A great meat pie is a delight — and far too unappreciated in the American culinary scene The meeting of soft and crumbly pastry with savory morsels of tender meat is a magical thing. The Peaky Blinders knew this. Savory pies have been the cornerstone of a great pub meal pretty much since pubs were a thing. You’d throw down a few pints of funky ale with a whisky or two and then devour a pie to soak up all that alcohol.
It’s a perfect culinary partnership that’s lasted for centuries.
With the return of Peaky Blinders to Netflix — one of the best binge watches available right now — we thought we’d indulge in some hardcore meat pie action. So get the bottles of whisky cracked open, chill that ale, and get ready to bake a hell of a pie.
I’ve spent my adult life married to a woman from Lancashire. That’s a part of England that takes their pies very, very seriously. The cornerstone of a great pie is the crust. It’s gotta be flaky, savory, and have a little crumble to it. Yes, you read that right, it has to be flaky and crumbly. That means you need a balance of butter, lard, and flour.
I use two cups of flour, a large pinch of salt, and about 4 ounces each of unsalted butter and rendered pork lard. You basically mush the fat into the flour and add drops of water until a dough forms. Chill the dough for at least an hour. Done.
While the dough is chilling, I mince and fry some bacon in a large stockpot. You’re creating a base for a flavorful fond here, while rendering more salty fat to sear off the meat.
While that’s rendering, I do a rough chop on two medium yellow onions and hack up a small (1.5lb) piece of beef rump into bite-sized pieces. Northern English pies are basic — you don’t need a lot of flourishes, roux, and pastes here — just good ol’ fashioned braising and basic elements.
They’re so basic, in fact, that I’m already breaking rules by including bacon. But what doesn’t bacon make better?
I dredge the beef in plenty of sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and flour. Once the bacon is properly browned, I remove it from the pot and sear off the beef in batches (be sure not to overcrowd your pot).
By the time you’re done searing, there should be an amazing fond on the bottom of the pot. Add in the onions and sweat those suckers out to draw up all that crusty, tasty goodness.
Once the onions are translucent, I re-add the bacon and beef along with a 12oz. bottle of Guinness Export. Stout is an ale, so this is still a steak and ale pie, and I like the malty earthiness stout adds to the gravy that’s going to form. I also add in 16oz of beef broth, a few fresh sprigs of marjoram and sage, bay leaves, and a few cranks from the pepper and allspice mills. I give everything a stir and put on the lid.
You don’t need a roux or creme here to thicken this up. Simply let the filling reduce by ⅔. A silky and deeply umami gravy will form as the meat tenderizes. It’ll take 30-45 minutes for this to happen.
Once the gravy is formed, remove the marjoram and sage sprigs and set aside. I use an over-sized muffin tin because it’s goddamn perfect for single serving meat pies. So I roll out some dough and form it into the muffin tin. Next, the steak filling goes in and then a round disk of a dough. I gently connect the lids to the base with my fingers to seal the pies.
Lastly, I wash all the pies with egg whites and slice air holes into the lids. Then it’s into a 350F oven for 30 minutes to bake the dough.
Once the timer goes off, you’ll want to let the pies rest for a good ten minutes. I run a knife around the edges and gently shake the muffin tin. The pies should all pop right out. You’ll have to do this gingerly, though.
I put mine in a bowl, garnish with fresh chives, pop open another Guinness, and start my binge of the new season of Peaky Blinders (after reading some Brian Grubb).
The pie is a savory meat bomb delivered in soft pastry that melts in your mouth. It’ll take you straight to a rainy day in England where the only respite is a dank pub with great pies on the bar and plenty of ales waiting to be tippled. In short: It’s good stuff.