My whole family loves HAND PIES. What is a HAND PIE? Well, it’s another name for a savory turnover, an individual-sized crusty, hearty delight. A generic name for a small circle of dough, filled with meat or vegetables, folded, sealed and baked. Many cultures have their own portable pie. Handheld food is practical (and fun.) Fillings are a great way to use up leftovers. They travel well and can generally be eaten hot or at room temperature. They freeze well…more ‘money in the bank’.
Three types of dough are commonly used: Pastry (pie crust) dough, puff pastry dough or yeasted (bread/pizza) dough.
In the pastry category you’ll find:
Mexican Empanadas – filled with meat or beans & cheese.
British/Cornish Pasties – made with a wide variety of sweet & savory fillings, both meat and vegetable.
Indian Samosas – often filled with potatoes and peas, are traditionally fried; puff pastry dough can be used for a baked version.
Jewish Knishes – filled with meat, potatoes, kasha, sauerkraut, onions or cheese and baked or fried.
Russian Pirozhki – small pockets of a rich pastry dough (made with egg and sometimes sour cream) that are filled with cabbage and hard-cooked egg before baking.
Some examples in the yeasted dough group are:
Jewish Bialies – like a stuffed bagel.
German Bierrocks (also called Runza) – made with a bread dough and stuffed with meat and cabbage.
German Blachinda – usually filled with sweetened pumpkin.
Italian Calzone – made with pizza dough & filled with meats, cheese and veggies.
Turkish Kol Borek – made by rolling a filling (eggplant, meat…) inside a yeast dough to make logs.
Seeking out some of these ethnic variations, in restaurants or finding recipes, can be very rewarding. The simple pastry doughs generally require only flour, oil, a touch of salt and water. Puff pastry is definitely more of a challenge to make, but is readily available frozen in supermarkets. As for yeasted dough…I recommend making your own bagels/bialies once when you have time and are feeling ambitious. You will forever after have a greater appreciation for a good bagel.
Raw pizza dough can be purchased in the deli/dairy section of almost every market, as well as at pizza restaurants. With just a little practice, making your own pizza crust is very satisfying. Speaking of pizza crusts, I just found a recipe for a pizza crust made with cauliflower. I promise to report after I’ve tried it.
Since we are still discussing things to make with leftover shredded chicken, one way to go is to put the same filling that you use in CHICKEN POT PIE into HAND PIES. It’s even more important to have the filling be well chilled. It makes it so much easier (as in, possible) to fold and seal the little pies. I suggest using the ready made pie crust for this venture. With two crusts per box, you will get four good sized servings.
Here are the basic steps involved in constructing a HAND PIE with chicken pot pie filling…
Cut each ready made pie crust in half, making 4 half circles.
Place 1/2 cup filling on half of each half circle.
Dampen edges of crust with water.
Press edges together with fingers, then crimp edges with tines of fork or twist them tightly & decoratively.
Place on parchment covered (for easy cleanup) baking sheet.
Brush the top of each pie with egg wash (one egg scrambled with water).
Bake at 375° for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. (Timing can vary, so check…)
Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes.
Some other suggestions from the HAND PIE family: Goya brand Empanada Wrappers are found in the freezer section of many supermarkets. I keep several packages in the freezer; they thaw in an hour or so (which gives you time to make and chill the filling…) They are 4-inch rounds of dough, sort of a cross between puff pastry and pie crust pastry. They finish up smaller (use one quarter cup, or less, of filling) than the half circles of pie dough, but with 10-12 in a package, there’s plenty for a meal for four and maybe a couple leftover – to be fought over – for the next day.
Saute up a filling that includes:
ground turkey (or any ground/diced meat or crumbled tofu)
grated carrot (slip in those veggies)
chopped kale or swiss chard
a squirt of tomato paste (the tube style is so much easier than cans)
cumin, cayenne or ground chiles if you want heat…
salt and black pepper
a bit of water or broth, which you want to boil off, so your final filling is not goopy
some currents, raisins or other chopped, dried fruit
a little bit of rice or another grain; finely chopped nuts or seeds
The most important thing to remember about HAND PIE filling, after the taste, is that it be fairly cool and not too juicy.
It’s not a precise recipe, because you can make it to suit your taste or to utilize leftovers. Herbs, spices, potatoes, cheese…you can go anywhere with this. Since you can taste the filling before you fill the dough, it’s fairly risk-free. And if you find yourself with a bit or a cup of filling leftover, pop it in the freezer (label & date it) for another day.
If you happen to have some GUATEMALAN BLACK BEANS or any other well cooked beans around, a heaping spoonful of beans, topped with some grated cheese makes for a great empanada. If you have left over chili, drain off some of the liquid and use that as a filling. Really, the possibilities are wide open.