Say the word pie and most people turn their thoughts to apple, cherry or coconut cream.
But long before pie was reserved for the dessert cart, pies were savory fare crusts filled with meat, vegetables and gravy, eggs, cheese, seafood or other sauces. Baking ingredients inside a crust was a good way to use up leftovers or to turn just a small amount of meat into heartier fare.
Turkey, chicken, beef or even ham, combined with gravy, potatoes and other vegetables, baked into a rich crust is one of the ultimate comfort foods.
Classic pot pie is one of the best-loved savory pies, and can be made with or without a bottom crust. Ladle hot filling into bakers or ramekins, and all the dish needs is a topper of pie crust or puff pastry to give it a golden brown finish.
While it looks time-consuming, a chicken pot pie can be quickly assembled using meat from a rotisserie chicken, frozen vegetables, and pre-made pie crust or thawed sheets of frozen puff-pastry dough.
Still, theres more to a savory pie than chicken pot pie. For inspiration, look to the British.
Tart It Up! (Mitchell Beazley, $19.99), a new book from British food television chef Eric Lanlard, is devoted to sweet and savory pies and tarts.
Lanlard offers all kinds of traditional European meat pies: French quiche Lorraine, Brittany seafood tart, and Iberian Chicken Pie laced with paprika and cayenne pepper.
British chef Jamie Oliver, in his new book Jamie Olivers Great Britain (Hyperion, $35), explores British pub fare and comfort foods, from shepherds pie under a crown of mashed potatoes to Cornish pasties, which were the traditional lunch for tin miners in Englands Cornwall County.
When those miners immigrated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for work, they brought the tradition of pasties with them, where it remains to this day. Eating these savory hand pies is still a big attraction for visitors to the Upper Peninsula.
With colder weather upon us, it doesnt take much work to bake some comfort food under a crust.