On our trip to New York City to see “the King and I,” my daughter C. mentioned the meat pies that she and her husband were given to eat on their way back from Europe this past summer. This got me thinking about those traditional Cornish pasties and other meat pies that the British are so famous for and I began to think about various experiments that I could carry out for something easy to make and also would taste delicious (plus store in the freezer!)
So, rather than buy beef stew or other cuts of meat that would require long cooking in order to be tender, I chose to use 80% ground beef (otherwise known as hamburger.) The 80% lean to fat ratio has a lot of flavor and I can also buy it in smaller packaging rather than those humongous blocks of ground beef that they sell at the grocery store. I also thought large chunks of fresh mushrooms and plenty of vidalia onion would be sufficient, simple ingredients to combine with the beef.
Instead of making my own crust, I decided to try this first batch out using ready-made in the box Pillsbury pie crusts from the dairy aisle bin. I opened them up and used a soup bowl as a template for size and then rolled them out just a little before adding the cooled filling.
All the meat filling took was some care first browning the chopped vidalia onion, then adding the big chunks of mushrooms and resting that mixture in a bowl while I browned the ground beef in the electric skillet. Once the beef was almost done, I sprinkled on Lawry’s garlic salt and some coarse pepper. Added the mushrooms and onions back in and stirred it together. Once it was cooled, I tasted it and it seemed to lack enough salt. So in went some pinches of Maldon salt which I stirred in while still warm.
Since it would have wreaked havoc to try to fill the pie pastry with the meat mixture until the latter was completely cooled, I swept the floor and cleaned off the crumbs from the placemats on the table. When it was time to put everything together, I rolled out the pie crust rounds a little to give more room for the filling and put in enough of it so that the pastry would hold it, the edges rolled up all around the pie and then the roll crimped by hand in order to provide a double seal for the juices.
Small cuts with a sharp paring knife allowed for steam to escape from the pies and a light wash of egg plus water was brushed over the entire little meat pie. Then into a 375 degree oven. I baked the first batch about 20 minutes and then left it in about 8 minutes longer just to be sure the crust was browned enough but not burned on the bottom. They looked pretty good!
While the first batch was baking, I formed four more pies and covered them with a clean dishtowel. There was a small bit of meat filling left so I divided the leftovers into two individual serving-size ramekins for our supper tonight. To plump up the ramekins, I found a russet potato in the pantry, rinsed it off and put it into the oven to bake along with the meat pies. Later on, I’ll scoop out the baked potato when it’s cooked and mash it with some light cream and butter to put on top of the ramekins for a mini-shepherd’s pie for our dinner tonight.
The second batch of four meat pies came out looking pretty nice too – and the only reservation that I have about any of this is 1) of course how do they taste? and 2) whether there will be any left to freeze for return airplane trips after Thanksgiving.
We have been having glorious weather – temperate, sunny, gorgeous sunrise and sunsets. There’s something in this New England Fall air recently that is so delightful in these mid-November days. I wonder what it is?