Lesley and I are both recuperating from aches and pains. She wrenched her neck and I hurt my back. Neither of us knows how this happened, but we are finally over most of the suffering.
As I was taking her to work this morning, we stopped by one of our favorite French restaurant on the way. It was M. C. Donald’s, with the accent on the second syllable. It reminded me of the time we stopped by there for a takeout order late one evening a few years ago.
We ordered some kind of hamburgers; I’m not sure exactly what. I know it was some kind of meat product because after we paid at the first window, they told us at the second one that we would have to wait since they were “out of meat”. I thought this was kind of odd…a burger joint without burgers, so we asked what was going on. After a series of teenagers, a quasi-adult came to the window and explained that “someone” had decided to cut the grill off so they could clean it and get out early that night. He said that it would take “a while” to get the grill going again.
They were stunned that we wanted our money back, but they finally gave in. It only took a little while for them to have some kind of group meeting/training and figure out how to do it. If only they had made a few meat pies.
Lesley grew up about 60 miles southeast of Natchitoches, Louisiana. You don’t say the name anything like it looks. I won’t even attempt it here. One of Natchitoches’ claims to fame is the meat pie that bears the city’s name. I have had them and there are bodacious. I decided to fix up a batch and surprise Lesley yesterday.
I went straight to the internet to check out recipes. After a lot of browsing, I started with a recipe from Emeril on foodtv.com and modified it by adding things I thought would be good as well as ideas from other recipes, borrowing especially from Donald Link’s book, “Real Cajun”, that my brother-in-law had introduced me to on our Thanksgiving visit.
Maybe this is not as authentic as it could be so instead of calling it Natchitoches Meat Pies, the name of my recipe is:
Roanoke Meat Pies
For the filling:
Bacon fat, at least 2-3 tablespoons
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1 onion, finely chopped
1 chopped bell pepper
3 stalks chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worchester sauce
1 teaspoon each of:
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves or more minced garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water or broth
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
For the crust:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons lard
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup milk
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water)
Peanut oil for deep-frying
In a large skillet heat fat and cook beef and pork on high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 or so minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add the rest of the ingredients except for the flour, water/broth, garlic and scallions. Cook stirring often until the vegetables are wilted, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two or until you start to smell it.
Add the flour and stir until it is incorporated, then add the water or broth. Either chicken or beef broth works well. Stir until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the green onions. Mix well, let cool and refrigerate until cold. It will be easier to make the pies if the filling is cold.
In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the lard until mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, working it to make a thick dough. I do all this with a mixer with the paddle attachment except for beating the egg and milk together. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll each portion of dough into a thin round about 5 inches in diameter. Place a scant 1/4 cup of meat filling in the center of each round and brush edges lightly with egg wash. Fold edges together and crimp closed with a fork.
Heat peanut oil in a deep pot or electric deep-fryer to 360 degrees F. Fry the pies, in batches, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. You can also bake these at 400 for about 15-20 minutes or until brown, but it‘s hard to beat the taste of deep fried food.
This recipe makes 12 pies.
If you have a kitchen scale, each dough portion should weigh about 60 grams. The pie crusts are pretty easy to make after you get the hang of it, although I reckon you could use store bought pie crusts and cut them down.
The above ingredients are just guidelines. Be creative with the amounts and throw in or leave out anything you like. Just make sure you taste as you go and correct the seasonings until the meat mixture tastes good to you. Don’t worry if it seems a little spicy, since the crust will tone that down.
These pies can also be frozen. Put the uncooked pies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Put them in the freezer and package them when they are frozen. It is best to let them thaw before frying. If you are careful, you can defrost them in the microwave if you are in a hurry.