Happy 2013 everyone!!! I hope your New Year’s Eve and Day celebrations were happy, healthy, fun, and safe. I awoke January 2nd with a fever and very sore throat that I’m still battling, so let’s just say that 2013 isn’t terribly impressive for me thus far. No worries, I’ve got high hopes for the rest of it. And I suppose getting to catch up on seasons 6 and 7 of Weeds is a slight silver lining.
I got a few new cookbooks for Christmas and I’m extremely excited to start working my way through them. My sister gave me Ashley English’s new book A Year of Pies. This was the first thing I made from it. Huge winner, my peeps. Huge.
The presentation is outstanding – so pretty to look at. And the flavors were terrific as well. The caramelized onions were richly sweet and nicely contrasted by the pungent blue cheese. I added some fresh thyme to give it a pop of freshness.
But I always feel that the crust is the best part of pies. This dish was no exception. I’m fairly picky about pie crust. I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t typically like all-butter crusts. I need some shortening or preferably lard in my crusts. I think it achieves the wonderful flakiness we all yearn for, whereas all-butter crusts can be kind of hard and, well, almost too crunchy if that makes sense.
I used to be afraid of pie dough and always just bought the rolled up crusts from the grocery store. But I decided to get over that fear and it’s turned out to be one of the better decisions I’ve ever made. Homemade pie crust is so superior to the store bought stuff.
Yet every all-butter recipe I’ve tried has been lacking. I feel I shouldn’t give up on it just yet though, mainly because so many great cooks swear by it. But this particular recipe has a lard-and-butter crust, and oh my, it was impossibly good. Try this one soon, you won’t be sorry.
Source: adapted from A Year of Pies, by Ashley English
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 tbs unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup vegetable shortening or lard, chilled
3/4 cup ice water
3 tbs unsalted butter
3 pounds white onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 ½ cups white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup granulated white sugar
½ cup crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
1 large egg yolk
1 tbs whole milk
Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter and lard until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you will still have some rather large chunks of butter/lard when done).
Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time and stir with a large spoon or spatula until the dough begins to clump.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats. The dough should come together easily but not be overly sticky.
Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls, and pat each into a disk. Wrap each separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using. You’ll only need 1 disk for this recipe so freeze the other and thank me later when you have an amazingly flaky pie dough ready to be thawed and used at a later date!
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, and salt to taste. Cook 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
Add the wine, stock, and sugar to the pan, stirring the mixture every 4 to 5 minutes, for the next 45 to 60 minutes, until no liquid remains in the bottom of the pan.
Continue cooking the onions for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges of the onions start to brown in places.
At this point, preheat your oven to 350 F.
Remove the pan from the heat and let cool while you prep the crust.
Remove the chilled pie disc from the refrigerator and place on a floured surface. Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a greased baking sheet.
Remove the smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves from the onion mixture, then immediately spoon the mixture onto the chilled pie dough circle. Leave a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle the blue cheese evenly over the filling.
Fold the pastry border up over the filling, overlapping the edges and pressing the folds together every few inches.
Whisk the egg yolk and milk together in a small bowl, then use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash over the folded edges of the crust. Bake 30 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the thyme evenly over the top. Cool at least 10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.