[Photograph: Oof Verschuren]

I am firmly of the belief that a good pie crust improves just about any dish, be it savory or sweet. Flaky, crisp, and butter-rich, such a crust can transform many a ho-hum pile of fruit or bowl of stew into exciting new fare. Take the Vol-au-Vent from Yvette van Boven's Home Made Winter, for example. A simple stew of root vegetables, mushrooms, and crème fraîche is good enough on its own; but place it inside a buttery pastry shell, and it turns into an elegant vegetarian main dish. Brightened up with a smidgen of red onion compote, and you'll have a real winter winner on your hands.

Why I picked this recipe: Pie crust for dinner. Need I say more?

What worked: Recipe steps are spot on, and the final dish is as scrumptiously rich as it appears in the book.

What didn't: Don't attempt to cut corners by skipping the compote. Its acidity is key to balancing the rich pie. Next time, I'll make the dough first and let it rest while preparing the filling.

Suggested tweaks: If you don't keep preserved ginger on hand, you could substitute simple syrup with a little ginger powder in the compote (or make your own fresh ginger syrup). You could easily sub in any hearty root vegetables, such as turnips, carrots, or rutabaga for the celeriac. Likewise, if you don't want to spring for the wild mushrooms, creminis will do just fine. Since I had no small pie plates, I used one large (9-inch) pie plate; the mixture fit perfectly.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Home Made Winter to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.


Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: