a forager’s pie

forager's pie | the vanilla bean blog
This isn’t technically a foraging pie; I didn’t gather my mushrooms on Barbara Kingsolver’s land for a spectacular photo shoot that is to be featured on an up-and-coming food blog. Also, I know the word ‘forage’ has had a bad rap lately; deemed hipster-lingo and is often followed by an eye roll. However, a forager’s  pie sounded better than button-mushroom skillet bake  or shepherd-less extravaganza. And, when I thought of foraging mushrooms I instantly thought of hobbits and Farmer Maggot’s farm, which of course proves that I’ve always been more nerdy than hip, but I’ll call myself a romantic and name it what I will.

If you are the foraging type (which really, I do find terribly charming regardless of what anyone says), you could gather exotic, hard-to-find mushrooms for this pie. Or, like me, you can frantically scoop plain old mushrooms into a bag at the co-op while watching your three year old son race by you with the child-sized grocery cart. He will then proceed to slam it into not one but two beautiful hipsters, and their deadly gazes remind you that yes, you did  forget to brush your hair that morning and yes, you have been wearing the same shirt every other day for the past two years. At this point there will be mushrooms scattered across the entire floor because the tongs used to pick up said mushrooms are made for delicate hands that have hours to inspect each and every individual one, and you have just tried to pick up twenty at a time. But, be comforted, because as you fall on hands and knees to crawl after those rolling white buttons, you will realize that you are, in fact, gathering them just like you had wanted to in the first place.
forager's pie | the vanilla bean blog

forager's pie | the vanilla bean blog

Forager’s Pie
This recipe is adapted from two sources – America’s Test Kitchen and the Cafe Brenda Cookbook. The filling is based on one of my favorite soups from Cafe Brenda (Burgundy Mushroom Stew), and the potatoes are from a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that the Test Kitchen perfected. One thing to note: there is flour and cornstarch in this recipe which helped to thicken things up, but can also thicken things up too much. My advice to you is to see how your liquid looks at the end – if seems too thick, skip the cornstarch step. You can also add a bit more broth at this point and stir it in, to help loosen things up a bit.

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg yolk
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup red wine
2 springs of thyme
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons cornstarch (see note)
2 teaspoons water

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and add enough water just to cover them, along with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until a knife inserted into the potatoes shows no resistance, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Cook them gently over low heat for a  a minute or two (this helps evaporate any surface water).  Mash the potatoes well with a potato masher, and then add 4 tablespoons butter, stirring gently until it is completely melted. Whisk together the milk and egg yolk, and then stir it into the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then cover and set aside.

the filling
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a 10 inch broiler-safe-skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are starting to soften, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook for one minute. Add the broth, red wine, thyme sprigs, marjoram, and cayenne and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the mushrooms and let simmer gently until softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl, then add to the filling and simmer for 30 more seconds (see note). Remove the sprigs of thyme, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adjust an oven rack 5 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler. Heap the potatoes on top of the filling, and spread and smooth them evenly with an off-set spatula or back of a spoon (this can be a bit tricky, I didn’t cover the edges perfectly). Use the tines of a fork to make ridges over the surface of the potatoes. Place the skillet on a baking sheet and broil until the potatoes are golden brown and crusty and the filling is bubbly, 10-15 minutes. Let cool 10  minutes before serving.
forager's pie | the vanilla bean blog

  • Reply
    Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    I saw this recipe, forgot to bookmark it, and lost it. Apparently, I kept trying to google Vegan Hunter’s Pie. Luckily, I found it again and made it immediately! I was just as delicious as I imagined it to be. The balance of flavors is so, so good. Comforting and a nice change-up from my usual pot pie recipe. Definitely a keeper!

  • Reply
    Jessica Robinson
    Monday, March 2, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Oh my goodness. This sounds like my adventures to the grocery store or farmers market with the kids. This pie sounds so yummy! Fits right in with my French Canadian background. 🙂

  • Reply
    Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    This recipe was great! Never heard of Forager’s Pie before but the picture was enough to get me to try it. Thanks so much! So happy I found your blog 😀

  • Reply
    Friday, September 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Just discovered your blog and love, love it! From the name and logo (how can anything be other than fantastic when it flies under a banner with a vanilla bean in a jar?!) to the writing and recipes. Can’t wait to try this one. Thanks so much 🙂

    • Reply
      Monday, October 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you Cheri! 🙂

  • Reply
    Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I’m that kind of girl. The one that goes berry picking and foraging mushrooms. Never thought of myself as a hipster…don’t roll your eyes! Well, I just think that’s the Scandinavian way of life 🙂
    This pie looks absolutely delicious! Have to go foraging some mushrooms (hell, yes!) and make this fall treat. What a wonderful way to celebrate this season.

  • Reply
    Melissa@Julia's Bookbag
    Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 11:31 am

    LET’S ALL GO FORAGING!!!!!!!!!

