Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Clam Pie

The mini clam pies before baking (and eventual ruin.)
On Saturday I finally made one of the three clam pie recipes in the Northeast section of the cookbook. Honestly, if you were writing a cookbook, would you put in three recipes for clam pie, none of them dramatically different? I wouldn't.
The occasion was a good-bye party for Emily Guthrie, the wonderful, funny, ebullient assistant rector of  Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church. The Hospitality Committee sent out a request for party food.  While a pie wouldn't serve many, if one standard pie were made into tiny hors d'oeuvres there would be a good showing.
I always use refrigerator pie crust for these recipes. I cut the recipe for the filling in half, mainly because I only had two cans of clams.  broke out my mini muffin tin which holds 24 mini muffins and, after carefully oiling each cup, cut out two inch circles of refrigerator pie crust with a cookie cutter. I filled each little pie shell with a tablespoonful of filling, and sealed it with a smaller circle of dough. (Did I mention I made the filling?) When I made the filling, I doubled the herbs and cut the total recipe in half. Don't stint on the herbs. They make a big difference.
Then, it came time to bake my mini pies in their mini muffin pan. Well, herein lay the problem. The box of premade dough said to bake pies at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Genius Berkshire Farmer figured that since the pies were small, they should be baked at a lower temperature, to whit, 350 degrees. It turned out that particular reasoning was like finding a correlation between children's shoe size and their spelling ability. (Children with bigger feet spell better because they are older. Older children read and write more proficiently than younger children because they have more years of school, not because of their shoe size.)
Underbaking the dough meant that it stuck to the muffin tin, big time. I got about five of them out of twenty four. The rest of the mini pies crumbled miserably, or the top crust came off leaving a sad little crumbling cup of dough. At that point it was 4:30, and the party started at 6:00.
Swearing grimly, I jumped in the car and headed for 1. Starbucks, and 2. Safeway to buy coffee and more dough.
When I got back home, my husband, Bob,  began cutting out two inch rounds of dough, filling them with the leftover filling, and folding them into half moon clam pies. Working at top speed, we laid them out on the cookie sheet and whisked them into the oven. We were able to make about 25 more half moons, which looked like empanadas, before we decided we had enough.  Otherwise the party would be over by the time we got there.
When we pulled up at church, we encountered our son and his wife strolling down the street headed to the party. I sent Bob in and went off to park, no easy task because on this lovely April evening everyone in the neighborhood was either having a party or going to a party. The Cambodian Embassy seemed to be having a real hoe down with party goers in black tie and fancy party dresses. Legal parking, always a trial, was virtually nonexistent. I parked illegally next to a stop sign and legged it back three blocks to the party.
By the time I got there, my clam pies were almost gone. Either it was because they were so delicious that no one could resist them, or it was because people, such as my daughter-in-law, thought they were empanadas. Anyhow, they were consumed.
If you like the idea of clams in pastry, but aren't sure about a big doughy slice of clams mixed with cracker crumbs and egg, make it as an hors d'oeuvre. If you use refrigerator pastry, follow the directions re baking temperature, and butter your muffin cups well. Good luck.

Clam Pie

4 cups ground clams with their liquor (If you use canned clams, liquor is the liquid in the can.)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup cracker crumbs (Panko breadcrumbs work well too.)
1/8 teaspoon marjoram (Be serious, double the herbs.)
1/8 teaspoon thyme (Ditto)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
Pastry for a two crust ten inch pie
2 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. (/That's right, 425 degrees. Do not turn down the oven.)
2. In a bowl, mix together the clams, egg crumbs, marjoram, thyme, salt, pepper and milk.
3. Line a ten-inch pie plate with the pastry,. Pour in the clam filling, dot with butter and top with remaining pastry. Make a steam hole and bake fifteen minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and continue baking forty five minutes longer. Makes six servings, or 50-60 half moon clam pies.

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