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Peruvian Eats: Pastel de Acelga (Swiss Chard Pie)

I’m going to be honest with you.

This dang thing took me forever to make. Like seriously, 3.33333 days plus 2 times 8.

Can I tell you about it?

I love that I can talk to you about these things. It makes me go wheeee. Sort of like that Geico commercial with the piggy that cried wheee (wheee, wheee) all the way home. You know that one? Like that.

The story of this pie goes like this:

My grandpa showed me how to make it.

I wrote down the recipe.

I came home and didn’t follow the recipe.

I screwed up.

That was try #1.

Not deterred, I gave it another shot. This time following his recipe to the letter.

Came out even shittier than the first.

That was try #2.

Some initial thoughts on why they came out crappy: Using store-bought pie crust wasn’t the best idea (though I’ve used some that were good, this particular one really sucked); I hate shortening and shortening hates me; I decided to bake on the hottest day of the year; I can’t roll dough, peel it off the table, transfer it perfectly onto baking sheet (twice), and then do it again (twice), to save my life.

Also, the limes were bitter. Yay.

Two total misfires at making the pie and I was about turn in my baker’s license.

And then I looked at this picture.

This was taken right after my grandpa showed me and my sister Elaine how to make pastel de acelga. We had so much fun cooking and spending time with him. Food is love. Love is food.

I was uplifted. So, I peeled my withered self off the floor and went for it again, this time with the inclination of making the recipe my own by tweaking a few things based on what I had learned earlier.

Third times a charm, right?

This one came out awesome. I swapped the green swiss chard for the red swiss chard because a.) it has more flavor and b.) it looks pretty. Instead of boiling the shit out of the chard and spinach to wilt it, I combined it with onions, garlic, and mushrooms and sauteed it which gave it a ton more flavor and cut the prep time by half. Can I just tell you how long it took in my earlier trials to blanch each batch of chard and spinach, and then squeeze the water out of them…with my own hands? My biceps be poppin’ yo.

I ventured into butter pie crust land and fell in love. I also added more cheese. Lots more cheese.

And this time the limes were limey and sweet. Hallelujah.

Pastel de Acelga (Swiss Chard Pie)

Print the recipe

Serves 6-8; prep and cook 2 hours 30 minutes (some inactive)

2 bunches swiss chard (any variety works)

1 bunch spinach

4 oz. white button mushrooms; chopped roughly

2 garlic cloves; minced

½ medium yellow onion; chopped finely

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch nutmeg

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup grated Mozzarella cheese + 8 slices

4 egg yolks

Egg wash

Limes; to serve

2 batches homemade pie crust (double the recipe below)

Melissa Clark’s Perfect Piecrust recipe from her cookbook In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into ½-inch pieces

2-5 tablespoons ice water

For the pie crust:

In a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms chickpea-size pieces (3 to 5 1-second pulses). Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the mixture is just moist enough to hold together.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic, and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out and baking.

For the filling:

Trim the swiss chard by removing the tough vein through the middle and keeping the tender leaves. Chop the chard into small pieces. Trim the spinach leaves by removing the stems and then chop into small bits as well.

Rinse them under cold water and set aside.

In a medium-sized sauce pan set over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and then toss in the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Sautee until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in the swiss chard and spinach, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Toss together and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the greens have cooked down and wilted. Take off the heat and mix in the grated Parmesan and grated Mozzarella cheeses. Taste for seasonings. Sometimes as this sits, the mixture gets juicy from the water from the greens and mushrooms. Be sure to drain the extra juice before putting the filling into the pie (otherwise it will get soggy).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grab a pie dish and set aside.

Take one of the pie crusts out of the fridge and take off the plastic wrap. Throw some flour onto your working surface and put the crust on top, dusting some extra flour on the pie crust and your rolling pin. Working quickly (to keep the butter from melting), roll the pie crust until it’s about the size of the pie dish, turning it over, dusting it with flour occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to your work surface. To transfer onto your pie dish, gingerly roll the pie crust onto your rolling pin and then unroll it over the pie dish. Use your fingers to gently tuck it inside the pie crust, allowing the rest to drape over. Use a fork and prick the pie crust all over.

Arrange the 8 slices of Mozzarella cheese on the bottom. Spill the chard and spinach filling over the cheese slices and flatten. Make 4 small holes (1 in each direction) in the filling and gently drop the egg yolk into each one, being careful not to break them.

Grab the other pie crust from the fridge and repeat the process. Drape it over on top of the filling and eggs and gather the edges to seal the pie in a rustic, misshapen fashion (because it looks cool that way and it gives me an excuse not to be so persnickety with trimming and fancying the edges).

Brush egg wash all over the top and place into the middle rack of the oven and bake for approximately 45-55 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown.

Let cool for about 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving with lime wedges.

Provecho!

XO, Steph

Milena - Best pastel ever. I made it with Kale and no cheese and it was delicious! The crust recipe is so good! Thank you for sharing your recipe!!!

Stephanie - Rosa, I’m so glad it turned out well for you! I need to make another batch of this soon! :)

Rosa - Simply delicious! Thanks for sharing such a sweet story and divine pie. I used rainbow chard. It turned out fantastic!!

Stephanie - Angie, aw, you’re so sweet! I always think back to that day grandpa showed me and Elaine how to make the pastel de acelga. It was so much work, we cooked all day, but he did it all! So inspiring. :) Love him so much.

Angie G. - I loved your story so much…like they say “el que la sigue la consigue!” it runs in the family :). Love the picture. XOXOX

ciaochowlinda - You’ve just given me a great idea for the swiss chard in my garden.

Christina - This pie looks incredible! I love savory pies….i can’t wait to try this! :)

Kimberley - I have had total pie crust disasters too! But this is such a sweet story. And that pie sounds delish. I love savory pies. 

Jessica @ Bacon and Souffle - You did all the hard work for us! Now I can get it with just one try right?? Because I want to make this mouth watering delicious looking swiss chard pie! And that last photo is such a cute photo. Food is love =)

Kate@Diethood.com - That is one gorgeous slice of deliciousness! Glad you worked on it until you got it :)) … I’ve learned over the years that I must follow mom’s, grandma’s, grandpa’s recipes to the “T” or else it’s not going to be what it’s supposed to be…they kinda know what they’re doing. ;-)

NicoleD - This looks insanely delicious! I love family recipes and good for you for sticking with this one!

Anonymous - Theresa, you know us so well! :-) We love eggs in any shape, way, or form.

IslandVittles - You Peruvians sure love your eggs — I LOVE that!  Finding a golden yolk nestled in bed of cheesy chard, all wrapped in buttery pastry is my kind of food!  And it makes a pretty picture too…Theresa

Anonymous - Lil, I was able to find swiss chard at both Whole Foods and my other favorite food market. But, you could easily just use spinach, too.

Lillian H. - this pie is soooo gorgeous, steph! your persistence paid off… and i’m sure your abuelo (he’s so cute!) would be proud.  i do need to try more savory pies…wonder where i can find swiss chard… 

Natalie - I’ve never used acelgas in a pie before. I love the idea though, especially with the onions and extra cheese! My grandad gave me his recipes for pickled onions and now everyone wants me to make them for them. I’m thinking about setting up a range called grandad’s pickles and sauces! :D

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