~Don't Worry, Be Happy: Jamaican-Style Beef Patties~
One patty. That's all it took. A succulent, superbly-spiced, slightly-saucy shredded-meat mixture encased in a flaky, yellow-orange-tinged pie pastry -- similar to any savory turnover ("hand-pie"). It was simply divine, meaning a simple concept with complex flavor. Fortunately, I found out after-the-fact it was prepared with finely-shredded goat meat -- back in my younger days, more likely than not, had I noticed the goats roasting on the spits to the rear of the building, I wouldn't have tried it. That said, a very nice woman at a Caribbean festival in the area of New York City offered me a Jamaican patty. I took it, I ate the entire thing, and I loved every crumbly, succulent bite.
My patty encounter was in the early 1980's. Jamaicans brought recipes for patties to the Southern port cities of the USA, and then to us Yankee's in the 1960's and 1970's, when they came to work as hospital orderlies, home health aides and nurses. Generically referred to as "a patty", "patties" were popularized in restaurants in the New York Metropolitan Area (which had/has a large West Indian population). Prior to that, patties were the product of colonialism. The curry-laced Cornish pasty, a somewhat bland meat-filled pastry (associated with Cornwall, United Kingdom), was introduced to the peoples of the Caribbean Islands. In turn, the pasty was introduced to the heat of the native-to-Jamaica, Scotch bonnet pepper and a few aromatic spices.
Today, August 5th, is National Jamaican patty day.
Throughout the Caribbean, "patties" are a staple, and depending on which country or island they are from or made on, the pastry crusts and the meat fillings (beef, goat, lamb, pork, chicken, fish or seafood) differ quite a bit. Some crusts are baked, others are fried, and still others are more puff-pastry like than pie-dough like. Some pastries contain lard, some contain shortening, others contain butter, and most contain curry powder (which contains turmeric) for color and flavor. Some fillings are spicy hot, others are subdued and bland, and still others are spicy with a sweet edge to them. There's more. Some fillings use ground meat, others use minced meat, and still others use shredded meat.
Part One: Making shredded beef (not ground beef).
I'm referring to my beef patties as Caribbean-style, because I've never been to Jamaica, nor am I in personal contact with any Jamaican chefs. I'm preparing my patties to my liking, based on the patties I have tasted -- some of which I liked, others, not so much -- and that means I'm using some moist, succulent, long-simmered, shredded beef in place of store-bought and sautéed American ground meat. Yes, ground meat versions are much easier to prepare, and, in fact, most Jamaican-Jamaican recipes instruct to use it. That said, my first experience with a Jamaican meat patty contained almost-juicy shredded goat meat, and, the texture was succulent -- so much so, in good conscience, I cannot bring myself to use ground beef. You can thank me later.
4-4 1/4 pounds 1"-1 1'2" lean beef cubes, trimmed from 6 1/2-7 pounds beef chuck roast
1 very large, whole, peeled sweet onion (12-16 ounces)
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 ounce bunch fresh thyme sprigs
8 whole allspice
2 whole bay leaves
8 whole cloves
1 tablespoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon Scotch bonnet pepper powder
10 cups beef stock
~ Step 2. Place the fresh thyme sprigs, whole allspice, bay leaves and cloves atop a small, 6"-8" length of cheesecloth. Gather the cheesecloth up around the herbs and spices. Using kitchen twine, tie, secure and clip the bundle closed.
~Step 3. Place the beef cubes in an 8-quart stockpot along with the onion, garlic cloves, bouquet garni (bundle of herbs and spices), sea salt and Scotch bonnet pepper powder. Add the beef stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally with a large spoon. Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, 2 hours. Remove from heat, cover pot and allow meat to steep in the broth for 1 hour.
~Step 4. Line the bottom of a large bowl with several layers of paper towels. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the beef from the stockpot to the bowl. Allow the paper towels in the bowl time to absorb all the excess liquid from the beef, 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper towels, then, using fingertips, fine shred the beef cubes.
Note: Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the broth, to use as directed below. The remainder, about 2 quarts, is perfectly-seasoned and ready to use in any Carribbean-style recipe that requires beef stock.
Part Two: Making shredded-beef patty filling.
6 cups shredded beef, from above recipe
1 1/2 cups hot beef stock, divided (1 cup + 1/2 cup), from above recipe
1 cup raisins
4 tablespoons Jamaican Pickapeppa steak sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons achiote vegetable oil (vegetable oil colored with annatto)
4 tablespoons hot Jamaican-style curry powder
1/4 teaspoon each (I use a generous 1/4 teaspoon each): ground allspice, ground cloves, ground thyme and Scotch bonnet pepper powder
1 1/2-2 cups finely-diced sweet onion
6 large, whole, garlic cloves, run through a press
2-4-6 tablespoons French-style breadcrumbs (optional and only if needed)*
*Note: I add no bread crumbs, and, if you follow my recipe you won't need them. That said, for those who make substitutions (you know who you are -- you don't follow a recipe, then you complain it doesn't work), if you end up with a soupy filling, stir in some bread crumbs to thicken it.
~Step 1. Place 1 cup raisins in 1-2-cup heatproof measuring container. Ladle 1 cup of the hot beef stock over the raisins and set aside to steep for 30-45 minutes, to plump and soften them. Using a slotted spoon, transfer raisins to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Set aside. To the remaining raisin liquid, stir in 4 tablespoons Pickapeppa steak sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar and enough beef stock to total 1 cup. Set aside.
