It’s spring, and spring means Easter, and Easter means PIE!!
Easter Pie is a dish that has been handed down by the males in my family for generations, with its original cook lost to the mists of time. It is also known as pizza gan (pronounced gain), but everyone who has tasted it refers to it simply as Pie, the capitalization becoming evident with the anticipation in their voice and the gleam in their eye.
But what is Pie? It’s pretty much a gigantic dough pocket filled with meats, cheeses, and eggs and baked in an oven. It is suprisingly filling, yet strangely addictive. You will have no problem stopping at a small portion, yet several hours later you will find yourself hankering for more.
The making and distribution of Pie has become a heavily ritualized event in my house. The ingredients are bought on the Tuesday of the week before Easter, with the creation of the dough taking place on Wednesday. The holes poked in the dough are always in the shape of a cross. On Holy Thursday the dough is flattened, filled with meat, and cooked. This is usually the most interesting day, with my Dad sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by mounds of meat and cheese, his jaw slack with the sheer amount of preparation he has put in, every once in a while getting up the energy to lick his lips, look around wide-eyed at the vast array of foodstuffs in front of him, and simply exclaim “PIE!”
Several pies are made at my house every year, with most of it being distributed to close family friends who have been let into the inner circle of Pie. Extra Pie is only made for persons of Italian descent. If a member of the family wants to give some Pie to a non-Italian friend, that amount is deducted from that person’s familial share.
The exact recipe of the Easter Pie is a closely guarded secret, and frankly I’m a bit surprised that I’m even holding the ancient, yellowed, grease-stained pieces of paper containing the ingredients right now. My father subjected me to an intense grilling session when I asked him if I could look at the recipe, only relenting when I finally told him I wanted to type it up to make sure it never got lost. He’ll never know that I’m going to share how to make delicious Pie with the rest of the world! MWAHAHAHA!!
Here's a recipe for one 12”x16” (30x40 cm) pie. Yes, those measurements are correct, this thing is huge. It will feed you and your family for days.
- ½ cup (125ml) scalded milk
- 4 tbsp (60ml) sugar
- 2 oz (60ml) yeast
- 2/3 cup (150ml) warm water
- 1 ½ tsp (8.5ml) salt
- 2 eggs (well beaten)
- 7 tbsp (105ml) soft butter
- 5 ½ cups (1200ml) presifted flour
- Sprinkle yeast into water, let foam
- Cool milk, add salt, sugar and eggs
- Make a well in the flour, add all the ingredients and yeast. Work it all into the flour.
- Knead dough then put into greased big bowl to raise
- While dough is raising, work on meat
- After it’s raised, knead until satiny.
- Put sausage in a pan and sauté until it loses its color, then throw in all meat and mix together, let it simmer for awhile until it's all warm. Drain the rendered fat off the sausage before you put the rest of the meat in. Turn off the heat.
- Mix ricotta and 6 eggs together and mix in with the meat. It's probably a good idea to do another fat drain before this.
- Chop hard-boiled eggs and grate cheeses. Mix together in a bowl separate from the meat.
- Take two halves of dough and roll each into a flat 12x16 piece.
- Use a fork to prick holes in one of the pieces of dough. Poke a shitload of holes, these are needed for ventilation.
- Then spread cheese/egg mix on top of the dough you just poked, then meat on top of that, then cheese/egg, then meat, then cheese/egg. Remember, 3:2 cheese/egg:meat ratio.
- Put the other piece of dough on top and seal it together like a pie, pinch the ends if you like. Prick the top piece of dough like you did the bottom.
- Bake in 350°F/178°C oven until golden brown (usually 35-40 minutes). After you take it out, brush the pie with a milk/egg yolk mixture to give it an even more golden tint.
After the Pie has been made, you can just cut off chunks to eat when needed. Some people like it cold, some like it hot. You can eat it with a fork, you can eat it with your hands.