My Year in Pie

°It has been some time since I have posted on this blog, having been stuck with the latest list friend Thistle (who may now be followed, should you choose, at and I have compiled. Though I know I will eventually complete our assessment (to wit, the top 10 movies about the theatre), I find that when I open my draft, I simply cannot put pen to paper, as it were. Six months, however, is more than sufficient silence for anyone, and I feel that it is time for me to post again.

I HAVE RESOLVED that I shall make a weekly post about pie. “Why would you post about pie?” you may well ask, but a far better question is “Why wouldn’t I post about pie?” The Oxford English Dictionary defines pie as:

“a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry.”

Its middle English etymology may stem from the hoarding magpie, which was probably baked into a pie at some time,  and nearly every country has something that could be called a “pie” within its cuisine. People can be as sweet as it, tasks can be as easy as it, and most people are yearning for a bigger piece of one. Pies can be simple or fancy, they can be sweet or savoury, and they can be baked or fried, eaten hot or cold, by fork or by hand,  and in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. I intend to take a broad definition of pie in this blog–no thin end of the wedge for me–posts may be about pies I’ve made, or tarts, or pizza, or even about the presence of pie in popular culture. So welcome, welcome to a wonderful journey around the world of pie.

Our inaugural pie has the humblest of origins, it was a popular lunch for the working class of Britain, particularly the tin miners of Cornwall, where the dish got its name: the Cornish Pasty. Pasties are dishless pies, not to be confused with the dancing gear of a New Jersey stripper, generally savoury, and were sturdy and easy to transport down the mine. Oblong in shape, they can be eaten from one end to the other, and historically, some have had meat and vegetables at the beginning and jam at the end.

Cornish pasties have achieved Protected Geographical Indication as of 2011, and as such, a true Cornish pasty must include beef, onion, potato and turnip. One can really make a pasty, however, with what such ingredients as please the baker and the eater, with little harm done to either. Here is how I made my pasties…

Any pie begins with the dough and every dough begins with flour (either unbleached white or a combination of white and whole wheat or other flour), shortening (either butter, or vegetable shortening, or even lard, or a combination therein), and salt. These ingredients are blended by hand, fork, pastry blender, or food processor until they resemble coarse crumbs. To this mixture you add a cold liquid, such as iced water, milk, or cream. I generally use crème fraiche or sour cream, and supplement this with water as needed. Blend it just until it comes together–it should not be too liquidy, nor should it be overblended, as this will make the dough tough. If you are making a sweet pie, use less salt and add some sugar with the dry ingredients. Omit the sugar for a savoury pie. Pat the dough into a flat disc and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.

While the dough is cooling, make your filling. Dice an onion or two, a few carrots, and a few stalks of celery. Add to this some diced potato, either baking or boiling will do. While you are doing this you will have warmed a tablespoon or two of neutral oil over medium heat. Saute the vegetables until soft, then remove from the pan.

Saute until soft and tender

Saute until soft and tender

Next, it’s time for the meat. Freshly ground beef is best for this recipe, as it allows you to control the fat and the flavour.

"Two times through the grinder, smoothly, smoothly..."

“Two times through the grinder, smoothly, smoothly…”

Rib eye is, of course, delicious, but chuck is also quite good. If you do not have a meat grinder, an attachment to your KitchenAid Stand Mixer is readily purchasable.  If you do not have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, buy one. Crate&Barrel sells a variety of colours at reasonable prices. Grind meat coarsely, and, in the same pan,brown in either a small amount of neutral oil or clarified butter until fat is rendered. Add two tablespoons of flour, and stir until cooked. Return the vegetables to the pan and stir to blend. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream (or beef stock for a low calorie version of the dish) and cook for a few minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool completely.

Use your hands to firm the mound on the dough.

Use your hands to firm the mound on the dough.

To assemble the pasties, make an egg wash. Divide your disk of chilled dough into as many sections as you will make pasties (bearing in mind that you may reassemble scraps within reason.) Roll them into balls and then roll out into circles 7 inches in diameter (trim as needed.) Place a mound on 1 side of the dough, brush egg wash around the edge, and fold the other side over it, sealing and crimping daintily. Repeat until you have used all of your dough.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Arrange your pasties on a baking sheet covered in either parchment or silpat. Prick them to allow for the escape of steam, and varnish them with the remaining egg wash. Bake in a preheated 375° oven for a minimum of 40 minutes until crust is golden and delicious.

Humble perfection

Humble perfection

Should you desire, you may deglaze the plan you used to make the filling and make an onion gravy. Once the pasties are done baking, allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve. The King’s Head Pub & Restaurant in Santa Monica serves their pasties with chips and peas, which are delightful (well, maybe not the peas) if a little indulgent. Other steamed vegetables may be served with the pasties; onion gravy, if made may be passed over them, or make HP Sauce available.

The onion gravy is a lovely addition

The onion gravy is a lovely addition

About What would Julia do?

Being timid and meek like Dorothy Gale, I have surprised myself by starting this blog. But a few people have suggested I do so, so there it is. I love to eat and I love to drink, so although this blog could be about almost anything I choose to type, there's likely to be a lot about what you put in your mouth. Why the title? Anyone who knows me knows my reverence for Julia Child. I don't think it's hyperbolic to say that our country's interest in the culinary arts would be all but non-existent but for Her. I would not attempt to count the number of people who have cited Her influence in their lives and careers. What Atticus Finch is to lawyers, Julia Child is to the cook, be s/he servantless or professional. Honesty demands me to say that it is not simply Her advocacy of GOOD FOOD that has immortalized her; She had the happy circumstance of coming into her own at a time when media was in her favour. We can all be thankful for that. I would name Julia Child as the patron saint of second starts, but I'm a happy heretic. Julia's dogma goes beyond the kitchen: She has famously stated that "[y]ou've got to have the courage of your convictions..." Her statement applies as equally to any part of one's life as it does to flipping a potato gallette. I will conclude by noting I have my own personal trinity of Js--Julia, Judy Garland, and Joanna Rowling. Please refer back to that part about my being a happy heretic.
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