Monday, July 21, 2014

Grill-baked Beef Pot Pie

This past weekend, Alex and I went to hear one of my coworkers play flute in a terrific production of Sweeney Todd at the Ohlone College outdoor amphitheater. Part of the concessions was Mrs. Mooney's Pie Shop (competitor of Mrs. Lovett's pie shop), where the audience could purchase real meat pies to eat while watching the play - such a hilariously dark addition to the whole experience! Presumably the pies were made with beef, not cat or human. Unfortunately though, they sold out before we could get our hands on a meat pie, so we left feeling slightly unsatisfied and in need of a good meat pie. Perhaps something a bit better than the worst pies in London.

I started making pie before I realized that we've been fabulously procrastinating at contacting our landlord about our broken oven. So, another baking-on-the-grill adventure!

There are a couple moving parts, so here's an outline:

1) Make the filling, let it stew while prepping everything else
2) Make the dough, put half in the fridge and roll out the other half for the bottom of the pie
3) Fire the grill!
4) Bake the bottom of the pie on the grill
5) Roll out the pie top while the bottom is cooking
6) Finish the filling
7) Assemble the pie and bake it on the grill

The Filling: onion, garlic, carrot, 1.25# Prather Ranch sirloin tip beef, and a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme.

Sear the beef in butter on high heat. Don't move it around too much - let it sit to get nice and brown. Color is flavor!

Once the meat is good and brown and there's a layer sticking to the bottom of the pan - use a splash of water (or wine) to deglaze the pan, then add the onions, carrots, and garlic.

Sauté the veggies for a couple minutes, then add enough beef stock to just barely cover everything. Chop up the herbs and add them too.

Turn the heat down to low and put a lid on the stew - let it simmer until the meat is easily cut with a spoon.

Meanwhile - make the dough!

Basic Pie Dough
12oz. Flour
8oz. Butter
4oz. Water
pinch salt

I begin by measuring out the water and then putting it in the freezer while I deal with the butter and flour. I use frozen unsalted butter (European style is always better because it has more fat, and fat is flavor!). Cut the butter into small cubes, roughly 5mm cubed. Then use your fingers to squish the butter into the flour (this is my favorite part!). You can also use a food processor or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour, but I feel like I have an intimate connection with my dough if I truly make it by hand. I know instantly if it's getting too warm (the butter begins to feel oily) or precisely when it's done (an even, flakey texture). If the butter starts to feel oily, simply but the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes before continuing.

Add the water and mix it in with a fork. Once the water seems roughly evenly incorporated, squish the dough with your hand - if it easily coalesces into a ball of dough that's not overly sticky, it's good. If it's incredibly dry and refuses to make a single ball of dough - add a tiny bit more water, maybe an ounce or a half-ounce at a time. If it's incredibly sticky - add a little bit of flour until it's easy to work with (i.e. not sticking hopelessly to everything).

Roll out one half of the dough on a well floured surface. Flour the top of the dough, and keep the dough moving - meaning shift it around in between rolls to ensure it's not sticking on the bottom. Roll it out until it's larger than your pie pan by at least an inch.  

You can use your rolling pin to help you transfer the dough into the pie pan without it tearing - roll the dough around the rolling pin like a scroll, then lift it up and un-roll it over the pie pan.

Gently pat it into the pan and trim the edges with a knife, then plastic wrap all the extra dough (including the other half) and set it aside in the fridge.

Start some charcoal and spread the hot coals out in a circle around the edge of the grill. This will keep your pie from burning on the bottom.

Put some sort of weight on top of the pie crust so it doesn't bubble up as it cooks. You could use just about anything for this: dried beans, a slightly smaller pie pan, gravel inside of foil, an oven-proof plate, specialty metal weights...

Let the crust cook for about 10-20 minutes just until it barely begins to look golden.

While the crust cooks, check on the stew. Make sure there's still a little bit of liquid (add water or stock if you need to), then add a few pinches of flour to make it into a thick sauce. Let it cook for a few more minutes, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Also while the bottom-crust is on the grill - roll out the top crust. Then once the bottom-crust is ready, fill it with the filling and top it with the top crust.

Lay the dough on top, trim the edges, and cut a few steam holes in the top. You could get fancy with the edges, but it's not necessary. 

Cut up the left over bits of dough and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar (or whatever you want), then let everything bake on the grill for roughly an hour until the edges are browned.

I doubt the top of the pie would ever get very brown using this method. Kate McDermott suggests using a dutch oven, with coals on top of the lid to get ample heat from above.