Jamaican Meat Pies

Oh how I love a good meat pie. Chewy, flaky pastry, rich savory gravy, meat and veg to give you the excuse to eat all the pastry and gravy . . . Besides, it seems as though everything I’m doing these days is some sort of folded pastry situation, so eventually you knew it’d come to this.

If you’ve never had a Jamaican meat pie (aka meat patty or beef patty), it’s a chewy flaky pastry, often seasoned with curry and other spices, wrapped around a hefty spoonful of ground beef and onions, heavily spiced with curry and chiles and magic. Ooooh giggity.scrumptious meat pie

So this original recipe, at Serious Eats, said it made 6 pies. I doubled both parts but ended up with enough filling for 7 extra pies (some of which were stuffed to the brim) and still had more left over. So here, I doubled the dough recipe but left the filling as it was.

Jamaican Meat Pies
adapted from Serious Eats

Dough

  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup curry powder, preferably Jamaican
  • 1 lb unsalted butter (yes, that’s right)
  • 1 ½ cups cold water
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked

Filling

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, minced (I used random yard chiles)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups beef or chicken broth
  • 1 ½ tbsp Pickapeppa sauce or steak sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp yellow curry, preferably Jamaican
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or a couple of pinches of dried, if you don’t have)
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Egg wash made from 1 large egg mixed with ¼ cup water

Make your dough

(You may want to do this in two batches so as not to explode your food processor.)  Add flour, salt, and curry powder to the food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse to mix.  Cut your butter into little pieces and scatter over dry ingredients.  Like you would for a pie crust, pulse until the mix resembles coarse cornmeal and the biggest butter pieces are the size of peas.

Whisk the eggs lightly in a small bowl, then add water and vinegar.  Stir to combine, then add it to the food processor and pulse until the dough forms a rough ball.  Wrap the dough in plastic and fridge for at least an hour.

Make your house smell amazing

Brown the ground beef in the olive oil, in a large sauté pan (has to be big enough for all your saucy liquids).  When the beef is nearly done, nudge it to the side and add the onions, garlic, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until onions are soft, 4-5 minutes.aromatics for meat pies

Add broth, Pickapeppa or steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, cayenne, curry, allspice, salt, bay leaves, and thyme.  Stir to combine, turn down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and pick out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Add breadcrumbs and stir thoroughly.

Put your oven rack on the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375.  Flour your work surface and rolling pin (and dump a little pile on the side at the ready, you’ll need it).  Roll out half of the dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut out 6” circles – you should be able to get 6 or 7 circles.  Line a sheet pan with parchment and set it next to your dough.

Free one of your little circles and brush the edges with the egg wash.  Put a generous couple of tablespoons of filling onto one half of your circle, leaving room around the edge.  (You’ll want to get 12-14 pies out of your filling – plan accordingly.)  Fold the other half of the circle over and press around the edges to seal.  Press the edges with the tines of a fork and set your little friend on the sheet pan.  Repeat.meat pie assembly

Brush your pies with egg wash and bake for 25-35 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and amazing.  Let these sunny little beauties rest for 5 minutes before scarfing them down and burning your tongue.jamaican meat pies

Tostadas de Chorizo

After having watched a couple episodes of Rick Bayless’ Mexico: One Plate at a Time on Friday night, because we are the coolest people around, Ryan got inspired to make a fantastic weekend lunch. These crispy back yard snacks with their savory spicy chorizo, salty creamy cheese, and perky salsa provided much-needed fortification for an afternoon of mucking out the shed.

Side note – instead of serranos, we actually used these mystery peppers Ryan’s growing in the yard.  They’re spicy and fruity and red, maybe 2 inches long.  There’s a taqueria down the way and one day we noticed a hand-painted sign from the yard next door that said “AQUI VENDE CHILES” which means “we sell chiles here” (not quite but close enough).  We peeked through the fence and lo and behold the little yard was crammed full of big leafy chile plants, all different kinds, all really healthy.  So while I waited for our burritos, Ryan went over to investigate.

