Don’t get too excited – the word is pronounced past-eez, not pay-steez. A pasty is a meat pie in individual-serving size. They differ from single-serving pot pies in that there’s no container but the crust, usually do not include any kind of gravy, and the meat is not cooked before putting it in the crust. They are an essential element in one of my favorite meals: the plowman’s platter (a pasty, salad, pickled vegetables, dinner roll, fruit, and a slab of mature cheese all served cold and preferably with a pint of cider). They are also quite versatile because you can fill them with all sorts of leftover meats and veggies. Make more than you need – they pack well in lunches and freeze, too.
Pasties are generally served in pubs with brown sauce as the condiment (sort of like a steak sauce spiked with malt vinegar). In the US the easiest kind of brown sauce to find is HP (you may recognize it from fish and chip shops) but Matt prefers the Irish kind called Chef and I prefer Branston’s small chunk pickle (same sauce but with teensy little crunchy bits of veggies pickled in it). You can find HP at some of the larger or fancier grocery stores, but for Chef or plowman’s pickle (manufactured by several companies, chiefly Branston’s and the European arm of Heinz and sometimes simply called “pickle”) you may have to go online or find an local import shop. We drive about 30 miles to get this stuff.
This recipe was inspired by one for Cornish Pasties in The Racine Journal-Times and Sunday Bulletin Cook of the Week Recipes from 1957. It called for two kinds of red meat, a whole pound in all, and made two pasties of gigantic proportions such as I have never witnessed in real life. Cornish pasties lay on their side like ravioli; because the crimp is on the top I believe that my pasties are of the Lancashire variety.
Serve with: everything you need for a plowman’s platter (see above), or just a big bowl of cream of vegetable soup
Serves four with side dishes, but only two if you’re greedy little bastards like us. Eight if you are serving your pasties as part of a plowman’s for lunch.
Crust (Martha Stewart’s pâté brisée):
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup ice water
1/4 pound ground beef, bulk sausage, ground pork, or ground lamb (optional)
1/4 finely chopped onion, shallot, or leek
1 large carrot, chopped into 3/8” chunks
1 to 2 small-medium potatoes, cut into 3/8” chunks
1 small parsnip, cut into 3/8” chunks
1 teaspoon butter or shortening, divided
1 egg, beaten
Combine dry ingredients for crust in a small bowl or the bowl of a food processor if you are lucky enough to own one of these fantastic butter-incorporators. Cut butter into eight pieces. If incorporating by hand, toss the butter into the dry ingredients and chop the butter into the flour using a pastry blender. If using a food processor, toss the butter chunks in 4 at a time and pulse until the racket the engine makes is even (at least, that’s how it works with my little antique). Using either method, your goal is a mixture that looks like coarse meal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Drizzle in the water a few tablespoons at a time and mix with a fork until you can make a squeezed handful of the stuff stick together. You may need more or less water than is called for. Chill the dough 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450ºF.
In the meantime, chop the veggies and steam for about 5 minutes. I like to separately caramelize the onions if I have the time. Combine veggies and meat in a small bowl with salt, pepper, and thyme as you see fit. If no meat is being used, smash filling lightly with a fork, if meat is being used, mix with your hands as for meat loaf. You aren’t making forcemeat – you just need the filling to stick together somewhat.
For dinner-sized pasties, divide crust dough into four pieces and roll out to 1/4” thickness. For lunch-size pasties, divide dough into 8 pieces and roll out to 1/8” thickness. With dough on a cookie sheet, spoon as much filling into the center as can be covered by the crust. (When you’re done you will almost certainly have leftover filling, but it freezes well.) Place a pea-sized gob of butter or shortening on top of the filling. Brush beaten egg on edges of crust and pull up two opposite corners of the crust to the top of the filling. Punch edges together so that there is one seam across the top of the pasty. Pierce each pasty several times with a fork and brush with beaten egg.
Bake 15-20 minutes for dinner-size, 8-10 minutes for lunch-size, or until crust is golden.