Friday, December 11, 2009

Steak and Onion Pie (for cold winter nights)

I'm trying to decide if steak and onion pie is better when the weather is cold and sharp . . . or cold and damp. 

No matter:  if it is December in any northerly climate, this is the most satisfying dinner imaginable.  My father's birthday is December 8 and it has long been our family tradition to make it on that occasion. When I was chatting to my mother this week I mentioned that I was making the pie . . . and she laughed and said that she had made one, too.   It was always great in Texas, but I think that it may be even better in England.

Of course meat pies are an English standard -- pub grub, and available year-round.  But for me, this pie is a seasonal pleasure.  My mother got it from an old cookbook, with a brown cloth cover -- and I can still picture the 50s era font.  (I'm sure that some long-ago farmer's wife patented the special blend of spices.)  It came from an earlier American era, when people had lots of outdoor chores to do.  But even if your only exposure to frigid air is running from the car to the house, this comforting dish is just what you need this winter.

Steak and Onion Pie
Ingredients for filling:
one large onion, sliced into thin rounds
2 lbs (or 1 kg) of round steak (or other stew meat) cut into chunks
4 ounces flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
40 ounces (or two English pints) of boiling water
4 medium-sized floury potatoes, cut into chunks

Method for filling:
Saute the onion in a tablespoon of vegetable oil (canola or similar).  When it is translucent, remove from the pan and reserve for later. 

Mix together the flour and seasonings, and dredge the meat in the mixture.  (I usually toss them in a ziploc bag.)  Then, in three or four smallish batches, brown the meat strips in hot oil.  You will need to add about a tablespoon of oil for each batch of meat.

I tend to brown the meat in a skillet, and then remove it to a large saucepan for the next step.  After browning all of the meat, add the boiling water and left-over seasoned flour, stir well, and then cover and simmer until the meat is tender (approximately an hour).  Then add the potatoes and simmer for 20-30 minutes more.  (The potatoes should be starting to soften.)

Pour this mixture into a greased casserole.  (I use an oval corning ware dish, approximately 9 x 13 inches, which leaves enough meat-and-potato mixture to make up two individual pies for a later meal. )
Place the cooked onions on the top, and let cool.
Then cover with pie crust -- not forgetting to punch some steam holes in the crust.
Bake for 30 minutes in a very hot oven -- 450F/220 C.

Simple Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups of flour (approximately 10 ounces)
4 ounces vegetable shortening or lard
1 teaspoon salt
iced water -- a few tablespoons

You can easily double this recipe, and I often do.

Cut the shortening into the flour and salt.  Add just enough ice water to bind.  When it comes together, form into a ball and chill for at least half an hour.  If you roll it out between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper, you can just lift it -- and flip it -- straight onto the pie.  Make sure the filling has cooled though, or it will start melting the pastry.

You can prepare the filling beforehand, and keep the covered casserole in the refrigerator for 24 hours or so.  When you are ready to eat, add the pie crust and start preheating your oven.  This pie isn't difficult to make, but it does take a while.  It's not a dinner that you want to start making after 7 pm.  Labor of love, though . . . definitely.

Yesterday, when my ravenous teenaged daughter came looking for a snack, she demanded the left-over steak and onion pie.  Even though our kitchen counter is loaded up with homemade cookies and candies at the moment, when it is dark and wet and you've had a long day there is nothing better than some warmed-up (and warming) meat pie.


kristina said...

How interesting your recipe comes from Texas, as I've always thought it a wholly English dish. Definitely cold enough here in Teddington! K x

Jane Doe said...

Nothing satisfies the stomach and the soul like a meat pie on a cold night. I've made lots of chicken pies and a version of a meat pie using biscuits on top rather than crust. This recipe looks like a must try.

Char said...

sounds very similar to a stew i made this week but with mushrooms instead of onions. very warm and hearty.

i will have to try this!

dogimo said...

Oooo, I love meat pies. That looks and sounds delicious.

Anne said...

Oh, I can't wait to try this. We had a cold snap earlier this week which is gradually easing out into a cool and rainy weekend. This will be perfect for tomorrow's dinner.

Somehow, although this pie seems quintessentially English, I can also picture it as Texan. Ranch fare, perhaps. And after all, it can get rather cold in Texas. Did you hear that Houston got two inches of snow last week?

Stay warm!

rxBambi said...

this definitely is something my family would like. I'm printing it right now!

Polly said...

sounds really nice. you know, I've lived in this country for nearly ten years and I've never had a pie in my life... not sure how that happened... but I'm sure I'd have some of your pie

this recipee sounds very nice, I may even try to make it

Nimble said...

Steak and... I keep expecting to see the word 'kidney' next. But this is something I might actually try. In a surprising twist, my husband has been buying boneless skinless chicken breasts lately (that I have sworn off of because of expense). I think he thinks they'll be slimming.

Bee said...

Steak and kidney pie do go nicely together, as a concept, but I don't really care for kidneys.

Thinking of the difference between your typical English meat pie and this recipe . . . and wine/ale comes to mind! Drink the wine on the side; really, this pie is delicious.


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