August 17, 2018

Savory pies have a place at your table

In the U.S., the word pie usually brings to mind delicious desserts made of fruits and cream fillings, enjoyed everywhere from chrome-clad diners to upscale farm-to-table restaurants. There are a few savory qualifiers, of course, with chicken pot pie and shepherd’s pie some of the most well-known.

In many other parts of the world, from the United Kingdom to South Africa and Australia, savory pies are a classic snack at sporting events or filling meal in the middle of a long work day. Online culinary school students can learn from how other countries cook convenient, hand-held pies to offer something unique to guests at home and restaurant customers alike.

A savory pie alongside ingredients and a kitchen knife.Savory pies are a great way to put familiar ingredients into a novel presentation.

What goes into a savory pie?

One of the most useful features of savory pies is their versatility. Outside of a crust and a filling that generally avoids overly sweet tastes in favor of sour, salty, bitter and umami, there are few limitations on what can qualify as a savory pie. It might be made of puff pastry dough and baked, or with a slightly denser shell that will stand up to deep frying. The filling may contain a gratin of spices and winter vegetables with cheese or diced beef and peas in gravy. It could be served by itself or, as is common in certain parts of Australia, floating in a thick pea soup. You may make individual, easily carried servings or prepare a large pie and serve it in slices. The options for everything from fillings and method of cooking to presentation are nearly endless.

Many common savory pies include meat, like the chicken pot pie and the U.K.’s Cornish pasty, but it’s by no means a requirement. To start on the path of making your own pies, a review of various approaches can help spark the needed inspiration.

Seafood is a tantalizing option

The Baton Rouge Advocate visited Elsie’s Plate & Pie in Louisiana’s capital, which offers a mix of sweet and savory options to its eaters. Among the more unique offerings are a crawfish hand pie, which draws inspiration from the crawfish boil, a regional delicacy. Made in a half-moon shape and fried, the pie contains a mix of crawfish tails, corn and sausage. It’s finished with a remoulade and served alongside thin, crispy fried onions. Although it’s rare to see a sauce on a dessert pie, the addition of everything from ketchup to gravy is a regular occurrence in the world of savory pies.

A mix of traditional and new offerings

Pie Boss, which operates from an unassuming exterior in the Chicagoland city of Aurora, Illinois, offers hand pies in the South African fusion cuisine tradition from owner Ty Naidoo. The Aurora Beacon-News said the pepper steak pie, one of the many varieties served in South Africa, is among the most popular menu items. However, Pie Boss offers a range of other savory pies, from a spicy chicken peri-peri to a very American cheeseburger, with two patties, cheese and ketchup inside the freshly made dough. The combination of classics like pepper steak with options tailored to the tastes of local eaters is a reminder that savory pies can be almost anything a chef wants them to be.

Getting started on your own savory pies

If you have a good pie dough recipe that isn’t too sweet and know how to prep vegetables, meats and sauces for fillings, you’re already in a great spot to start experimenting with savory pies. If you need a good savory crust recipe to get you started, Martha Stewart has a versatile option that will help you begin your savory pie excursion.