Sunday, November 03, 2019

the Windmill's breakfast pie: a journey in pictures

I wanted to make a version of the Windmill's breakfast pie—a pie that packs most of a classic full-English breakfast into a single pastry-enclosed meal. I knew I'd be making changes; at least one change stemmed from a lack of English ingredients here in South Korea; other changes had more to do with my own personal preference.

The Windmill's pie lacks two things from the full English: (1) black pudding, and (2) tomatoes. The resto's executive chef might argue that the tomatoes are included in the tomato-y baked-bean sauce, but I decided that I wanted actual 'maters in my own pie. As for the black pudding, which is made from pork blood, the closest replacement I could find on short notice was Korean soondae, which is Korean blood sausage filled with cellophane noodles or other fillers. Another change: I had bought some Jeju black-pig Spanish-style chorizo (i.e., dry-cured sausage; Mexican chorizo is wet sausage), so I cut twenty very thin slices of that to add into the pie filling. I didn't have vegetable stock on hand, so that didn't go into my bean sauce. Instead, I added a pinch of BBQ dry rub that I happened to have lying around. I was otherwise fairly faithful to the Windmill's bean purée, except that I did about a 3:2 ratio of purée to canned whole beans because I wanted some whole beans actually visible inside my pie. I also cooked the bacon separately from the sausage because I was using thick-cut bacon strips; as for the sausage itself, I used legitimate chipolatas, per the Windmill's explanation of their own dish, but I removed the skins because I don't like sausage skins unless I'm actually grilling the sausages. I pan-fried the meat so as to get it to hold its shape inside the pie.

Otherwise, I did follow the Windmill's lead in using quail eggs and button mushrooms (I also added another type of 'shroom whose name eludes me at the moment*) and an herbed pie crust: I added fresh parsley to my pie dough. Ingredient-wise, the main changes were the addition of chorizo, soondae, and cherry tomatoes.

I was in a hurry to get the pie into the oven because I had planned to Skype with my buddy Mike at 9 p.m. In my rush, I closed the pie's top before adding the bean purée, so I desperately texted Mike, asking him to give me another five minutes to fix my mistake. I peeled the pie back open, ladled some beans onto the pile of meat, quail eggs, 'shrooms, and 'maters, closed everything back up, reapplied the egg wash to the top, then slammed the pie into the oven. Mike, it turned out, was still in his car and driving home when I did finally Skype him, so I needn't have have worried about delaying five minutes.

About an hour into our Skype conversation, my oven's bell dinged, and I knew my pie was done. I took the pie out of the oven, set it on a plate, and showed the dish to Mike, who pronounced it delicious-looking (see for yourself below). I waited until the Skype chat was over to try to persuade the now-cooled pie out of its baking dish; the pie popped out without any problems (I had buttered the dish before placing the crust inside it), and much to my delight, I saw that the bottom of the crust had cooked perfectly, despite there being no blind-baking and no docking of the dough. I'm beginning to doubt whether those onerous steps are even necessary when making a pie; you old-schoolers out there can yell at me in the comments for my heresy, but I think I have physics on my side. Everything about the pie was perfect, at least in terms of its exterior. But how did it taste?

Let's a take a tour before we talk about taste.

Below, top row: sliced chorizo and par-cooked sausage. Second row: soondae, bacon, cherry tomatoes. Next row: quail eggs, parsley, 'shrooms fried in bacon fat:

A picture of the bean purée, with whole beans in it to uphold tradition even better than the Windmill in London does:

I had been looking for a ramekin that mimicked the size and shape of the one used in the Windmill's YouTube video, referenced above. I couldn't find one at the local Home Plus during my Saturday-afternoon shopping spree, but I found a 12-centimeter baking dish that could withstand oven heat up to 400ºC. So I bought that instead and used it Saturday night. All in all, it performed quite well and is now part of my ever-growing collection of cookware.

The pie turned out great! Here it is, in my new baking dish:

The smell of the herbed crust was subtle but very aromatic. Below, you see the pie after it had cooled down and been successfully removed from its baking dish (no leaks!), with a perfectly cooked and flaky crust all around:

My buddy Mike recommended eating the pie with a particular beer. Here's the best I could do on short notice:

I'm not sure what you can make out in the pic below, but if you squint, you can see a quail egg, a cherry tomato, a chunk of soondae, some mushrooms, some bacon, and maybe even a bit of sausage. Note the glorious flakiness of the crust:

Taste-wise, the pie was generally good. The quail eggs, though, were a letdown. I had just finished agreeing with Mike that quail eggs taste just like chicken eggs (and they normally do), but something about the baking process, here, altered their taste and made them somewhat less palatable than they should have been. The bits of sausage were also too dry; I had cooked them for too long in the pan. Next time, I'll brown them on only one side and leave the other side raw; the meat will cook well enough during the baking process, and it'll come out juicy and tender. The soondae added just the right touch, and the cherry tomatoes were a surprisingly good call, as was the chorizo, which didn't overpower the dish one bit. If anything, the chorizo played quite nicely with the sweet bean sauce (which had been jazzed up with a bit of Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, per the video), and the flavor combination made me think that I should try making an Amurrican-breffus version of this pie. That would definitely feature more sage and maple flavors, for sure.

I have enough leftover ingredients to make and bake a second pie Sunday afternoon; I'll do so, taking out the eggs and adding more bean purée to the filling. Might I replace the quail's eggs with regular scrambled eggs? Not sure. I might just serve eggs on the side or on top of the pie.

This was a great and fun experiment, and it was largely successful. A few more tweaks, and it'll be ready for public consumption. My thanks to Mayfair's Windmill for the idea.

*A bit of research turns up the white shimeji mushroom. Not sure of the Korean name—possibly hinsaek man-gadak (흰색 만가닥).

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