    Loved this post. Loved loved loved. Love the idea of ‘foraging’ in the grocery store alongside Evil Hipsters. I’ll be trying this recipe out in short order, it looks DEE-lightful 🙂

  • Reply
    Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Shepherd-less extravaganza! Love it. I’ve always steered clear of meaty shepherds pies, but I think I would love this one. The top on it is magnificent!

  • Reply
    Friday, March 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Lucky for me, I’m way to lazy to do any foraging! I’ve been dreaming of a dish just like this – looks incredibly delicious. Can’t wait to make it for my vegetarian sweetheart. Love your new site design.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I am still charmed by the idea of foraging, despite the fact that it has become rather hip (and I seem to live in one of the hipster capitals of the U.S., where my eyes feel like they’re stuck in a state of perpetual rolling). I grew up in the woods next to 500+ acres of state land and had a penchant for exploring. Consequently, my parents made sure I understood that there are a number of plants that don’t want to be eaten, and I should never taste or touch anything unless I asked them first. It scared me, but I think that fear has turned into a nice, healthy respect. Still, foraging off the market floor is definitely more my style. 🙂 Those tongs are useless! I’ve developed a technique where I put the plastic bag over my hand, then stick my bag-covered fist directly into the mushroom bin and grab as many as I can. It works well for the first handful, but the following ones are tricky…

    And this pie sounds wonderful. Shepherd-less pie is pretty much always my preference. You just can’t beat a skillet of veggies topped with lovely browned potatoes. 🙂

  • Reply
    Monday, March 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    This looks wonderful – foraging is the way! Everything about this is making my mouth water…I should stop reading blogs around dinner! Thanks for your amazing recipe.

  • Reply
    Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Yes! To nerdiness! Thank you for bringing back memories of trying to corral toddlers in the co-op. No hipsters in those days: just a lot of ex-hippies trying to live in the real world 🙂 Must make this yummy-sounding dish!

  • Reply
    Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Well, I am NOT a hipster as like others before me, I had NO idea that “forage/foraging” was passe.

    The pie looks wonderfully scrumptious and I had a great belly-laugh at the kiddo-cart visual…I don’t have children so I may laugh!

    I love the burbundy mushroom- masher topping in a skillet but following Imen’s comment…oh, my…a mashed cauliflower topping sounds wonderful also.

    ‘shrooms have been on sale lately in my neck of the woods and I’ve been roasting/freezing …time to start eating them!

  • Reply
    Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I listened to a Good Food podcast en route to Dublin a couple of weeks ago and a woman who was interviewed about foraging preferred the term “wild crafting” as foraging “can sound a bit brutal” in a sense….I rather like the idea of “wild crafting”…although when me and the little farmer go down to the wood…ummm, it does feel a bit more rape and pillage-y to be honest. Yikes.
    Love Shepherd’s Pie….have a recipe that I like to use on my blog from ages ago called Shepherdettes (one has a crunchy mashed cauliflower topping which is lovely) BUT this recipe sounds so divine! I LOVED Cafe Brenda in Mpls so any derivation of hers I’m really keen to try. Thanks for sharing hon xoxox

  • Reply
    Lisa H
    Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    any mama worth her salt knows all about embarrassingly bad supermarket runs. the fancier the store, the worse my little ones seem to behave. so i love the idea of foraging exactly where you are able and turning hipness on it’s intentionally-messily-coiffed head. incidentally, i’ve been wearing my yoga pants for three and a half consecutive days, so far.

  • Reply
    michele @ thelittlewhitekitchen
    Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I adore sheperd’s pie but have always just made up my own recipe. I think I will need to break out and actually use a recipe this week, since this looks scrumptious.

  • Reply
    Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 9:51 am

    I’ve never foraged either, but it’s on my list for sure. On the other hand, braving the minefield of a grocery store packed with hipsters with two unruly kids in tow, that happens pretty much daily. Gathering ingredients and making meals, however we can, is almost always noble and your incredibly gorgeous pie is a testament to that.

  • Reply
    leaf (the indolent cook)
    Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 9:04 am

    This looks lovely. I didn’t realize there was a negative connotation with the word “foraging” at all. I’d totally do it more if I was good at identifying plants and had the resources to run wild!

  • Reply
    Beth | {local milk}
    Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    God. I feel like I live under a rock. I’m like “foraging! i love foraging! i’ve never foraged! i want to forage!” and then I’m like “oh foraging is already to the eye rolling stage? frack.” well, i’m glad you called it a forager’s pie because i’m a romantic too and i don’t care if foraging is so rad it’s lame. because i think it sounds lovely. because what could be better, more childlike, than hunting for food stuffs in the woods and then making a radtastic pie? i fake foraged my entire childhood, making soup with the onion weeds and sand. & i may be late to the party, but i’m still pro forage. so, amen. (ps. i’ve been absentee & haven’t been able to blog read all winter… i’m so happy to finally be reading yours again!)

Leave a Reply