“Have you eaten, Johnny?” she asked, flipping the fan open again.
“No,” he said, suddenly recalling that he was starving. “I hadn’t the chance.”
“Well, then.” The Countess waved one of the footmen over, selected a small pie from his tray, and handed it to her son. “Yes, I saw you talking to Lady Mumford. Kind of you; the dear old thing dotes upon you.”
Dear old thing. Lady Mumford was possibly the Countess’s senior by a year. Grey mumbled a response, impeded by the pie. It was steak with mushrooms, delectable in flaky pastry.
“Whatever were you talking to Joseph Trevelyan to intently about, though?” the Countess asked, raising her fan in farewell to the Misses Humber. She turned to look at her son, and lifted one brow, then laughed. “Why, you’ve gone quite red in the face, John — one might think Mr. Trevelyan had made you some indecent proposal!”
“Ha ha,” Grey said, thickly, and put the rest of the pie into his mouth.
Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Private Matter (Chapter 5 – Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music)
Welcome to Lord John month on Outlander Kitchen! Seeing as how LJ is constantly on the lookout for his one true Valentine, I thought February would be the perfect time to put my second favourite Englishman and his chow front and centre.
And while Herself goes to a great deal of trouble to describe some delectable food in his stories – like today’s steak and mushroom pies – LJ himself rarely sits down long enough to truly enjoy any of it.
When you consider the amazing amount of tasks he accomplishes and the number of problems he solves in just one of his short stories or novellas, Lord John is probably the most 21st Century of all the Outlander characters, although I do have high hopes for Jem (if he ever gets out of that tunnel). Imagine what either of them could do with a smart phone in their hand and a drive-thru at their disposal.
My last couple of weeks have left me almost as busy as LJ. A small accident in the kitchen here, an unexpected writing assignment there. It doesn’t take much to put any of our already over-filled schedules over the edge these days, and this time it was my turn to juggle too many balls in too short a time.
Just like that, I found myself already behind, even though LJ month hadn’t even begun.
What shortcuts do you take when you’re short on time in the kitchen? One of my cheats, from time to time, is a store-bought frozen pie crust. After all, if you get the filling right, the pastry slides on by without too much notice. I used a combination of frozen tart shells (in keeping with the small-sized pie that the Countess gave to LJ) and puff pastry, but you can also make one big pie with two deep-dish pie shells, or, easiest of all, bake the filling in ceramic ramekins with puff pastry tops.
And if you prefer to make your pastry? Kudos to you! Check the notes below the recipe for links to recipes from previous pies and pastries.
A good steak and mushroom pie starts with sirloin, a thick, dark beer and the fungus of your choice.
In this case, as chocolate and beef are a classic combination in more than one food culture, I selected a Chocolate Porter from a local craft brewery. Check what dark porters or stouts are available in your area. The best place to find a new, interesting beer (or bottle of wine, for that matter) is at a small, independent liquor store. You might pay a little more, but the service is generally excellent, with knowledgeable staff who can point you in the right direction when it comes to food pairings. In lieu of that, a Guinness is always a good choice.
To avoid over complicating things, I chose plain old button mushrooms, but shitake, oyster, porcini or morels would all be fabulous, and would lend your pies their very own distinctive personalities.
(Click on the link below for a printable version of the recipe.)
: A rich and delicious, hearty, homemade filling in store-bought frozen pastry. A perfect compromise for the busy, multi-tasking cook.
Makes (24) tart-sized pies, (1) 9” pie, or (4 to 6) individual ramekins
- Sirloin Steaks, ½-1” cubes – 1½ lbs (700 g)
- Salt – 1½ tsp (8 ml)
- Dry Mustard – 1 tsp (5 ml)
- Pepper – ½ tsp (3 ml)
- Bacon, diced – 2 slices
- Vegetable Oil – 2-4 Tble (30-60 ml)
- Onion, diced – 1 medium
- Button Mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and sliced – ½ lb (225 g)
- Garlic, minced – 2 cloves
- Flour – ¼ Cup (60 ml)
- Dark Beer (Chocolate Porter or Stout) – 12 fl oz (355 ml)
- Worcestershire Sauce – 1 Tble (15 ml)
- Beef or Chicken Stock or Water – 2 Cups (500 ml)
- Dried Thyme – 1 tsp (5 ml)
- Bay Leaf – 1
- Frozen 3” (7.5 cm) Tart Shells – 24
- Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed – 1 pkg
- Frozen Deep Dish 9” (23 cm) Pie Shells – 2
- Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed – 1 pkg
- (1 ) Egg beaten with 1 tsp milk
Read the recipe through at least once before you begin.
Toss the cubed steak with the salt, mustard powder and pepper. Set aside.
Crisp the bacon over medium heat, careful not to overbrown. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a small plate. Add enough vegetable oil to the pan to make 2 tablespoons of fat.
Brown the beef in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan), about 5 minutes. Set the beef aside, add another 2 tablespoons of oil as well as the onions and mushrooms to the pan and saute until soft and translucent, another 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, then stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Deglaze the pan with the beer and Worcestershire sauce, stirring well. Add the stock or water, reserved beef and bacon, thyme and bay leaf. Stir well, and bring to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer, partially cover and cook until the beef is tender and the gravy shiny and thick, about 1 hour. Season to taste, then remove from the heat and cool slightly while you prepare the pastry.
Move the rack to the centre position and preheat the oven to 400° F (205° C).
For the tarts: arrange 12 of the shells on a baking pan lined with parchment. Mound the shells generously with the filling. Roll out ½ the package of thawed puff pastry to a 12” x 9” (30 cm x 23 cm) rectangle. Use a 3” (7.5 cm) round cutter to cut 12 tops. Brush the edges of the filled shells with egg wash, top with a puff pastry round, then crimp the top to the bottom using a fork. Repeat with the remaining shells and puff pastry on a second baking sheet.
Brush the tops with egg wash and use a sharp knife to poke a small hole in the top of each tart. Bake until golden, 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
For a pie: set one shell on a baking pan lined with parchment. Fill generously, brush the edges with egg wash, then remove the second shell from its foil and lay it over the top. Crimp the top to the bottom using a fork.
Brush the top with egg wash and use a sharp knife to poke 2 or 3 small holes in the top of the pie. Bake until golden, 35-40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
For individual ramekins: arrange oven-proof ramekins on a baking pan lined with parchment. Fill the ramekins to the top. Roll out puff pastry to about ⅛” thick and, with a SHARP knife, cut squares large enough to cover.
Lay the puff pastry tops across the filled ramekins, press gently to adhere, then brush the tops with egg wash and use a sharp knife to poke a small hole in the top of each. Bake until golden, 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)