meat pie: a recipe and a story.

The best thing about the recipe for meat pie is that it’s idiot-proof. I know, because two times ago making it I made literally every mistake it was possible to make. The meat was overcooked. The carrots were undercooked. I prebaked what was to be the bottom pie crust for too long, causing it to overcook, fracture and become unusable. I left what was to be the top crust on the stove to defrost but did not mind it sufficiently, and it wound up leaning against the back of the stove and partially burning without ever having cooked. I forgot to mix the ingredients as I went along, rather than just piling them in the mixing bowl, and the largest bowl in my boyfriend’s woefully understocked kitchen is a ceramic fruit bowl that does not permit anything other than a vague approximation of mixing once all the ingredients are in (so no mixing ever actually took place). I overestimated all the ingredient amounts slightly, so when I transferred them to the pie tin I scrounged to serve as the bottom shell, it overflowed like whoa. I forgot to place the pie on a baking sheet before filling or moving it so that it stays level on the journey from table to oven and doesn’t lose more of its contents. And finally, the entire time the pie was in the oven we smelled burning from the pie’s juices leaking out the sides and dripping onto the bottom and walls of the oven.

And it was still delicious.

The upside of this fiasco is that I learned all the things it is possible to do wrong, and the next time I made meat pie, I took care to do everything very very right. It was the best meat pie I have ever made. The recipe you are about to read is the fruit of that labor. But first, I want you to know: I was skeptical of this recipe. My boyfriend was enormously skeptical of this recipe. Everyone who sees this recipe is skeptical of this recipe. And every time, people’s minds are changed in the first bite. In the oven these disjunct flavours meld together and create something savory, oniony, very slightly sweet in the non-disgusting way, and just really pleasant. This tastes like what you think of when you imagine home cooking. So please just give it a shot even if you are skeptical. If you don’t like it I will eat it for you.

So, you’ll need:
– As close to 1 lb. 85% lean ground beef as you can get. You think you want more. You don’t. You think you want leaner or fattier. You don’t.
– About half a 10 oz. package frozen peas
– 1 medium yellow onion
– 3 – 4 carrots
– 1 small can (10.75 oz) tomato soup
– Shredded cheddar cheese in a bag.
– Salt
– Pepper
– Rosemary
– Flour
– Olive oil
– One egg
– 2 frozen deep-dish pie crusts. Deep-dish is absolutely fucking necessary. You could also make your own crust. I never make pie crust.

So first we’re gonna preheat our oven to 425 F and put one of our pie crusts in to prebake. Make sure you puncture the crust a whole bunch with a fork or else it’ll bake up in all sorts of bubbles as it prebakes. Prebake for eight minutes. I am serious about this. Do not prebake for longer. While you’re doing this, put your other pie crust (this will be the top of the pie) on the stove to defrost from the up-rising heat of the oven. Make sure you mind that it’s not leaning up against anything and burning. (Why do I prebake? Because my mom told me to. Why? Because her mom told her to. Seriously, I think it has to do with frozen pie crusts not cooking quickly enough to be done by the time the pie is done if you don’t, but it is like the cardinal rule of pie baking in our house, and cardinal rules don’t always come with explanations. You fucking prebake the pie crust.)

First in terms of non-pie-crust things, we’re gonna do our carrots. Gotta start with carrots as they take longest to cook. Chop them small (I like to leave the peel on, YMMV) and steam them until they’re soft. They have to be done before you put them in the pie because they won’t finish in the pie. Trust me. I know.

Next, slice your onion real nice (cut in half and slice the halves – we want biggish pieces for maximal deliciousness) and put it in a pan with olive oil, some salt and some pepper. I’m a kosher-salt and coarse-ground pepper kinda gal, and you want to be too. Saute on medium heat until done. I say they’re done when they’re browned and slightly blackened. Again, YMMV. These also need to be totally done before going in the pie, but they take less time than the carrots. Make sure to drain them before you put them in the pie!

