Meat Pies Recipe

A hearty Alaska winter snack

This week has been cold where I live, clocking temperatures into the negative twenties, easily. Life doesn’t stop at our lodge when it is this cold, but it certainly slows down.

The crew at our lodge is working on building a new cabin. It’s a project they began in the fall, tearing down the old log cabin that has been on our property since the early 1950s. Our lodge was an old hunting camp in those years, and the Red Lake Trail cabin was one of the original buildings remaining.  The team put in the foundation of the cabin before the ground froze, and now they are working in the bitter cold to get the cabin framed in and finished before our busy time surrounding the Iditarod.

My kitchen table is covered with a pile of clothing: face masks, headlamps, caps, gloves, boots, goggles, and more. It’s a process just to get dressed to head outside. The outdoor crew head out when it is daylight, back in for a warm-up of coffee and cookies, and back out the door again. That repeats all day long with a longer break for lunch, and dinner is after the sun has set. In the kitchen, we are cooking all day to keep up with our hard-working crew’s metabolism.

For many years, my husband Carl and his team have been building our cabins themselves. Carl built my kitchen at Winterlake Lodge. It’s a nice 30-foot by 30-foot room with a big worktable that separates the kitchen table from the working area. The worktable is measured to my height and the counter lies just where my hands come to work. Every bit of equipment in the kitchen has been flown in by airplane, including my walk-in refrigerator and two-oven, eight burner stove.

To keep the guys going in cold conditions, we keep plenty of snacks out at the coffee station. Meals are hearty high-carbohydrate affairs and it seems it is the only time the guys sit down all day long.

Today, we made little handheld meat pies similar to Cornish pasties as a snack to send out to the construction site. These meat-filled pastries are easy to handle in the cold weather and are filling as a snack on the go.

I realize that I have been making these little pies and sending them out to my husband at one construction site or other for nearly thirty years now.

Meat Pies
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 8 4-inch pasties
The following is adapted from a recipe included in a cookbook I wrote in the early 1990s. Adjust the fillings to your own personal tastes. We used ground beef, sharp Cheddar cheese, balsamic slow-braised onions, herbs and lots of garlic in today’s version. I’ve included the original recipe but use the same basic procedure to create your signature combination.
Pastry for two 9-inch pie shells
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter
  • ½ cup ice water
Handheld Pie Filling
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into thin rings
  • 1 pound flank steak, diced into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 large baking potato, washed and diced into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 turnip, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pastry for two 9-inch pie shells
  1. Mix the flour and salt together and place onto a counter top.
  2. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces. Rub the flour and butter between your fingertips until the mixture is pea-sized in texture.
  3. Add in the cold water, a little bit at a time, until the dough is just moist enough to form a ball.
  4. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Handheld Pie Filling
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and sauté until it has softened. Add in the onion. Sauté the onion and garlic mixture until the onion is soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Remove the onion and garlic from the pan and set aside. Add in the meat. Sear the meat over medium-high heat, browning on all surfaces. Add in the onion-garlic, mixture, the potatoes and turnip and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about ¼-inch thickness. Use the lid from a saucepan or from a plastic food container to cut out an 8-inch or smaller circle.
  3. Place about ½-cup of mixture into the middle of one circle. Make sure that the dough is clear of any filling around the perimeter of the circle so it will make a seal. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. (Some people like to add a dollop of butter on top of the mixture for a little extra moisture). Moisten the edge of the pastry with a little cold water and fold the dough over and press to seal. Place the pasties onto a greased baking sheet. Fill and fold the remaining pasties.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut a small air vent into the top of each pasty. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 325 degrees, continuing to bake for about 20 minutes more. Serve the pasties hot.