I posted some pictures of this Thanksgiving themes picnic pie (completely vegan) on Twitter and Facebook.
A bunch of people asked me for my recipe. Unfortunately, it was almost completely improvised, so I don’t have a recipe. But here is roughly what I did.
First of all, a few weeks ago I had no idea what a picnic pie is. But then I was randomly channel surfing and came upon a show called “The Great British Bake Off” in which three people were competing in various baking challenges – the final one of which was making a “Picnic Basket Pie” – which is basically a bread pan lined with pastry dough that is filled with layers of various things (meat, cheese, veggies, etc…), baked, and then sliced into slabs that show off the layers.
I liked the concept, and so as I started to think about what to cook for Thanksgiving (as a vegan going to non-vegan houses I’m always forced to cook my own meal) it occurred to me to make a Thanksgiving themes picnic pie with layers like mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc…
I started with one of the recipes from the show by the one contestant who made at least a vegetarian pie. The only thing I used was the recipe for the dough, which is basically just normal pastry dough with a bit of baking powder added (not sure why).
600g (~4 cups) of all purpose flour
3/4 cup (3 sticks) of unsalted margarine or shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Cut the margarine into the dough with fingers, fork or pastry mixer. Add ~150ml of water and form into ball and place into fridge for at least an hour. When ready to form take out of fridge and let sit for 15m to warm up.
Roll out ~2/3 of dough into shape that it will fit into a high sided bread pan (mine is around 8″ x 4″ x 4″). Cut a piece of parchment paper about 6″ wide and long enough to go under the dough in the dish with ends sticking out as handles (you’re going to use this to take the pie out of the dish). Then carefully fit the dough into the pan. Make sure it is intact with no holes.
The key thing for each of these layers is that they be relatively dry so that they won’t leak out moisture and ruin the structural integrity of the crust. I mostly made these up on the fly, but here is roughly what I did.
Layers from bottom to top:
Polenta: I started by spreading a layer of dried, uncooked polenta on the bottom. This was to represent traditional Thanksgiving corn, but also to absorb excess moisture. Although I was careful not to have wet layers, I figured there would be enough water to cook the polenta as I baked the pie. But this turned out not to be correct. So if I do this again, I’ll cook the polenta first.
Greens: Sliced a leak and sautéed in olive oil with ~1 Tbs crushed roasted garlic. When done roughly chopped two bunches of swiss chard and added to pan, cooking until wilted. I then pressed as much of the water as I could out of the greens in a strainer. Added on top of polenta.
Sweet Potatoes: Sliced a large Beauregard yam into ~3/4 slices and then quartered them. Put them into a baking dish with a layer of olive oil. Sprinkled with brown sugar and then baked ~20m at 400F until soft. Added on top of chard trying hard to pack densely.
Stuffing: Sliced an onion and a stalk of celery. Cooked in olive oil until softened. Added about 2 or 3 cups of sliced brown mushrooms and cooked until soft. I then added bread crumbs until fairly dry. Added salt to taste. Added on top of sweet potatoes.
Mashed potatoes: Peeled and diced ~6 russet potatoes. Boiled until soft. Mashed with potato masher. Added margarine and salt to taste. Layered on top of stuffing.
Cranberry sauce: Started with directions on back of bag. Boiled two cups sugar in two cups water. Added two 12oz. bags of cranberries. Simmered on medium for at least an hour (probably more) until berries soft and starting to pop. Crushed them with potato masher. Then strained through fine strainer. Set the flow through aside (this is a good cranberry sauce for kids) and added the now relatively not so wet and somewhat sweetened cranberries.
Made a lattice top by making four long slices ~1″ wide and then weaving shorter pieces along the short axis. Pinched edges together.
Baked 50 minutes at 400F. Let cool for a while. I served it cold, but I think it was better when I reheated it, so if you make this I might try serving it 30m or so after cooking.
Overall I thought this came out really well. It held together perfectly – didn’t get moisture screwing up the dough. And the flavors went well together. I’m definitely going to make things like this again.