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Five ideas for meat pies

Sweeney Todd ruined meat pies for me. e_SBlt For a while after seeing the famous musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in high school (and then again after watching the 2007 movie starring Johnny Depp), the thought of meat pies made my stomach turn. e_SBlt Why? Well, the basic plot follows the barber, who kills his customers and sends them to his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, who bakes the humans into meat pies and sells them at her shop. e_SBlt Enough said. e_SBlt Now, what exactly is a meat pie? Think shepherd's pie, that ground beef-mashed potato wonder that is the ultimate comfort food, or even handheld versions like empanadas. The savory pies makes for delicious and compact meals during the cooler months. e_SBlt Here are five ideas for making meat pies that aren't scary. And don't worry, I left out the Sweeney Todd-inspired recipe I found that uses hot dogs to represent fingertips.

Carlynn Crosby, Times correspondent

Moderate

Chilean-Style Empanadas de Pino

Stuffed with beef or chorizo, empanadas are delicious hand pies that make a great alternative to a traditional pan pie. To make them Chilean, these empanadas contain raisins, black olives and onions in the beef mixture. e_SFrBFor the dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons chilled butter

12 tablespoons lard

2 egg yolks

¾ cup water

For the filling:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons butter

3 finely diced onions

2 cloves minced garlic

1 pound ground beef

2 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in ¼ cup hot water

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons flour

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped black olives

2 hard-boiled eggs

For the assembly:

1 beaten egg

2 tablespoons milk

Make the empanada dough: Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and combine with salt and sugar. Cut in butter and lard using a pastry cutter or two knives. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and water. Add half of the egg mixture to the flour and butter, mixing until the dough starts to come together. Continue adding the remaining egg mixture until dough comes together. Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Make the filling: Melt vegetable oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and, stirring frequently, cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so, then add ground beef, cumin, paprika, chili powder, 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in ¼ cup hot water and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until beef is browned.

Add flour and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add raisins and black olives and let cool.

Make the empanadas: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In the meantime, hard-boil 2 eggs.

Remove empanada dough from refrigerator and separate into 18 balls, each about the size of a golf ball. Let rest for 5 minutes. Flour a clean surface and roll dough balls into 6-inch circles that are about ¼ inch thick.

Add 1 tablespoon beef filling to each circle and top with a slice of hard-boiled egg. Brush edges with water and fold pastry in half, sealing edges with fingertips. Brush sealed edges with water, then brush top of dough with the beaten egg mixed with milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes 18 empanadas.

Source: Adapted from thespruce.com

Easy

Shepherd's Pie

Though traditional shepherd's pies use lamb or mutton, most recipes call for ground beef or turkey. Heaped with vegetables, smothered in gravy and topped with mashed potatoes and cheese, it's an all-in-one comfort food that seems to taste even better as the weather gets colder. e_SFrB3 large russet potatoes

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 pounds ground beef

1 small chopped onion

2 cloves minced garlic

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup beef broth

½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1?½ cups frozen peas

1?½ cups frozen carrots

½ cup frozen corn

1 cup cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel and chop the potatoes, then add to a boiling pot of water and cook until potatoes are tender (about 15 to 20 minutes). Drain the water and mash the potatoes in the pot along with butter, milk and garlic powder. Cover pot with a lid and set aside.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef with the onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Drain the grease and sprinkle flour into skillet. Stir and continue cooking for 1 minute.

Add tomato paste, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and dried oregano. Then add frozen peas, carrots and corn and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.

Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Pour in skillet mixture, then top with an even layer of mashed potatoes. Heap cheddar cheese over the top and bake, uncovered, until bubbly, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat and cool before serving.

Serves 8.

Source: Adapted from live-in-the-lofthouse.com

Moderate

Chicken Pot Pie

Everyone probably has a recipe for chicken pot pie tucked between the pages of an old cookbook or hidden away in Grandma's things. The use of mushrooms, hot sauce and heavy cream, along with homemade stock, in this recipe makes it a bit more interesting. e_SFrBFor the stock:

1 bunch chopped parsley

1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken

1 pint peeled pearl onions

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

½ pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ pound sugar snap peas, trimmed

For the filling:

1 clove minced garlic

¼ pound quartered white mushrooms

4 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon Tabasco

For the pie:

1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade

1 beaten egg

2 tablespoons water

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Make the stock: Chop one bunch parsley and set aside ¼ cup. Add remaining parsley, whole chicken and ½ pint peeled pearl onions to a large pot of water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove chicken, cool and pull apart into pieces; place in a bowl. Store the pieces in a bowl before returning the chicken bones to the pot and allowing them to simmer for another hour.

