It took me a long time to post a pasty recipe here, largely because Cornish pasties are one of my favorite lunches and I wanted to get things right.
And while technically this is a venison pasty, don’t get hung up on that. Any meat will do. Or use mushrooms if you are a vegetarian.
The world loves mobile pockets of awesome, from Mexican empanadas and burritos to Chinese steamed pork buns to, well, yes, actual Hot Pockets. The portability and versatility of them are tailor made for busy humans.
The pasty falls firmly into this category. A pasty, variously pronounced “pah-stee,” or “pay-stee,” but mostly with the nasal flat “a” that makes saying pasty a bit like the braying of a sheep. Originally from Cornwall, this is the quintessential lunch of miners. And miner brought pasties wherever they went.
There is an official pasty recipe, both for the dough and the filling. The official filling is skirt steak, waxy potatoes, rutabagas, onions and salt and pepper. That’s it. If this is the filling you want, you can find details for it here.
But each group of miners created their own pasty recipe as they migrated around the world. You can find them in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Butte, Montana, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Wisconsin is where I learned about them, at a place called Myles Teddywedgers at the top of State Street. On a cold, Wisconsin day, a big ole’ pasty really hit the spot, especially since I was running marathons at the time.
He had the traditional pasty, which is what I ate most, but since then — this was back in 1993 — they have played with the fillings to their hearts content. Doubtless, Cornishmen would be appalled. Sorry not sorry.
Later I learned about Hidalgo, in Mexico. Cornish miners settled there, too, and they brought their pasty recipe with them. But as you can imagine, the Mexicans would think that receta was sosa, bland. Instead, they took the basic dough recipe and filled it with things, wondrous things.
Pork guisados, beef stews, poblanos and cheese, you name it. The pasty was set free!
So this is where I want you to go. Follow my pasty recipe only as a guide, although the dough is very good and is pretty close to the traditional in Cornwall. Fill it with whatever you wish. Some ideas:
- For something close to classic, fill your pasties with my venison and kidney pie recipe. No kidneys? Leave them out.
- I absolutely am in love with pasties filled with venison carne guisada, a recipe from Durango, north and west of Hidalgo.
- Any of my venison stew recipes will work as a filling, once you cook them down.
- Cochinita pibil is a fantastic filling, as is wild turkey carnitas or venison barbacoa.
- Not into meat? My mushroom pierogi filling works great in a pasty.
I could go on and on. But some more general tips to help you make your own pasty recipe:
- It has to be thick. So if you start with a stew, cook it down, so it gels up in the fridge. That will make it easier to fill when you make them, and less runny when you eat them.
- Cheese, while not traditional, is always a good idea. If you like cheese, that it. Melty cheese is really what you want.
- The pieces of whatever should not be overly large. Pasties are big empanadas, sure, but a big honkin’ piece of rutabaga will break the dough when you fold it over.
- Add soft herbs like parsley or cilantro once the filling cools. That will keep them bright and fresh when you bake them.
- The egg wash glaze really makes a difference, if only visually. It looks super cool. And if you don’t do dairy, just whisk the eggs with water.
Finally, no matter what pasty recipe you come up with, you will want to crimp the edges of your pasties the way they do in Cornwall. This is a fantastic video showing the process. (The crimping is at the 1:50 mark)
- 500 grams bread flour, about 17 ounces
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 120 grams duck fat, lard or rendered beef fat, about 4 ounces
- 120 grams butter, about 4 ounces
- 175 milliliters cold water, about 6 fluid ounces
- 1 pound venison, diced
- 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/2 pound rutabagas, peeled and diced
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk or water
- Mix the flour and salt together. Add the two fats, and work them into the flour with your fingers until everything looks like a coarse meal. Pour in the cold water and knead for several minutes, until you get a smooth dough.
- Squeeze off 10 equally sized balls of dough. Set them in a plastic bag and put that in the fridge for 3 hours.
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. That's it. In this case, you put raw ingredients into the pasty and they cook as the dough cooks. I either do this, or add a premade filling as I mention in the headnotes above. Whatever you use, use the recipe above to give you a sense of how much filling you will need.
MAKE THE PASTIES
- You can do one of two things. You can roll each ball out into a disk, which is traditional, or, do what I do and use a tortilla press to flatten out the balls into perfect disks every time. It's a great hack!
- Set filling in each disk and close them into half-moons. Press the edges, and try to get any big air pockets out. Crimp the edges as shown in the video in the text above. Set each pasty on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 360°F.
- Whisk together the glaze and paint each pasty with it. Bake your pasties for 50 minutes or so, taking a look about 40 minutes in -- if they are not browning well, up the temperature to 400°F for this final bit. Remove and let cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before eating.