Friday, April 01, 2011

HOW TO wing it with beef...

I left the particulars of food prep out of my last post thinking it would make for too long of a snooze-fest, but I've had a request and I get way too excited about even one comment to be able to resist an actual request!

These pasties do not claim to be authentic Cornish pasties. I only had them once while in England, I wasn't even in Cornwall, and that was nearly seven years ago. This is just an approximation and a first attempt. Okay? Shall we procede?*

The Beef
I always braise because I've had the most success with it. I salt and pepper a 4-5 lb roast and sear it in my Dutch oven until the house is full of smoke and everyone is freezing because all the windows are open. Then I add enough liquid to fill the pot so that the roast is submerged half-way. I usually use equal parts chicken broth and beef broth and at least a cup or two of red wine if I have it. If I don't have any I will use red wine vinegar but much less, no more than a cup. I've also thrown in pomegranate juice or grape juice which is lovely but makes the gravy too sweet. I chunk up an onion and set the pot to boil. Once boiling, I turn it down to a simmer, then cover and let it simmer for about 4 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, I throw in some peeled and chunked carrots and potatoes. We eat 1/3 - 1/2 of it and I reserve the rest in the fridge for our next meal.

The Soup
This is even less scientific. Since the beef is already braised, this doesn't take as long; in fact, the other night I think I made this in about 90 minutes. I usually dice an onion and cook it in butter first, but the other night I only had shallots so I used them. It didn't make a difference. While that was cooking I diced the beef, then threw it in with the onion and some minced garlic (I think two cloves). This is where it gets murky. Once the onion was cooked through and the butter cooked away I added a splash of red wine and some broth. I didn't have any beef broth this time so I used all chicken but usually I use both. I just kept adding it until it looked like enough. And NOTE: this batch turned out decidedly unsoup-like so I obviously did not use enough. I brought it to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer.

Because I didn't have much time, I didn't simmer it long. Just until it tasted like it had blended long enough. Then I brought it back to a boil and added some frozen peas, carrots and corn. I had cooked carrots leftover from the roast the night before so I cut those up and threw them in, too. When I figured it had about 7 minutes of cooking time left, I added some alphabet pasta. I'm not sure why except that they looked cute and I wanted to get some starch into the kids bellies. The result was, as mentioned, a very thick concoction that was very tasty but not at all soupy. The kids asked, "What IS this? Is that barley?" But they slurped it down. This was what I used as my pasty filling after an overnight stay in the fridge to congeal it even more.

The Pasties
The recipe I found online called for 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup shortening, 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup ice water. Here's how I did it:

Mix the flour and salt first, then cut the shortening and butter into cubes and work them through the dry mixture with a pastry cutter, two forks or your fingers. I used my fingers. Very messy but very satisfying. I felt like Ma Ingalls. Add ice water (Redheaded Snippet did this since my fingers were covered with lumps of dough) and continue mixing gently until the dough can be formed into a ball.

Divided the dough into 6 portions and pat into discs. Roll a disc, on a floured surface, into a 5 or 6 inch circle or a suitable facsimile thereof. Dot surface with butter, sprinkle with additional ice water, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 1/4 cup of filling in center of disc and fold dough over GENTLY to form a half moon. Press edges to seal. You can either press with a fork, use water as a kind of glue or just fold the edges over a little to form a lip. This was the hardest part as my circles were nowhere near circular. My edges were all uneven and some of the pasties threatened to tear apart while I was folding them. I crimped all over the place.

Place on baking sheet (I didn't grease mine or use parchment or anything) and cut 2 or 3 venting slits in each pasty. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. I thought I probably should have done something to make them bake up nice and glossy and brown, but I didn't know what so I left them alone. Again, they could have been less crumbly but they were still flaky and tasty.

There you have it! I know there is plenty of room for improvement in the entire process, but that's how I did it. This time. I'm sure next time will be different.


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