MEAT Pies

They're patently old-fashioned and homey. At the moment, they also are gloriously chic. Meat pies, redolent with herbs and spices and rich in good, simple fresh flavor, are enjoying a return to popularity on America's dinner tables. Trendy restaurants and takeout delicatessens feature them. Supermarket frozen food cases are filled with them. It's obvious these earthy casseroles that have survived generations of food fads have once again earned a prominent spot on menus everywhere. And why not? After all, a meat pie is the quintessential comfort food.

BEEF POT PIE

Whether cooked in individual casseroles or one large one, a Beef Pot Pie is a wonderful treat after a long and busy day. Cubes of cooked beef roast are simmered with onion, carrot, corn and peas until the flavors are well blended, then sealed in a casserole with a rich, Swiss cheese-flavored pastry crust. Serve the casserole with a crisp green salad for a satisfying meal.

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped peeled carrot

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can clear beef broth

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can clear chicken broth

1/2 cup flour

4 cups diced cooked beef, drippings reserved

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained

1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained

Salt, pepper

Pastry

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Heat oil in skillet. Saute onion, garlic, celery and carrot in oil until tender. Combine beef and chicken broths. Add water to measure 4 cups. Add to vegetables. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Combine flour and 2/3 cup water, stirring until smooth. Stir into simmering broth. Heat and stir until boiling and thickened. Stir in meat, horseradish, peas and corn. Add any beef drippings left from roasting meat to broth. Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mixture into 2 1/2-quart oven-proof casserole or individual 4- to 5-inch oven-proof casseroles. Set aside while making Pastry.

Roll Pastry to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut round or rounds of dough 1/2 inch larger than tops of casseroles. Press Pastry against edges of each casserole to seal. Sprinkle cheese over Pastry. Place casseroles on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes or until pastry is golden. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Pastry

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons shortening

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until size of peas. Stir in cheese. Add enough water so dough clings together. Gather into ball.

Our easy version of a Shepherd's Pie combines cooked lamb with quick-cooking frozen and canned vegetables. Topped with a rim of Cheddar cheese-flavored mashed potatoes, it's a rich, all-in-one meal for a cool evening.

SHEPHERD'S PIE

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup rose wine

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon dried fines herbes

1 (10-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables

3 cups diced cooked lamb

1 (1-pound) can boiled onions, drained

Salt, pepper

Seasoned mashed potatoes

Shredded Cheddar cheese

Melt butter in large saucepan and stir in flour. Gradually stir in water, wine and milk. Add fines herbes. Cook, stirring, over low heat until sauce bubbles and thickens. Add vegetables, lamb and onions and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Turn mixture into 2-quart casserole. Spoon mashed potatoes (or pipe from pastry bag) around outer edge of casserole. Sprinkle potatoes with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees 30 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned and lamb mixture is bubbly. Makes 6 servings.

OLIVE-ARTICHOKE-SAUSAGE PIE

A quiche-like entree, our Olive-Artichoke-Sausage Pie is delicious either hot or cold. Ingredients popular in Italian cookery--ricotta cheese, artichoke hearts, sweet Italian sausage and olives--blend in an appetizing fashion in this elegant, yet easy, main dish pie.

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage

1 (9-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts

2 eggs

1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives

1 pound ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shell or (10-inch) tart pastry shell

Pimiento strips

Simmer sausage in water to cover 5 minutes. Drain and cut into thin slices. Simmer artichokes in small amount boiling water 5 minutes. Drain. Combine eggs, olives, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses in blender and blend until combined. Sprinkle sausage and artichokes over bottom of pastry shell. Spread cheese mixture over surface. Bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Garnish with pimiento strips. Makes 8 servings.

Another open-face easy meat pie combines chunks of ham with apples and bread crumbs in a pie shell made of refrigerated biscuits. A warm, orange-flavored maple syrup is spooned over each serving of this simple creation. Keep this one in mind for a last-minute company brunch.

HAM-APPLE PETAL PIE

1 (8- to 10-ounce) can refrigerated biscuits

1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham

2 tablespoons orange juice

3 apples, peeled and sliced

1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash ground cloves, optional

Syrup

Separate biscuit dough into 1/4-inch layers to line bottom and sides of 9-inch pie plate. Press edges together to form crust.

