During this unprecedented time of quarantine, you might be tackling some kitchen projects you've had on the back burner for a while. That could include reorganizing and taking stock of your pantry, equipment and tool drawers and if you're like me, going through your cookbooks in search of those favorite recipes that have been dog-eared and perhaps even have a few spills on the pages. In addition to my cookbooks, I've been referencing my hand-written collection of recipes from family members that bring back fond memories.
In order to support you while we are all cooking at home more these days, The Chopping Block is offering weekly cooking challenges in our private Facebook group. Each week, we'll present a different challenge for group members to complete and share their photos and recipes with other home cooks in the group. It's a way to become a resource for each other during these difficult times.
This week's challenge is to cook a family recipe that's been passed down to you. We now have Alyshia's mom's Kugel recipe, and we hope members share more as they cook their way through the challenge this week. Not a member yet? Click here to join.
Here's what I'll be sharing with the group this week.
One of my earliest memories is visiting my grandmother in northern Louisiana at Christmastime. She lived in a rural town with just one stoplight. Every year, we'd make the trip "to town" to watch the fireworks over the Cane River and eat meat pies in Natchitoches. For other kids, the fireworks were the main attraction, but for me, it was always all about the meat pie.
This traditional hand pie has a savory meat filling in a crescent-shaped, flaky pastry turnover, similar to a Spanish empanada. My mom would only make these at home for very special occasions due to the amount of "trouble" they are. When I asked her about them recently, she reminisced about her and my aunt making them together years ago. As they grew tired of making the pies, the larger the pies became in an effort to use up all of the dough and filling.
Scoffing at my mother's claim of being too much trouble and wanting to make the authentic recipe rather than some online version, I asked her for the recipe. I was shocked to find it came from "Meats 2nd Edition: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers". I was even more shocked when I actually read the recipe. It was a shell of a recipe at best, missing steps, amounts of ingredients and obvious errors in methods.
This made me think about how much recipes and cookbooks have changed over the years. This book was published in 1962, long before test kitchens and beautiful food photography were a part of every reputable cookbook. In this case, I knew I could trust my cooking knowledge rather than the recipe. That's something we try to teach home cooks at The Chopping Block. Trust your instincts to know you don't have to follow a recipe to the letter. In fact, that will often get you in trouble.
Here's my altered version of the recipe:
Natchitoches Meat Pies
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
For the dough:
1/4 cup shortening, melted
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon butter (for roux)
2 Tablespoon flour (for roux)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 pint whole milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
6 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, to taste (this is my favorite, but any spicy seasoning blend you have works)
For the filling:
Make a roux with the 1 Tablespoon butter and 2 Tablespoons flour by melting the butter in a saucepan and adding the flour while constantly stirring until light brown in color. You want to cook out the raw flour taste, without letting the roux burn.
In a separate medium skillet, cook the beef and pork with onions and leeks until thoroughly cooked. Add the roux which will absorb the fat from the meat and thicken the filling. Add parsley and Tony Chachere's seasoning to taste. The spice level should get your attention but not be too overpowering. Let cool.
For the dough:
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder in large bowl. Mix eggs, melted butter, melted shortening & milk together. Add to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Turn out on a floured surface and knead dough by hand for about 5 minutes until smooth. Divide into two pieces and roll each out to 1/8" thickness. Cut circles of dough, using a biscuit cutter (or whatever round object is the size you want the pies to be).
Fill one half full with meat mixture, fold dough over and seal tightly. Dampen edges with water and crimp edges with fork.
Heat oil in heavy pot until 350 degrees (use a candy thermometer to monitor temperature). Fry in batches until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt as they cool on racks.
Makes 36 pies using a regular biscuit cutter. The pies may also be baked if you prefer.
I can't wait to try family recipes from the other group members! If you want to be part of our conversation around cooking, join our private Facebook group.