Ever tried heart of palm? No? You should! It is so yummy and versatile. You can slice it and make a cold salad with a light vinaigrette. Or you can cook it with shrimp as in this traditional Brazilian savory pie, or empadão. This pie is so common throughout Brazil that everyone has their own personal recipe. This one is mine.
Don’t be frightened away by the length of the recipe. There are just a lot of ingredients, so they come with more instruction. I promise you, the steps are simple and quick, and necessary for the huge flavors.
To make a pie, you need crust and filling, so I am breaking this recipe into a section for each. Let’s start with the crust, since it needs time to chill.
This is a variation of my regular pie crust. The only difference between the two is that this crust uses 1/2 cup more shortening.
In Brazil, they usually use butter instead of shortening. But I find shortening cuts into the flour much more quickly, and I do not notice a taste difference in the finished product.
Work the shortening into the salted flour with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles small crumbles.
Then, pour in the egg and buttermilk mixture and work it into the flour crumbles with the spatula.
Use your hands to form the dough ball, but try not to handle the dough too much and melt the shortening with the heat from your hands. This is a sticky dough, so I like to use gloves.
I’ll be honest here, this dough is real ornery. Full disclosure right here and now. But I’ll give you some tips so you can hold on to your sanity as you work with it. THE FIRST TIP IS NEVER WORK WITH IT UNLESS IT IS COLD! I wanted to make sure you heard that. Sorry for shouting.
Chill for at least an hour. Preferably more.
Now let’s go start the filling, shall we?
Do not fear the onion. This calls for a lot of it. Trust me, it all needs to be there.
Sauté the onion, garlic, and tomatoes in the olive oil until the onion and tomatoes are softened.
Cook the mixture to a slow boil and maintain until the tomatoes start to break down. About 5 minutes or so.
You need to thicken the filling so that when you cut the pie, the slices stand up without losing all of the filling.
Mix the flour with enough water so you achieve a thick, gravy-like consistency. I like to put it in a small plastic container with a lid and shake it real hard. That gives me a smooth, creamy mix without lumps.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the thickening agent slowly, a bit at a time. Stir thoroughly after each addition. You want the filling to thicken, but still have some liquid movement to it.
Set the filling aside to cool.
This is when I add the juice of half a lime and stir it in.
You may have noticed that the star ingredients are missing. That is because they are both tender little things. The heart of palm can break up into pieces that are really small if over-stirred. And shrimp likes to cook as little as possible. Shrimp gets cranky when it is over-cooked and goes tough on you. So I add it to the cooled mixture just before filing the pie pan. Both will heat up/cook up just fine in the oven.
Once your dough is nice and chilled, cut 2/3 of it for the bottom crust and put the remaining 1/3 back in the refrigerator to stay chilled.
HERE’S TIP NUMBER TWO! Yelling for your attention again. Again, I apologize. I make a cross out of two lengths of plastic wrap, place the dough in the middle, and cover it with a cross made out of two lengths of plastic wrap. THEN I roll the dough. Roll it to the thickness of a traditional pie.
You may need to shift the plastic wrap around as you work, but this will keep you from pulling your hair out. It not only keeps the dough from sticking to the counter and rolling pin, but it also gives you a really handy way to place it in the baking plan by just peeling back the plastic wrap.
I like my pie to be very rustic. The upside of that is that if you accidentally rip the crust (which is easier to do than you would like, and usually happens on the side of the pan), you can just take a bit of the excess dough and patch it right in. No sweat, no worries!
You can see the shrimp is raw.
I sliced the heart of palm about 1/4-inch-thick then gave it a very coarse chop. Then I cut the shrimp in half. This makes the components of the filling more alike in terms of size.
Roll out the top crust using the same plastic wrap crosses, then top the pie.
Cut off excess dough and pinch the sides to seal.
Brush with a yolk egg wash.
Make several venting holes with a toothpick.
Place a cookie sheet in the oven or line the oven rack with a sheet of tin foil. The springform pan may leak some melted shortening. This step saves you from having to clean your oven.
Then the pie goes for a spa treatment in the oven, and comes out looking like…
Rustic (see the fissures?), stuffed with goodness, making my house smell wonderful!
This crust falls apart; it is a work of decadence.
So, my first slice was ugly (as many first slices of pie are), so I made Steve eat it (no arm twisting involved, I assure you).
Then I cut a pretty second slice, one that was ready for her close up.
When I was happy with my feature image and sat down to finish my post, Steve announced that he would help me by eating the second slice. See what a giver I married? Gosh, with that kind of self-sacrifice, I definitely married a keeper.
And this pie is a keeper too. Try it and let me know if you agree.
- FOR THE CRUST:
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cup shortening
- 5 tablespoons buttermilk
- 1 egg
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 1 pound shrimp (31-35 per lb)
- 1 can heart of palm (14 oz.)
- 3 green onions, sliced
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1 cup diced sweet onion
- 2 large garlic cloves, diced
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon (heaping) tomato paste
- 4-5 grape tomatoes, halved with the halves cut into thirds
- 3 tablespoons flour
- Juice of ½ lime
- 1 egg yolk
- Begin with the crust so that it has time to chill.
- Mix the salt and flour.
- Add the shortening.
- Using a pastry cutter, combine the ingredients until the mixture resembles small crumbles.
- Scramble the egg in the buttermilk.
- Add the milk and egg mixture to the dough.
- Stir to distribute.
- Form a dough ball.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and chill of a minimum of one hour.
- Begin the filling.
- Sauté the sweet onion, garlic, and chopped tomatoes in the olive oil on medium heat until the onion and tomatoes are softened.
- Add the broth, the tomato paste, the green onions, and the parley, and stir to distribute.
- Cook until it reaches a slow boil.
- Continue on a slow boil until the tomatoes are significantly softened.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a small plastic container with a lid, mix the flour and enough water to create a thickening agent with the consistency of a thick, creamy gravy.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the thickening agent slowly and in stages, stirring thoroughly between.
- Stop adding thickening agent when the mixture is noticeably thicker but is still smooth enough not to harden.
- Add the juice of ½ lime and stir to distribute evenly.
- Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Cut the heart of palm into ¼ inch slices, then do a coarse cross chop. Do not make the pieces too small.
- Cut the shrimp in half by volume (the tail portion a little longer than the torso portion).
- Set the shrimp and heart of palm aside.
- Retrieve the chilled dough out of the fridge, cut a ⅔ portion, wrap the remaining ⅓ portion and return it to the fridge.
- Using plastic wrap sheets in a cross pattern over top and bottom, roll the first dough portion to standard pie dough thickness.
- Peel the top layer of plastic wrap off, center over a 9-inch spring form cake pan, and gently push the rolled crust into the pan, lining the bottom and sides fully.
- Peel off the remaining layer of plastic wrap.
- Mix the cut shrimp and heart of palm into the cooled filling mixture and pour all into the spring form pan over the bottom crust.
- Roll out the remaining ⅓ of crust between the same crosses of plastic wrap.
- Place over the filling.
- Trim excess crust.
- Press the top edges together to seal.
- Brush the crust with the yolk egg wash.
- Make several small venting holes with a toothpick.
- Place on a cookie sheet or cover the oven rack with tin foil.
- Bake at 375° F for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown.
- Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.
- Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Use a knife to ensure that the crust is not attached to the top of the spring form pan, then gently open the spring latch.
- Slice and serve. The pie should still be pretty hot.
The shrimp should be added raw to the filling at the end to avoid making it tough due to over-cooking.