Friday, September 18, 2015

Life of Pie

Majestic Meat Pies

Meat Pie

Pie is one of the most forgiving dishes out there.

No matter what you cook, no matter whether the ingredients are fresh, formerly frozen, or made the day or  night before, people will always get excited by something wrapped in golden flakey pastry.

The trouble with pie making is that most people are scared of it. Why? Because of the very thing that turns a pie into a pie: THE CRUST. Pie crust is tricky and scary to make because getting it wrong can result in something ugly and sometimes even inedible...

...Luckily, there are ways around this.

Food companies recognized a long time ago that the culinarily challenged are not a minority. They realized that they can make a buck off those who don't have the time, patience, or skill to spend an hour making pastry, and have produced pre-packaged pie crusts, puff pastry, and crescent roll doughs that can be used for pies in a pinch.


There are TONS of different kinds of pies out there.  For meat lovers, you have variations on meat pies typically associated with Quebec, UK, and New Zealand cuisine. For those who prefer chicken, you've got American style chicken pot pie; for fish lovers, you have fish pie. Vegetarian? No problem! Try a quiche, samosa (an Indian style portable pie), or veggie tart  (tart is a French word for pie; in the culinary world it refers to a specific type of open-faced pie). Want a dessert pie? NO PROBLEM. You can stick any fruit in a crust and call it a pie. Prefer something chocolatey or nutty? Try pecan, chocolate cream, or a chocolate peanut butter pie. I will be covering some version of all of these kinds of pies in the articles to follow. If you're feeling brave and have lots of time to spare, I will also include a recipe for pie crust.

But for today, I'll be showing you one of my favorites: Meat pie.

My meat pie recipe is sort of a hybrid between the Quebec, New Zealand, and British versions, meaning I use meat and vegetables commonly found in Quebec meat pies, but I tie the ingredients together with a tomato and broth based gravy as you would in the latter two versions.

Meat pie, like anything else, varies in terms of taste, texture, and contents. Some, like the Quebec meat pies or tourtières that I grew up with are more meat heavy, but others from specific regions of Quebec like Lac St Jean are fortified with potatoes. The type of meat used is really a matter of taste. I use ground beef, pork, or sausage meat, but I've heard of recipes using everything from pork to venison to horse meat. While the meat in tourtière tends to be a bit drier in texture, New Zealand meat pies use a wet tomato-based gravy to tie all the ingredients together. British versions use meat and flour based gravies to stick all the fillings together.

If there's one thing you need to know about making a good meat pie, it's this: make sure your filling is COOKED and COOLED before you put it in your pie. Failure to do so will result in a mushy mess!

All that said, let's get started.

Sammy's Majestic Meat Pie
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown - don't be afraid to check
Serves 2 -4

Ingredients

FILLING

1 Rib or Stalk of Celery - Finely chopped

1 Medium sized Carrot - the tough woody bit at the end cut off, and the rest of the carrot finely chopped

1 Medium Onion - Finely chopped

5 Mushrooms - Finely Chopped

1/2 a Pound of Ground Beef - OR - 4 Sausages, removed from their casings (that skin the sausages are packed in)

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil + 1 Tablespoon of Butter


GRAVY
This gravy is good with meat and potatoes, and even on buttered egg noodles, but I use it as a binder for my meat pie


1/4 Cup Canned, Instant, or Homemade Beef Stock - I don't have the time to roast and boil bones to make  good beef stock, so I just use the instant stuff you add to hot water and it turns out just fine.

2 Tablespoons of Cream of Mushroom Soup - This acts as both flavoring and thickener. If you can't mix meat and milk for religious reasons, leave it out and use half as much broth.

1 Heaping Tablespoon of Undiluted Canned Tomato Soup - I use this stuff all the time as a thickener for soups and sauces because it adds tomatoeyness and a hint of sweetness.

1 /4 Cup of Dark Beer or Red Wine - Optional - I use Guinness because it adds a nice bitterness and yeasty chocolate notes which give depth of flavor. For those of you who don't like beer, red wine will add similar depth. Though a lot of the alcohol cooks off, if you're worried about feeding this to your kids, you can leave it out.

