Comfort in a Crust
Diners are spoiled for choices as savory pies go gourmet
Savory pies are hot right now, and not just because temperatures are cold. While demand for dishes like shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie always rises as the mercury drops, this season more chefs than ever are creating gourmet savory pies that mix classic techniques with modern ideas. We checked in with a few to see how they’re taking an ancient culinary tradition into the present.
“We specialize in what we refer to as the Commonwealth of Pies,” says Adam Panayiotou, one of three South African-born founders of Panbury’s, which has two café locations in Atlanta and an online business. “We decided there was a gap in the market for properly made British, Australian, New Zealand and South African-style handheld pies.”
While expat entrepreneurs have attempted to bring such pies stateside before, Panayiotou explains, their efforts have mostly fallen flat due to a lack of adaptability.
“They’re making them in the same fashion with the same ingredients as back home,” he says. “We’re going to use the best quality ingredients we can find and classic cooking techniques, and we’re going to keep it accessible while still inventing flavors and pulling from the cultures that are influencing trends.”
Pressed to name a signature pie, Panayiotou cites the English-style steak & stout pie, made with beef shoulder braised in a Guinness sauce with caramelized onion, mushrooms, fresh rosemary and fresh thyme. But for a more cutting-edge option, there’s the chicken tikka masala pie.
“We fire roast the chicken before we dice it and put it into the sauce, which gives it a more exciting flavor profile,” he explains. “It’s brought in a whole new segment of clientele that wasn’t excited by the traditional British flavors.”
At The Gage in Chicago, Executive Chef Chris Gawronski’s seasonal pigeon pie is a local classic, drawing inspiration from the Cornish-style pasties he grew up eating in Michigan.
“The pigeon pie is a combination of my love of the pies of my childhood as well as my love of squab done in a more refined way,” Gawronski explains. “It’s made of a sausage forcemeat that includes squab and duck and is inlayed with squab breast and foie gras. All that is then enveloped in a savory pastry dough and decorated before it is baked.”
The softball-sized pie is served with cognac mustard, squab jus liè and watercress. If that isn’t luxe enough, he has one more trick to make it memorable.
“When I’m feeling inspired, I love to stuff the pies with an addition of madeira-braised winter truffle,” he says. “It’s perfect for the cold weather.”