Asparagus & Caramelized Ramp Hand Pies

So as some of you may know, I have but one sworn food enemy. That sweaty-tasting, eye-stinging, vile orb of slimy-yet-crunchy layers: The Onion.

My dislike of onions has existed for as long as I can remember. My mother swears I used to eat them when I was very young, but I have no recollection of this. On occasion, she would accidentally add a bunch of onions to something before separating out an untainted portion for me, then try to pass it off as onion-free in the hopes that I wouldn’t notice. That never worked. I could spot them in food from 10 feet away. I could smell them from even farther. I’d smush my dinner all around the plate, pick out every onion I could find, then still refuse to eat it, igniting a dinner table standoff: Carey: Hater of Onions vs. Parents: Lords of After-Dinner TV Privileges. Even today, finding them in my food ignites a childish, fussy frustration within me. If I order a dish sans onions at a restaurant and the waiter asks if I have an allergy, my go-to response is, “I’m mentally allergic to them.” This is usually met with a somewhat bemused look, but it keeps them out of my food.

Then a year or so ago, J and I were having dinner at a local restaurant, and I ordered an entrée that came with these strange little soft-as-butter bulbs around the edge of the dish. I ate one and promptly declared it one of the most delicious things I’d ever tasted. J tried one, gave me a somewhat baffled look, then said, “Carey, that tastes just like an onion.” I paused, contemplating my next move. I decided that screaming “LIAR!” and demanding he retract his statement while I threatened him with a butter knife was not the best course of action in the middle of a crowded restaurant (though that was my first instinct). So instead, I took another bite. And wouldn’t you know it, they were still delicious. And in that moment, I found a glimmer of hope. Hope that I might actually be able to overcome my longest-standing, most-neurotic food phobia. In a world where people seem to love to define themselves by what they don’t eat, I take a somewhat-fierce pride in being an ex-vegetarian that no longer imposes labels or restrictions on herself. Instead of constantly passing up things or fearing that I’ll have a meal ruined by some sort of hidden meat product simply because I don’t eat that, I’ve learned to understand the benefits and drawbacks of the various things I eat. I’ve paid attention to the effects that different foods have on my body, and I eat what makes me feel good. And on the whole, that’s still what would qualify as a mostly-vegetarian diet. But sometimes it’s a bloody steak. Or an ungodly amount of chocolate. Point is, if I can overcome all of that, I should be able to get past this darn onion phobia too! If I could make that happen, it would kind of be like reaching Food Nirvana.

Sadly, I haven’t made too much progress on the onion front. One occasion of note, however, occurred at my favorite restaurant in town, when I asked if the risotto dish had onions in it. One of the chefs was nearby, and I (being somewhat sneaky) assumed that he’d say yes but offer to leave them out. Instead, he looked me square in the eye and said, “yes, but I’ll make them so small you won’t even notice them.” I, momentarily taken aback, had a brief staring contest with him (that was probably entirely in my head), then responded, “OK, yeah, do it.” And it was delicious. I could see the tiny little bits of onions, and I didn’t even care. So I guess that is progress. And clearly, I still love those weird little onion-like ramps. I don’t understand why they’re so amazing, but they are.

Asparagus & Caramelized Ramp Hand Pies

yield: approximately 18 pies

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 oz. parmesan (around 3/4 of a cup), grated
  • ½ cup of ice water

Filling

  • 1 small bunch of asparagus
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 small bunch of ramps
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups of ricotta (I can’t quite remember how much I used, so start with 1 cup and adjust as needed)
  • 3/4 cup of parmesan, grated
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp of water (for the wash)

To make the dough:

Combine flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add butter and pulse until crumbly, then pulse in cheese. Add the ice water a little bit at a time, pulsing in between, until dough comes together. Turn out dough and gather it together, then divide into two pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

To roast the asparagus:

Preheat oven to 450°. Snap off unripe ends of asparagus, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss in a pan with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes, or until asparagus has some slight browning.

