Sometimes I get these crazy ideas into my head. I experiment a lot in the kitchen and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Most of these experiments don’t get their own post here. Then there are times like today when I stumble across something so unexpected and tasty I can’t wait to share it with the world.
This idea all started the other night when I was in bed, doing what I always do when I’m hungry and can’t fall asleep… thinking about food. This particular night I was fantasizing about desserts gone savoury. A burnt garlic “brownie”….. ummmm no….. an onion sponge cake with a chevre tarragon mousse and salmon roe…. too fancy… SAVOURY APPLE PIE!
Apples and pork go together like a hammer and nails, so pork was definitely going to be the meat product of choice. I really wanted to make this an apple pie with pork in it (as opposed to a pork pie with apples), so I decided it would need spices like allspice and cloves. I even resolved to use a fruit crostata dough with less sugar in it. Still an apple pie with less sugar and bits of pork in it sounded kind of flat and to be honest, a little weird, so I did some more thinking. It needed something that could bridge the gap between sweet and savoury… something that could meld the light taste of the apples with the richness of the pork and crust… something like caramelized onions!
Thinking that it might get lost in the filling I decided to flavour the crust with it. To keep them from burning I only lightly caramelized them, and to keep them from ruining the texture of the dough I froze them, then processed them together with the frozen butter. The reason for the cold is to help prevent the formation of gluten in the flour. The cold butter also has the benefit of not integrating with the flour completely. These little frozen pebbles of butter when rolled out and layered create little flat pockets of fat that help puff up the dough and give it its gorgeous flaky layers.
The result was delicious! The crust was rich, buttery and flaky with sweet toasty flecks of caramelized onion. The liquid from the cooked apples and pork combined with the flour and spices to make a delightfully well balanced sauce that enrobes the alternating morsels of tender savoury pork and sweet juicy apples. I had 4 when they were still hot, then went back for seconds after they’d cooled down and they were just as good.
The onions did give the crust a mottled appearance, but I think this can be fixed by caramelizing the onions a little less and using an egg wash. Downsized a bit, these would make fantastic party appetizers and the leftovers would go nicely in a picnic lunch.
- Slice the onion as thinly as possible and toss with a large pinch of salt. The salt helps breaks down the cell walls and speeds up caramelization. Add about 2 tsp of olive oil to a pan over medium heat and fry the onions until they are very soft and a light beige all the way through. Allow them to cool to room temperature then put them in the freezer.
- Put the flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the frozen butter into small cubes then add to the food processor along with the caramelized onions. Pulse for 1 second at a time until the mixture resembles pea sized pebbles. Add 1/4 C of ice cold water and pulse until the mixture just starts to come together (but is still crumbly). Dump it out onto a work surface and quickly form into 2 round pucks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- For the filling, combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. Cut the apples and brined pork and put them in a bowl. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the apples and pork and mix to evenly coat. If your pork is very lean, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the mix.
- Move the oven rack to the lower middle position and pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll out one puck of dough until about 1/8" thick. Fold the top edge to the center then fold the bottom edge to the center. Fold the rounded bits to the left and right over to make an envelope shaped rectangle (see photo above). Flip the dough and roll this out trying to keep the rectangle shape until it's about 12"x 8". Cut this into six 4" squares. Put these in the fridge and repeat with the other disc of dough.
- When you have 12 square pieces of dough, gently press each piece into a muffin tin and fill with the filling. Fold the 4 edges of the dough together to close off the top of each pie. Brush the tops with and egg yolk and cream wash then put the tin in the oven.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow them to cool until you can remove them by hand. Serve warm with a salad for dinner or cold as a snack or part of a picnic.
See this recipe to brine the pork a day in advance.