For the mathematically inclined, March 14 is a special day, when the date reflects pi — one of the math world’s most beloved ratios. And although pi has all sorts of mathematical significance, for most of us Pi Day is just a good excuse to eat a beautiful, round pie.
This year Pi Day is extra special because it’s 2015, so the date includes the first five numbers of pi. And if you really want to go all-in, you can set your sights for 9:26:53 (a.m. or p.m.), a moment in time that will include the first 10 numbers of pi, and won’t come around again for another 100 years.
But, whatever, we just want some pie. And no pie tastes better than one you made yourself. The pride that comes from rolling out the dough, crimping it pretty, and baking it up to a glowing golden brown cannot be matched by any bakery.
We’d happily make and eat any pie on Pi Day, but we wanted to have a little fun with it by decorating the top with cut-out numbers. That means we needed to make a pie that could accommodate a top crust, so custard and cream pies were out. We could do fruit pie with fresh apples or frozen berries, but then we remembered: Saturdays are always insanely busy. Why not kill two birds with one stone and have pie for dinner?
This pie is loaded with vegetables so it doesn’t seem quite as guilt-inducing. And it was inspired as a way to use up leftovers. Try cooking up a dinner of roasted chicken, carrots and onions, with sautéed kale on the side, and the next night this pie will come together in no time.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
There are hundreds of pie crust recipes floating around, but I say ignore them and use this easy to remember ratio instead: 3 parts flour to 2 parts fat to 1 part liquid. It fits the mathematical theme, after all. Feel free to mix up the filling with other vegetables as you see fit.
12 ounces (3 cups) all-purpose flour (or a mix of all-purpose and whole grain, like barley flour)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 ounces (1/2 cup) ice water
16 ounces sliced mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, diced
2 cups roughly chopped roasted carrots or peeled raw carrots
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sauteed kale or 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen kale or spinach
2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar or swiss cheese (optional)
2 tablespoons butter or rendered chicken fat (aka schmaltz)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
To make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal with a few larger pieces. While pulsing, drizzle in most but not all of the ice water, until the mixture starts to come together. Stop and squeeze the mixture. It should hold together without crumbling apart, but not feel wet or sticky. Add more water if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a clean, dry surface and gather together into a ball. Divide in half, form each into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
To make the filling: In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the mushrooms in a single layer and toss to coat in oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to saute undisturbed until browned, turn over and saute the other side, adding a little more oil if necessary. Transfer mushrooms to a mixing bowl. Repeat with any remaining mushrooms.
Heat another tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and beginning to color, about 15 minutes. If not using already-roasted carrots, add chopped raw carrots to the onions and saute at the same time until beginning to brown. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer onions and carrots to the mixing bowl with the mushrooms. If using already-sauteed kale, add it to the bowl. Otherwise, saute fresh or frozen chopped kale with a few teaspoons of olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, until tender and add to the bowl. Add the chicken and shredded cheese, if using.
Return the saute pan to medium heat and add the butter or chicken fat. When melted, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Whisk in the broth, a little at a time, letting the roux absorb the liquid before adding more. Whisk in the sherry or white wine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce into the mixing bowl and stir to combine.
To assemble: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle a clean, dry work surface with flour. Roll one disk of dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick, continuously turning the dough a quarter turn and flouring as necessary whenever it starts to stick to the surface or the rolling pin. Transfer to the pie dish and gently press into the corners. If topping the pie with cut-out dough instead of a full top crust, fold the edges under and crimp. Refrigerate while you roll out the remaining dough in the same way.
Spoon the filling into the prepared crust. Top with dough cut into numbered shapes. Or top with a full sheet of dough, fold the top and bottom edges under and crimp. Brush top and edges of dough with the egg wash. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown.