Saturday, May 29, 2010

"You have a pasty at Mabel's for me, you hear?"

For those of you who aren't on Twitter, for the first time, I think I can sincerely say that you're missing out. There's a new phenomenon called "One Book One Twitter" (or #1b1t) where, during the summer, everyone on Twitter has the option to participate in a twitter-wide book club. It's not exclusive, there's a schedule but you can read at your own pace if you want to, and this year--the FIRST year--one of my all-time favorite books was selected: American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The coolest part of this is that Gaiman uses twitter himself, so occasionally he does an hour of "Ask Neil" and he'll answer anyone's questions, which is AWESOME. If you're not familiar with Gaiman's work and don't mind a little fantasy, surrealism and existentialism in your literature, check out his books--he is a master of the English language. His books pull you in and immerse you in a surreal adventure, pressing you to question the world around you and the validity of pretty much everything. At least, that's how I feel.

I just finished reading this morning, but according to the schedule, this week everyone's on chapters 9-11, in which the main character discovers a delicious meal at a local diner-type restaurant called Mabel's.

"Breakfast for me," said Shadow. "What's good?"
"Everything's good," said Mabel. "I make it But this is the farthest south and east of the yoopie you can get pasites, and they are particularly good. Warm and filling too. My specialty."
Shadow had no idea what a pasty was, but he said that would be fine, and in a few moments Mabel returned with a plate with what looked like a folded-over pie on it. The lower half was wrapped in a paper napkin. Shadow picked it up with the napkin and bit into it: it was warm and filled with meat, potatoes, carrots, onions. "First pasty I've ever had," he said. "It's real good."
-American Gods, p. 266-267 in my edition (chapter 10)

Now, in honor of One Book One Twitter, and because I've read American Gods a million times and always wanted to try these out, I of course searched for a recipe and made them and they are, just as Gaiman says, "a savory delight wrapped in a hot pastry." Ideally, for this recipe, you have minced beef. I didn't have minced beef, nor did I have the patience to mince my own beef, so I used ground beef instead--but if you can get your hands on some good minced beef, then do.

RECIPE: Pasties
Adapted from Recipezaar
-1 lb minced (or ground) beef
-1 tbsp olive oil
-2 white onions
-3 cloves garlic
-1 15-oz can whole tomatoes
-1 tbsp tomato paste
-1/2 lb carrots
-1 tbsp soy sauce
-1/2 pint beef stock (from bullion cubes)
-1 lb white potato
-a splash of milk
-2 tbsp butter
-a dollop of Worcestershire sauce (I didn't really measure out my additions, so add stuff until it tastes good!)
-Herbs and seasonings (I used marjoram, tarragon, basil, oregano, a little bit of italian seasoning, cinnamon, cumin and cocoa--yeah, it's a lot, but it was tasty. Use your discretion here.)
-pie crust or puff pastry*
-1 egg

0: Cut everything up ('everything' being defined as potatoes, onions, and carrots).
1. Using the potatoes, milk, and butter, make some mashed potatoes. Don't whip them--leave plenty of chunks of potato. Alternatively, you could just boil the potatoes and cut them up into very small pieces--I think this would be the more authentic way to do it.
2. In a very large frying pan or wok, heat the oil and sauté the onion until it softens. Move the onion into a bowl.
3. Add the beef to the frying pan with a little more oil if necessary. Stir constantly as it browns to ensure that all the clumps are broken up (not sure if this is a problem with minced beef but ground beef, especially the leaner varieties, is very sticky).
4. Once the beef is fully cooked, add the canned tomatoes (break them up as you stir them), carrots, soy sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and some herbs. (You'll be adding more herbs to taste as it cooks, so don't overdo it here.)
5. Add the beef stock and allow to simmer for a few minutes, then add the onions and potatoes. Stir thoroughly and simmer until it's not really liquid anymore (about 20 minutes?) and you'll be able to scoop it out and it will stay in a lump instead of spreading into a big mess. You want it to have the consistency of slightly watery mashed potatoes. As it's simmering, taste it occasionally and add more seasoning as desired.
6. NOW IS TIME TO PREHEAT THE OVEN! Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, 220 C. Then prepare the pie crusts: I traced a small plate (7-8 inches) in each rolled-out crust with a knife so that I had 7-8 inch discs of crust to fill.
7. Lay a crust circle on a cookie sheet. Scoop about a cup of the beef mixture (or as much as it seems will fit into the crust when you fold it over, though I overshot a few times and had difficulty folding the crust over) onto one side of the pie crust, then fold the other side over and press all around it to seal it. Continue doing this with each crust circle. (You'll probably fit 2-3 on a cookie sheet.)
8. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Using a pastry brush, brush the beaten egg over each of the pasties. Put them in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and shiny.
9. When you remove them from the oven, allow them to cool a bit before eating them--the inside will scald your mouth if you bite into it immediately. After about 10 minutes, they'll still be nice and hot but more edible and you can enjoy your creation!

Step 4.5: after the beef stock is added, before the potatoes and onions.

Once everything was added and simmered down completely. (Actually, this is what we had leftover after filling the crusts--I'd forgotten to photograph it first! But the picture is still accurate.)

Right out of the oven--they looked so pretty! I was quite happy with myself, despite the holes.

Despite the fact that Shadow eats his with his hands, I thought a fork would be more appropriate--I was worried about them falling apart and making a huge mess if I picked them up. Plus, this way I could blow on each forkful to cool it a little more.

Yet again, Mike made a "special" one for himself. He covered it in cinnamon sugar before I put them in the oven. It stuck to the pan more than the others (probably because of the burnt sugar) and therefore fell apart more, but he said it was delicious nonetheless. (Then again, Mike does weird things with food. He just ate a bowl of cereal with coffee grounds on top. So I don't necessarily trust his judgement.)

I doubled this recipe so I'd have plenty to freeze (and because my brother was home and his friends might be around) and ended up with 10 pasties and some leftover filling (also in the freezer, so I can whip up some pie crust and make more). The amount you end up with will depend on the size of your pies and how full you want them.

I expected these to be super filling and heavy--one of those "okay maybe I shouldn't have eaten that whole thing" foods. Surprisingly, they were the perfect amount of food: we were all full, but not completely stuffed. And, if you think about it, each one only has a little bit of meat, a tiny bit of mashed potato, some carrots, etc--it's a pretty well-rounded food! I can't wait to play with this concept a bit more and always have some delicious meal-in-a-pie-crust frozen for emergencies (or nights that I just don't feel like cooking).

*I used my normal pie crust recipe and it came out wonderfully, but it is a post in and of itself--I'll have my pie crust up here soon, keep an eye out for it! **EDIT: Pie crust recipe is up and linked to!**

1 comment:

  1. I really should get his book....I always wanted to make a pastie... I thought it would be very difficult but this one looks and sounds so yummy that I just might go for it:)
    Kisses and enjoy your day, sweetie