Refrigerator Triage: Salsa Pie

You know when you have that bit of salsa left over, but no tortilla chips or even tortillas? Sure, you might just throw it on a cheese sandwich, make an omelette, or even just pop it into the freezer, but you should also know this: it makes a wonderful ingredient for savory pie.

So, this is one of those lazy posts where I’m really giving you more of a serving suggestion than a recipe.

You will need pastry for a double crust pie – such as this tried and true pie crust recipe:

Double Pastry Crust
for a 8 or 9″ pan

1 1/2 cups all purpose (unbleached) flour
1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vodka
4 tablespoons cold water

Place the flour in the bowl of a small food processor fitted with a metal cutting blade. Add the pinch of salt and the butter (cold is best) in chunks, and pulse until well mixed, and the butter is in pieces no larger than a piece of confetti. Add the vodka and the water, all at once, and pulse again, continuing to pulse until the dough comes together and pulls away from the edge of the bowl. If the dough won’t come together, try adding a tiny extra spritz of water. Dump the dough onto your lightly floured work surface, and, as quickly as possible, shape it into a couple of flat discs. Chill the dough for 10 minutes, then roll out as needed.

For the pie filling, this is my usual method:

Fry up some finely diced onion and protein of your choice – here I’ve used lean ground beef, but you could use any ground meat or analogue you want. Add a little stock to enrich the taste if you like, otherwise just use a bit of water (about a quarter cup). Season the meat to taste with cumin, garlic, oregano, and ground chiles. If your salsa is not very salty, and if your beans are unsalted, you might want to add a little bit of salt now, too.

Add about 400 mL cooked beans – here I’ve used black beans, but you could use kidney, canellini, pinto, even re-fried beans, if that’s what you have. If you mash about a third of the (whole) beans, that helps hold the filling together at the end, when you’re slicing the pie. You could also sprinkle a little flour over the meat mixture as it fries, to thicken it (or use a slurry – I won’t judge). In goes anything else you think would be good. We always have chiles, so in go a few chopped chiles, we usually have frozen corn, so in goes some of that, and at last, the salsa goes in to tie everything together. A cup of salsa is a good amount, but if you don’t have that much, don’t worry.

Once everything is well combined, and you’ve tasted it and adjusted the seasonings to your preference, set it aside and roll out your pie crust. Put the filling in (it doesn’t need to cool down) and make sure it’s evenly distributed (a low dome in the centre is nice), cover and seal the edges in the manner you like best, slit the top in a few places, and then bake at 450 F for 25 minutes, turning it down to 350 F for another 10 minutes or so, until the crust is completely golden top (and bottom, if you’re using a glass pie plate, it’s easy to check).

Let the pie stand for about 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. While the pie rests, you can make a nice salad to go with, like the purple cabbage buttermilk slaw in the picture.

Still got extra salsa left? Serve it on the side!

PS: Want a vegetarian version? Use your favourite vegetarian pie crust, and use brown lentils in place of the ground beef (the same method as you would use for lentil tacos, for example), or a combination of brown lentils and barley or bulgar wheat. You may want to mash a few more of the beans, to ensure the filling holds together in the end (rather than spilling all over the plate, leaving a sad, deflated crust).

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