Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Natchitoches Meat Pie

Natchitoches (Central Louisiana) is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase and these pies predate the Civil War. The traditional recipe is filled with ground beef, ground pork, onion, and special seasonings sealed in a crescent shaped crust, it is either baked or deep fried. When fried it's fried in peanut oil because of it's high smoking point. The pie has been handed down and has been evolving for over 300 years. The pie originally had a savory meat filling (normally ground pork or pork sausage) in a crust (crescent-shaped) flaky wheat pastry turnover. Wheat was difficult to grow in the wet warm climate; corn was what was grown locally making it the staple for the Spanish and Native Americans. Wheat would have been imported by yearly supply-convoys through Texas or from the French port (Natchitoches) on the Red River. That made wheat flour so expensive it was reserved for only people in high in status or for what is known as High Holidays with in the Roman Catholic Church. These festivals gave the opportunity for older women to pass on the meat pie legacy.                                                
Speaking of evolving, the pies now, at times, have ground beef blended for additional flavor. The pies sometimes are made with Crayfish as well. ( Ya know like the song ...crayfish pies and filé gumbo)  A roux (equal parts flour and fat) is made to bind the browned meat and vegetable mixture together making the filling. (comprising of onions, bell pepper and garlic, the filing should be made the day before to allow the flavors of the ingredients to marry) Everything filling, dough, tools should be chilled before assembly. (otherwise the dough may fall apart) As  per usual Louisiana, throws festivals for everything! Party hearty! The annual Natchitoches  Meat Pie Festival (held in September) celebrates the meat pie with live music, pie making demonstrations, a pie cook-off and more. In the first part of the 20th century, meat pies were sold from home kitchens or from carts by street vendors but by 1967, Natchitoches meat pies were produced in commercial kitchens.

    2 Tb vegetable oil
    1/2 lb ground beef (not lean)
     1 1/2 lb ground pork   
    1 Tb kosher salt
    1 tsp paprika                     
    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/2 tsp chili powder
    1/2 tsp ground cumin
    1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
    4 plum tomatoes (diced)
    1 sm. yellow onion (finely chopped)
    1 green bell pepper (finely chopped)
    1 medium jalapeño pepper (finely chopped-remove seeds - less heat )
    4 bay leaves
    1 tsp dried thyme
    1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
meat pie
    2 Tb all-purpose flour
    2 Tb water
    1 bunch scallions (green and white parts thinly
        sliced about  1/2 cup)
    5 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
    Vegetable oil, for frying(if needed)
4 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted shortening
2 tsp baking powder
   Sift flour, baking powder add in eggs and milk (enough to form stiff dough)

Reminder chill all individual before putting together and frying! 

 Instructions for Filling:
    Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat, salt, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, cumin, and black and white peppers cook 5 to 8 min  until the meat is lightly browned.
    Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, bay leaves, dried thyme, and Worcestershire sauce cook (stirring additional 5-10 min til most of the juices have evaporated and the vegetables are soft.
    Dust the flour over the meat and add the water, stirring to combine (this is the roux that helps in binding the mixture when it’s in the dough, the fat comes from the non-lean beef). Remove the bay leaves, stir in the scallions and hot sauce and transfer the mixture to a baking pan to cool for 20 minutes then place in the refrigerator until completely cooled (15 minutes)
    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. Pace the sections not working with back in the refrigerator. (to stay cool) Prepare counter with a bit 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/jar lid), cut the dough into rounds. (saving the scraps; they can be re-rolled if needed)
    Lightly brush the outer edges of each circle with beaten egg. Place 2 1/2 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 on the baking sheet first. When they are fully frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag.
Very similar to empanadas
     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, (about 8 minutes, until golden frozen pies will need about 12-14 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.

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