A Christmas tradition at my grandma's house. This is adapted from her recipe. I love serving this with creamy scalloped potatoes and warm buttered carrots. —TheSlyRaven
12 individual pies or 2 - 3 8-inch pies
For the dough....
unsalted butter, frozen
For the meat filling....
1/4 - 1/2 cups
extra-virgin olive oil (depends on how large your pot is, and how many batches you have to work in)
large Spanish onions, diced
cloves garlic, grated or minced
whole bay leaves
ground beef (not leaner than 80/20)
cognac or brandy (I used St. Remy VSOP)
fresh savoury, chopped
fresh rosemary, chopped
fresh thyme, chopped
In This Recipe
For the dough....
Separate the egg.
Beat egg whites using a whisk or hand-mixer until stiff-but-not-dry peaks form. Reserve.
Combine the egg yolk, water and vinegar. Mix with a fork.
Grate the frozen butter using a cheese grater. (Try to work quickly so that the butter does not soften too much. If it does, simply return the grated butter to the freezer for a few minutes.)
In a large bowl, combine the butter and the flour. Toss with your fingertips to ensure all the butter is coated with flour. The mixture should look granular.
Using a butter knife, cut the yolk mixture into the flour mixture. Once a dough starts to form, continue using the knife to mix. (If there are pockets of flour on the bottom of your bowl, knead them in by hand but be quick and careful not to overwork or overheat the dough).
Cut in the egg white.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and form into a ball by hand.
Flatten into a disc and wrap with plastic.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Once the dough has rested, allow it to come up to room temperature for about 3 minutes before rolling.
Roll dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick.
Place into an 8 or 9" round pie pan (or cut into smaller circles if you are using mini pie tins).
You will also need to roll a top dough to cover your pies.
For the meat filling....
Heat a large cast iron pot over medium heat. Once hot, add about 2 tbsp olive oil and the butter.
Once butter has melted, add the diced onions, minced garlic and bay leaves.
Sautée over medium low heat for about 45 minutes until well caramelized. You will need to stir them often so they do not burn, and occasionally scrape the fond (delicious brown bits!) off the bottom of the pan as well.
Once the onions are caramelized (they should be a deep, rich brown), deglaze the pan with about 2 ounces of cognac. (Be careful, it may flame up at this point; that's OK!) Scrape the bottom of the pan again, and allow the cognac to cook off.
Transfer the onions to a bowl.
In the same pot, add another 2 tbsp olive oil, and let it heat up.
Once the oil is hot, add your first batch of meat (my pot was only large enough to cook about 1 pound at a time; see note below). Season with salt and pepper.
Using a wooden spoon, break up the ground meat.
Allow the meat to brown. You will need to scrape the bottom of the pan, as you did with the onions.
Once the meat is brown, deglaze with cognac. (And I mean BROWN, mister! Do not just cook the meat. The meat will go in red, and turn a grey brown once cooked. Do not mistake this grey colour for brown! It needs to be cooked beyond this point to actually develop flavour. Once all the red meat colour is gone, leave the meat in the pot and keep cooking until it is unmistakably BROWN. Trust me.)
Remove the meat from the pot and reserve in a bowl.
If you are working in batches with the meat, repeat the previous steps, starting with olive oil, adding meat and seasoning and finishing with cognac to deglaze.
Once all of your meat is cooked, combine all of the meat and the caramelized onions in your pan once again. You can turn the heat off at this point. Mix well to combine all of the meat and onions.
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice. Stir to combine.
Remove the herb leaves from their stems. Discard stems and finely chop the leaves. Stir the chopped herbs into the meat mixture.
Transfer the meat to a large baking dish or sheet pan to cool. (The thinner the layer of meat the quicker it will cool. Cooling as quickly as possible is the safest method to ensure your food is not in the Danger Zone!)
Once the meat has cooled, spoon into the unbaked pie shells.
Top with your top pie crust (you can secure the crusts together using eggwash or just water), and finish your edges however you like (you can be fancy and crimp them, or just press them together with a fork).
Cut a steam vent in the center of your top crust (I always mark a 'T' for my vent, that way if I freeze the pies, I know what they are).
At this stage you can tightly wrap the pies with foil and freeze them, or you can bake. (A frozen pie can be put right into the oven and baked, too; no need to thaw. They take about an extra 30 - 45 minutes, though)
To bake the pie, preheat the oven to 400*F.
Brush the top crust of the pie with eggwash.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 - 50 minutes until the inside is hot and the crust is done to your desired degree of golden brown-ness. (I think these pies are best when they are quite golden).
You may also freeze the pies at this stage, too. Cool them, and then wrap them tightly.
NOTE: The amount of oil and cognac will vary on how large your pot is and how many batches you have to work in. These are the amounts I used for about 4 batches (1 for the onions and 3 batches of meat). It is important to work in batches if your pot is not large enough for all of the meat so that the meat can evenly brown, instead of browning only on the bottom and steaming on top. You will need to add a little more oil to the pot for each batch, and then deglaze after each batch with the cognac.