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Friday, January 17, 2014

Spiced Pork and Caramelized Onion Pie

Despite our common language, linked intellectual and cultural traditions, and crossover hit TV shows, some things really do change when you go from the U.S. to the U.K. Certain words even have different assumed meanings: football, pants, and, most importantly for these purposes, pie.  
While here (with chicken pot pie the only real exception) they're assumed to contain fruit, cream, candied nuts, and other such sweet ingredients, in Britain, pies typically contain steak, mutton, seafood, or, in this case, pork. They also don't necessarily need to be baked in ordinary pie crusts—ones with either shortcrust or puff pastry crusts, baked without a tin are also quite popular. 

This take isn't exactly traditional, although the inclusion of apples and the cherry liqueur both come from different English variants on the traditional pork pie, and the use of spices that here would not be out of place in pumpkin pie likewise call on very old British ground meat recipes. One definitely non-traditional idea is the addition of an avocado garlic purée as a complement—it's strictly optional, but I think you'll find it balances the slightly sweet richness of the pie really well. In any case, it's a not-too-difficult take on a savory pie that makes a nice winter dinner—and until my cousins in Wales help me get the Great Transcontinental Pie Exchange going, the best way to get your hands on a tasty savory pie is to make it yourself. 

2/3 pound ground pork (you can cook the whole pound and have extra to put on pasta or sandwiches)
2 large or 4 small yellow onions, medium dice
1 apple, cored and quartered. 
1 package frozen puff pastry
4 anchovy filets
~1/2 cup dark beer
1 oz cherry liqueur e.g. Maraschino (optional) 
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 bay leaf 
Dash of celery seed
Dash of paprika
Dash of mustard powder
Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
Olive oil

Avocado Garlic Purée:
1 avocado
2-3 oz canned chopped green chiles (opt)
1 tbsp mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Red wine vinegar, to taste
Generous squirt sriracha or other hot sauce. 
1 tbsp Parmesan or feta cheese (opt)

1. Place onions in a dry medium sauté pan and cook covered over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. 
2. Quarter apple and grate with a box grater on the small, flat holed side. 
3. Remove lid from onions, reduce heat to medium low, and add sufficient olive oil to coat. Continue to cook at this temperature, stirring occasionally, until it is time to fill the pies—at least 25 minutes.  
4. Remove puff pastry from freezer and set out to defrost. When it is sufficiently defrosted, unfold it. Preheat oven to 400. 
5. In a saucepan or sautée pan, coat the bottom well with oil and heat over medium—high heat. Add the ground pork, break up well, and cook until browned through.
6. Add beer, bay leaf, grated apple, and anchovy filets. Let liquid begin to simmer and then reduce heat to medium low. Cook for approximately five minutes, then add spices and cherry liqueur. Continue to cook for a few minutes until flavors are blended, the volume of liquid has noticeably fallen, and pork is thoroughly cooked but not dry. 
7. Move pork with slotted spoon to onion pan, stir thoroughly, and turn off heat. Check pastry—if it is becoming sticky, return to freezer for 5 minutes. 
8. Melt 2 tbsp butter in microwave (~20 seconds). Dip a brush in the butter and use it to coat a large baking sheet. 
9. Slightly roll out one sheet of pastry and lay on baking sheet. Spoon filling into center of pastry and spread out, leaving 1 inch margin around edges (if pastry is in four sheets, divide filling in half). Do not overfill- pile of filling should not be more than an inch high. Leftover filling is ok. 
10. Brush margins of first sheet with butter.  Slightly roll out second sheet, and drape on top of first. Crimp edges down with fork and puncture top with fork at least five times. Brush top with butter.
11. If pastry is in four pieces, repeat steps 9 and 10. Place baking sheet into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until tops are golden brown. 
12. Place purée ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Chill.
13. When pies are ready, remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes, and slice. On each plate, spoon a long blob of the purée and place slice on top. If desired, garnish with parsley. Serve with a green salad with a vinaigrette or citrus dressing and white wine. 

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