Tag Archives: chipotle

π day!

14 Mar

Unless you are living under a rock, you should already know that today is pi day! Pi day – or 3/14 – celebrates the Greek letter pi, used in math to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter as expressed in this equation:

This means, of course, that you can rearrange it and have C=πd etc. If you’re not mathematically inclined, this means that the length around a circle is equal to the length across the circle times pi.

It is an irrational number, which means you can’t express it as a rational fraction like 1/2 or 3/4 – when expressed as a decimal, it goes to infinity. There are contests to see who can recite pi to the nth digit, but generally it is expressed as the Greek letter or as 3.1415926… Pi day on March 14, 2015 will be very exciting indeed.

As it is a homophone of pie, it’s a nerd tradition to bake pies, particularly ones with the letter π on them as decoration. In the math world, pie contests abound. Max Falkowitz of Serious Eats is staying with me this week, so I coerced him into helping me cook a pie bonanza! It took two days of discussing what to put in to actually arrive at any decisions. Eventually we hit on a British lamb pie and a poblano butternut squash pie. Sadly, this country appears to be severely lacking in poblanos, so we used chipotle paste instead. I must credit him with these recipes though, especially the butternut – I would NEVER have thought to do this.

Pie 1

The lamb pie is based on one cooked for the original meat pie party back in undergrad. It was the richest, most filling pie I have ever had. Basically, it was minced lamb in its fat in a pastry. We decided to make this one a little more British by adding some vegetables and using puff pastry.

The stuff: 2 pounds minced lamb, 2 large potatoes, 2 white onions, frozen peas (about 1.5 cups)

The spice: SALT, pepper, rosemary, sage, allspice, coriander, 1/3 cup scotch

The rest: puff pastry

The method: Cut the potatoes into 1-cm cubes and parboil til nearly done. Brown the lamb in olive oil; salt well. Remove from the wok. Dice the onions and fry them in the lamb fat. Put everything together and add in the peas and seasoning. Add some flour to stick it all together. Put in a pie pan and cover with puff; bake.

[Max took photos with his really nice camera. They will be inserted later after an upload!]

Max also made a minty vinegar for the lamb using muddled mint, apple cider vinegar, and sugar. It was waaaay to vinegary for my taste at first (and made my kitchen smell horrible), but it actually tasted really good with the lamb after settling in the fridge for a few hours. The pie was absolutely delicious, but could have used some improvements. First, we could have cooked it down in a stock to save on salt. Since we didn’t have that stocky flavor, we had to be a little more inventive with the spices, I feel. Second, we should have added more flour to make it stick together – it was difficult to serve and just fell apart when it hit the plate. Third, it would have benefited from a bottom crust. I was going to make a gluten-free crust to use as a bottom and top, but my gluten-free friend couldn’t make it and I decided to be lazy and use commercial puff. Next time.

Pie 2

The butternut pie is based on a vegan chili Max made for Thanksgiving (he has vegan roommates). Unlike my vegan chili, though, which uses soy protein in place of meat, his is chili-flavored but it kind of a thick vegetable mess.

EDIT (3/20): This was not based on a chili, but was a separate side dish.

The veg: 2 butternuts, 2 red peppers, about 20 cherry tomatoes, 1 red onion

The spice: chipotle paste, cumin, s+p, Vulcan’s Fire Salt, MAX NEEDS TO TELL ME WHAT HE DID!

The rest: puff pastry, creme fraiche

The method: First, here’s my mom’s method of preparing butternut squash: Pierce a couple times, then microwave for 5 minutes. Watch your hands! It’s hot! Peel, then cut the bulbous bottom section in half. Scoop out the seeds. Dice.

Ok, with that done: Cut into 1-inch even cubes. Cover with cumin, s+p, and Vulcan’s, then massage with oil (I wish I had a picture of Max massaging the butternut cubes). Roast at 300 C until they’re caramelized. Cut the red peppers so they lie flat (big boats, basically) and put them on the used butternut tray. Slice the tomatoes in half and do the same. Roast at 300 until the pepper skins are getting carbonized. Add the tomatoes into the butternut mixture. For the peppers:

As soon as they come out of the oven, throw the peppers into a paper bag and close the top. Leave for 5-10 minutes so they sweat. When you take them out, the skins should peel off relatively easily. Chop.

Mix those in. Dice the red onion really, really small and mix in. Add the chipotle paste and other spices. We were going to make a cornmeal crust, but unfortunately they don’t call it cornmeal here and we bought corn flour — which turned out to be corn starch. So I used puff. Serve with creme fraiche.

I must say, I didn’t like this pie at first. The first few bites I was skeptical. But then, woah, it hit me! This was amazing. I just wanted to eat more and more! It was incredible! The chipotle is a very deep flavor, I’d say, magnifying the sweetness of the butternut. The roasting makes everything nice and carbon-y, which is picked up by the chipotle. And there’s a gentle spiciness to it, but definitely not overpowering. OMG, I think I have to go finish those leftovers RIGHT NOW.

[Pictures to come!]

Max also made a granita out of Strongbow. (If you don’t know, Strongbow is kind of the Bud Lite of ciders.) I didn’t think Strongbow had any redeeming qualities, but he mixed it with sugar and lemon juice and put it in the freezer and ended up with what was basically a Strongbow slushie, and it tasted better than any quality cider.

Pi night was a huge success! There were eight of us. Hillary was lovely and brought a chocolate mousse pie. Thanks to everyone for bringing thinks – Robert made a delicious flatbread with beetroot and capers, Laura T brought bread and hummus (from TPS, I presume?), Laura J brought cupcakes, Chloe Z brought cake and wine, and Young Katie brought nuts seasoned with pumpkin pie spice (yay for themes!). Loads of fun.