One of the reasons I love cooking is that food is very nostalgic to me. This recipe is one that's been passed around my family for a long time. I always think back to a few years ago, when my parents and I were making a trek to Wegman's to get supplies for Thanksgiving dinner. My mom asked me to call her mother (my Memere) to ask if she had any requests. She asked me to make a "meat stuffing". Confused, I asked her what was in a meat stuffing. She said "Oh, you know. Beef, and pork. And potatoes. And those spices, and onions and garlic." I said that it sounded like the base for meat pie, and she said "Yes! That's what you make out of the leftovers. I'd like a meat pie." We laughed, because according to my mom, they'd never made stuffing like that, but they sure did make meat pies for holidays.
This is the ultimate in comfort food, for me. It may sound weird to you if you've never had a meat pie, but trust me, it's wonderful. Spicy and homey, and it will certainly fill up your belly. Peasant food is good that way.
Full disclosure: I cheated with this and used a pre-made pie crust from the refrigerator section of the grocery store. I know, it's shameful. I really am not fantastic at making homemade pie crust, no matter how easy everyone tells me it is. I'm working on it. In the meantime, there really are tasty pre-mades out there. You don't even have to tell anyone.
I think one of the keys to this pie (and most ground meat dishes, really) is using both ground beef and ground pork. Ground pork doesn't have a ton of flavor, but it's lighter, and really adds moisture. I use equal parts here, about 3/4 of a pound of each. You can also substitute ground turkey, chicken, veal, bison, lamb or meatloaf mix here. Just be sure to use a combination.
Another key to getting the perfect texture to this pie is one I almost forgot about. When I was pulling this together, there was a flurry of emails with my cousin Nicole and her mom, my Aunt Sue, as well as my own mom, about ingredients, proportions, timing. It's such an old family recipe that none of us (save maybe my Aunt Sue) has it written down anywhere, we make it from memory and asking each other the parts we forget. Nicole and I both forgot that one of the most important binders in this recipe is very, very finely diced potato. It's diced so small that it all but disappears into the filling, but it's essential in holding the pie together and thickening it up. I used a few Yukon golds, but a russet would work nicely as well.
It's also important, when browning the meat, that you break it up as finely as you can get it. You don't want any chunks of meat OR potato, you want it to be wholly incorporated and broken down. Sometimes I cook the meat first, pull it off into a bowl, and then cook the diced onion and garlic. Then I add the meat back and cook in the potato. Sometimes I saute off the onions and garlic first and then cook in the meat (it really depends on if I am feeling ambitious enough to drain off some of the fat. This time, I did not feel so ambitious).
Once this is all combined, it's just adding the liquid and the spices and really developing the flavor before baking it off.
Cook it all down until the potatoes are soft, then break them up. I think an important step at this point is pulling the meat off the heat and giving it time to cool before adding it to the pie crust. This helps ensure that the bottom crust cooks up crisp and not soggy. No one wants a soggy bottom crust.
|This is an excellent time for a glass of wine. You can't make a French dish without a glass of wine, am I right?|
Bake and enjoy!
French Meat Pie
double pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated (my preferred method is grated)
3/4 pounds ground beef
3/4 pounds ground pork
3-4 Yukon gold potatoes, very finely diced
1/2-1 teaspoon ground clove (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground allspice (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more to taste)
1-2 cups stock or water
1 egg, wisked with a few TB of water to make an egg wash
3 TB butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
ketchup, for serving
Pre-heat oven to 350°. Prepare and set aside pie crusts, or take out pre-made crust and bring to room temperature.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add butter or olive oil. Add in onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and saute until soft, 5-8 minutes. Add in ground beef and pork and cook, breaking down, until all the pink is gone and it's very combined and fine, about 10 minutes. Season with clove, allspice and cinnamon and stir to combine (note: clove is a strong spics. I go heavier on the cinnamon and allspice to start, and then adjust to taste). Add in finely diced potato and the water or stock (the liquid should just about come up to the level of all the ingredients in the pan, use as much as is needed to do that) and simmer until potatoes are soft and the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. When soft, mash a bit with the back of a fork to break up the potatoes. They will still be visible but start to combine, and will break down fully when baking. Taste the mixture and adjust seasoning as needed.
Move the mixture to another dish or allow to cool, stirring to help it along. This should take about 15 minutes, but it's a crucial step to the ever-important non-soggy crust.
Roll the bottom crust into a 9-inch pie dish. Brush with the egg wash. Spoon the filling mixture into the crust and smooth out so it's even. Roll the top crust over the filling and crimp the edges. Egg wash the top, and cut a few slits in the crust for the steam to escape.
Bake at 350 for a half hour, or until golden brown. You may need to use foil or a pie crust protector to prevent the edges from getting too brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting, to let the filling set.
Slice and serve with ketchup. Trust me on this one.
|Comfort food defined|
|Notice how broken down the potato gets|
|Mmmm flaky crust|
|I know it sounds weird, but the sweet/tang of the ketchup is perfect with the spice of the filling|
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