I made this Chicken and Leek Pie last night because I like to make pie. I added sweet currants and balsamic to this savory Chicken and Leek pie because I thought it would provide some balance. I didn’t give my pie much more thought than that. As I said I like to make pie and I generally don’t need too much motivation. Still, I gave the filling for this pie much more thought than I did to the crust. When making a savory pie I almost always use the all-butter crust I call the “Basic Pie Pastry” in my book Savory Pies. Especially when I don’t want to think too much.
I like my recipe. You’ll notice that it’s rather generous in proportion. That’s because I want to enjoy rolling the dough. I don’t want to worry if I’m doing it just right. My recipe should give the pie maker plenty of leeway to roll the rounds at least a couple of inches bigger than needed. This makes for neat, clean edges. Neat, clean edges make me feel like I know what I’m doing. Feeling confident is the very first step in making a great pie.
Still, the crust is pretty darn important. Too important for me to flippantly discount recipes that are new to me. Crisp, flaky and just salty enough. Creating a crust with “tooth” that melts instantly on your tongue is the key to any great pie. But differing opinions and confusing controversies abound. What combination or ratio is best? All-butter or all-shortening? Maybe lard is better? Then again, there’s the popular 70 percent butter to 30 percent shortening (or lard) version. Is that any good? Don’t get me started on solidified coconut oil. Well, I have tried them all. The all-butter crust remains my favorite for its rich, savory flavor. It has just 4 simple ingredients that are always on hand at my house. So in my opinion, this is the one to master. In fact, commit it to memory. I have.
Which means, when it comes to crust I don’t have to think about it too much.
Until this morning that is. In today’s Saturday section of the LA Times, Noelle Carter offers a primer on pies. Well, actually pie crusts. She totally blew my “don’t overthink it” thesis out of the water. She gets in deep with pie nerds and culinary experts to help develop the “perfect pie crust”.
Simple syrup (per Nicole Rucker), cider vinegar (a dubious trick of most people’s grannies), and a well-considered 2:1 ratio of butter to shortening. There’s so much thought in this crust that’s it’s hard for me to imagine that it could be anything but “perfect”.
What I’m grudgingly saying is this: I’m mightily impressed by Noelle’s recipe. But is that enough to get me to change my ways?
So today – not only do I have the recipe for the Chicken and Leek Pie with Currants and Balsamic I developed on the fly last night – I’ve also included my Basic Pie Pastry and Noelle’s Flaky Pie Dough. Feel free to discuss them quietly amongst yourselves. Maybe even try one or the other – or both. I plan to.
However, as Noelle states: “Passionate pie bakers tend to have a religious zeal…”
Myself included. And though I’m perfectly prepared for Noelle’s recipe to come out on top, I’m just not prepared to admit it quite yet. GREG
PS I’d be willing to admit defeat right now if it weren’t for that darn vinegar. The acid is supposed to inhibit the formation of glutens which creates a tender crust. In my opinion, you could never add enough vinegar to get the pH low enough to have any real effect on the glutens. So why bother?