Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Beef & Blue Cheese Pie
Back in October of last year, Saveur published an article featuring traditional British roast dinners, in which a recipe for steak and Stilton pies caught my attention. Both Mrs. Hackknife and I are fans of beef and blue cheese (she perhaps more so than I), so the thought of having those items together inside of a pie crust had a lot of appeal. The recipe, however, calls for dividing the filling into individual 6" pies and you'd be surprised how difficult it is to find small pie tins out there (even the vaunted Williams & Sonoma came up empty). Due to the lack of proper equipment, I shelved the recipe until such time as I could develop a work-around procedure. Then three months later in Grand Cayman, we watched English chef April Bloomfield make her own version of steak and Stilton pie in a single, large oval dish (you may recall I was suffering some overindulgence problems at the time, but the one bite I was able to swallow down was delicious), spurring me to revisit the dish back at the Commissary.
With a $10 2-quart oval dish procured from Target, I thus bravely forged ahead into the gorse and heather. As always, I made a few modifications from the listed recipe. As you might suspect, mushrooms were out (I'm the creator of this pie, so I get to decide. Sue me.), plus the 1 Tbsp. of butter that would have been needed to brown them in a skillet. Since no fromagerie exists within a 20-mile radius (and I couldn't summon the energy to drive up to Trader Joe's in Orland Park), I settled for the basic crumbled blue cheese found at my local ethnic grocery in lieu of Stilton. Digging through the garage refrigerator, I was able to find a large-format bottle of Zywiec Porter (a somewhat-skunky Polish brew that had been aging in there for a while) to stand in for stout. Lastly, in what may be a first, I actually went above and beyond the instructions to make homemade crust (using Crisco, not suet like Mme. Bloomfield) instead of using packaged puff pastry. All told, the dish takes a little while to prepare (about 2.5 hr), but isn't particularly hard, even if you make the crust (there were a few instances where I came up short on dough coverage in the baking dish; however, I managed to patch it up in the places needed without incident).
You can see the finished product in the photo above. Flavorwise, the missus and I both agreed that it was a touch on the bland side (probably the fault of the cheap blue cheese), but nothing that a little salt couldn't spruce up. The crust turned out wonderfully, browned and crispy and rich, clearly the best part of the melange. The leftovers kept great and improved after a couple of days aging. Maybe next time, I'll try using more of Chef Bloomfield's recipe (which includes beef short rib meat instead of chuck, garlic, red wine, and, of course, the suet in the dough) and possibly go to greater pains to get real Stilton, even if it requires a trip to England for the real thing....