Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cookbook review - Savory Pies by Greg Henry and Sausage and Red Pepper Polenta Recipe

I love reviewing cookbooks - it gives me a chance to cook and experience recipes that I would not otherwise find. Such is the case with Savory Pies by Greg Henry. It is a gem of a book. No sweet pies will be found in this book though. All of the beautifully presented recipes are filled with vegetables, meats, poultry, seafood recipes that have some sort of crust. Traditional crusts, of course, are included but you'll also cobblers, filo pastry crusts, tarts, flat breads, and even hand pies.The book is divided into useful sections including crusts, appies, main course - meat and seafood, main course - vegetarian, and hand pies. The pictures will make you hungry! The instructions are clear and a nice bonus are the 'wine pairing' side bars that are included with many recipes. 

The recipes will appeal to family nights (chicken pot pie and mac-n-cheese pie with potato crust) as well as fancier parties (carmelized fennel and onion pissaladiere or lamb and apricot phyllo cups). I plan on trying quite a few over the coming months. 

The book itself is about 200 pages, soft cover and just the right size - it won't take up too much space on your cookbook shelf but I am guessing it will be well used! 

The first recipe I tried was Sausage and Red Pepper Polenta Cobbler. It sounded like a hearty meal with  a healthy dose of veggies! I also love one pot meals that can be brought to the table straight from the oven! 

The instructions were easy to follow and the recipe had enough leeway to customize it a bit (e.g. adding garlic and paprika, switching cheddar for the parmesan, buttermilk for the cream etc) without affecting the end result. The polenta cobbler was outstanding and the sausage and veggies combined deliciously to keep you going back bite after bite until it was all gone! The recipe says it serves 4 but I think it could easily serve 6.

Ulysses Press has given permission to reprint the original recipe below. And if you like savory pies go and buy this book!

Sausage and Red Pepper Polenta Cobbler

Savory Pies by Greg Henry. Ulysses Press, 2012. ISBN  978-1-61243-106-2

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 or 5 spicy Italian sausages (about 1 pound), removed from their casings
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, halved and sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch strips
1¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach (about 3 ounces)
½ cup quick-cooking polenta mix or yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice
1¼ cups heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until browned, breaking up with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the skillet. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons fat.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until somewhat softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper strips and cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together ¼ cup flour and the tomato paste. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until well combined; add to the skillet. Stir in the spinach and sausage and cook about 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, if needed. (The filling may be prepared several hours ahead to this point; let come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.)

Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1½ cups flour, polenta, baking powder, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender, 2 butter knives, or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with various-size chunks of butter visible throughout. Add the Parmesan, cutting or rubbing to lightly mix. Stir in 1¼ cups cream until a rough dough forms.

Drop 6 or 8 large mounds of polenta mixture over the sausage mixture, 1 inch apart. Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon cream on top. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the polenta topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes; a knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Bring the skillet to the table and serve warm.


  1. I love using my cast iron so thanks for giving me another reason to use it! This recipe looks absolutely amazing, I definitely intend on trying this! Thanks for sharing :)

    Happy Valley Chow

  2. Wow, imagine my surprise to find this on Pinterest! I'm blushing. Greg Henry

    1. LOL. Isn't Pinterest great! Great cookbook! Can't wait for your "Savory Drinks" publication!

  3. This looks like a delicious dinner. I am definitely making this - hubby is in San Diego golfing and this will be his welcome home dinner this Tuesday. THANK YOU!

  4. Oh my, oh my, oh my! I just made this and it came out wonderful. I agree that the recipe adapts well to cooking with whatever you have on hand and adjusting to cook's preferences (I didn't have any spinach, but had a bunch of bella mushrooms). Thank you for posting - and also a link to the cookbook. That is definitely one I'd like to get.

  5. I made this a couple weeks ago and we LOVED it. I had the same idea to use buttermilk before even reading your post, which worked great. I also added a can of cannellini beans, which I think really rounded out and bulked up the filling. Thanks!