To caramelize the ramps:

Wash and trim off roots. Cut off bulbs, then roughly chop greens and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add ramp bulbs, then stir to coat and cook over medium heat for around 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, then continue to cook bulbs, stirring occasionally, until they’ve softened a begun to brown — around 8 minutes. Add sugar and stir until everything begins to caramelize — around 2 minutes. Add in greens and stir for approximately 1 minute. Cover pan and turn off heat. Let sit for about 5 minutes, or until greens have wilted.

To make the pies:

Preheat the oven to 375° and remove dough from the fridge.

Combine the asparagus, ramps, and all of the remaining filling ingredients (except for the egg wash) together in a bowl.

Roll out both dough rounds into a large rectangles, approximately 11 x 14 inches each and 1/8″ thick. Place heaping tablespoons of filling across one rectangle, top with the other, then cut into 3 x 3 squares. Press edges of pies together with a fork to seal, trim off any excess on the ends, then combine with the rest of the dough trimmings and re-roll out into a 1/8″-thick rectangle. (Refrigerate before re-rolling if dough feels too soft.) Spoon out the remaining filling across half of the dough, cut other half and place on top, and repeat the sealing/trimming process.

Place pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Brush egg wash on each pie, then score with a sharp knife. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the edges of the pies begin to brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

Comments

  1. Scot says

    I had to look up RAMPS. I’d never heard of them. Are they sold all over the place? I’ve never noticed them for sale here in Colorado, but then again, I’ve never looked. Do you think I could substitute Sweet Vadalia onions?

    These look and sound scrumptious, plus I love asparagus!

    • says

      Darn those elusive ramps! I think they may only be common in the northern parts of the US. (I’d actually never heard of them until I moved from NY to VT.) They’re a young spring onion/leek of sorts. I think that leeks might be a good substitute, since they seem like the ramp’s bigger, hardier brother, and would probably be very similar in texture and flavor. You’d probably want to leave out the leek greens, though, since they’re a lot tougher than the ramp greens. And hey, it might not hurt to ask around about ramps at markets in your area. If they’re hard to find in CO, there might be some sort of hush-hush ramp trade! :)

  2. says

    Asparagus and ramp pie! Oh man, does that sound amazing. We don’t have any puff pastry around, much less ramps (they’re one thing that definitely does not grow in California), but I’m inspired to at least roast some asparagus for dinner tonight. :)

    It’s a huge challenge to get over a visceral food reaction–good for you for making progress! I went through a similar thing with sushi, but now? No gagging, and it tastes good! You can do it!

    • says

      Sushi used to freak me out too! I could feel the fishy parts squishing in my mouth . . . guuuuh, it wasn’t good. But now I love it. :)

      I love the strange little seasonal vegetables we have here in the northeast, and it’s a bummer that some of them can’t be found in warmer climates. Then again, I am SUPER jealous of the amazing, year-round selection of produce you guys have out in CA. (Shhh . . . don’t tell the ramps, but I’d trade them for fresh avocados and figs in a heartbeat!)

  3. says

    Finally, got to try ramps. I can see why so many people love them. They have such a great bold, pungent flavor. I only wish they weren’t upwards of $16 a pound in California! Sigh.

    • says

      Yeesh!! And I thought they were semi-pricey here. It’s amazing how much flavor those little bulbs hold. (I didn’t realize how pungent they were the first time I bought them until after they’d spent a day in the veggie drawer!)

  4. meredith says

    I love the idea of making hand pies, especially large batches at a time! Do you have any suggestions for how to freeze them so that you can keep a bunch on hand and pop one (or a few) in the oven whenever you’d like? I’m not sure if you’d have to par-bake them first or what, but I’d really like to always have some (close to) ready to eat!

    • says

      Hi Meredith! I think that if these spent maybe 5 minutes less in the oven (or if you take them out at the very first sign of browning around the edges), they would reheat quite nicely right from the freezer without the risk of burning. (I also love the idea of having a fridge filled with batches of hand pies, and ravioli too — it can get dangerous!)

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