1 Teaspoon of Worcestshire Sauce

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Teaspoon of flour

CRUST


1 or 2 Packages of readymade Pie Crusts
Most readymade pie dough comes with 2 crusts - enough for a top and bottom crust. Check the box in case you need an extra.
- OR -
1 or 2 Packages Readymade Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed according to package directions - Some brands of puff pastry come in a single sheet per package. Others come in 2 bricks you have to split and roll with a rolling before putting to use. I prefer the puff pastry for pies because the result is much flakier than regular pie dough.


5 Tablespoons of Flour - Optional - If you opt to use puff pastry, you will probably need to roll it out, and that will mean keeping it from sticking to your rolling pin and countertop. That's what the flour is for.

1 Beaten Egg mixed with a Tablespoon of water - Optional - This gives the pie that extra golden sheen, but it's not necessary.


Equipment

1 Round Cake Pan or Pie Plate

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Frying Pan

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Fork

1 Whisk

3 Regular Bowls

Measuring Cup(s)

Measuring Spoons

1 Regular Spoon

1 Large Mixing Bowl or Plastic Container

1 Rolling Pin - Optional - For rolling out puff pastry - No rolling pin? No problem! Any heavy cylindrical object - within reason - will do the job so long as you wrap it in a few layers of saran wrap first.


Turn your frying pan on high heat and dump in your meat. If you're using sausage meat there will be no need to add salt. If you're using ground beef or pork, season it with salt and pepper.

Cook the meat until all of it has changed colour and released some of its liquid.

Turn off the heat and CAREFULLY pour out the liquid and discard it. Put the browned meat in a regular bowl and set it aside.

In a second regular bowl, whisk together all the gravy ingredients, taste it, add some salt and pepper, and set it aside.

In the same frying pan, add the olive oil and butter and heat on medium high, swirling it around  until the butter is melted.

Add the chopped celery, onions, and carrots, stirring every 3 minutes until the onions have turned soft and translucent.

Now add the mushrooms and stir everything together for a few minutes until the mushrooms have darkened and shrunk, releasing some of their liquids.

Pour in the gravy and the meat and stir everything around for 5 minutes to combine it and cook off some of the liquid, thickening the filling.

Pour it all into a mixing bowl and leave it to cool to room temperature. This will take about 30 minutes, but it's totally worth it. Pour hot filling into a raw pie crust will melt the crust, resulting in a soupy, gloopy mess.


When the filling is ready, preheat your oven to 350 oF and prep your pie dough.

IF YOU'RE USING PUFF PASTRY

Clean your countertop, dry it well, and spread the flour onto it with your bare hands. Spread whatever flour is left on your hands onto your rolling pin. This will keep the pastry from sticking to it.


Using your trusty rolling pin, roll each sheet of puff pastry about 1/4 inch thick by rolling the pin firmly back and forth over the dough. See the image below.



Drape one sheet of dough over your rolling pin (see the image below) and use it to put the dough into in the baking pan.



Lightly press the pie dough into your pan with your fingers and dump in the filling, spreading it around with a fork.

Put the second sheet of pastry over the top using the same drape-over-the-rolling-pin method and press the ends of the top and bottom sheets of pastry together.

Using your knife, cut slits in the top of the pie crust at random intervals. This will allow steam to escape your pie and keep it from exploding.

Using the same knife, cut any extra bits of crust that are going beyond the edge of the pie. You can use these to decorate the pie as I did, or you can put some melted butter and cinnamon sugar on them and make cookies later.

Spread some beaten egg over the top of the pie, if using, and it's ready to bake!


Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. If your oven doesn't have a window, don't be afraid to open the oven and check on it after thirty minutes. Just be quick about it so not too much heat escapes.


IF YOU'RE USING READY MADE PIE DOUGH

Put one pie crust in the bottom of your pan, press it in to form a sort of 'bowl', add your filling, and then put the second crust on top.

Press the outer edges of the top pie crust into the outer edges of the bottom crust and trim off any excess.

Cut slits into the top pie crust, and spread the top with a little beaten egg if using.


Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.


Regardless of which type of crust you use, you will need to let the pie cool for 10 minutes once it's out of the oven otherwise you'll burn your mouth.


You can now devour it solo - it's that good - or share with someone special!


Stay tuned for next time when I'll be showing you another favorite: fish pie!


 -Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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