Not-so-patriotic July 4th: Cornish pasties

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Cornish pasty
Recently, while watching one of my new favorite YouTube channels (LeFloofTV), I was overcome with a craving for Cornish pasties. Jonathan of LeFloofTV had stopped at a rest stop in Ireland and gotten a sausage roll and I've always been easily influenced by what I see others eating.

Cornish pasties (pronounced pass-tee) aren't sausage rolls, but they are something you can find in the United Kingdom (or maybe mainly England?). It's pretty much impossible to find them in New York City, though they are available in specific regions in the U.S. The story goes that Cornish pasties were first conceived as an easy meal for coal miners in Cornwall. In sum, they're basically beef pot pies crammed into a half-moon pocket. I used to get them as a quick lunch between classes when I was studying in England, and they're easy one-hand snacks or meals. Little did I know that they're almost as easy to make!

I looked a variety of Cornish pasty recipes online, including one from the Cornish Pasty Association, and mixed and matched what suited my taste as well as what was most convenient for me. Here's the recipe I came up with ...

Cornish Pasty

Yields about 6 small-to-medium pasties or 3 large ones
Total time: About 3.5 hours; Inactive time: 2 hours

For the pastry (to be prepared at least 2 hours before baking):
3 and 3/4th cups of flour (preferably bread flour, though all-purpose will work as well)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of cold butter, cubed
2/3rds cup of cold water

For the filling:
12 ounces of skirt steak or chuck steak
1 medium onion, peeled
1 turnip, peeled
1 medium or large waxy potato (red potatoes), peeled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil, to lightly coat vegetables and meat
Dried or fresh rosemary, thyme or any herb you prefer (Be more heavy-handed with the seasoning, as the vegetables don't offer much flavor.)
Cold knobs of butter, added to the pasty before baking

An egg and a dash of milk, mixed, for the egg wash

Instructions (after the jump)

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl until mixed. Add the cubed butter and stir until combined. Use fingers to "knead" the butter into the flour until the mixture achieves a crumbly, breadcrumb-like texture. Add the cold water, a little at a time, until the dough is wet enough to hold together. Knead the dough until it is smooth -- don't be afraid of over-kneading. [All of the above can be done in food processor.] Wrap the dough up in plastic wrap and leave to cool for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Cut the onion, turnip, potato and steak into equal-sized cubes, and mix and season. You may want to pour a little olive oil over the mixture to better allow the seasoning to stick, but it's not necessary.

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line your baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and create baseball-sized chunks of dough from the dough mass (for larger pasties, you may want to separate the dough mass into 3 chunks and roll each out into a circle). Roll each baseball-sized chunk into a circle about 1/2-inch thick.

Place filling at the center of the circle and top it off with a slice of butter. Leaving enough room to fold one edge over the other, fold one side of the dough over the filling, creating a moon or D-shape. Brush the edge of the circle with egg wash and press the the two edges together. Fold the remaining dough over the other edge, sealing the pasty. You can run a fork over the edge to create a crimped look. Before baking, brush your pasties with egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then 20 minutes at 320 degrees.

Serve the Cornish pasties hot or warm. They will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze them and reheat later.

These aren't as greasy (and I mean GREASY) as the ones I had in England, but otherwise, they are as good as I remember, if not better. The ones I had in England had probably cooled too much and the fat content had congealed so that when I took bites, there would literally be grease coming out the corners of the pasty. And it wasn't always a great feeling in the mouth. I don't remember the pastry being as yummy, either. (Probably because they skimped on the butter!) The pastry in this recipe tastes like a Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookie, without the sugar. Delectable.
Cornish pasty
Supposedly, carrots in the filling is sacrilege, but do what you want. (I did.) It's not a summery dish, and it's definitely not an American dish (though it's made its way to parts of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Montana), but it's an easy and tasty way to celebrate the idea of the United States as a "melting pot." Happy Independence Day!

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