Friday, March 02, 2007


I refuse to blame this recipe for the fact that both times I’ve made it, I’ve suffered a nervous semi-breakdown. The first time was understandable; after having spotted these savory-looking little pocket pies in an issue of Gourmet lent to me by P, I had been hankering for them. I carefully shopped for all the ingredients (even going to an additional grocery store to secure the frozen puff pastry), set aside some time on a Sunday evening to tackle what looked to be a lengthy baking process, got all ready to begin, and…realized I had no curry powder. Yes, I’d forgotten to buy one of the ingredients specifically named in the title of the recipe. All was repaired by A volunteering to make a quick trip to Vons, and the pies turned out very tastily, reminiscent of samosas. (Similar ingredients, with the potatoes and meat and peas, and like samosas, they weren’t that moist or saucy inside.) A, though suspicious of peas, loved them, even the rather greasy leftover ones (puff pastry just doesn’t reheat well).

Last Sunday night, when I was again possessed with the desire to make beef and curry pies, was, of course, the date of the Academy Awards. I was greatly looking forward to watching the Oscars and had seen all five of the nominated Best Picture films in preparation; what I’d forgotten was that the show airs so early in California, beginning at 5:30 p.m., whereas I spent the first 27 years of my life in Minnesota cozily watching the awards late into the night in my PJs. So as the show began, I was still hustling around, trying to make muffins for my coworkers, clean the kitchen, and of course, make dinner. The situation was completely my own doing, but nonetheless resulted in a tantrum of frustration when, two hours later, I was still embroiled in chores and missing all the good montages. I cut a few corners and was in a sulky mood when the beef and curry pies finally emerged from the oven and we sat down to eat, but you know what? They were still tasty.

So don’t think this recipe is cursed or anything. Just don’t forget to buy curry powder, don’t make these when you’d rather be watching TV, and heed these few additional notes:

1. The original recipe made 8 servings. I’ve cut it in half, because unless you’re throwing a dinner party, you don’t need 8 beef and curry pies. They don’t make good leftovers, they’re not that healthy for you, and two boxes of frozen puff pastry could cost you easily $10. Who are you, the queen? Oh, that’s right, this is Gourmet, after all. We’re lucky we weren’t asked to make our own puff pastry from scratch.

2. I might not have cooled my filling for precisely 30 minutes. “Screw this cooling completely,” I might have been heard to mutter after 20 minutes. “Lukewarm is good enough.” It didn’t make any discernible difference.

3. Your peas don’t really have to be thawed before you add them to the skillet. They’re teeny; they’ll thaw when surrounded by hot beef. Maybe they’ll help cool down that pesky filling, like tiny ice cubes!

4. I don’t own a 5-inch cookie cutter. I don’t actually own any cookie cutters. I used the 5½-inch mouth of a bowl to cut out the pastry rounds. They turned out just fine.

POSTSCRIPT, April 2011: The last time I made these, I realized it would be much easier (no cookie cutter) and more cost-effective (why throw away all the trimmings from that expensive puff pastry dough?) to use the pie-shaping method from my chicken-leek pie recipe, which simply has you roll the sheet of dough a bit thinner, slice it into four equal rectangles, and simply fold each one over the filling into a triangular pie. I still used both sheets of dough, for a total of 8 pies (I've gotten over my "these don't make good leftovers stance" and find reheated puff pastry just fine now), so I doubled the filling quantities just in case. I had some leftover filling, but oh well. Anyway, do yourself a favor and follow my streamlined advice rather than adhering to Step 5 below.

¼ pound ground beef (not lean)
½ tablespoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vegetable oil
½ medium onion, chopped (½ cup)
1½ teaspoons curry powder
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces (½ cup)
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons frozen peas, thawed
1 (17½-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Mix beef, soy sauce, sugar, and salt with your hands in a large bowl until combined well.

2. Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, then add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up into small pieces, until just browned, about 4 minutes. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

3. Keep the skillet containing the beef drippings over moderately high heat; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3–5 minutes. Add curry powder and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are translucent, 3–5 minutes more. Add water and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, until liquid is absorbed and potatoes are tender, about 1 minute. (Don't worry if your potatoes aren't totally tender by the time all the liquid is gone; they'll get cooked in the oven.) Return beef to skillet and stir in peas, then cool filling, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

5. Roll out one sheet of thawed puff pastry into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin and cut out four 5-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Mound ⅓ cup filling atop each of two rounds, leaving a ¾-inch border around edges, then brush edges lightly with egg and cover with another round, gently stretching to cover filling completely. Gently press edges with tines of a fork to seal, then transfer pies to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sheets of dough and filling to make a total of 4 pies (you may have some filling left over). Brush tops of pastry lightly with egg and bake until pies are deep golden brown and puffed, 25–30 minutes. Cool pies about 10 minutes.

Serves: 4
Time: 1–1½ hours

No comments: