Small and savory, these individual pies wear a variety of wrappers and can be eaten either out-of-hand or with a fork. Some are served hot, some taste best at room temperature or chilled; still others offer either option. All are long on flavor and short on preparation time. We quickly created two cheese and mushroom stuffed calzoni, for instance, by using a package of refrigerated pizza dough in place of making our own. The three varieties of cheese melt during baking, so serve these while still warm for optimum flavor. Any number of other ingredients can be tucked inside and the dough, of course, could be made from scratch if you prefer. Mugs of soup make another easy lunch or light dinner for fall. Instead of serving with the usual bread or crackers, substitute crispy won ton skins filled with ham salad. These, too, are best served warm, but if the salad mixture is prepared ahead, they can be fried quickly while the soup heats through. The triangles also reheat well and make an excellent appetizer or snack. It takes a little more effort to prepare Mini-Pork Pies, but piecrust sticks offer one shortcut. Although baked in individual souffle dishes and eaten with a fork, they're reminiscent of the English pork pies eaten out-of-hand. The whole category of hand-held pies, enjoyed at room temperature or chilled, fit well into tailgate picnics. They may be elegant, featuring a tarragon flavored chicken-rice mixture rolled and baked in buttery filo dough and accompanied by homemade tomato soup and a bottle of Champagne. Or keep it simple with shrimp salad stuffed into pita breads or refrigerated fillable pastry pockets of beef and vegetables, served along with fruit and soft drinks.
THREE CHEESE AND MUSHROOM CALZONE
1 (10-ounce) package refrigerated pizza crust
1 cup shredded Jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Scamorza (smoked mozzarella)
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons sliced, sauteed mushrooms
Unroll pizza crust. Cut rectangle crosswise in half to form 2 smaller rectangles. Cut thin strip from short end of each using pastry wheel. Set strips aside.
Mound 1/2 cup Jack, 1/4 cup Scamorza, 1 tablespoon ricotta, 1 tablespoon green onions, 1 teaspoon oregano and 1 tablespoon mushrooms on bottom half of each rectangle. Fold top half of dough over and seal edges. Cut edges with pastry wheel, rounding corners.
Place on oiled baking sheet. Seal edges by pressing with tines of fork. Garnish with reserved dough strips. Brush with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees 25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 2 servings.
Note: Scamorza is available at Italian delicatessens, cheese shops and specialty grocery stores.
HAM SALAD WON TONS
1 cup finely chopped ham
1/2 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Won ton skins
Oil for frying
Place ham, cheese, onion, egg and relish in bowl. Lightly toss with mustard and mayonnaise. Place about 1 tablespoon mixture in middle of won ton skin. Fold over to form triangle, sealing edges with water.
Fry in hot oil, turning to brown on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve warm. Makes about 20 won tons.
3/4 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (11-ounce) package pie crust sticks or pastry for 2-crust pie
Combine ground pork, thyme, 1 egg, bread crumbs, onion, salt and pepper. Press 1/4 mixture into each of 4 (3 1/2-inch diameter) round souffle dishes. Bake at 400 degrees 20 minutes.
Remove meat mixture from dishes, drain and cool. Drain any remaining fat from souffle dishes.
Prepare pie crust according to package directions or recipe. Roll and cut 4 (6 1/2-inch) circles and 4 (4 1/2-inch) circles or 24 (4x1/8-inch) strips.
Fit large circles into souffle dishes, leaving about 1/2-inch overhang. Replace meat. Cover with smaller circles or weave lattice of 6 strips. Flute edges. Cut vents or use dough scraps to decorate top-crusted pies.
Beat remaining egg and brush over crusts. Bake at 400 degrees 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 4 servings.
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups cooked white and wild rice
1/2 cup diced roasted almonds
1 cup shredded Jack cheese
1 cup green onion strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Fried Tarragon Leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 sheets filo dough
Combine chicken, rice, almonds, cheese, onion, garlic, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons Fried Tarragon Leaves, olive oil and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Set aside.
Spread 2 sheets filo dough on work surface. Brush with melted butter. Place scant 3/4 cup filling in center near 1 narrow end. Sprinkle with several Fried Tarragon Leaves.