorations showed that you could afford skilled cooks and host large feasts. Laborers enjoyed pies because it could be made with a few scraps of whatever ingredients were available, and they could be cooked over open flames instead of in a stone oven. Savory pies are found all over the world, and I wanted to try making my own!
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
Moosewood Collective, Clarkson Potter (2001)
Moosewood, Inc. is a co-op organization that has operated a successful mostly-vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York for 40 years. They emphasize fresh, organic ingredients from local farms, and was named one of Bon Appétìt magazine’s 13 most influential restaurants of the 20th century. Moosewood Collective has published 14 cookbooks filled with imaginative new recipes and classic favorites. If a friend is just beginning their journey into vegetarianism (or just trying to eat less meat) I direct them to the Moosewood recipe blog as an excellent starting place!
The ancient Greeks were the first to make savory pies using “modern” pastry dough, which is made my adding fat (usually oil or lard) to the flour paste. The dough was wrapped around meats to preserve the juices while cooking, and ingredients varied widely depending on the local grains, game and vegetables that were available. Pies, like most pastries, are defined by their crust: this recipe is for a top-crust pie, which only has a layer of dough covering the filling. A filled or bottom-crust pie only has pastry on the bottom of the dish and the filling is left uncovered on top, and a two-crust pie has the filling completely enclosed by pastry crust.
Modifications, Testing and Recommendations: This recipe is delicious and easy, but is definitely better suited for colder weather. Although it does take some prep time to chop all the vegetables, you can prepare them ahead of time. The recipe uses cornstarch as a thickener, and I might not have stirred it long enough before adding the final ingredients and putting it in the baking dish. The recipe is very easy to make vegan; just substitute the only 2 dairy ingredients (butter and buttermilk) with coconut oil and this vegan buttermilk recipe from Vegan Food Addict.
Get the recipe here! The recipe says that the parsnips are options, but they should absolutely be included. It calls for a 9×13 inch casserole dish for baking, although a slightly larger one might work better to keep the filling from bubbling over the sides. I suggest dividing the biscuit dough into smaller portions because the recipe’s “6 servings” is probably closer to 8. This pie is really more of a hearty “buttermilk biscuit-topped stew” but it’s still unbelievably delicious! Serve immediately, or store leftovers by putting the vegetables in a container and placing the biscuit on top to keep it from getting soggy.