After a few minutes of finding the right family member – grandpa, it seems – and some Spanglish negotiations, he came away with these random peppers and one that the seller called “manzanilla” which means little apple.  They are slightly spicy – I’d call them perky – and very crisply fruity, much like an apple.  $7 each.  One of the many reasons why Oakland is wonderful.

tostadas de chorizo

Tostadas de Chorizo
sort of as seen on Mexico: One Plate at a Time

  • 6 oz chorizo, browned and drained
  • 6 oz Oaxacan cheese, Monterey jack, or queso fresco*, grated or crumbled
  • Avocado Salsa (see below)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • a few tbsp of olive oil, vegetable oil, or bacon fat (mmmm)

* less melty than the other two – your choice

First, make your avocado salsa:

  • 3 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 white onion, peels on, quartered
  • 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1-2 serrano peppers, stemmed and rough chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 fat avocado
  • 1 lime

Fire up your grill, or a big heavy dry saute or griddle pan if you’re doing this indoors. Char the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and poblano until they are good and black on a couple of sides – except the onion, stick to the skin side of that one. Put them all in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes. (You can also do this under the broiler)

Peel the skins off the onion, garlic, and poblano, and take off the pepper’s stem. Cut the tomatillos in quarters. Put all roasty veggies, the serranos, cilantro, and the sweet sweet avocado flesh into the blender and whirl until sort of smooth. Add salt and lime juice to taste and set aside.

Brush the tortillas with the oil or bacon fat, and grill or toast in a saute or griddle pan for a minute or two until crispy. Sprinkle each with a little chorizo and a little cheese, and drizzle on a little salsa. Return to the grill/pan for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Nosh.

Vermicelli Bowls

One of my all time favorite work-day lunches is the Vietnamese vermicelli bowl.  It’s filling but light enough not to put you in an afternoon coma, and it exemplifies all the lovely contrasts that make Vietnamese food so delicious and intriguing – funky fish sauce and cool cucumber, soft vermicelli and crunchy pickled carrots, savory five spice grilled chicken (in this version) and fresh green herbs.

There are a lot of components but it’s a totally manageable weeknight dinner, especially if you can get someone else to do the grilling.  It’s great when it’s too hot out to turn on the stove – which was the case here until a couple of weeks ago.

I made this with grilled chicken but my favorite is grilled pork and imperial rolls.  Grilled shrimp is also classic.  I would imagine you could put just about anything on this and it would be delicious.

I’ve made a few things now from this book, Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan, and they’re all delicious.  I recommend!

vermicelli bowl

Grilled Five Spice Chicken Vermicelli Bowls (Bun)
recipe from Vietnamese Home Cooking

  • Vermicelli rice noodles – fresh or dried (cooked, rinsed in cold water, and drained)
  • Grilled five-spice chicken
  • Pickled carrots
  • Julienned cucumber
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Spearmint sprigs
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Chopped peanuts

First, marinate your chicken

  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • ½ cup light soy sauce
  • ¼ cup minced garlic
  • ¾ cup minced shallots
  • 2-3 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 lbs boneless chicken parts of your choice

Mix all marinade ingredients well. Add chicken, mix to coat evenly. Marinate at room temp for up to 2 hours or up to overnight in the fridge. If you fridge it, let it come up to room temp before you grill.

Next, pickle your carrots:

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Julienne your carrots into matchsticks – as thin as you can/want to bother with. In a small bowl, combine vinegars, sugar, and salt and stir until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add carrots and let stand at least 20 minutes. Will keep up to a week, covered in the fridge. Drain well before using.

Now, dress up your fish sauce:

  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup white vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced

In a small bowl, stir the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar or lemon juice, and ½ cup water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic and chiles and stir to combine. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 1 week if made with vinegar and 2 days if made with lemon juice.

Next, grill your chicken, or better yet dispatch someone else to do so. When done, cut into strips.

Assemble! Put a handful of shredded lettuce in the bottom of your bowl, then a handful of vermicelli, and then all the other stuff – however much you want. Top with a generous dose of your fish sauce and dig in.

Greek Chicken Pie (Kotopita)

I love a good roast chicken, preferably homemade but I’m totally not above a grocery store rotisserie birdie on a weeknight.  I love to pick at the carcass like that guy from Amelie, and I always go for the oysters. And one of the best things about roast chicken is all the leftover meat to make delicious things out of.  This pie is quick and simple (yes, even with the phyllo), and the warm cinnamon takes it a step out of the ordinary while still remaining immensely comforting.

I’ve been on a little phyllo kick lately.  I decided to overcome my assumption that phyllo is just too complicated, because really, we make pretty much every other complicated thing out there, so why not this too?  You need a big smooth space to work on (I use a double-wide Silpat, which is a very handy thing to have around) and a basting brush, but that’s about it.  If your phyllo is cracked, like mine was, just get creative – it’s deliberately messy!

greek chicken pie (kotopita)

Greek Chicken Pie (Kotopita)
adapted from Kokkari

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 10 sheets frozen phyllo, thawed

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until well softened, 10-12 minutes. Add the cinnamon and stir for another minute or two. Transfer to a large bowl and add the chicken, stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Put the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil in a bowl. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9” x 13” baking dish with oil. (I used a pie plate instead, because I had a little less chicken. I laid 4 sheets out over the plate with plenty of overhang, then just folded them over the filling and somewhat artfully crumpled them.)