Put your ground beef in the pan with some salt and some pepper. No oil needed. Cook it until it’s brown all over, and be careful to do this for real. You can leave a very little pink, because that will cook off in the pie, but only a very little. Make sure to break up all the chunks, etc. Make absolutely sure to drain it before it goes in the pie!

While all that stuff is cooking, you are mixing. You are starting with a can of tomato soup – and yes, I’ve been trying to think of a fresher replacement, and no, I haven’t come up with one yet, the thing about the tomato soup is that it doesn’t actually lend any tomato flavour if you do it right and so stewed tomatoes wouldn’t be a good replacement, any recommendations would be happily taken – and then you are refilling that can with water (make sure to get any remaining soup off the sides of the can!) and adding that to the bowl with the soup. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons flour. WHISK WELL. Add some kosher salt. WHISK WELL. Add some coarse-ground pepper. WHISK WELL. ARE YOU SENSING A PATTERN. THE PATTERN IS WHISK FUCKING WELL. Grab a large pinch of rosemary, grind it up in your fingers, add it. WHISK IN A WAY THAT IS WELL. Add about 1/3 – 1/2 the bag of shredded cheddar, and yes it’s in a bag because seriously, fuck grating cheese. The only recipes for which I grate my own are pesto, which is because I’m Sicilian and therefore afraid of pre-grated pecorino romano but mostly because my dad always grates his own; and macaroni and cheese, which is because the recipe flat-out begs you to and also I like to use lots of different cheeses, but honestly I add so much dry mustard, cayenne and black pepper that I could probably make it with Velveeta and no one would notice. But I won’t. Because I like myself. ANYWAY. Add 1/3 – 1/2 the bag of shredded cheddar and WHISK. FUCKING. WELL. Then add about half the package frozen peas and don’t bother to whisk JUST KIDDING WHISK WELL. By now all your stuff on the stove should be done, so add it carefully (being sure to drain the onions and beef first) and you guessed it, whisk well.

Now. Take your prebaked pie crust and place it on a cookie sheet. If you don’t, getting this monster into the oven will be a shit-show beyond your wildest pie-making dreams. Now, carefully transfer the contents of your mixing bowl to your pie crust. Try to avoid having a tilted kitchen, as it makes the whole matter way more difficult. Now, with utmost care, take the defrosted pie crust. Prepare it to depart from its tin shell by carefully detaching the edge, and then invert it over your over-full pie. Carefully remove it from the tin shell and spread across your pie filling. You will probably rip it. We all do.

Now, if you want to do an egg wash, that’s great. Egg washes look great and help the tops of pies maintain their consistency. To do an egg wash, separate one egg and, with a pastry brush, paint your pie crust with the egg white. To separate an egg, crack it into your hand over a bowl and very, very carefully pass the yolk back and forth. This will cause the white to run through your fingers and into the bowl. Once you’ve gotten all the white into the bowl, discard the yolk. Eggs are actually more resilient than you think. You can almost literally peel the white off the yolk. And the in-your-hands method has it all over using the shell. Personally, I never do the egg wash, because that would require buying eggs that would only ever be used for egg washes for meat pies, and also a pastry brush. (Did I mention the woefully understocked kitchen?) But egg washes are great and you should do one.

Now, put your pie in the oven for twenty minutes and walk away. When you walk back, eat that shit with your mouth. Whoever you make it for will probably marry you. You might marry yourself.

Now. THINGS YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO TO THIS PIE WHICH SEEM INTUITIVE BUT ARE TERRIBLE IDEAS. I mean seriously they are in the original recipe but they are terrible ideas, they are where this whole modification thing started.
1) Add garlic. Do not add garlic. You think you want to. You don’t. It is a different kind of savory than the pie is and it will be unwelcome.
2) Add potatoes. You really don’t want to do this. I love potatoes but in this particular recipe they are lumps of flavorlessness in a playground of flavour delights. Do not add them.

Any questions, please ask! Also please make this now.


About Sara

I like to talk about media, food, and gender.
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One Response to meat pie: a recipe and a story.

  1. Pingback: what I’m cooking these days. | Ends and Leavings

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