Carrie Simon says her new cookbook, Pudgie Revolution!, feels like a scrapbook of the camping trips she’s taken over the years with her childhood friends.
Simon and her co-authors, Jared Pierce and Liv Svanoe, grew up together in Whitewater, Wis., and continue to go camping and paddling together as adults. Simon and Pierce now live in Madison, Svanoe in Milwaukee. They’d make pudgies — grilled sandwiches traditionally made in a pie-iron over a campfire — and the fillings got “more and more creative,” says Simon. “We were always thinking of neat recipes, and finally decided that we should write them down.” Eventually they decided to compile them into a book.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the trio developed 40 new recipes over about three months to round out the offerings. “We took a road trip to the U.P. and came up with 20 recipes in five days,” says Simon. “It was a lot of work, but also fun.” The cookbook, published with Rome Industries, includes 81 recipes.
Far from being just another gourmet grilled cheese, these pudgies (in some areas of the country known as “toasties” or “mountain pies”) incorporate different crusts — eggroll wrappers, cornbread or pancake mix, sliced pound cake, cookie dough, and of course, bread — and cover all meals, from breakfast to dessert.
Simon often finds herself thinking of a favorite food and asking herself, “How could I make that into a pudgie?” Thus was born the “Gimme Samosa,” an Indian-inflected pudgie with crescent roll dough, curry powder and mango chutney. Other favorites are their version of a tater tot casserole (made with frozen hash browns, actually) and lasagna. One section of the book is devoted to Wisconsin pudgie cuisine, with the “Friday Night Fish Fry” and “Revenge of the Curds” taking liberties with our native dishes.
In developing the recipes, there were “no outright failures,” says Simon, although there “were some ideas we could just not get to work,” among them a kale crust and a tiramisu pudgie.
Making pudgies is easy; the biggest pitfall is burning them. “People ask me how long it takes to cook them,” says Simon. “It depends on the kind of fire, and where you’re putting them in the fire.” Her best advice? “Check them early and often.”
If you’re without a campfire or a pie iron, try a George Foreman grill, a panini press or even a waffle iron. And if you want to buy a pie iron, they’re available in most hardware or camping stores. (See Emphasis for information on campfire accessories.)