Whereas last month’s blog experiment entry left me stumped for a while, not only do I know which post led this searcher to my blog; the dish I wanted to create coalesced pretty quickly in my mind. The search term “parsley pie,” with its bright green focus, seemed appropriately spring-y for this first warm week in Southern California. Though I had my own ideas already, I did a quick image search to see what other sorts of “parsley pies” turned up, and the answer is: not many. Most of what I saw were meat pies, with the addition of parsley to lighten up the filling or, in one case, add fiber. Some of these concoctions were the classic British pork pie, with high, golden sides and, sometimes, a hard boiled egg or two cunningly tucked into the filling, while some were shepherds pies, with parsley added to the ground lamb or to the mashed potato topping.
What I’d envisioned, quite contrary to these heavy options, was a pie where parsley dominated: something like a quiche Lorraine would be a neutral base, and allow for greater visibility for the heaping mounds of the freshly chopped herb in question. I suppose if I’m being absolutely honest I should call this a parsley quiche, but it does have a proper crust and a filling, and since that ultimate internet authority Wikipedia (hah!) classifies quiche as a “savoury pie,” I’m going to cross my fingers behind my back and declare that this counts.
Because there are no bulky chunks in the filling to hold it up, this must of necessity be a shallow pie. Thus it was a perfect opportunity to use the tart pan I bought myself for Christmas (though a pie pan would work fine). Along with eggs, milk, and of course the eponymous parsley, I whisked in a combination of other herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, and a few chives, to add some variety to the flavor. And because I can’t help myself, I topped the green freckled custard with crumbles of feta cheese, which admittedly adds a pleasant brininess that the pie would suffer without.
A few thoughts: if you’re going to make this, you have to like parsley. This seems a distressingly obvious revelation, but I mean it – this really, really tastes like parsley. If it’s too herbaceous for you, or you’re looking for a bit more to sink your teeth into, crumbled, crisp prosciutto, or lumps of crab, or slick slices of smoked salmon, would bulk it up nicely. Alternatively, a side salad with a thick wedge would make a perfect spring lunch. As for construction, if you use a tart pan you really have to be sure your crust forms an unbroken layer around the bottom edge of the pie. Cracks or very thin areas can lead to egg leakage in the oven. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Makes a 9-inch pie
About 2 hours, including crust resting time
6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1¼ cups)
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick or 8 tablespoons)
2-4 ounces cold buttermilk (water would be fine too)
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped mixed soft green herbs (such as basil, chives, tarragon, cilantro, dill, etc)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper (I used black, but white pepper would work too)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- To make the crust, combine the flour and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor. Cut the stick of butter into 12-16 slices, then add these to the processor as well and pulse at 1 second intervals until the butter is mostly broken up into blueberry or cherry-sized chunks. With the processor running, dribble in the buttermilk just until the mixture starts to come together into a dry ball. You may not need all of the buttermilk. Turn the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic wrap to help you quickly and decisively form the mixture into a flat disc about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap it up and stow it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Not only does this chill the butter, making for a flakier end result, but it allows the buttermilk to hydrate the flour.
- While you wait for the dough to chill, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle position, oil or butter a 9-inch tart pan or pie plate, and prep the filling ingredients. Whisk the eggs with the cup of milk and add in the chopped herbs, the ½ teaspoon of salt, and the ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Note: 1 cup chopped parsley means you chop before you measure, so you do need a rather large bouquet of herbs to meet the required amount.
- You can whisk the feta in with the herb and egg mixture, or you can crumble it over the top of the custard when it’s poured into the crust. Or, of you prefer, you can do a little of both, mixing some in and saving some to sprinkle on top. You do you.
- After at least half an hour in the fridge, remove the dough disc and unwrap it onto a floured board. Now, this is crucial: let it sit about ten minutes to warm up just a tad before you try to roll it out. When it has had a chance to shake the chill off, sprinkle its surface with a little flour and, with a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a circle about 11 inches in diameter. I like to start in the middle of the disc and push away from me first, then bring the rolling pin back all the way towards me. Then I turn the disc of dough 90 degrees and repeat, flipping it over if needed, until I have a rough circle.
- Use the rolling pin to help you transport the circle of dough into the prepared pan. Drape the dough gently down into the edges and, if you are using a tart pan, be sure to press it lightly into the grooves on the side of the pan, and carefully patch any thin areas or cracks along the bottom. For extra insurance, place the tart pan on a cookie sheet – this makes for easier transport to and from the oven and, if you do suffer some leakage, keeps the mess contained, not on your oven floor.
- Whisk up your filling mixture again to ensure even distribution, then gently pour it into the crust. Sprinkle some or all of the crumbled feta over the top, if desired, and carefully transport to the oven.
- Bake 45-60 minutes until the crust is pale gold and the filling is set and has puffed slightly in the center. Remove to a wire rack and let cool at least fifteen minutes before you carefully remove the tart pan (if using) and center the pie on a serving platter. I used a cake stand because I like to be fancy for you. Serve warm or at room temperature.