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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Savory Mushroom, Fennel, and Spinach Pie

Because it's never too late to start again!

Yeah, so it's been almost a year since my last blog post.  I've been busy, OK?  So sue me.  (No, don't really, I don't have any money.)

It's crazy how quickly life changes.  One moment, I'm living in my sister's basement, thriving on boxed soup and frozen dinners, and the next I'm in a fabulous apartment with a kick-ass roommate, and suddenly my culinary creative juices are flowing once again.  Weird, right???

With independence comes responsibility, though.  So many bills, from rent to car payment to student loans to insurance...  Who can keep up???  So I've decided it's time to throw recipes into contests again in an attempt to make some extra cash.  First up: the Farmer's Almanac annual recipe contest.  Theme: savory pies.  I knew I wanted to make a pot pie, and I knew immediately that I wanted to use mushrooms, fennel, and spinach.  But I wasn't so sure what to do about the crust.  Should I use just a top crust, or top and bottom?  Puff pastry?  Store-bought crusts?  Home-made crust?  (Yeah, no.  I don't have time for that nonsense.)

After much deliberation (and a very informal facebook poll), I decided top and bottom crust was the way to go (store-bought, because I'm all about convenience).  However, I was warned that I should take any and all precautions to prevent a soggy bottom crust (although not provided with any real advice how to do so...).  So, naturally, I googled "how to prevent soggy bottom crust" [true story], and came across a link for blind baking.  Basically, bake the bottom crust first.  Duh.  The rest of the assembly came together pretty smoothly, with the exception of the top crust, which I let thaw for too long and therefore became pretty fall-aparty.  And I had too much filling for the pie, but whatever.  The bottom crust was absolutely not soggy, and the filling was hearty and earthy and delicious.

This savory pie is good.  Damn good, if I do say so myself.  [Well, I had two taste-testers who agree, so you don't just have to rely on my biased opinion.]    Now, let's see if it fetches me $250!

2 9-inch frozen pie crusts (Marie Callender's frozen pie crusts are vegan)
3 Tbsp non-dairy stick butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped (I saved a few sprigs from the top to garnish the pie)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
5 cups fresh baby spinach
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp non-dairy milk
1 Tbsp agave

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line one pie crust with parchment paper and weigh down with dried beans or pie weights (click the link above for more specific instructions on blind baking).  Bake for 12-15 min, until crust is just golden.
Keep the other pie crust frozen until halfway through the filling preparation.  You only want to let it thaw about 10 min. 
Meanwhile, get started on the filling.  In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook about 3 min.  Stir in fennel and cook about 3 min more.  Stir in the flour, poultry seasoning, paprika, and thyme until well combined.  Slowly whisk in the milk and vegetable broth until well combined.  Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 min, allowing gravy to thicken.  Toss in the spinach and stir to wilt the leaves.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
When the crust in the oven is done, take it out and remove the weights.  Fill with veggie mixture (I stuffed it as full as I could, but still had about a cup of filling left over.  It's whatever.).  Cover with the thawed pie crust, pinching the edges over the bottom pie crust.  (Careful!  It's hot!)  Cut a few slits in the top.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp milk and agave, and brush over top crust.  Sprinkle a few fennel sprigs to make it look fancy, if desired.
Get that bad boy in the oven, which should still be at 400 degrees.  I baked mine on a cookie sheet, just in case it over-flowed while cooking.  Bake for 15 min, or until crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 min.  Slice, serve, and enjoy!