Buttery pastry surrounds an earthy mixed mushroom, bright green pea, and gooey gruyere cheese filling in these compact and travel-ready vegetarian picnic pies!
Heat the oven to 375°F.
In a large pan or skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter and saute the fennel with a pinch of salt over medium low heat until soft and slightly crisp (about 15 minutes).
Add another tablespoon of butter, giving it a moment to melt. Add all of the mushrooms, the thawed peas, and the thyme. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid evaporates, about 20-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the sherry to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the delicious brown bits and mixing them back in with the filling. Continue to cook over medium low heat until the liquid evaporates, stirring often. Remove from heat, stir in the gruyere cheese, and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
First, prepare two regular-sized non-stick muffin tins by giving each cavity a spritz of non-stick cooking spray. While completely optional and a little time consuming, you can ensure easy removal of your mini picnic pies by cutting out strips of parchment paper about ½ an inch wide and 6 inches long, and using them to line each cavity so that the ends stick up on either side. Once done, the parchment ends can be used as handles to lift out the pies.
Working with one ball at a time on a large, lightly floured service, roll out the dough into an oblong shape, 1/8th – 1/4th inch thick. Using a 6-inch round cookie cutter, cut rounds from the dough and set them into the muffin tin so that they line each cavity. Once the first muffin tin is full, transfer the whole thing back to the fridge to say cold, and repeat the process to fill the second muffin tin with rounds of pie crust.
Using a slotted spoon to avoid transferring too much liquid to the pies (which could result in a soggy bottom crust), fill each muffin cup with the cooled mushroom-gruyere filling. Crimp the top edges of the crust inward so that it slightly folds over the tops, leaving the very center open so that you can see the filling. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until done. Let them rest 5 minutes, and then carefully lift the picnic pies from the muffin tins. You can serve these immediately or at room temperature. If making these ahead to store, follow the instructions below in the Recipe Notes.
Pie Dough Recipes: You can use a double-batch of any double-crust pie dough recipe you prefer for this recipe. I suggest using one that is all or part butter, like this Part Butter/Part Shortening Easy Pie Dough from Gesine Bullock-Prado.
Single Crust vs. Double Crust Picnic Pies: For this recipe, the pies are made with a single crust (no lid), leaving the filling exposed like a tart. This is mostly to tell the vegetarian pies apart from any non-vegetarian pies. If you’d like to make picnic pies with a more traditional double crust look, follow the instructions in this recipe. Note that you will need to increase the amount of dough you make to do this.
Freezing & Storing: Once your picnic pies are cooked, let them come to just about room temperature on a cooling rack. Transfer the pies to a single baking sheet, and freeze individually (about 2 hours). Stack the rock-solid frozen pies into freezer-safe containers or gallon bags and keep stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Transportation & Re-Heating: When ready to head to your picnic or potluck, place your gallon bag(s) of pies in a cooler along with any other foods and your ice pack(s). You can store these in the fridge on the other side of your journey so that they thaw a bit once you arrive, or pop them immediately into the oven when you get there. Bake in a preheated oven set to 375°F for 15-20 minutes (check and add a little more time if coming straight out of the freezer to the oven). Tada! Delicious, “freshly baked” mini picnic pies for guests and friends to enjoy.