With only a couple months left until my friend Corey’s Tolkien LotR marathon (11/12/11 this year), I thought I’d start the lead-up with one of the dishes that we featured last year (and probably will again, this year). Here’s a link to last year’s menu. Anyway, miniature actor Samwise Gamgee, possibly best known as “Dave” from Encino Man, dropped by the other day to pass on some tips for how to make his famous Shire pork pies.
These are not for the faint of heart. By this, I mean that they’re decidedly not for people suffering from acute heart disease. Or for vegetarians. Pork pies are really, seriously not for vegetarians. If you fall outside the union of those two categories, plough ahead and read on! Also, vegetarians don’t often own meat grinders, but as of today, I do! (More on that shortly.)
Shire food, according to Corey (also known as The Tolkien Professor, of significant iTunes podcast renown, as well as being the author of an upcoming book) roughly follows English countryside cuisine. The pork pie, which Bombur (the ultimate fat dwarf) orders at Bilbo’s, has its brief moment of literary glory, accompanied by a hearty salad – no doubt Bombur’s attempt at guilt-free eating. We’ll celebrate the reference with Sam’s unique take on the dish, lovingly adapted from Bilbo’s original recipe:
Onto the recipe!
Prep time: 30-40 minutes (with additional time to grind the meat, if you’re not buying pre-ground).
Cook time: 35 minutes (Optionally, slow-cooking for richer flavor can take up to 2 hours – see below), plus 15 minutes to cool.
Leftovers: Absolutely! One of the articles I read about pork pies claimed that they were actually best eaten cold – link below. You can also freeze them before cooking – simply let them thaw, then cook as normal.
- 1/2 lb. ground pork (if grinding your own, use pork chops or tenderloin, with the fat cut off, and grind coarsely)
- 1/4 lb. ground sirloin beef
- 1 medium to large yellow onion, diced small
- 1/2 c. bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground pepper
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic (optional)
- 1 tbsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/8 – 1/4 c. fresh sage leaves, chopped very fine
- 2 eggs
- 2 pie crusts – either pre-made, or use the following:
- 2 c. flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tbsp. sugar
- 7/8 c. shortening
- 1/2 egg, beaten
- 1/2 tsbp. vinegar
- 1/4 c. cold water
If making the pie crust from scratch, mix the flour, salt, and sugar, then with two knives, cut in the shortening until it’s mixed in in small pieces. Add the egg, vinegar, and water, and mix with a fork until it forms a uniformly consistent dough.
Grind the meat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and all but a couple pinches of the sage. Beat the eggs, then add them to the mix, setting aside a couple tablespoons of egg for a glaze later. Mix the meat mixture until it’s… well, um… mixed.
Roll out the pie crusts on a cutting board, lightly flouring the board as you go. Grease the inside of either a 6-cup muffin tin, or a 6″ pie plate (I used a muffin tin, to make individual serving sized pies), then cut dough from the crust to line the pan(s) accordingly – you will want a slight lip over the edge of each cup.
Preheat your oven to 350 or 375 degrees, depending on whether you wish to slow or fast-cook the pies.
Split the meat mix between the muffin tins, or add it all to the pie plate, and spread it evenly. Top the muffins/pie with the remaining crust, cutting a small hole in the top center. Traditionally, additional pieces of crust are added to the top, cut in diamonds or other shapes, as decoration. Use the remaining egg to glaze the tops, then sprinkle the remaining sage and a small amount of nutmeg on the tops.
Fast-cook: Cook for 35 minutes (40-45 for a larger pie) at 375 degrees, or until the tops are golden-brown.
Slow-cook: Cook for 2 hours at 350 degrees, checking the tops occasionally to ensure that they don’t burn.
Once finished, let cool for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with chunky homestyle applesauce, or with Dijon or German whole-grain mustard.
- Try a more savory Italian-style spice mix, substituting oregano, garlic, parsley, and rosemary for the allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add 1/4 c. grated romano cheese to the meat mix, and sprinkle some on the tops as well.
- For a more Asian presentation, keep the garlic, but instead of the allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, substitute 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. white pepper, 2 tsbp. sesame oil, 1 tbsp. minced ginger, and 2-3 minced green onions. Serve with soy sauce or Ponzu sauce.
- For a similar-tasting variant, use 2/3 lb. coarse-chopped pork chunks, 4-6 strips of medium-chopped bacon (raw, with the fat removed), and omit the egg. Use the slow-cook temperature and time. Once finished, mix a combination of a single packet of powdered gelatin (available at many grocery stores) and 1 c. vegetable or pork stock, and bring near to a boil. With a funnel, pour a couple tablespoons of the mixture into the hole at the top of each muffin-sized pie (or most of the mixture into the pie-sized variant) after you’ve removed the pies from the oven. Let them cool, allowing the gelatin to set and to hold the insides together. Hat tip to this site: http://www.seabrite.com/jeffs_great_british_eats/pork_pies.htm – for this very cool method.
- Use whole-grain flour and low-fat shortening for the crust. It will be less flaky in this case, but healthier.
- Mix cabbage or broccoli into the meat mixture.
Fat: High. But it’s the tasty kind of fat. Actually a lot of kinds of fat are tasty.
Carbs: Medium, from the crust.
Test Subject D has gotten caught up in the Paleo Diet (and Crossfit – he’s crazy, man!) at the moment, so he’s crust-averse. But he’s promised to try the meat-filling tomorrow. Plus, he grew up in the U.K., so he’ll actually have some manner of basis for comparison. I’ll post his thoughts after he tests the stuff. For my part, they tasted awesome with a little dab of German mustard.