Many bakers have been clamoring for Nicole Rucker’s winning recipe from this year’s pie contest. Nicole took home not one, or two, but FOUR ribbons at the 4th Annual Good Food Pie Contest. It was her Pork and Peas Pie which landed her the ribbon for Best in Show.
So what is the key to Nicole’s blue ribbon recipe? “My first secret is controlling the temperature all along the way,” she says, “my second secret is high quality ingredients.” She describes it as a “scavenged pie.” It’s a combination of slow roasted Niman Ranch pork shoulder, pork belly, carrots, chopped gravenstein apples and peas that she had shucked and frozen last spring. She combined the braising liquid from the pork belly with a little flour and rosemary to form a gravy. And as if that weren’t enough, her pie crust is made with the unctuous European Style Butter from Straus Family Creamery in Northern California.
It helps that Nicole (as reported in the LA Times) has had a lot of time to practice making pies as the former baker and general manager at Gjelina Take Away in Venice and now co-owner of mid-city’s Cofax. If you aren’t up for rolling out your own pie dough in this heat, then trek over to either Gjelina or Gjelina Take Away where you can find her shatteringly flakey crust on the menu.
Keep reading for Nicole’s recipe…
Nicole Rucker’s Pork & Peas Pie
2 portions of chilled pie dough (I weigh mine to 14oz balls of dough, and I trim only about an ounce of it off once it’s in the pie plate. It’s a very thick crust.)
1/2 lb of roasted pork shoulder, pork butt also works. This is seasoned meat, we season ours with paprika, coriander and black pepper before roasting it.
4 oz of cooked pork belly, ours is braised in stock and aromatics.
2 medium carrots, cut into medium sized chunks
1 cup frozen peas
1 fuji or Gravenstein apple cute into medium sized chunks
1.5 cups of very rich pork stock… The one at Gjelina is literally pork jello. This made for a nice ingredient because it was a binder in its jelly form and then melted into a gravy.
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup good Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tsp chopped rosemary
1/4 cup heavy cream (reserve this for the crust)
Mix everything BUT PORK BELLY in a bowl, taste it for salt and pepper. Fill the chilled pie crust and dot the top of the filling with 1 inch chunks of pork belly. I thought of the pork belly as butter in this recipe. Mmmm. Pork butter.
Paint the rim of the crust with heavy cream and put the top crust on. Crimp the edges as you like – I prefer to fold mine under the press it into the edge of the plate to seal it. Paint the top with heavy cream, sprinkle with some nice flaky salt and a little rosemary. Cut a few slits up there for a vent.
At this point I put my pies in the freezer for 15 minutes. Bake at 375 deg for 15 minutes and then tune the oven down to 325 deg for the remainder of the time. Takes about 45 minutes in a convection oven and 1 hr and some change in a standing oven.
Gjelina’s Pie Crust (developed by Nicole Mournian)
I always weigh my ingredients, something I learned from two great pastry chefs (Gina Bledsoe in San Diego and Chef Miho Travi of Los Angeles) I worked for early on. It’s essential for accuracy in a recipe.
400g cold unsalted butter. I prefer Strauss European Style.
665g all purpose flour. King Arthur is my choice.
5g fine sea salt
5 oz cold water
100g granulated sugar
1/2 oz white vinegar
First make sure everything is cold. Mix the water, vinegar and sugar into a syrup and chill. Then, pulse the flour, salt and butter in a food processor until it is the size of medium peas. Dump this fatty flour out on a work surface, and gather it into a pile. Pour in half of the sugar syrup, and start mixing it all together gently, this is messy work. Squeeze the dough together and lightly rub the butter peas into the flour. Use the palm of your hand and press against the table gently and smear/rub the dough together. Sprinkle on more of the syrup, keep squeezing and rubbing. Try to work quickly so that the butter does not melt. This is the key to flakiness. When the dough comes together in a shaggy ball, I wrap the whole thing in plastic and let it chill in the fridge for an hour. This relaxes the gluten and brings the dough together. After that hour, I portion the dough into 14oz balls and roll them out. Usually very thick, depending on the pie… Roughly an 1/4 of an inch. Lay the dough into your desired pie plate and chill it for half an hour while you mix your filling.
This article was updated on September 4, 2015.