We're omnivores here. My apologies to Michael Pollan: even though I've checked his book out of the library a half-dozen times, I still haven't read it. I may have a dilemma, but this week it's NOT about ground beef.
We generally have at least one package of ground beef in the freezer, or ground turkey, or ground chicken (ground pork is hard to come by here, or we'd probably have that too). Sometimes it's on sale and we'll cook two pounds, freezing some for later. It's our go-to "emergency" protein (well, after peanut butter, that is). We can have a pound of hamburger cooked and turned into a goulash or a chili or a meat sauce inside 30 minutes. We like whole burgers grilled and cheesed, or occasionally stuffed and pan-fried. We've learned to bake meatballs in our mini-muffin pans. We really, really like ground meat as a versatile ingredient for a family meal.
There's one meat dish that says "I Love You" more than any other to me. It's a Spicy Meat Pie recipe my mom made occasionally that's delightful, just fussy enough to be something we didn't have often, and uniquely flavorful due to it's unusual ingredients. The recipe, oddly enough, came from Hellman's; I suppose because the crust is made with mayonnaise. The unusual spice comes from the celery leaves and cloves in the filling. The recipe below is my mom's (and Hellman's) original.
Earlier this year I experimented with making this a filling for tartlets to eat as finger food on a buffet, rather than the traditional family-style pie. Since I was making a lot of different foods for a large crowd, I used store-bought pie crust instead of the mayonnaise crust. I cut circles with a glass and lined the mini-muffin pans with the crust, filled with the spicy meat mixture, and topped them with more crust, cut into leafy shapes. I probably painted them with egg wash before baking them. They looked gorgeous. They tasted DRY. Too much crust, not enough meat in those mini-muffin sizes.
Not one to throw food away (particularly food I worked so painstakingly hard on!), I froze them. They were still in the back of my freezer this week when I was planning and prepping ahead. I decided to experiment again, and this time was really successful.
I took another package of hamburger (also from the freezer) and made another batch of the meat filling, using onion, celery leaves, and chicken stock left over from the chicken soup (augmented with a tsp. of vegetable stock concentrate because it's in the fridge and I wanted a richer taste). I also added a can of white beans to stretch it. I thickened it with cornstarch and cold water, and filled the bottom of a Pyrex baking dish, and had enough for a lunch-size dish as well. Instead of making crust, though, I topped the meat mixture with the thawed tartlets, pressing them deep into the mixture until they were almost submerged, with their leafy tops peeking out. I covered them with foil and heated them through (about 15 minutes).
Coupled with a leftover pasta-and-veggie-gratin from last week. Gorgeous, and delicious.
Spicy Meat Pie (Serves 4 - fits in 1 qt. baking dish)
Original recipe from Hellman's
1# ground beef
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 c. celery leaves, chopped
3/4 c. bouillon (I used chicken stock augmented with 1 tsp. vegetable stock base)
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 T. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 c. cold water
Saute meat, onion, and garlic. Stir in celery, bouillon, and seasonings. Mix cornstarch and water, stir into meat mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer (covered) for 10 minutes. Transfer to 8" square (1 qt.) baking dish.
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. real mayonnaise
1 1/2 T. cold water
Mix flour and salt, blend in mayo, stir in water. Press into ball. Roll larger portion to fit 8" square pan. Fill with meat mixture. Roll pastry large enough to cover baking dish. Crimp edges to fit neatly.
Bake at 425 degF for 30 minutes.