Stack the phyllo sheets on a work surface and trim them so they measure about 10” x 14”, a little bigger than the dish on all sides. Layer 5 sheets in the bottom of the dish, brushing each layer with olive oil. Spread the chicken filling in an even layer, then top with the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo, brushing each layer with olive oil.

With a sharp knife, cut the pie into 15 squares. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes. Serve warm, not hot.

Serves 6.

Incidentally, the whole time I was making and eating this, all I could think about was Chicken Run, which is a great movie if you haven’t seen it.  The villain has this gnarly, sour voice and the way she says “Mrs. Tweedy’s Chicken Pies” has been stuck in my head for the last two days.  I guess this is Mrs. Young’s Chicken Pie? (Stop squeeeing, mom.)

Pierogies

I grew up just outside Chicago, which is home to something like 1.5 million Polish people and a wealth of Polish food.  But I don’t think that’s the reason why I love pierogies – I love them because they’re mashed potato dumplings fried in butter.  What’s not to love?

As I learned in preparing for this project, there are several variations on the same theme with origins all across eastern Europe, with different spellings to go along.  These are the ones I think of when I crave pierogies, but if you have another version you love, please do share.

This recipe makes a whole lot of pierogies – I got 7 or 8 dozen out of it.  They freeze well (see below) and make for a good rainy day project with a friend and/or, if you’re like me, with a Scandal marathon on Netflix.

pierogi project work station

So, being curious and feeling kind of fall-ish, I added minced sauteed mushrooms to half of my giant batch, just to see what happened.  The basic potato version is better by a mile.  Seriously, no comparison.  So go for it if you want, they’re good…..they’re just not as good as the original.  Maybe with a mushroom sauce though….

Potato, Onion and Cheese Pierogies
adapted from Partial Ingredients

  • 6 cups all purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter, plus more for sautéing
  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • ¼ cup minced chives or scallions
  • 8 oz sharp or extra-sharp cheddar, grated
  • ¼ cup whole milk

Garnishes: sour cream, minced chives, caramelized onions (I bet some kind of jam would be delicious too)

Add flour to a large, wide bowl and make a well in the center. If you don’t have a bowl big enough, make the dough in two batches. Add sour cream, eggs, oil, and salt to the well and mix carefully with a fork, without mixing in flour.

ingredients in a well

Add water (at this point your well overfloweth) and mix in the flour gradually to make a soft, raggedy dough.

sticky, ragged dough

Dump your dough out onto a flat, non-stick, well-floured surface and knead for 8 minutes until elastic.

kneaded dough

Flip the bowl over and cover the dough with it, let it rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, peel, cook, and mash potatoes. Saute onion until soft and translucent. Mix mashed potatoes, sautéed onion, butter, garlic, chives/scallions, cheddar, and milk, season to taste with salt and pepper.

delicious mashed potato filling

Cut dough into quarters (if you made one batch – if you made two, cut each in half) and cover the portions you’re not using with plastic wrap. Don’t use a dish towel – the dough is too sticky. Roll out to around 1/8” thick and cut out 3” rounds with a lightly floured cutter or upside-down glass – you should get 18 or 20 out of each doughball.

Scoop about a tablespoon of filling into each round and fold in half, squishing the filling into shape as you go. Pinch the edges together and seal with the back of a fork.

crimp edges with a fork

Put finished pierogies on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Repeat many, many times.

orderly pierogies

If you don’t plan to eat 8 dozen pierogies now, freeze on the parchment-lined pans for 2 hours and then vacuum-seal or ziplock bag them and stick them back in the freezer.

There are two ways to cook pierogies – boiling and sautéing. To take the cardiovascular high road, boil pierogies in salted water for 4-5 minutes or until they float. To take the delicious road, sauté in butter for 2 minutes each side, or until tantalizingly golden brown.

pierogies

To cook from frozen, heat butter or vegetable oil in a nonstick sauté pan and sauté frozen pierogies just until the bottoms start to brown, 3-4 minutes. Pour in a splash of water – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan – and cover for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover, cook off any remaining water, and slip in a pat or two of butter. Brown pierogies on either side and serve.