Meat Pies and Endless Summer Fun with Aspic

Hey Vintage Eaters, sorry we’ve been silent for a minute! A lot has been going on lately – Summer has started, and with it a laundry list of seasonally-appropriate stuff to do. But cooking has most assuredly happened! Check out our Facebook page for on-the-fly shots of the aspics we’ve molded and the meat pies that we’ve baked. Nothing says Summer like meat jello, eh?

Speaking of meat pies.. we seem to be on a bender. Somebody mentioned sometime recently that they liked them, and we liked that somebody so much that we decided to get good at making them. They’re great too – really quite easy to make!

With the same dough, you can play with dozens of different filling combinations to make them Italian, Russian, Greek, Mexican. Whatever veggies you want to incorporate, whatever ground meat you prefer, whatever herb and spice combination appeals to you, cheese, no cheese.. So awesomely versatile. And tasty. Like, grab-two-and-keep-one-in-your-glovebox-for-later kind of delicious.

We’re finding the same sort of versatility with aspics, where you take a flavored liquid, some gelatin, meat and some vegetables and just suspend. When faced with aspics, we’ve observed that people often fall into one of two camps: they either adore it or the texture/concept totally grosses them out.

We belong to the former group, having cut our teeth (nah, not really possible – it’s gel) on Russian holodets. Every time we eat it, it takes us back to the old country. To babushka and the dacha, and entire afternoons of holiday celebrations with two eating shifts – one initial gorge session, followed by a walk through the forest to let things settle and a second go-around to fill the room that just opened up.

These two foods are real vintage eats to us, inspired by grandparents’ cooking. Read on for pirozhki and a spin-off recipe amendment for calzones! We’ll write about holodets next time in a post wrapping up our visit to Pete and Jen’s and the menu inspired by it.

Here’s what you’ll need for the dough (found here, courtesy of somebody by the name of Taylor; amended for ease of use by Jen):

4 cups All-Purpose flour (you can substitute half whole wheat flour – the end result is not quite as fluffy as with all white flour)
1 (.25 oz) package of active dry yeast
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup warm water
3 eggs

Activate yeast by dissolving it in the warm water and waiting 10-15 minutes until it’s bubbly. Combine the other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk to break them up. Warm the milk over medium heat, then whisk in the eggs and oil. Take the milk mixture off of the heat and start stirring it into the flour.

Stir until the dough starts to come together and pull away from the sides of the bowl, adding flour as necessary if it’s too wet. We added another 1/2 cup, but how much additional flour you’ll need will depend on the size of your eggs, the weather, the milk. What you’re looking for is something akin to bread dough. Cover it with a towel and let it rise, until it doubles in size.

While your dough rises, start working on the filling for your pirozhki or calzones.

For pirozhki, you’ll need:

1 lb of ground beef, veal, pork – the best filling, we’ve found, is a combination of veal and pork
4 cloves of garlic, minced
5 garlic scapes, minced
1/2 cup of dill, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Brown the meat, along with garlic and garlic scapes. Break up the meat into smaller pieces as it browns, so that it will fit more easily inside the dough. Add dill, salt and pepper at the end. Let the filling cool.

For calzones, use all of same ingredients, except substitute basil for dill and add some mozzarella cheese to your shopping list.

Get your baking sheet ready and preheat your oven to 400. Flour your board or table and pinch off golf ball-sized portions of dough. Roll (or stretch, if you’re like us) the pieces into disks. Spoon the meat mixture into the center of the circle, about 2 Tbsp. Grab the top of the disk and stretch it over the filling, then pinch the ends shut. Run a fork over them to seal.

Put them on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, rotating once for even browning.

Check back again soon to see what we do with the pig trotter, ears and tongues we’ve still got from Pete and Jen’s. Thanks go out again to Eugene Kolnick for these photos.

Published in: on 3 July, 2011 at 14:20  Leave a Comment  

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