Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two-Bite Wonders: Natchitoches Meat Pies

After my first visit to New Orleans a few years ago, my signed copy of Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana and My New Orleans, by John Besh, became two of my most cherished cookbooks. Every recipe I have tried from these books has been fabulous!

The introduction to the recipe for Natchitoches Meat Pies says: Natchitoches, Louisiana is famous for its extravagant display of Christmas lights, but it is also famous meat pies - a quintessential festival snack perfect for backyard barbecues, festivals, and parties. I knew they would be perfect for Jim & Carmen's Annual Time Change Party - they complemented Jim's Pork Chile Verde and pitchers of margaritas very well! Carmen commented they were "off-the-chart fabulous" and she is inspired to throw a Mardi Gras party next year. In that case, I think I'll try the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Pies, also from Real Cajun.

Assembled and ready for frying or baking

Baked Pies

Natchitoches Meat Pies
Slightly adapted from Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana
Makes about 16 pies

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef (not lean)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 medium jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
1 bunch scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
5 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
Meat Pie Dough, chilled (recipe below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
Sliced green onion for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl, mix together the kosher salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, black pepper and white pepper.

Seed, dice and chop the tomatoes, onion, green bell pepper and jalapeno and transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and spice mix and cook, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat, for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the meat is lightly browned.

Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, bay leaves, dried thyme, and Worcestershire sauce and cook, stirring, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated and the vegetables have softened.

Dust the flour over the meat and add the water, stirring to combine (this should tighten up the mixture enough so it won’t leak moisture when it’s encased in the dough). Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the scallions and hot sauce and transfer the mixture to a baking pan (or dish) to cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled, at least 15 minutes more.

When you’re ready to prepare the pies, heat the oven to 200°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and a dusting of flour. Divide the dough into four even sections to make it easier to work with. Return three of the sections to the refrigerator. Dust the counter with a sprinkling of flour and roll out the first section until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter (or a similar-size bowl or jar lid), cut the dough into rounds. The scraps can be *rerolled if needed (see Note, below)

Lightly brush the outer edges of each circle with beaten egg. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each round. Fold the circle over the filling to make a half circle. Using the back of a fork, press around the round side of the circle to seal the pie. Transfer the pies to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough sections.

When you fill a baking sheet, place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the dough stays firm. You can also freeze the uncooked pies. Just freeze them on the baking sheet first, and when they are fully frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag.

To fry* the pies, heat 2 1/2 inches of oil in a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven until the oil reaches 350°F on a deep-frying/candy thermometer. Fry the chilled pies in batches of four or five at a time, cooking for about 8 minutes, until golden. (Frozen pies will need about 12 to 14 minutes.) Transfer the cooked pies to a baking sheet lined with paper towels or newspaper, and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining pies.

*NOTE: I fried half the pies and found that some of them fell apart while frying (I think these may have been the ones where I re-rolled the scraps of dough). I tried baking the second batch and actually preferred the baked version, and it saved time and a greasy mess and odor in my kitchen. Brush tops of assembled pies with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

Meat Pie Dough

5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup ice water

Place the flour and salt in food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse several times until the mixture is coarse. Slowly add the ice water, pulsing just until the dough starts to hold together. Dump dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands for a few minutes until it’s smooth and evenly blended.

Roll the dough into a rectangle and fold it over itself three times like a letter. Repeat this process four times, reshape the dough to a rectangle, and refrigerate until firm, at least 15 minutes.

Garnished with sliced green onion

Extremely flavorful, slightly spicy filling


Mary Hirsch said...

These look delicious, Denise. I must say that you are one fine cook. I wish I had just a smidgen of your photography talent also. Your cook the cover's for BA and S are beautiful. Nice posts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this recipe!!!

Harold Sharp said...

Thank You!!!