There’s something to be said for a tasty, savory recipe that you can eat at any time of day. These mini ham-and-cheese pies are delicious, and there’s basically never a time when they’re not appropriate. I most commonly make them for brunch on a weekend; they’re not crazy complicated, but they do take a little bit of assembly time, more than I’m prepared to invest on a weekday. They’re one of my favorite brunch dishes; a nice change of pace from sweeter fare like waffles and muffins. But they’re also versatile; kind of a happy hybrid of breakfast pastry, sandwich, and pizza. They’re substantial enough to enjoy for lunch or dinner. And they freeze well, so you can grab one for a quick snack as well. I’m always excited to find recipes like this, which keep well for a long time and taste just about as good re-heated as they did right out of the oven.
I don’t really have modifications to suggest with this one. I couldn’t find shallots at the store, sadly, so I substituted half a red onion since that’s what I had on hand. I think it’s equally good either way. You could potentially use other hearty greens like kale or chard if you don’t have spinach, although spinach + ham + cheese is a solid combo in my opinion. Also, I definitely recommend that you include the pinch of nutmeg, even if it sounds weird. Growing up, my #1 favorite dinner was Swedish meatballs, so I’m used to the idea of what most people consider pie spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) being added to savory meat dishes. It adds a nice touch; worth a try, especially if you’ve never had it before.
The whole thing is pretty straightforward; mix up your cheese, sautée your onions and garlic and greens, and put it all together. Folding up the pastry shell in the galette style takes a little getting used to, but it’s very quick to get the hang of it. Here’s a short video demo if you want to see how it works:
You may want to set a reminder to take the pastry out of the freezer the night before. This is also very tasty with fresh pie crust from scratch, but that adds quite a bit to the prep time, so I typically just use pre-made pastry and it’s still great. Note: I thawed both of my puff pastry sheets, and found that I had plenty of filling to make eight pastries, four from each sheet.
What do you think? Are you suddenly craving breakfast for dinner? 😉 Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Every time I set out to make this recipe, I’m intimidated by how much work it’s going to be, and every time I’m surprised by how quickly and easily it comes together. I think I get scared initially because it involves making a sauce from scratch, and I’m still a little mystified by sauce chemistry. What if I burn the flour? What if the sauce breaks? It feels like a lot of high-risk, split-second timing, and I’m still not totally clear on the whole emulsification process, and how or whether I can re-emulsify a sauce that has de-emulsified.
If that’s all Greek to you, just don’t worry about it, because in this case you’re pretty much just throwing cheese in a pot and it’s delicious. Someday in the future, I’ll do a breakdown of the different types of sauces; supposedly if you can master the five “mother sauces,” you have the building blocks for a lot of different dishes. (It kind of sounds like something out of a kung fu movie.) But for this dish, you’re just making a simple cheese sauce, and I find that it’s pretty forgiving. You start by sautéing diced onions and garlic in butter, then add a little flour and stir for a minute before adding the milk and cheese. I had everything measured out and sitting ready before I started, and I also stood there watching the sauce the whole time, without trying to multi-task. In the course of my cooking adventures, I’ve definitely sacrificed way too many perfectly good sauces and veggies and baked goods because I was trying to do too many things at once. Parallelization is all well and good, but sometimes it pays to just stop and focus. This is one of those times; just pay attention to the sauce and it will come out amazing.
(That said, I think I did chop up the spinach and artichokes while the cheese and milk were cooking down. No big deal; I just set up the cutting board right next to the stove and kept an eye on it, stirring occasionally.)
This sandwich is basically a cheddary spinach artichoke dip in grilled cheese form, which is just as incredible as you’d expect. I didn’t have time to make the homemade potato chips like she suggests, but we just had some oven-baked fries alongside and it was great. Gooey, hearty, cheesy goodness – definitely a good choice for when you’re in the mood for pub fare but don’t actually feel like going out.