Natchitoches is a picturesque small town in Central Louisiana. For a small town, it has a lot going for it. It’s the home of Northwestern State University, Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (think Big Bang Theory and Glee all in one high school), it was the setting and home of the real “Shelby” for the 1989 classic Steel Magnolias. Oprah even visited in 2002 when one of her audience members declared that “everyone in Natchitoches loved Oprah”. But this little village’s biggest claim to fame has to be the Natchitoches meat pie. They’re a wonderful mixture of beef, pork, onions and peppers all wrapped up in a pie crust and deep fried. They’re delicious! You can bet Oprah had a few when she was in town!
Think of them as the cajun equivalent of the empanada. Beef and pork are traditional, however some are using pork sausage now to bump up the flavor. I’m going old school here and using equal portions of beef and pork.
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1/2 lb. ground pork (see notes below)
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 small green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 3/4 c. homemade beef stock or low-sodium beef stock (see notes below)
- 1 Tble cornstarch
Brown meats in a large skillet. Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 3 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Dissolve cornstarch in beef stock. Pour stock/cornstarch mixture over meats and vegetables. Cook over medium-high heat until sauce is thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Pour into bowl and chill in refrigerator about an hour or longer.
- No pork? No problem! You can substitute 1/2 pound ground turkey for the pork, but you might need to add a little olive oil to keep it moist. You can also use all beef. That works too.
- Store bought broths and stocks are very high in sodium. If you’re using store bought, use the low-sodium variety and add your salt at the end. It’s easy to add more salt but once you’ve gone too far it’s too late.
The traditional size is 5 or 6 inches in diameter. However, since I was making mine for a neighborhood get-together I decided to make minis. I used a glass with a 3 1/2 inch opening and traced with my knife.
For the crust:
- 2 c. flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 c. butter (1 stick), cubed
- 1/3 c. milk
- 1 egg yolk
- egg wash (one egg, scrambled and mixed with 1 tsp. water)
Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal and butter is incorporated. Mix egg yolk and milk in a measuring cup. While processor is running, pour milk and egg mixture through the hole in the top and process until liquid is absorbed, about 30 seconds. It should hold together when pressed. Remove from bowl to a lightly floured board. Knead 30 seconds until it is dough-like. Form into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator at least 2 hours.
After filing and dough have been thoroughly chilled, remove from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature 10-15 minutes. Place dough, one disc at a time, out onto a lightly floured counter and roll to a 1/8″ thickness. Cut as many pastry circles as will fit. You can use the scraps piecing them together with a ¼” overlap, then roll out, covering holes with scraps as needed. Working with one circle at a time, roll each one out in the middle slightly to form a slightly oblong circle. Place 1 teaspoon of filing onto center of pastry circle. Brush edges with egg wash and fold to seal, being careful to squeeze out most of the air. Crimp with a fork. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment. After all meat pies are formed, place baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to one hour.
After meat pies have chilled, remove them from the refrigerator. Heat several inches of oil in a high sided pan over medium-high heat until oil reaches 350 degrees. Very gently, place 3 or 4 (depending on size) meat pies into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes, flipping over once during cooking. Remove from oil and drain onto a plate lined with paper towels. Serve immediately.
I served mine with an Indian sweet and spicy mango chundo which took them from great to fan-freaking-tastic! The combination of the sweet mango chundo with the spicy meat and buttery crust was delicious. If you can find some chundo in your area (check an international store or Indian store if you have one), I highly recommend it!!