Strain the stock, discarding bones, parsley and onions, and return stock to the pot over medium heat. Add carrots, potatoes, sugar snap peas and the other ½ pint pearl onions to the stock. Cook vegetables until tender, then remove them from the stock and add to bowl with chicken.

Make the filling: In a small skillet over medium heat, cook garlic and mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of butter for about 3 minutes, then set aside with vegetables.

In the same small skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter and sprinkle in the flour. Stir constantly over medium heat for 2 minutes, then add 1 cup stock and stir until thickened. Remove from heat, add heavy cream and remaining ¼ cup chopped parsley, seasoning with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Add to chicken and vegetables, tossing gently to combine.

Assemble the pie: Line a 9-inch pie pan with pie crust, then fill with chicken mixture and cover with a second crust. Trim excess edges, crimp and cut vents in the top. Beat egg with water and brush the top with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 35 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Source: Adapted from saveur.com

Moderate

Steak and Kidney Pie

Steak and kidney pie is a British classic, and this recipe calls for adding bacon, potatoes, mushrooms and red wine to, ahem, beef it up. e_SFrB½ pound beef kidneys (see note)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

1 pound beef, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

6 ounces mushrooms, sliced

½ cup beef stock

½ cup red wine

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup milk

Salt and pepper

2 sheets puff pastry

1 egg

Rinse beef kidneys thoroughly in water before removing the tubes and skins and cutting into ½-inch pieces. Add vegetable oil into a large pot and set over medium-high heat. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the kidney and beef in the flour mixture, then shake off the excess and sear in the hot oil until browned. Remove and drain on a paper towel-covered plate.

Add bacon to the pot and cook until crispy. Then, add onion and mushrooms and cook until soft (about 2 minutes). Add beef stock, red wine and browned meat to pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture starts to thicken, about 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1?½ to 2 hours. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

In a medium saucepan set over high heat, add potatoes; cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, then add butter and milk and mash, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Assemble the pie: Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish with 1 sheet puff pastry, trimming the excess edges. Fill with the meat mixture. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, creating a layer about 1 inch thick. Place a second sheet of puff pastry over the top of the pie. Trim the excess edges, then press with a fork. Brush top with beaten egg and bake until crust is golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serves 8.

Note: You can get kidneys at grocery stores like Publix, in the meat department.

Source: Adapted from allrecipes.com

Moderate

Mincemeat Pie

Traditional mincemeat pies do include meat, beef specifically, but more often the meat is left out in favor of fruits and spices. This recipe uses beef fat for taste and texture but is mostly made up of apples, apricots, raisins and currants for a sweeter treat with a kick. You can buy jars of premade mincemeat in specialty grocery stores, especially around the holidays. e_SFrBFor the pie dough:

2?½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1?½ cups diced cold butter

½ cup ice water

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

For the filling:

3 Gala apples, peeled, cored and chopped

½ cup dried apricots, finely diced

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup currants

¾ packed light brown sugar

3 ounces beef suet (see note)

? cup brandy

2 teaspoons lemon zest

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1?½ teaspoons orange zest

¾ teaspoon allspice

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon ginger, finely shredded

½ teaspoon salt

For the pie:

1 beaten egg

1 tablespoon water

Sugar

Whipped cream

Make the pie dough: Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add cold butter and pulse until the butter is combined with the flour in pea-sized chunks. Add ice water and apple cider vinegar, and pulse until the dough forms. Dump onto floured surface and gather into a ball, dividing in two and wrapping in plastic wrap. Chill until firm.

Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and chill until ready to bake.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Assemble the pie: Roll out one half of the dough until it's about ? inch thick and line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out the second half until it's the same thickness and cut into 10 strips about 1 inch in width. Toss mincemeat to recombine and transfer it to pie crust.

Layer dough strips in a lattice formation, laying five strips vertically and five strips horizontally, evenly spaced. Trim edges to create a 1-inch overhang, then fold bottom edge over top edge and crimp. Beat egg with water, brush lattice with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Let cool then top with whipped cream.

Serves 8.

Note: You can usually find beef suet in the butcher section, but if not, you can order it online or use the same amount of cold, unsalted butter.

Source: Adapted from myrecipes.com

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