Friday, November 11, 2005

Mercy Pie

This recipie developed itself after we determined we didn't really have anything to eat for dinner. It’s the day before payday, and how many of us have experienced this dilemma? After conducting a refrigerator and pantry assessment, I found that we had a bunch of odds and ends, not too much in the way of produce, and plenty of staples. What came next was an improvised potluck; something that started a hazy vagueness, and took a shape as each piece of the culinary puzzle fit another. The result was pure creativity, and turned out delicious, and proceeded to be consumed. Success!

The name mercy pie seemed fitting due to the circumstances the meal was created. The name came from a nickname given to the quick meals made when I worked in a group home with 10 mentally retarded and developmentally disabled adults in New York. If there was an activity the staff were required to bring the group to after dinner, to make things go quickly we would make something like beanie-weenies, which was simply opening up a big can of beans and dumping in to a saucepan, and mixing with chopped up hot dogs. If it were available, we’d boil up a can of soup and add that, too. Minimum preparation and mess, we dubbed these meals “Mercy Meals” because they were thrown together all willy-nilly, usually served on paper plates for a quick and easy clean up. Some of the adults we were in charge of taking care of were very messy eaters, and in most cases wearing or throwing more then they ingest. A Mercy Meal would be a quick favorite, that had a higher chance of being completely eaten, and not used as a projectile weapon.

I think cooking is creativity. Colors are good, textures are good; sauces and gravies are usually good. It doesn’t matter how you eat: carnivore, herbivore or omnivore, vegan or anything goes, and everything in between. If you are creative, this can be a great recipe.

What you need:

  • Pie Crust: You can either pick up a package of frozen ones for a couple of bucks, there’s nothing wrong with that. I have a recipie that I use; I'll put it in a seperate post. Making your own crust isn't too hard to do, but some important advice I received from a cook I worked with when I was 15 was "even though cooking is creativity, baking is chemistry and science."
  • Lots of odd things…do you have any leftovers you need to get rid of? Have vegetables, cheese, leftover bacon, Spanish rice, spaghetti sauce, olives or anything else? Put them all in the pie shell and bake. Feel free to beat 2-3 eggs with water, milk or cream and pour over vegetables and/or meats and bake until set, firm, and golden brown on top. Liberally sprinkle everything with cheese.

    After you fill the piecrust with various items, and bake at 375° for about 35 minutes. Depending on your oven, all heat differently, so after ½ hour take a look at it. Even heating is important, too, and unless you have a new good oven turn the pie half way round after the first 15 minutes of baking.

    Some ideas:

    Cooked Ground beef (or tofu/tempeh crumbles)
    Mashed potatoes
    Cheddar or soy cheese

    Layer ground beef on the bottom, pour gravy over beef, mashed potatoes on top, sprinkle with cheese. Bake until golden brown, it's like a big shepards pie.

    Another idea:

    Beat three eggs and ¼ cup of cream (okay to substitute milk, soy milk or water)
    Mix in a 10oz-defrosted package of frozen spinach,
    ¼ tsp nutmeg
    ½ tsp salt and pepper
    2 cups of grated Swiss or soy cheese
    ½ cup fresh grated parmesan or Romano cheese
    (This actually is a quiche, not really Mercy Pie)

    Pour all into pie shell, and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Check often!

The Mercy Pie I made had layers of taco meat, mashed potatoes, and some wild rice a roni mix with carrots and peas mixed in. I sprinkled soy cheese on top. It was so delicious, our friend Tom was over tonight and between the three of us we ate most of it.

This recipe is a guide; basic pieces of a good dinner derived from odds and ends, leftovers and overlooked pantry items. The beauty of this pie is it is satisfying and filling, and can comfortably feed 2-4 adults. The recommended beverage is whatever’s available; preferably ginger ale but tonight I had tea.

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