Pastichio (it’s Greek) Pie
Y2, Week Ten: Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Meat Pie*
The first question you need to ask yourself is: “Do I want to be driven insane?” If your answer is an enthusiastic “Don’t mind if I do!” then working with phyllo is for you! Here are some tips that might help preserve your mental well-being:
- Before you remove the phyllo from its packaging, prepare a damp towel for covering the dough you’re not actively using. Phyllo will begin to dry out a full ten seconds before you even think about opening the package. This has been verified in numerous scientific studies.
- The phyllo will tear. Cursing at it, while emotionally satisfying, will not, unfortunately, repair it.
- The phyllo knows your buttons and will push them. It is second only to cheap plastic wrap in its ability to stick to itself in insidious and irreversible ways.
- Remember, you are a human being, with a complex brain, consciousness, and opposable thumbs, and if you employ all these things you stand only a weak chance of conquering the phyllo.
*Shortly after graduating college, I was hired as an assistant graphic designer for a local magazine. Part of my duties included laying out all the smaller ads in an issue. Usually all I would get from the sales rep was some text and a really poor quality scan of a fax of a xerox of a cave drawing of some logo or clip art. This is where I lost my art student pretensions of creating great works and realized that, sometimes, if it’s just legible and reasonably professional looking, it’s good.
Anyhow, one day I get an ad for a local Thai restaurant (which shall remain nameless, but is actually very good) that includes this bit of promotional text: “Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Meat Entrees!” Naturally, I sent it back to the sales rep figuring it must be a typo and explaining that adding meat to an entree pretty definitively negates its vegetarianism. I got a note back that it wasn’t a typo and the owners wanted it to run as written. I guess they felt they were appealing to a long neglected niche market of meat-eating vegetarians.
After it was printed I wanted to send it to the “Tonight Show with Whoever-it-was-at-the-time” for their misprints bit, but, after making this recipe, I can kind of understand what a “vegetarian meat entree” might be like. I made this pie using the soy crumbles for my veggie head friends (and later heard many non-veggies present swore it was meat), but it also works extremely well with lamb. Which, as a die-hard meat-eating vegetarian, is certainly my preference.
12 oz package of soy protein crumbles or 1 lbs ground lamb
3/4 large white onion, medium/fine dice
3 large cloves of garlic, fine dice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 rounded tsp oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
If using lamb start here, otherwise skip to the next paragraph:
Add olive oil and lamb to a hot sauté pan and cook over medium-high heat until just lightly browned. Remove lamb from the pan and set aside. Drain any excess liquid and fat from the pan and return to the heat.
Add olive oil to the sauté pan on medium heat (if you’re using lamb, add more olive oil only if necessary), add onion and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and oregano. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add soy crumbles or lamb. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until the liquids have been mostly absorbed (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes with all juices. Reduce it on medium/low heat until all excess liquids have evaporated (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for assembly.
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 large white onion, cut in thirds
1 bay leaf
1 stick of cinnamon, a 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon can substitute
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Myzithra cheese, finely grated (Myzithra has a strong and unique taste that is a bit of a cross between sharp feta and parmesan. You can find it at Greek or Italian speciality grocers or Whole Foods.)
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and white pepper to taste
Simmer the milk, onion, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon in a medium-size pot for about 10-15 minutes. Strain and return milk to low heat to keep hot but not boiling.
In another medium-size pot melt the butter on a low heat. When the butter is completely melted, thoroughly whisk in the flour. Let the rue cook for about 3-5 minutes, do not let the rue brown, it should stay very light. Slowly add hot milk to the rue, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions. Add cheeses, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for assembly.
1/2 lbs phyllo dough (1/2 package), thawed
5-6 tbsp butter, melted in a small bowl
All ingredients prepared so far
5-6 tomatoes for decoration (optional), cut in thin slices
1/4 cup Myzithra cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
a deep dish pie pan (about 2 1/2 inches deep)
a pastry brush
a damp towel
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Prepare the pie pan by generously coating it with melted butter. Remove phyllo from the wrapper and unroll it to lay flat on the counter.
Remove 2-3 sheets of phyllo and gently lay them over 1/2 of the pan. Remove another 2-3 sheets and cover the other half of the pan, overlapping the first sheets slightly. Cover the remaining phyllo with the damp towel. Using the pastry brush, gently spread melted butter over the entire pan of dough — including the overhang. Do not worry if some of the dough tears or doesn’t fully cover the pan, there will be many layers when you are finished.
Repeat the last step, except this time lay the dough in the opposite direction when covering the pan. Repeat again until dough is gone, each time laying the dough perpendicular to the direction you laid the preceding time.
When you are finished, coat the final layer in butter, and spoon all the tofu/lamb filling into the bottom of the pan. Gently spread it in an even layer. Cover with the béchamel. Decorate with tomatoes in an overlapping pattern around the perimeter of the pie, and sprinkle the top of the pie with both cheeses. Trim the excess phyllo so there is only about a 1/2″ overhang, then gently fold it up over the edges of the tomatoes and gently coat with butter.
Cover the edges of the phyllo with foil or a pie edge cover, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil or pie cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Do not let the edges of the phyllo burn. Remove from oven and let sit for 30 minutes before serving.