04 April 2011

Whatever you do, make this

A couple of weeks ago I stood in my quiet kitchen while the boys napped talking on the phone with my friend Kim. It was one of those conversations that would have left the husbands wondering was wrong with us. Our conversations range from her No. 1 reason to not push potty training on her youngest son (Porta Potties at big brothers' baseball practices) to me describing the way I split and freeze the Costco pork chops.

But we also talked through a good way to braise some beef for pasties. A pasty is basically the old, old school version of a Hot Pocket, only way better. The meat-filled pastries were sent in the lunchboxes of mine workers from Wisconsin to Wyoming, and it just so happens, I've got friends from all of those states who have introduced this regional dish to me.

A few days later I got to try Kim's beef pasty and was blown away by how delicious it was. I'd suggested she use some red wine or beef stock to braise, but this woman doesn't come from wine country. She's a beer gal to the heart, so she popped open a bottle of dark beer.

Once I heard that, I knew I had to make one soon, and just because I didn't want the work of the small, hand pies, I decided I'd make one large one. No one in my house was disappointed, and even though the calendar says we're into spring, we've still got some cold weather lingering around here. That's enough of an excuse to keep this recipe around for a little while longer before I store it up for the fall.

Beer Braised Beef Pot Pie
makes one 9-inch pie, serves 5 to 6 adults
1 pound beef, trimmed into 1-inch cubes, patted dry (choose stew meat or some other cut intended for slow cooking)
12 ounce dark beer
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, sliced
1 medium union, diced
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
olive or vegetable oil
About 3/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
pastry crust (click here for a recipe)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the beef and flour in a bowl just enough to lightly coat. Using a large heavy-bottomed pot (preferably one that you can transfer directly to the oven), heat a couple of tablespoons oil on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the beef. Add a generous pinch of salt and dose of pepper. Let beef brown and begin to develop a slight crust on all sides by stirring only occasionally. Do not constantly move the meat about with a spoon, this won't allow the meat to caramelize. Once the meat is browned, turn heat to low and add beer. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to remove the browned bits. Add the carrots, potatoes and onions. Stir to combine.

Place a tight fitting lid over the pot or wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Put the pot in the pre-heated oven for one hour. Check meat and vegetables for tenderness and cook longer, if needed. If the meat seems tough, cook it longer, as that will break down the connective tissues and make it tender. Remove from oven once meat and veggies are fork tender. Add peas and corn. Pour the mixture onto a large sheet tray or glass baking dish and refrigerate, uncovered until just cooled (this first step of cooking could be done a day ahead and refrigerated, covered, overnight).

Pour the cooled mixture into a prepared, unbaked pie crust and top with a second crust. Bake at 425 degree for about 30 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned and pie is hot throughout. You may need to cover the edges of the crust with a pie protector or aluminum foil to keep them from burning. Let set 15 minutes before slicing for service.

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