Ottolenghi Strikes Again with a Surprising Take on a Main Dish Pie.
I took on another Ottolenghi recipe from his “Test Kitchen” cookbook. This one is Chermoula and Potato Pie. Chermoula is an herb and spice paste similar to chimichuri, but contains warm spices and lemon juice instead of vinegar. In this case, toasted cumin seeds are used, along with cilantro, garlic, Fresno chilies, olive oil and salt. The paste is used twice – in the filling and as a topping.
The recipe calls for frozen puff pastry, but I had a disc of Milk Street’s No Shrink Pie Dough in my freezer and opted to use it. Instead of the 9 inch tart pan called for in the recipe, I used an 11 inch pan and increased the ingredients by 50%. Onions are first cooked in olive oil until nicely browned, at which time frozen spinach, which has been thawed and squeezed dry is added to the pan. Half of the chermoula is added, along with lemon zest and fresh dill. After the filling cools, it’s added to the unbaked crust, topped with crumbled feta cheese and chilled.
Par-baking the crust isn’t necessary because the filling isn’t overly wet and the pie bakes long enough to obtain a nicely browned crust. There was no soggy bottom on this pie. Right before going into the oven, a very thinly sliced potato is tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and is layered on top of the pie. It bakes for about 50 minutes in a 400 degree oven. After cooling for 15 minutes, it is topped with some of the remaining chermoula, to which lemon juice and some additional olive oil have been added. Additional chermoula is served on the side.
When discussing Ottolenghi’s recipes, much has been said of the many steps sometimes required. I’d say this one is middle of the road. Besides the crust, you have 3 steps: The chermoula, the filling, and the potato. None are difficult, but they take some time. In the final evaluation, I always take into consideration whether or not the expended time and energy were worth it. After all, there are many quick, easy, and delicious dishes we all have up our sleeves.
In this case, frozen puff pastry could be used, but I wouldn’t trade the melt in your mouth result of Milk Street’s Pie Crust. The filling is unctuous, but sweet from the onions and is sharp from the addition of the feta. Then you get the crackling crispiness of the sliced potato on top. I went heavy on the fresh chili pepper in the chermoula because I knew I wanted some heat added to the flavor profile. This ended up being one of the best savory pies/tarts I’ve ever made. Yes, I think it was most definitely worth it.