Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Last fall Philadelphia's first and only authentic English Pie shop, Stargazy, opened on East Passyunk. It's been a tremendous hit and not too surprisingly I've become rather fond of the various pies Chef Sam Jacobson turns out. The problem is, I still live in the suburbs so it can be a little difficult to satisfy the urge for pie. So why not make my own?

This turns out to be both amazingly easy and kind of tricky at the same time. The first tricky part was finding the neat rectangular pie tins. None of my regular restaurant supply dealers carried them, which isn't all that surprising. Chef Jacobson evidently had to source his tins from England - not especially practical for me since I only needed a few. Eventually I located Falcon Enamelware who make the exact thing:

Falcon Pie Dishes
Pie Dishes

I bought my set of four from Amara where you can also get the full line of Falcon enamelware.

Pie Pastry

The next step is pastry. Chef Jacobson makes a very flaky dough, something like rough puff paste dough. That, it turns out isn't tricky at all. It's equal parts flour and cold butter by weight, 1% salt, and cold water, i.e.

50 grams flour
50 grams cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 gram salt
Ice water

Here I'm working with 200 grams each of flour and butter plus 4 grams of salt:

Everything goes into the food processor. Add ice water very slowly while pulsing until it comes together. This batch took about 100 grams of water.

Dump it out and form it into a rectangular blob. Notice the bits of butter. Wrap it up and put it into the refrigerator for half an hour to hydrate and rest.

Now the fun begins! Roll out the block of dough into a rectangle about 3 times as long as it is wide, fold the top third down to the center, then the bottom third up over the top, sort of like a letter.

Wrap it up, put in the refrigerator for a half an hour, the repeat twice. Keep the dough in the refrigerator until you've made a cooled the filling.

The Filling: Braised Short Ribs

Roughly equal amount of chopped mushrooms and onions. Saute 'em until lightly caramelized.

This is 72 hour 62° C short rib. Remove any blobs of excess fat while breaking it up. Dump it in the pan and mix well until everything's heated through.

You can add anything to it at this point I was sure I had some frozen peas, but they were nowhere to be found.You'll want to toss in some herbs - I used thyme and a couple bay leaves. Then just sprinkle on about a tablespoon of flour and mix it in, dump on a can of beef broth (about 2 cups) and a tablespoon of Worcestershire and simmer, stirring, until it thickens. Taste for seasoning and set aside, covered to cool.

When the filling has cooled completely, it's time to roll out the pastry. We worked with about half the pastry at a time. You want the bottom crusts to be pretty thin - less than 1/8 of an inch:

Line the tins, fill 'em with meaty goodness, and add the top crust:

Poke a couple holes in the tops, glaze 'em with egg wash and into a 400° F oven for 45 minutes.

Oh man, these were good. But not without mistakes. So next time:
  • Make More Pastry. The tops were really thin and didn't get as flaky as I'd have liked.
  • Make more filling. We only had enough for 3 pies, which was good because we didn't have enough pastry either.
  • Add more stuff to the filling - double the mushrooms and onions, and add diced carrots, peas, etc.
These were a great result for not very much effort. I'm thinking Pie 2.0 will probably use Shepherd's Pie filling as the base, with diced potatoes added to bulk it up. Seafood is a possibility too, maybe something like a New England chowder...

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