In case you’ve forgotten, this is as good a time as any to remind you that I’ve got a new book coming out in October chock full of recipes for dinner pies, which is kinda’ why we decided to call the book Dinner Pies. (Note: the okay photos you see here are mine, and not the stunning ones – shot by a real photographer – that will appear in Dinner Pies.)
Not every phase of writing a cookbook is what I’d call fun – there’s so much testing, retesting, editing, re-editing, and small-stuff-sweating that your head can start to swim. But now we’re at the point where photos have been shot and page proofs are ready; this is fun. The many pieces are starting to cohere and feel like a real book. Cover designs pass back and forth, some of which the author isn’t crazy about, causing publisher – one imagines – to gaze heavenward and wonder why they bother to hire difficult authors like me.
We’re all part of the same team, though, and in the end it’s all for the sake of producing a winning cookbook, which I hope…and believe…Dinner Pies will be.
This collard tart is, literally, a taste of what’s to come. And it’s a one of the better illustrations of how there’s a whole lot more to the dinner pie story than just pot pie and quiche (which, I hasten to add, are definitely not given short shrift in Dinner Pies.)
Unless you’ve hacked into my computer and stolen the recipe, you’ve probably never had a tart like this, so let me help. Imagine the best creamed spinach you’ve ever eaten. Now replace the spinach with more full-bodied collards, add Parmesan cheese, then bake all these tender creamy greens in a flaky pastry topped with buttery panko bread crumbs – the au gratin part of the whole shebang.
The only way your tart could taste any better is if, by chance, you have your own personal collard grower like I do. Mine is my brother-in-law, retired colonel Dean McKitrick (Army National Guard) pictured here taking a rare break at his Wilmington, North Carolina home. (He and my sister Joanne are pretty much neighbors now that we’ve moved The Pie Academy to Wilmington.)
Growing collards isn’t actually Dean’s day job; boat building is. He’s more than two years into a 26′ Dory Skiff and it promises to cut a mean profile off the coast later this summer when it rolls out of his backyard and down to the water. It’s inspiring to see his craft take shape and one can’t help but admire his dedication: building a boat isn’t exactly all fun and games, either.
It’s a tad late in the season for fresh collards – Dean’s or anyone else’s – but you can still find the fresh, prepackaged kind. Unless they’re picked early, collards have a thick central stem running the length of the leaves. It’s important to remove these stems because they’re not as tender as the leaves and take much longer to cook, so they’ll be a chewy nuisance if you don’t get rid of them.
Collards love pork, so we saute the greens in bacon fat then simmer them in a little chicken stock; the bacon itself is crumbled onto the tart shell. We add some cream to the greens, then the Parmesan. The starch from a grated potato helps bind the liquid, so no eggs or other thickener is needed to hold the filling together.
More often than not, I’ll just slice the tart into large pieces and serve it as the centerpiece of a meal. Cut it in slightly smaller pieces, and it makes a snazzy replacement for any green vegetable you’d serve with a roast pork or chicken. Indeed, there’s really no wrong way to serve this other than not serving it at all.
I’ll post a few more recipes from Dinner Pies leading up to its release this fall. As soon as we have a final cover design, we’re planning a special pre-publication sale also, so stay tuned for that. And if you’re lucky enough to attend our upcoming Lowcountry Pie Getaway this fall in Charleston, South Carolina – the details of which will be announced by the end of this month – Dinner Pies is just one of the cool gifts you’ll find in your getaway swag bag.
Enjoy the tart and – as always – let me know what you think. It’s great getting your emails and I appreciate each and every one of them.
Recommended pie crusts for this collard tart: