You might have noticed that I enjoy beer. Good beer. People often ask me what is my favorite beer and that is a really hard question to answer. There are so many types of good beer around the world. It’s an exploration of flavor and experiences. There’s the beer itself, and then there are the places and people that go along with the beer. It all adds to the enjoyment.
When I’m asked about my favorite beers, one vision that comes instantly to mind is British ale, Real Ale served cask conditioned in a cozy pub surrounded by friendly people. I’ve enjoyed many trips to England over the years, and it’s always a highlight to visit local pubs serving delicious local Real Ale in top condition. The publicans appreciate flavor and know their clientele. A pub cannot survive selling poor quality.
On my first trips to England 30 years ago, the pubs had fine beer, but the food was just sustenance for the drinking. I recall bread, cold cuts, overdone beef, pizza covered with canned corn! Of course there were exceptions, but now the places that don’t serve fine food are more the exception. The choices range from gourmet fare to standard pub favorites, and even the latter are taken to a high standard these days. Some of the best foods I have eaten have been in pubs in England.
When traveling, I tend to seek out the local specialties. One such specialty I am particularly fond of is the savory pies. I am a sucker for pies of all kinds, but a crisp, hot flaky crust enclosing a rich meaty filling is just about the perfect accompaniment to a delicious pint of cask conditioned bitter or mild ale.
So today I have a recipe I have been working on for my twist on a classic: Steak and Kidney Pie. The dish is traditionally made with beef kidney, but I find myself with a supply of pork kidneys due to my butchering of hogs. I also modified with some foraged wild mushrooms, since we seem to always have some on hand.
You can use any pie crust recipe you like for this. I happen to like one from Julia Child. I make a batch big enough for four pies. Bake one pie and freeze the other three. You can take a disk of the dough out of the freezer, and by the time the pie filling is made, the dough is ready to roll. The pie dough works for any pie or quiche, too.
For the pie filling, my recipe below makes enough for two 8-inch pies, about 12 cups. Either cut it in half for one pie, or and make the full batch and bake two pies or bake one now and one later.
Steak and Kidney Pie with Wild Mushrooms
- 3 lbs. beef, I prefer steaks cut from the rib end of a chuck, some use skirt or other steak
- 3 lbs. pork kidney, I cut them in half and soak in salt water in the refrigerator overnight
- 1 lb. wild mushrooms, for this one I used hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa)
- 4T lard or oil
- 1 bottle stout beer
- 1 quart beef stock
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1T Worcestershire sauce (I use my homemade version)
- 1T Maggi liquid seasoning
- 2T tomato paste
- 2 oz. port
- salt, pepper, herbs to taste (I prefer thyme and marjoram)
- 2T corn starch
- pie dough for two pies (use your favorite recipe)
- 1 egg beaten
Dice the beef in small bites. Rinse the soaked kidneys, trim out any white parts and dice the rest in small bites. Season the meats with salt and pepper.
Heat the lard or oil in a Dutch oven. Add the meat and brown in small batches. Remove and reserve each batch of browned meat in a bowl.
In the same Dutch oven, adding more lard or oil if needed, brown the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add the carrot and onion and cook until they are lightly browned around the edges. Add the beer and turn the heat up to deglaze the pan and reduce the beer to a caramel coating. Do not burn!
Add the browned meats and the beef stock. Stir in the Maggi, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste. Simmer until the meat is fork tender. This may take an hour or so. I leave the lid on most of the time, and then I take the lid off near the end if it needs to reduce. You don’t want too much liquid or the pie filling will fall out of the crust when you cut the pie. Each bite of the pie needs to opportunity for steak, kidney, and mushroom with a bit of crust.
Finish with the port, herbs, and salt and pepper as needed to taste.
Remove a bit of the liquid to a small bowl and make a slurry with the corn starch, return this slurry to the pot and cook until nice and thick. Allow the mixture to cool. You can prepare the filling ahead of time and refrigerate it.
Preheat oven to 400F. I use an 8-inch spring form pan for this. The pan is non stick. I place the pan on a sheet pan in case it leaks.
Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface. Lift the dough over the spring form pan and lift the edges of the crust to make sure the crust is snug down to the bottom of the pan all the way around. Let the extra drape over the edge of the pan.
Place the filling in the prepared crust. About 6 cups will fill the pan about 2/3 full. Neatly fold the edges of the crust over the top of the filling. Leave or cut a vent hole in the center of the top of the pie for steam to escape. Brush the top with the egg.
Bake the pie about 30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Remove from the oven, remove the spring form pan, and cool for as long as you can stand it without eating. An 8″ pie makes about 6 good servings.
For some reason, I really like this with steamed pole beans. And of course a nice pint of ale.