Monday, January 30, 2017

Good Bread Series Begins: U.P. Pasties

We're starting a new series...Good Stuff that's made with the staff of life -- bread or pastry. 

Foods starting with this foundation not only taste good -- they smell wonderful while cooking. They can be made ahead of time, kept in the freezer or fridge, then heated after you get home from work. But they're also quick to make, in the first place.
     Bread and pastry-based dishes are easy on your budget, too -- a very nice thing in the bleak, pennypinching months after the holidays. 

First up, a favorite from my Michigan days: pasties.

Although I grew up closer to Grand Rapids (the true Michigander now whips out a hand, and points to the lower palm area), we would take occasional trips Up North. A quick drive on the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced "Mackinaw," for you out-of-state yahoos) took us to the Upper Peninsula, or "U.P.," home of wide-open water, forests...and pasties. 
     These meat-and-veg turnovers were said to be a favorite of U.P. miners, who would pack them in their metal lunchboxes or cans for a meal later on. We bought them at bakeries, and ate them in the car, along with a cold carton of milk. (It rains a lot in the U.P.) 
      Pasties are usually about the size of your hand -- or larger. Make them smaller, and they're also good for school lunches. (Or bus drivers -- like the Brick.) 

Yoopers have argued about the essential ingredients in pasties since time began, practically. Some advocate for cubed roast beef (leftover from Sunday dinner), turnips and rutabaga. Others are big on hamburger and carrots. Potatoes and onions seem to be universally agreed on. You may even add heresies like corn, chopped mushrooms or green beans (gasp). But don't come crying to me! 
     The filling can be a little dry: moisten it with leftover gravy, broth or a little steak sauce,  if that's the case. 


1/2 pound hamburger   (or 1-2 cups cooked and cubed leftover beefsteak or roast)
    ( Pork or chicken can be substituted -- but pasties are usually beef)
1 onion, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped roughly
1 turnip, peeled and chopped  (Fine -- skip this if you're not a Michigander. Or turnip-lover)
1 carrot, sliced and diced
salt and pepper to taste

One recipe of pastry:
      1/2 cup butter  (1 stick)
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2 cups flour
      ice water

First up: the pastry. Mix first three ingredients together, using your hands or a fork, until mixture forms little 'pebbles.' Gradually add ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Keep it in the fridge for now, and:

Mix the filling. (No, you don't have to cook the burger.)

Putting it all together:  Grab a scant handful of dough. (Or a large serving spoon's worth, if you're making smaller pasties.) Roll it into a thin circle, then add a few spoonfuls of filling. Fold the pastry over to make a half-moon, like the photo below. Pinch the edges, or push on them with the fork tines to seal. (Poke a few holes or slashes in the top crust, to release steam.)
     Continue this process until your pastry is gone. I usually get enough pasties for supper for 2-3, plus a few left over for lunch the next day. These can be frozen; take out and bake as directed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 min., until crust is brown. Serve with fresh-cut veggies or sliced oranges...or a cup of soup. Pasties can be eaten hot or cold.

     Leftover filling can be sauteed until meat is done, then added to scrambled eggs or an omelet. (It's good in soup, too.)

Taste of Home is very fond of pasties, and offers at least two different versions:

Their interpretation of U.P. pasties.

Herbed Cornish-style pasties.  (Cornish miners are said to have started the tradition in the Upper Peninsula.)

Both are good...but frankly, I've never seen herbs of any kind in true Upper Michigan pasties. They're pretty basic.

Photo courtesy of Taste of Home

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