On many a Sunday I will fix enough dinner for our extended family. However, if there has been a communication outage, and no-show, we might be left with a terrific amount of whatever it happens to be. In this case, a lovely beef stew. Two nights, not even concurrently, of anything re-heated is probably enough for most of us. Excepting possibly bachelors. When I first met Bob, he was in the habit of cooking up a large batch of soup or stew and, voila, dinner for the next week. So, the remainder of my pot of stew was relegated to the freezer.
The following week, I saw a post on Smitten Kitchen about empanadas, recipe for a meat filling in neat packages of pie crust, and the little bulb upstairs flickered into life. Yes, brilliant, no need to cook up and prepare a stuffing for those babies. It was waiting patiently in my freezer. Deb suggested that next time she would spice it up a bit. So, no problem. I can do that.
This sort of dish has a relative of one type or another, boiled, baked or fried, all over the world. There are Hamburgers (should they really be included?), Pita Pockets, Cornish Pasties, Aussie and English Meat Pies, Empanadas, Calzones, Pierogi, Samosas, even Manapua (as we call them in Hawaii). Traditional, very portable meals, they all probably originated as lunches for workers, or to take on picnics. There is a good history of them here. But, what an awesome reincarnation for some of our left-over meals.
The pie crust recipe was not only basic, simple and easy to work with, it was flaky and tasty.
If you do freeze some pies, put them uncooked on a baking sheet, fairly close together and set in a freezer. When they're totally frozen you can dump them all into a zip-lock freezer bag til you get the urge for more meat pie. A label might be a good idea, in case you forget just what is in that empanada/pie/pasty.
The Pie CrustMakes 12
4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 " cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider, but plain white vinegar is fine)
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons of water (for brushing onto the pies)
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with some of the bits about pea size. Beat the eggs, water and vinegar in a small bowl. Add to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork until just incorporated. Then turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently a few times to gather it all together into two flat rectangles. Chill them, wrapped in plastic for at least an hour, up to 6 hours.
The FillingMeanwhile, prepare your filling (approximately 3 cups). I will leave that to your imagination,
however, you can use the above link to Deb's site for her recipe. For my stew, I minced up the chunks of tender, slow-cooked beef and the larger pieces of carrot, potato and turnip, etc. and added in some zippy spices.
Depending upon the main filling ingredient, you might add sliced olives, capers, diced hot peppers, minced salted lemon, etc. The sky is the limit here. I had a jar of Berber dry spice mix I had made up for one of my ethnic experiments, Ethiopian Teff Bread - where you put the curry like mixtures on top and tear off sections. So anyway, I added a few tablespoons of that spicy mix to my filling. I really loved the way they turned out, a very re-doable deal. The crust makes 12 and I had exactly enough to fill them nicely. Six to bake and six to freeze.
When ready to roll, preheat oven to 400F.
Cut one of the dough pieces (leaving the other in the fridge) into 6 equal portions. On a floured surface, roll each chunk out into a 6 inch disk, place about 3 tablespoons of filling in the center, moisten bottom half edges with water, fold over, seal, press with fork tines, and place on a baking sheet. If you are going to freeze some, place them closer together on a separate sheet and put in your freezer.
When you have the pies that are to be baked ready, brush each one lightly with the egg and water mixture, then place on center to upper third rack in oven. Bake about 25 minutes or until golden. Cool on racks at least 5 minutes. It is customary to eat them warm or at room temperature, though also good hot, as we found. These meat pies were absolutely to munch with gusto, and I'll be making them, with all sorts of fillings again and again and...