Last weekend, I was leaving the Blind Butcher, and some glistening crusts caught my eye through the glass. Five or six puck-shaped pastries that looked suspiciously like meat pies were sitting on a shelf inside the deli case. Chef Oliver Sitrin was behind the case, so I asked him if they were indeed English pastries. He nodded.
I asked him, "The real deal -- with gelatin and everything?" He nodded again and told me they'd just been added to the menu. If I hadn't just consumed a meal that included a burger and macaroni and cheese a few hours earlier I would have plopped right back down on a bar stool. I resolved to come back soon.
I waited three or four days before the idea that that little meat pie and a beer would make a pretty good meal all on its own overtook me. Out back on the patio, I tried to order a pork pie and a huge, one-liter beer. It seemed perfect to me: itty bitty meat pie, and one of those massive one-liter beers, just for the juxtaposition, and maybe because I wanted to be able to say I just had one beer.
But the staff had no clue what I was talking about. I told the bartender I'd seen them when I walked in, I was sure of it. She went back, asked and told me, yes, those were pork pies. They were portioned out and served with the charcuterie board, she said.
Thing was, I didn't want a sliver of pork pie on a board next to a frou frou slice of cured meat with some almonds sprinkled about; I wanted to eat a pork pie on its own and slug a beer. I sent her back to the kitchen to see if anything could be done, and five or so minutes later the board pictured above landed in front of me and I felt like a proper Anglophile. (Except I should have ordered a pint.)
I should tell you I know very little about English meat pies. I've eaten one that a friend smuggled back from England and then, in a desperate attempt to recreate the delicacy, I read a ton about their construction and then totally failed to make a good one. From what I've read though, and based on the single illicit meat pie I ate years ago, I'm relatively certain what's served at the Blind Butcher is indeed the real deal.
Tina Miller, who works in the kitchen with Sitrin and is also an expat, says she modeled the recipe after the pies she ravenously consumed in Lincolnshire. The pork filling is seasoned with mace, nutmeg and plenty of salt and pepper. It's then wrapped up in a hot fat pastry made with lard.
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If you've ever made a piecrust, you know that ice-cold ingredients are the key to good structure and a flaky crust, but hot, fat crusts are exactly the opposite. The lard is melted and then incorporated into the flour, which yields something more crumbly and tender as opposed to crisp and flaky It's almost like fatty short bread.
It's also water tight, so it hangs on to the gelatin that Miller uses, which is a byproduct of all the pig ears they braise for another dish. The pies are baked, then cooled and then the gelatin is injected into the crusts. Everything sets up in the fridge, and then it's time to break out the mustard.
You'll likely get a quarter of the pie on your charcuterie plate when you order, which considering the richness of this dish is probably a good thing. After devouring mine I walked down the street and got a popsicle, and I'm pretty sure I don't have to eat till Friday.
Still, it's exciting to see such a labor-intensive delicacy on a menu here in Dallas. I've been looking for a pie just like this one for about five years now stateside, and now you can find yours in the amount of time it takes you to drive to Greenville Avenue.