Easy as Pie

So, here’s the thing.

Dewey’s cake: Best.Cake.Ever.  If I lived closer to Winston-Salem, I’d weigh 800 pounds.

I love carbs.  Carbohydrates and the yummy fat that goes on and around them.  Heck, two of my favorite foods—potato salad and birthday cake, are both gloriously fat adjacent carbs.

A life-long love affair.  Petey Who?

But I have a big beef with the comingling of certain starchy types.  Namely bread or pastry with potatoes.  I don’t eat spud subs, potato pizzas or pie.  But it’s not because I don’t think they’d be tasty because I so think they would.  It’s something else entirely.

I guess we could call it nutritional conscience.

It’s like wearing way too much jewelry, driving a super flashy, crazy loud car, or beating a basketball opponent 75-13.  It’s arrogant, in-your-face, over-kill.  And no good can possibly come from it.  Whether it’s karma, the ultimate sin of tackiness, or the urgent need for a coronary by-pass, some things just ain’t fitting.Last time I was at Costco I picked up one of their dump truck-sized boxes of mushrooms.  I wanted to do something other than the usual mushroom vehicles of gravy, or salad, or soup.  I decided to make a pie.  The earthiness of mushrooms and potatoes make them perfect for each other.  But potatoes and pastry crust are a no-go combo.

So, I let the spuds be the crust.

Mushroom Pie with Hash Brown Crust

hash brown crust

For Crust:

4 cups shredded potatoes

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

salt & pepper

An hour or so before baking, grate the potatoes into a colander.  Sprinkle with teaspoon of salt, and stir so salt’s evenly distributed.  Let sit in colander for at least an hour.  Then place spuds into kitchen towel and twist it around to get the most water out you can.

Preheat oven to 450.  Pour melted butter into shredded potatoes.  Season.  Toss until everything’s well-coated.

Place spuds into 9-inch pie pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Press into bottom and sides in even layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn on low broiler and cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned and dry.

When done, remove from oven and set aside to make filling.


mushroom pie2 slices crispy bacon, fat reserved

24 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 yellow onion

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup low-fat milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Manchego, aged Cheddar, grated

15 gratings of fresh nutmeg

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 325.  Put mushrooms and onion into heavy-bottomed pot with butter, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Turn on medium-high and cook until totally dry and browned, stirring occasionally.

While the mushrooms cook, whisk together dairy, eggs, nutmeg, and cheese, reserving 2 tablespoons cheese.

Add tomato paste and Worcestershire.  When color of tomato paste has deepened, pour in wine, scraping up browned bits.  Cook until the veg are completely dry.  Spoon into potato crust and smooth top.

Slowly pour egg mixture over ‘shrooms.  Sprinkle top with reserved cheese, parsley, and bacon.

Bake for 25 minutes, then turn on low broiler and cook until set and lightly browned. mushroom pieRemove from oven and let sit 15-20 minutes before serving.  Serve with something green.  Feeds 8.

It was really tasty. It was less eggy than a quiche, but it did have a custard-y component.  And the watchword here is dry.  Make sure the shrooms are cooked to Sahara-level desiccation.  The drier the ingredients, the better the final product will be.

Because even though you may disagree with me about carbo-overload, nobody wants wet pie.

Wet pie.

Thanks for your time.



The big bad wolf called…he wants to come for dinner

Alright you guys, today I’m bringing you all along for culinary jalopy ride/scientific experiment.

Here at Chez Matthews, we love smothered pork chops.  But there’s a major fly in the ointment when using modern grocery store pork.

Today’s modern mass-produced pork has very little fat.  Many pork chops, either bone-in or boneless are from the very leanest part, the loin.  This makes for a tender and juicy chop when cooked just to 143 degrees.  But when cooked low and slow this quality translates to dry and stringy.

I’ve been thinking about doing a slow-cooked smothered pork dish that would only get better by a long sojourn in a low oven.

A North Carolina gold mine.

A pork butt (or shoulder), the cut used to make NC barbecue and carnitas, is full of fat and connective tissue that when cooked slowly becomes tender and unctuous.  But, they’re huge hunks of meat.

There is though, a compromise cut.

It’s something called boneless country ribs.  They aren’t actually ribs, but cut either from the blade end of the loin near the shoulder, or the shoulder itself.  The leaner loin-cut rib works here, but the best cut for this dish is the butt.

Happily, it’s also a buck or two cheaper than its leaner neighbor.

Slow-cooked smothered country ribs


dry rub

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon porcini powder

1/2 teaspoon caraway powder

1 teaspoon za’atar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon thyme

Pinch of fresh nutmeg

Mix together and rub all over 2 pounds boneless country pork ribs.  Cover, refrigerate, and let sit 24 hours.

Caramelized onion:

car onions

2 yellow onions, chopped

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon dry thyme

1 teaspoon za’atar

I large bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Put oil in pot on medium low.  Add onions, thyme, za’atar, bay leaf, salt and pepper.

Cook on medium-low until golden amber in a large heavy pot with lid. Remove from pot.

Heat the same pot on medium-high.  Brown meat on all sides in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.  Remove from pot and set aside.

Mushroom gravy:

shroom gravy

2 pounds mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided

2 tablespoons sassafras jelly or 1 tablespoon apple jelly and ¼ cup root beer

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 cup white wine

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups beef stock

1 cup skim milk

1/3 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper


roux ing

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup flour

Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium-low.  Whisk in flour and cook until the color of peanut butter.  Set aside.


Preheat oven to 250.  Heat pot on medium-high.  Add mushrooms, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon thyme to pot along with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Cook until liquid has released from the mushrooms and cooked off.  Add cooked onion.  When mushrooms begin to brown, add jelly and tomato paste.  Cook until jelly dissolves and tomato paste has begun to darken (about 3 minutes). 

Pour in wine and cook until pan is dry again.  Add stock, stir in mustard, Worcestershire, and dairy.  Heat until boiling.  Whisk in roux until gravy thickness.  Check for seasoning.  Add in meat and cover.  Place in oven and cook three hours.  When done, skim off any fat from the surface.


Serve over rice.  Makes 5-6 servings.

Well, it turned out delicious.  The meat was literally falling-apart tender.  The connective tissue had completely broken down and gave it that rib-like mouth feel.

And Petey, who I sometimes think likes pork more than he likes me, loved it.  He claimed the leftover pork and rice for lunch tomorrow.  I also had two deli containers of gravy left.  One portion will be used for baked meatballs in a day or so.  The other’s in the freezer for a future project to be named later.

So, my experiment was successful.  But really, how bad can pork and gravy ever be?  It’s not like my kitchen fiddling was going to create a monstrous porcine/human hybrid.   But just think; if it did we could have had a huge pig pickin’ that could baste itself and make the sides.

Don’t worry, this is actually a still from a Doctor Who episode.

Thanks for your time.