[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Venison Steak and Ale Pie
16 February 2012

In cold weather, my thoughts turn to peasant fare. My passion for gratins is well-documented across this site, but there are other types of hearty, warm food that stir my soul. Pub grub often falls into this category. Bangers and mash, of course. But mostly pies.

Pork pies, steak and kidney pies, pot pies of all sorts and the like. What could be better? Meat, gravy and perhaps vegetables, covered or surrounded by lovely brown pastry. Salty and savory. Just fantastic.

Steak and ale pie is a classic of the genre. And like so many classics, everyone has their favorite recipe or local variation.

So here's mine.

Venison Steak and Ale Pie

[Browned Meat] Begin by dicing the carrot, onion, and mushrooms you don't need to go crazy, but you want smallish cubes. Cut the steak into 1/2" or 3/4" cubes. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, and lightly dust with flour. Heat some grease in a skillet or pot (I used a heavy casserole) and then brown the meat thoroughly, working in small batches. When the meat is all browned, set it aside.

Add the onion and carrot to the skillet, and sprinkle with a bit more flour. Add more grease if necessary. Cook until they are softening up and the flour is a little cooked. Add the mushrooms and give it just another minute or two, then add the beer, the herbs, the garlic, the stock or jelly, and return the steak to the pot. Add a few good dashes of Worcestershire sauce and stir everything up. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, pull the bay leaf out and check the seasoning. I added more black pepper and more Worcestershire, but your mileage may vary. Also decide if it's thick enough for your taste. You want a fairly thick gravy, so you'll probably need to thicken it up some. I used a goose grease manié, since I had goose grease, but a buerre manié would be fine. In either case, what that means is mix roughly equal parts of your lipid and flour until you've got a smooth paste, then add it to the stew and whisk it in. Kick the heat up just a touch since the flour-and-fat won't do its job fully unless you get it up to a boil. Don't worry about it too much, though, since more heat is coming. Speaking of which, preheat the oven to 400F.

Roll out your puff-pastry to a size that will cover whatever dish you intend to bake in. I used the same casserole that I was using on the stove top, which dirties one less dish as a bonus. Let your stew cool for just a minute or two, then put it in the baking dish (or not, if you're using the same dish) and cover it with the pastry. Brush the pastry with the egg wash, pop into the 400F oven and bake for 20 minutes.

[The finished stew] A final word about the steak. It doesn't need to be the most expensive cut you can find. You'll be stewing it for a while, which will help make it tender. Some recipes call for stew meat, in fact. I'd avoid the cuts that really need long cooking times - no shanks or hocks, for instance - but I'd also avoid really pricey steaks.

At any rate, the end result is a rich stew, with a little bit of built in crust to help soak up the juices. Delightful.

© 2012 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite