Grab a piece of simple soft dough, roll it out and it will open a world of possibilities to you. A skillet pie can turn your ordinary weeknight into a feast fit for a king.
Should you feel like you need to be convinced, let me give you just a few bullet points:
- making the dough takes 5 minutes; it scales easily to accommodate hungrier crowd
- fillings can be made virtually of anything still edible — from sad and lonely Halloween pumpkin to cold cuts that wouldn’t be otherwise enough to make a sandwich
- frying a skillet pie takes about 3-4 minutes, which gives you instantly 6-8 servings of deliciousness
- skillet pie can be reheated next day or eaten cold, and it will make perfect lunch option for your kid (or yourself)
- no fork nor knife required, use your hands, just like with pizza
- instantly feel like an international chef because skillet fried pies exist in every culture
- wow your party guests with both variety and quantity, with minimal effort
- … need I go on? …
Plăcintă comes to us from Romania, who inherited it from Romans in the times when Romania was a part of Roman empire, imagine that! The dough is simple, usually fresh or sour milk based. A typical plăcintă would be stuffed with soft (farmer) cheese or apples, but that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting with your own version of filling. The secret to a good skillet pie is in rolling the dough just thin enough but not too thin to prevent tearing, making your filling not too wet, and proper folding. The rest is ridiculously easy.
My version on this particular night features one meaty, one spinach, and one cheese filling (I ran out of spinach on my sixth pie, so I just doubled the amount of mozzarella and used it straight). Neither of these are typical. I usually make my plăcintăs with either grated tart apples with cinnamon and raisins, farmer cheese with egg and raisins, or grated pumpkin flesh with cinnamon. Many folks like mashed potatoes with lots of caramelized finely chopped onions, feta cheese, etc… Let your imagination lead you to your own special plăcintă variation.
Quick Plăcintă Pies
For the dough:
(makes 6 medium size plăcintăs)
- 1 cup buttermilk, kefir or thin yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ~ 4 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
- In a bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, salt, sugar and baking soda. Your batter should get lightly foamy in a process, as baking soda reacts with sour milk.
- Add 2 cups of flour right away and mix thoroughly. This is necessary to see the consistency of the dough before adding more flour.
- Adding flour in 1/4 cup increments and mixing it in completely and thoroughly every time, make soft yet unsticky dough. Continue kneading until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Refrigerate the dough wrapped in plastic for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile prepare the fillings (below)
- Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and ball them up. Place the dough balls under plastic or dome them with an upside down bowl to prevent drying out.
- Roll each piece of dough into a circle slightly larger than a dinner plate (about 10″ diameter)
- Pour about 1 tsp of olive oil or melted butter onto the dough circle and spread it all over using your hands.
- Place filling of your choice onto the crust, covering about half of the diameter. Don’t heap the filling, but rather spread it out like a thick pancake.
- Fold the uncovered edges of the dough making 5 or 6 flaps, thus forming a pentagon or a hexagon. Flaps should overlap in the middle.
- Using a rolling pin or your hands, flatten the pie down gently, especially in the middle where dough overlaps.
- Repeat with the remaining pies. My experience says that preparing all pies at once and frying them later is a better way to deal with plăcintăs. Stack the uncooked pies on a plate, sprinkling them with flour lightly to prevent sticking.
- Heat your cooking fat of choice in a thick bottom skillet (I used cast iron). Reduce heat to medium low. Oil should be lightly smoky.
- Fry your pies for about two minutes on each side, flipping them carefully using tongues or wide blade spatula.
- Stack fried pies on a plate like pancakes. They will keep each other warm.
- Slice like pizza and serve warm.
Meat & Eggs Filling (for 3 pies):
- 1 lbs of ground beef or lamb
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fat
- 2-3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- 2-3 scallions, chopped (optional)
- salt and pepper
- fresh herbs, chopped
Saute ground meat with onions in cooking fat for about 10 minutes in a skillet, until meat looses most of its juices and browns well throughout. Add chopped scallions, hardboiled eggs, season and sprinkled with fresh herbs.
Spinach & CheeseFilling (for 3 pies):
- 1 lbs of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp butter
- salt, pepper
- 1-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Saute spinach in butter on a skillet, add salt and pepper. Cook until most of the juice evaporates. When making plăcintă, place 1/2 cup of cheese down first, then 1/3 of the cooked spinach (let the juice drain first). This will keep wet spinach away from the thinnest portion of the dough and prevent the tearing.