~Step 2. In a 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot, heat the 6 tablespoons achiote oil over medium heat and stir in the curry powder, ground allspice, cloves, thyme and Scotch bonnet pepper powder. Add the onion and garlic, adjust heat to medium-high and sauce gently until onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the soaked raisins and continue to cook, stirring almost constantly until raisins are steaming, 30-60 seconds.
~Step 3. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the warm or room temp shredded beef -- do this in 2-cup increments and give each addition time, 1-2 minutes, to heat up. Once all the beef has been incorporated, turn heat off, cover pot, and allow the filling to steep on the still warm stovetop, about an hour, to give the flavors time to marry.
Step Three: Making the flaky, curried pie pastry.
4 tablespoons Jamaican-style hot curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
12 ounces cold salted butter (3 sticks)
4 ounces cold butter-flavored shortening
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
~ Step 1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, curry power, sugar and salt. Set aside. Using a chef's knife, cube the butter and cut the shortening into large pieces. Return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In a 1-cup measuring container, combine the water and vinegar. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
~Step 2. Place the flour mixture and the chilled butter-and-shortening pieces in the work bowl of a large-capacity food processor that has been fitted with the steel blade. Using a series of 16-18 rapid on-off pulses, cut the shortening into the flour. The mixture will look light and dry and resemble tiny, irregular flakes and crumbs. Add 8 tablespoons of the acidulated cold water and process in 3-4 rapid-on off pulses. Stop and feel the pastry. It should be just damp enough to mass together but will not have formed a ball in the processor. If necessary, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, processing for just an instant, 1-2 pulses after each addition -- I used 18 tablespoons today. Gather the rough dough up, being careful not to touch the sharp steel blade.
~Step 3. Using a kitchen scale, divide dough into 6 parts, 8 ounces each, form each into a ball, then a disc. Dust each of 6, 8"-9" light-weight disposable or reusable plates with bit of bench flour, then dust the top of each disc. Use a small roller to roll each pastry across the bottom of plate, stack the plates, wrap them in plastic and refrigerator 2 hours or overnight. Tip from Mel: This is a great way to refrigerate and/or freeze pastry because it comes to room temperature and/or thaws quicker, 15-30 minutes.
Part Four: Rolling, filling & baking the patties.
Mise en place -- the French words for "everything in place", meaning: prep all of your ingredients and gather all of your hardware before starting any cooking or baking process. When it comes to rolling, filling and baking Jamaican patties successfully, they are words to live by. Read the following instructions, a few times if necessary. Picture in your mind how my method of removing the pastries from the refrigerator, one-at-a-time, at a designated time in the process, keeps the assembly line of rolling, filling and baking moving at all times. It also keeps the pastry at the perfect, manageable temperature the entire time -- no sticking, ripping or tearing. Never underestimate the power of organization, get your act together, and enjoy the process:
~ Step 1. Before rolling, filling and baking: ready a large pastry board and line 3, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans with parchment (enough to bake 32 patties in 6 batches of 6 patties each, with time for each pan to cool to room temperature in between batches -- do not place filled patties on a warm pan). Ready your favorite rolling pin, a 5"-round pastry cutter and about 1 cup of bench flour. In a small ramekin, prepare the egg wash by beating 1 large egg with 2 tablespoons water, then, get out a pastry brush.
~Step 2. Remove one plate of pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature, to soften, about 15 minutes. Spread some bench flour on the pastry board, place the pastry atop the flour and roll it into a rectangular shape, about 13"L x 6"D and about 1/8"-thick. Use the pastry cutter to cut out two circles, gather up the scraps, then, between the palms of your hands form the scraps into another disk and set it aside. Prior to filling the first two pastry circles, remove another plate of pastry from the refrigerator to soften for 15 minutes, and keep repeating this process until all of the pastries are filled and baked as follows:
~Step 3. Dollop a generous 2 tablespoons of shredded beef filling on one half of each pastry. Use your fingertips to form the meat mixture into an oval shaped mound. Using a pastry brush, paint a bit of egg wash around the perimeter of the pastry. Lift the empty half of the pastry up and over the mounded meat, to form a half moon shape, then gently press down on the edges with the pad of your fingertip. After the edges are sealed with the fingertip, form a decorative edge by lightly pressing the tines of a fork around the half moon, being careful not to poke holes in the pastry.
~ Step 4. As you work, gently transfer pastries to prepared baking pan, six on a pan per batch, continuing to roll the disc of scraps until six pastries are on the baking pan. Lightly paint the tops of patties with egg wash and bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven, 28-30 minutes until light golden. Remove from oven and use a thin spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes prior to serving. The 18 patties in this picture represent three plates (half) of pastry dough and about three cups (half) of the shredded beef filling (both of which, dough and filling, can be frozen and used to fill 18 patties on another day).
Cool on wire rack about 5 minutes prior to serving freshly-made & warm:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; cheese cloth; kitchen shears; kitchen twine; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; large slotted spoon; paper towels; 1-2-cup measuring container; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; large spoon; large-capacity food processor; kitchen scale; plastic wrap; pastry board; rolling pin; pastry brush; 3, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans; parchment paper; thin metal spatula; wire cooling rack
Cook's Note: Every country and culture has their own type of savory, meat-filled pastry. In the case of the Eastern European bierock, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Unlike pizza, hot dog, hamburger and taco, the word bierock conjures up no image in the mind of many foodies. It's worth mention there is no mention of it in The Food Lover's Companion or The Oxford Companion to Food. The ~ Bierock: A Savory Meat, Cabbage & Onion Turnover ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)