This came about because I was setting up a dinner date for March 14 with my friend Brenna, who really, really likes math (and is probably awesome at it, but my puny non-math-mind can’t really tell you for sure). She casually mentioned that she would like to bring a pie, since the 14th is Pi Day. I was like, oh, it would be cool if the whole meal was centered around pie. Cool and fattening. So maybe it’s not a good idea after all.
Brenna was like, oh, we can do healthier pies, like make crusts out of hollowed zucchinis or cauliflower.
(This exchange was happening over email, so she couldn’t see how unenthused I was about that.)
Brenna suggested a deconstructed chicken pot pie.
And I was like, ooh!
And then I said something off the cuff about how we can go one further and make a pie using pi digits. And then I realized I was crazy-talking so I was like, nah! That’s a lot of work for something that might not taste very good.
Brenna expressed some sort of approval of the idea and said that such a thing was worth trying.
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. That was all it took.
I didn’t even acknowledge that I had internalized what she had just written. I just started scheming and obsessing behind the scenes.
I didn’t want to make an obvious pie. Brenna also can’t eat dairy, so I couldn’t use cream or butter, which actually really helps mitigate the heaviness of savory pies, so I had to work around that. And I thought about how cool beer is and how cool steak is and how I really can take or leave St. Patrick’s Day and a PI/PIE was born!
Not going to lie, this recipe is super-duper contrived and the measurements are pretty inconsistent and frustrating (I go from metric to imperial to weight to volume and round and round and round.). The ingredients are also out of order — because I had to force out the numbers, guys. I had to. Otherwise, how can I really call this a steak and Guinness pi/pie?
No worries, I did put cleaner measurements in parentheses in the recipe.
Conceptually, this pi/pie totally rocks and works on a bazillion levels. Pies are circular in shape. Pi is this magical ratio having to do with circles. Pi and pie are also homophones, which creates an atmosphere ripe for hardcore punning.
- 3 carrots (cut into ¾-inch chunks)
- 1 egg + 4 teaspoons of water (for an eggwash)
- 159 grams of trumpet mushrooms (see photos for an idea of approximately how many, cut into ⅓-inch by 1 inch chucks)
- 2 small red potatoes (cut into 1-inch chunks)
- 653 grams beef chuck or other stewing/tough cut of beef (about 1.4-1.5 pounds)
- 58 ml light olive or canola oil (this is about 4 tablespoons)
- 9 teaspoons (aka "a clump") of savory, woody stems discarded, leaves roughly chopped
- 7 cloves of garlic, roughly minced
- 9 teaspoons (aka 3 tablespoons) of all-purpose flour
- 3 shallots, quartered
- 238 grams Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (basically one of the two sheets you get in a box), thawed, but still cold
- 462 ml of Guinness (a little bit shy of a pint — save yourself a sip as you're cooking)
- Kosher/sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to taste
- Heat up oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the steak. Throw on a dash of salt.
- Sprinkle flour over the top and roll the meat around in it, coating its surfaces. Cook for three minutes or so, browning the flour to get rid of its "rawness."
- Deglaze the pan with the Guinness. It will froth. (Okay, duh. Sorry.) Haha, it's totally normal.
- Add in savory, mushrooms, carrots, shallots, and potatoes. Stir to get everything incorporated. Turn heat down to low.
- You now have three choices: A) You can put a lid over the skillet and let the filling stew on low heat for three hours or more. B) You can put a lid over your skillet and pop it in the oven at 250 degrees F (120 C) for three hours or more. C) You can transfer the mixture to a crock pot or slow cooker and set it for three hours or more (this is what I did, and I actually left it going overnight). During the stewing process, the mixture should darken, thicken, and also lose a lot of its bitterness.
- Season the filling with salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Toss a little salt in. Taste it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until you get it to your liking. You want it to be robust and just ever-so-slightly too salty to be soup.
- (You can let the filling cool and store it in the fridge for a day or two at this point, if you'd like.)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C).
- You can serve this pie family-style by putting the filling in a 12-inch shallow pie pan, a 10-inch deep pie pan, or whatever will hold about 40 ounces of filling. Alternatively, you can fill up 8 small ramekins. (Each holds 5.5 ounces and are 3.5 inches in diameter.) Don't fill the filling to the top. Try to leave at least ¼-inch of space.
- Take the sheet of puff pastry and cut it to fit over your vessel (or vessels) as a lid (or lids). Brush the top with your lightly beaten egg wash. You may have scraps left over. I'm sure you can figure out something creative to do with those scraps!
- Bake at 375 F (190 C) for half an hour for small ramekins and probably for 45 minutes for one large pie.
I based my recipe around Jamie Oliver’s version because I figured that guy knows what’s the what when it comes to a steak and Guinness pie.
I used savory in my recipe because I came across it at the Asian market for really cheap and have never used it before. I tried to smell it to get a sense of what it’s all about, but it was wrapped in plastic. So I just went with it, scent unsmelled. It’s an herb, right? And it’s beef, right? It’s gonna be okay.
And it was! Savory is very pleasantly forthright in flavor and would fit in very well among fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage. If you can’t find savory (or if it’s too pricey), totally go with whatever strikes you.
I used honking trumpet mushrooms in the recipe because they’re so meaty and substantial. And also because we all need to stop being so dependent on those white button mushrooms, am I right? The steak and Guinness filling takes a few hours to stew, before the meat loosens up enough to relax and lounge among the gravy and root vegetables. I would say that during hours one through three, stuff will taste alarmingly bitter. Having never made anything with so much beer before, I was a little worried that it’d end up tasting really bitter. But by the end, the gravy significantly mellowed. There’s still a short bitter finish to the filling, but it’s pleasant.
I dropped my filling in a crock pot and left that guy going overnight. The long stewing is beneficial to the flavor, but not necessary. It can be done in three hours, if you’re pressed for time. Haha. Yeah, three hours is lightning fast!
Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets are dairy-free. Apparently? They refuse to take an official stance on it by denoting it on the packaging. But there were also not those bold letters that say, “Contains dairy” at the end of the ingredients. The ingredients list itself was this gnarly list of ingredients that aren’t usually in puff pastry, but I didn’t see anything on there that indicated it was laced with dairy. I’m going to tepidly say that this brand of puff pastry is dairy-free. If anyone knows for sure, let me know!
Yeah, I topped the pie with a square puff pastry crust because I thought it would be funny.