OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Humble homity pie marries onions with cheesy potatoes

Homity Pie (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Homity Pie (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

I'd never heard of homity pie before I read a recipe for it on Perre Coleman Magness' site The Runaway Spoon. The savory pie, according to "The British Cookbook" by Ben Mervis, has its roots in the early 20th century: "An open top cheese and vegetable pie popular in West Country England, the homity pie is said to have originated as a recipe of the Women's Land Army — a women's civilian organization that operated during World Wars I and II as a means of boosting agricultural production."

I didn't have all of the ingredients needed for The Runaway Spoon version, but I had most of them, so I improvised (after consulting "The British Cookbook" version).

Homity pie combines potatoes, leeks and cheese. That's it really. Oh, there's a little cream and some butter, but at its core it is a cheesy potato and onion pie. And it is delicious.

So delicious. It was the perfect antidote to last week's cold, icy weather as it heated up the kitchen and filled our bellies.

Homity pie should be made with cheddar, preferably an English-style cheddar. But I opted for gruyere because I didn't have any good cheddar on hand (as much as I love my supermarket's store brand of cheddar, and I really do love it, it is not good cheddar). If you have some good cheddar, by all means, use it.

Homity Pie

(Cheesy Potato and Onion Pie)

  • Pastry for a 9-inch pie (homemade or prepared)
  • 1 ½ pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used a combination of red and russet potatoes)
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 leek, white and very light green part, thinly sliced and well rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
  • Pinch dried thyme (optional)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 8 ounces grated cheese such as sharp cheddar or gruyere, divided use
  • Finely chopped parsley

Arrange pastry in a 9-inch pie plate. Dock with a fork and freeze for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Line the unbaked pie crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights (old dried beans work great). Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely. Remove paper and weights.

While the crust cools, prepare the filling.

In a large, deep skillet, add the potatoes and then fill with enough cold water to just cover. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well. (Wipe the skillet clean with a towel.)

Return skillet to medium-low heat. Add the butter and let it melt until foamy; add the leek, onion, shallots and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are quite tender but not browned. Add the garlic (if using) and cook 30 seconds more. Add the thyme (if using), black pepper and heavy cream. Cook, stirring, until bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in a little more than half of the cheese and most of the parsley. Let cool slightly.

While the mixture cools, heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pour the potato-onion-cheese mixture into the par-baked pie shell. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes; slide a baking sheet under the pie plate and reduce oven to 350 degrees and continue baking 20 to 25 minutes more. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving, topped with the remaining parsley.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie, about 6 servings.

  photo  Homity Pie combines potatoes, onions and cheese and is baked under a blanket of more cheese. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  

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