Everyone gathers around the kitchen, nibbling snacks, sipping drinks, and waiting for Rob and Gillia to arrive with our dinner. It is Amazing Race night again, and it’s good to be cozy together in the bright kitchen on a blustery wet night, at the beginning an evening of fun and food.
There is some speculation about what dinner will be. Lindsey has spent the weekend at a retreat hosted by a vegetarian facility, and hopes—no, truly she longs–for meat. I am privy to the menu, and assure her that there will be plenty of meat, but keep the details to myself. Just when the anticipation builds to nearly unbearable levels, our dinner arrives.
Good smells precede the unwrapping of the food. The crowd begins to circle like hyenas, craning for a glimpse of their prey.
Out comes a sheet pan of rustic fruit tarts, and a collective sigh of pleasure is heard.
Then comes a big arugula salad, rich with cheese and grapes. But all else is overshadowed by the revealing of the two golden, shiny, flaky pork pies, meat peeking through the artistic slashes in their top crusts. Sighs turn to “Oohs” and groans of visceral need as Rob cuts the pies into substantial wedges. Then we pounce.
These pork pies may redefine savory for all time. They are rich and meaty with enough gorgeous crust to make the filling even more of a pleasure to eat. They taste of cozy evenings around the TV, but also of a chill foggy morning wrapped in damp wool, with cold hands warmed by hot pie, and of a brisk spring afternoon spent at a sidewalk cafe in a new city, slowly enjoying a crisp salad and a wedge of pork pie with an ice-cold glass of white wine while watching the world stroll by.
Make these pork pies if you dare…if you are the sort who can grind your own meat with ruthless cold, fat-slicked hands, filling the air with the tang of blood and minerals, and then turn around and apply the light magical touch of a baker to producing a pie crust that is substantial enough to cradle that meat securely, while still being as flaky and delicately crisp as a croissant.
And if you do dare, I hope you invite me over.
(Slightly adapted from Carnivore by Mark Symon)
- 8 ounces slab bacon, cut into medium dice
- 2 pounds ground pork
- Kosher salt and freshly
- ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped red onions
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
- 1⁄2 cup chopped celery leaves
- 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh savory
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Pastry dough for 2 (8-inch) double-crust pies, homemade or store-bought
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
Put a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pot and set aside on a plate. Add the ground pork to the pot drippings along with some salt and pepper, and brown for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside on the plate with the bacon.
Add the celery, onions, and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes. Deglaze the pot with 1 cup water, scraping up the bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon. Return the pork and bacon to the pot along with the potatoes, celery leaves, parsley, savory, cinnamon, and cloves. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Meanwhile, roll out the chilled pie dough and prick all over with a fork. Line two 8-inch pie plates with half of the dough and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Fill the pie plates with the meat mixture. Cover both pies with the top crusts, trimming and crimping the edges together to seal. Brush the tops with the egg yolk mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cut several steam vents in the center of each pie with a paring knife.
Bake the pies for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crusts are golden brown. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.