May 292011

When I was growing up my mother baked two particularly tasty things; whole wheat bread and Cornish pasties. I don’t know if my mother ate pasties when she was a child growing up in Anaconda, Montana, but my father certainly did when he grew up in Butte. In Butte, the Irish had co-opted the delicious pasties from the “Cousin Jacks” or the residents of Cornwall, England. The pasty was a popular lunch item, especially for school kids and underground miners.

If you search the Internet you can find many recipes for pasties, many of which will contain all sorts of additional vegetables. I’ve tasted many meat pies over the years, and I agree with the opinion of my parents that a pasty doesn’t need anything besides just the basics. The following recipe is a transcription of a letter my mother sent me some years ago. In the penultimate paragraph my mother has the chef creating an incision in the top of the pie before it’s baked. My father also made pasties for himself years ago, and suggested that one wait until the pasty is fully baked before cutting into the pie so that the moisture from the interior remains inside.

Frozen prepared pie crust may be purchased from the freezer department of a supermarket, or prepare crust using standard measurements of one cup flour and one-third cup shortening, plus ½ teaspoonful salt per pasty for plate-sized pasties.

Purchase about one or 1&1/2 pound good grade round steak, and trimming off most fat, place in freezer compartment so that it becomes about semi-frozen. It will be much easier to cut into small cubes if first frozen. It should cut up about as easily as chopping celery. Before freezing, seasoning can most easily and accurately be added by sprinkling salt and black pepper quite liberally on both sides of the meat as you would season something like a hamburger patty. Otherwise, it’s difficult to measure just how much salt and pepper you would add to the mixture Considering that you won’t need to season the potato which will be added later, on should be quite generous in applying the salt and pepper. Also consider that you will be adding butter or margarine at the last minute so that will also provide a salty flavor.

After trimming all fat off your frozen piece of round steak, cut into strips and chop meat into cubes about ¼ inch in size. Your meat will bake much faster with small, uniform pieces of meat so that you won’t over cook it, which would make it more tough. Set aside meat in a large bowl.

Peel and cube potatoes in about the same size small pieces as the meat. (A French fry cutter is ideal to form the proper sized strips for uniform chopping). Use about three large baking type potatoes. The proportion of meat to potatoes should be about half and half. Add to mixing bowl containing meat cubes.

Finely chop two large onions of the white Bermuda type and add to mixing bowl. Mix together meat, potatoes and onions. At this point, mixture can if desired be covered and refrigerated overnight to blend flavors, but is not necessary.

On a slightly floured surface, roll out pastry with slightly floured rolling pin to the approximate size of a standard dinner plate, or smaller if desired. Place one cup of meat mixture onto crust just off center to the bottom half so that when crust is placed over meat it will form a half circle. Meat mixture may be somewhat runny from onion juices, but if crust is not rolled too thin, it should hold the mixture without running out. After flopping crust over mixture, cut carefully around outside edge so that you form a neat semicircle. (I use a fluted small pastry cutting wheel). Dip fork tines into cold water and seal edges carefully all around the semicircle so that nothing drips out. Cut a small slit about one inch long in center which will be used as a steam hole escape and an opening into which you will add melted butter and a little hot water when pasties are just taken out of oven. Use about one stick plus about two tablespoonfuls hot water heated together and poured equally divided into steam holes. Oven temperature should be preheated to 375 degrees F. and pasties baked for 45 minutes or until slightly browned. Any left over meat mixture may be refrigerated and used as a single top crust meat pie baked in an oven proof deep dish.

After you have formed and sealed pasty, carefully place it on a large cookie sheet which has been pre-greased, or a parchment paper which requires no greasing. About five pasties can be placed on a standard cookie sheet. Bon Appetite!

 Posted by on 05/29/2011 Growing Up In Montana

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