Saturday, February 10, 2007

Blog Party #19: Take Foods from My Home State

After last month's formal affair, our hostess of the Blog Party, Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness has declared February's theme to be Take Comfort. Considering the frigid weather we have been having in the northeast for the past two weeks, comfort food made bite size for and a warm drink will be perfect to share with friends new and old while we stand beside a roaring fire in the winter gloaming.

For this month's little shindig, I've decided to bring a dish from my home state of Michigan, Mini Yooper Pastys or Pasties depending on what part of the Upper Peninsula (UP) you go to buy your pastys (and NO...not those kind of pasties, jheesh).

To wash these flaky but filling little meat pies down, I've also brought along another Michigan original, Vernor's Ginger Soda!

It is much spicier than your normal ginger ale and the bubbles will make you sneeze. You can either have it straight up and ice cold (the way I like it) or served as a drink called a Hottness (I've got the spiced vodka right here in my hip flask) and if Stephanie has some vanilla ice cream somewhere in her freezer, you can make a Boston Cooler. Finally, if you are really talented (and deranged) you can make a Michigan Tech Boilermaker (beer in a pint glass, shot glass of Vernor's dropped to the bottom of the glass upright with Vernor's still in shotglass).

Pastys are originally from Cornwall, England where they were made for Cornish miners to take into the mines as meals. They were brought to the UP in the late 19th century by Cornish miners who came to work the iron and copper mines. Every miner's wife had her own recipe she used. Some were filled with sliced meat, others with ground meat. Some had purple turnips, some had rutabagas, some had only potatoes and carrots. My great great grandfather on my father's side was a miner in the Keweenaw Peninsula and the recipe I use is the one that my great great grandmother used except I don't use suet or lard but Crisco. Her pasty was filled with diced turnips, onions, potatoes, and ground venison. Over the years, the meat has changed to ground beef or a mixture of ground venison and beef. Normal sized pastys are huge!! (They were meant to fuel a miner for a 12-14 hour shift). They are about the size of one half dinner plate and are normally served smothered in gravy.

For our finger food version, we are going to roll out the dough to form a circle a little bigger than a dessert plate. Using a saucer as a pattern, we will cut out a circle that is about 6" in diameter. Using our rolling pin as a support for one half of the dough we'll evenly place about 3 Tbsp of diced turnips, onions and potatoes that have been seasoned with salt and pepper in the center.

Making sure there is a border of about 1 1/2" on the filling side, we'll then place 2 Tbsp of ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley that has been formed into a little half moon shape on top of the diced veggies.

We'll then place a little sliver pat of butter on top the meat and fold over the top crust, tucking it around the filling. We'll finish up by wrapping the 1 1/2" border up, over, and tucked down to make a really tight seal. A little prick on top to let the steam out and a bit of a milk wash complete the pasty.

Into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes and out comes a golden pasty, ready to be placed on a little party plate with a side of gravy for dipping!

Mini Yooper Pastys
Adapted from my great great grandmother Burgess

Serves 8

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/8 cup Crisco
1/4 tsp salt
6-7 Tbsp cold water

Combine salt and flour in large bowl. Cut Crisco into small chunks and using a pastry blender, cut Crisco into flour mixture until flour mixture looks like tiny peas. Don't worry about keeping the Crisco in large chunks. This crust should be a hardy crust not super flaky. Add cold water, one Tbsp at a time, until the dough is almost play dough consistency. Pull dough into a round ball and cover with towel. Let sit for 10 -15 minutes. Make the filling.

1 1/2 pound ground beef
1 medium purple turnips finely diced
2 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold), finely diced
2 medium carrots (fat ones work best), finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

(note: I have no idea how much salt, pepper, and parsley is really in this recipe. I learned to make these by watching my grandmother. She always used about a quarter size dollop of salt in her palm x 2 and a quarter size dollop of pepper. For me, a quarter size dollop is about a tsp).

In medium bowl, combine turnips, potatoes, carrots and onions. Season with about 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. Set aside. In another medium bowl, mix ground beef with about 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper, and 1 1/2 tsp of parsley (1/2 tsp = a nickel). Set aside.

To make a pasty:

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. If dough is really sticky, knead in a bit more flour (1 Tbsp at a time) until the dough is moist but not stiff. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle about 7" in diameter. Using a saucer as a pattern and a sharp paring knife, cut out a circle about 6" in diameter (set aside the scraps to patch any torn pastys). Using the rolling pin to support one half a dough circle, spread about 3 Tbsp of veggie mixture on the the opposite side of the dough circle; leaving 1 1/2" border on the filling side of the dough (see pictures above). Take about 2 Tbsp of ground beef mixture, shape into a little half moon and place onto top of veggies. Place a pat of butter on top of the ground beef. Fold over the top half of the dough and tuck/seal around filling (if dough tears, use scraps to patch). Tuck over the top half seal, the 1 1/2" border crimping and sealing tightly. Prick top of pasty with a sharp knife to create a steam hole. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in pre-heated 400 degree oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown. Serve warm with gravy for dipping.