Meat pies! Rarrr! In whatever form – samosas, pasties, empanadas – the combination of savory meat and vegetables encased in tender pastry is irresistible. To me. And apparently to John and Nathan too. Before I abandoned my family for the Commanderie dinner on Tuesday night, I played the good wife and mother and tried out a recipe I’d pulled from Gourmet magazine last year for Beef and Curry Pies. Nathan helped me roll out and cut dough so that in no time he and John had hot, crispy meat pies for dinner, while I was whisked off for downtown (smelling rather of curry, a strange combination with my beloved Le Parfum de Therese, to be sure) by Stu and Debbie. The recipe in theory serves 8, but there were no leftovers between the two of them, so… I’ll adjust the serving size accordingly (!) in the posted recipe (in comments, below).
If you’re not in the mood to roll and cut dough (which with frozen puff pastry really doesn’t take very long), I’d suggest empanadas from El Meson. Their empanadas are absolutely perfect. Tender, flaky crust filled with garlic-studded beef, with a hint of sweetness, dipped in fiery salsa… Shut. Up. I crave ’em, with cold beer, although I really only achieve them once a year. Perhaps tonight’s the night, I’ll have to think on that for a bit. What say ye, Johnny?
For lunch today I get to cash in on the efforts of yesterday, when I took the time to simmer a homemade chicken stock. (I use a couple of pounds of chicken thighs, brown them thoroughly in olive oil, then toss hunks of carrots, celery, garlic, and onion into the pot, with a handful of fresh herbs, water to cover, simmer partially covered- skimming often – for 2 hours. Strain carefully – discard solids – season liberally. If not using right away, cool to room temp, uncovered, then chill.) We had the hot stock as a sort of make-your-own-chicken-noodle-soup, with cooked egg noodles, sauteed veggies (asparagus tips, onion, mushrooms, carrots), grated gruyere, and chicken breast pieces (from a rotisserie chicken) as optional add-ins. With a loaf of crusty bread, it made a good, hot, filling meal on a ridiculously cold night. Even my nephew Cooper Cuteness had a few tastes of the rich broth! Coop de Loop does soup!
Beef and Curry Pies
Adapted from the November, 2006, issue of Gourmet Magazine
¾ lb. ground beef chuck (not lean)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 medium onion, chopped (1 c.)
1 Tbsp. curry powder (or to taste)
1 large russet (baking) potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces (1 c.)
6 Tbsp. water
¼ c. frozen peas, thawed
2 (17 ¼ oz) packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
5-inch round cookie cutter
Gently mix together beef, soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, then add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up beef into small pieces, until just browned, about 5 minutes. Drain beef in a colander set over a bowl (reserve skillet) and return beef drippings to uncleaned skillet.
Heat drippings over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add curry powder and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are translucent, 3-5 minutes more. Add water and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, until liquid is absorbed and potatoes are tender, about 3 minutes. Return beef to skillet and stir in peas. Remove from heat and cool a bit.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll one sheet of dough into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin and cut out 4 rounds with cutter. Transfer 2 rounds to a baking sheet. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, moisten the edges of the 2 rounds. Mound 1/3 c. filling onto the center of each of the 2 rounds, leaving the egg-moistened border clear. Stretch the other two rounds a bit, then place them over the filled rounds, covering completely. Gently press edges with tines of a fork to seal. Repeat with remaining sheets of dough and filling to make a total of 8 pies on 2 baking sheets (you may have some filling leftover). Brush tops of pastry lightly with egg and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until pies are deep golden brown and puffed, 25-30 minutes. Cool pies to warm, about 10 minutes, or room temperature.
Notes: beef pies can be assembled and brushed with egg 1 day ahead and chilled, covered, or 1 week ahead and frozen, wrapped well. Bake frozen pies (do not thaw) an additional 5 minutes. Beef pies can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then chilled. Reheat on a baking sheet in the middle of a 350 degree F oven until filling is hot, about 15 minutes.