The idea for this pie arose largely from the fact that one night it was getting to be very cold.
It was earlier in October, during the Columbus Day weekend, and the temperature dropped substantially below what was normal for the time. Our building was yet to turn on the heat (which normally occurs right after the holiday).
That Sunday, by the end of the afternoon, as the sun started to recede behind the horizon leaving a golden-silver cool glow at a sharp, low angle, my husband proposed: "let's make a pie."
There is one thing that you should know about my husband: while he appreciates a good homemade pie every once in a while, he almost never requests them because he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth. Therefore, for him to request a pie, and moreover, volunteer to make it with me (while he is an amazing cook in his own right, he doesn't bake) was doubly strange. He must have sensed the wonder in my face because he blurted out the explanation:
"I'm cold." He said. "Let's get the oven going and stay in the kitchen and hopefully the heat will warm this place up."
"Ah." I said. So we jumped in the car and went to a household goods store to get a space heater, and then to the grocery store to get ingredients for the pie.
"What kind of pie do you want?" I asked in the grocery store. "What type of filling?"
"Um." He thought for a second, realizing that perhaps after all he didn't want a sweet thing, before replying: "Meat?"
Immediately images of savory meat and rice filled pie that my mom always makes around the holidays floated in my mind. And so we made one.
The idea of a meat pie is not as strange as it may sound. In England a mince meat pie is not unusual around the colder months. It is also no stranger to a Russian kitchen. Indeed, savory pie-type things can be quite delicious. A simple pie crust works well here. If no sugar is used, the pie crust itself is rather neutral, and it can lend itself equally well to both sweet and savory things.
That night, as our kitchen filled with warmth and delicious smells, and as the space heater was warming the rest of the apartment, the building heat also came on.
Savory Pie with Meat, Rice, and Mushrooms
For the dough:
2 cups (270 g) flour
1 tsp salt
7 tbsp cold butter, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
3 tbsp sour cream
3-4 tbsp cold water
For the filling:
2/3 cup (145 g) uncooked rice
1 tbsp canola oil
1 lb (454 g) ground turkey (you can also use ground beef or pork)
8 oz (227 g) button mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp parsley
1/4 cup (60 ml) chicken broth, more if needed
White of one egg
Rectangular pie pan (11 by 7 inches or 27.5 by 17.5 cm)
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Mix the flour and salt in a medium bowl, add the butter and quickly rub in the butter into the flour with the tips of your finger, until the flour becomes crumbly. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix until dough starts to form (if the dough is too dry, add a few more drops of water, if it is too sticky, add a bit more flour). Knead it a few times then roll into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. While the dough rests prepare the filling.
2. Bring 1 cup water to a boil, add rice, cover, turn the heat to low and cook until the water is evaporated and the rice is fully cooked. Remove from heat.
3. Heat oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the turkey and brown until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove to a large bowl, reserving the juices in the pan. To the pan with the juices, add onion, mushrooms and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and the water from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat slightly, and cook until the vegetables are fully cooked, 5-10 minutes more. Add the vegetables along with the cooked rice to the bowl with the meat and mix. Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth and mix well.
4. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half on a dusted surface with a rolling pin into an oval shape about 1/8 inch thick. Roll the sheet over the rolling pin, lift the pin and unroll it over a buttered pie pan, molding the sheet to the pan. Spoon in the filling and cover with the remaining sheet. Fold in the edges. Pierce the top several times to make steam vents. Brush the top with an egg white. Bake at 425ºF (220ºC) for 10 minutes, then reduce to 375ºF (190ºF) and bake 30 minutes more, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.