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Natchitoches Spicy Meat Pies

Spicy meat pies, as big as your hand and shaped like a half-moon,are a major specialty in the central Louisiana town of Natchitoches (pronounced “NAK-uh-tish”). That French colonial city boasts being even older than New Orleans. We get our share of meat pies at the Jazz Festival and the like, but the temptation to make them at home is strong. I must warn you that this is not easy. The filling is straightforward, but the dough is a little work (as is all pie dough). And then you have to deep-fry, never any fun. (They can also be baked, but they’re not quite the same that way.) Still, these things are so good that your guests will think they’re worth the work, even when you decide otherwise.

Natchitoches spicy meat pies.

You can make the pies up ahead of time and freeze them, and fry them when ready to serve. They will taste better if you make the meat mixture the day before and refrigerate it.

  • Filling:
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb. lean ground pork
  • 1 lb. ground round
  • 1 Tbs. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Crust:
  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. Crisco
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil

1. Heat the oil and the flour together in a heavy, large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to make a medium-brown roux. Add the onions when the color is right, and saute the onions until they begin to brown slightly. Add the bell peppers. Cook for another minute.

2. Add the pork, beef, Creole seasoning, cayenne and salt. Saute, breaking it up as you go, until well browned. Pour off any excess fat that may have been rendered.

3. Lower the heat and add the celery, garlic, parsley, and Worcestershire. Continue to cook for another five or six minutes, stirring now and then to keep anything from forming clumps.

4. Remove the meat mixture to a big metal pan to cool for a few minutes. Then cover and refrigerate. The pies will be best if the meat can be chilled for several hours or overnight.

5. Crust: In a bowl, blend the salt into the flour, then cut in the Crisco and blend with a whisk till it disappears and makes the flour slightly crumbly.

6. Blend the egg yolks into the milk, and add the milk to the flour. Stir with a kitchen fork till mixed in, then with a rubber spatula to eliminate most of the dry flour. Stir as little as possible.

7. Dump the dough onto a clean work surface and roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds, to make three layers. Roll out again, this time to the thickness of two stacked quarters. (This will make it pretty wide; you might want to cut it in half.) Cut out circles about six inches in diameter. Handling as little as possible, roll out the leftover dough to cut another batch of circles.

8. Spoon about three tablespoons of the meat mixture onto one half of a dough circle. Moisten the edge of the circle with a little water. Fold the circle over into a half-moon, and press down the edges with a fork to seal.

9. Heat the two quarts of vegetable oil in a heavy, deep kettle to 350 degrees. Fry no more than two pies at a time until golden brown. Let the heat of the oil recover between batches.

Makes 18-24 pies.