Mix ham and orange juice. Arrange 1 layer apple slices over crust. Spoon ham on top of apple slices.

Mix together bread crumbs, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in small bowl.

Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons crumb mixture over ham. Arrange apple slices over top of ham. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over top. Bake at 350 degrees on lowest rack in oven about 25 minutes or until top edges of biscuit crust are golden brown. Serve warm with Syrup on side. Makes 6 servings.

Syrup

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup orange juice

1 stick cinnamon, optional

Combine maple syrup, orange juice and cinnamon stick. Heat just until syrup starts bubbling. Do not boil. Keep warm until serving time.

This old-fashioned biscuit-topped chicken stew is high on both flavor and ease of preparation. It's also good enough and pretty enough to serve to company. But be prepared. A single serving is rarely enough for anyone who likes good food.

CHICKEN POT PIE

2 chicken breast halves

4 chicken thighs

1 small onion, quartered

1/2 small carrot

Salt

4 black peppercorns

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 cup diced onions

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced peeled carrots

1/2 cup diced peeled potatoes

1 teaspoon chicken base

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves

Pepper

1/3 cup flour

Biscuit Dough

1 egg white, beaten

Place chicken breasts and thighs, onion and carrot in saucepot. Add water to cover. Season to taste with salt and add peppercorns. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from broth. Strain broth. Add water to measure 5 cups. Set aside.

Remove chicken from bones and cut into bite-size chunks. Set aside.

Melt butter in 4-quart saucepan. Saute diced onions, celery and carrots until tender. Add reserved broth and potatoes. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken base and rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Blend flour and 1/2 cup water until smooth. Stir into simmering broth. Heat to boiling, stirring until thickened. Mix in chicken. Turn into 13x9-inch baking pan. Keep warm while preparing Biscuit Dough.

Roll Biscuit Dough into 12x8-inch rectangle. With a dull knife, lightly score top diagonally, forming diamond-shaped biscuits. Do not cut completely through dough. Carefully lift dough and place on top of hot chicken mixture. Brush with egg white. Bake at 425 degrees 15 to 25 minutes until biscuit topping is golden brown and cooked through. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Biscuit Dough

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon freshed snipped sage

1/2 teaspoon snipped thyme

3/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup buttermilk

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, sugar, sage and thyme. Cut in shortening. Stir in buttermilk just until dough clings into ball.

A simple hamburger pie becomes a glamorous entree with the addition of asparagus and the piquant flavoring of Roquefort cheese. If the blue-veined cheese is not to your liking, simply replace it with one you do like.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON PIE

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 pound ground round steak

Salt, pepper

1/3 cup tomato paste

1 cup sour cream

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup cooked rice

4 to 6 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled

1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed, or 1 (10-ounce package) frozen asparagus spears, thawed

Pastry for 2-crust (9-inch) pie

Milk or water

Melt butter in skillet. Saute carrots and onion in butter until onion is tender and translucent. Add meat and brown, about 2 minutes. Drain off excess fat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in tomato paste.

Thoroughly blend sour cream and eggs. Stir in cooked rice, meat mixture and crumbled Roquefort. Blanch fresh asparagus in rapidly boiling water, then drain well. Do not cook thawed asparagus.

Line 9-inch pie pan with half of pastry. Turn meat mixture into pastry-lined pan. Arrange asparagus spears on top of meat. Brush pastry rim with milk. Top with other half of pastry. Pinch sides together around rim. Make one or more slits in top for steam to escape.

Bake at 400 degrees 45 minutes or until golden brown. If rim browns too quickly, place 2 1/2-inch-wide strip foil over rim edges during last of baking period. Let stand few minutes before cutting into wedges to serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

A sturdy cornmeal-topped ground pork pie will be a favorite with those who like Mexican flavorings. This is a hearty casserole that will go well with a simple salad and a cold glass of beer.

PORK PONE PIE

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

1 medium onion, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1/2 cup raisins

2 teaspoons sugar

Cornmeal Topping

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Chopped parsley

Lightly brown ground pork and onion in large skillet. Pour off drippings. Sprinkle chili powder and salt over meat. Add undrained tomatoes, undrained pinto beans, tomato sauce, raisins and sugar. Cover and cook slowly 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare Cornmeal Topping while meat mixture is cooking. Stir 1/2 cup cheese into hot meat mixture and turn into 3-quart casserole. Drop topping by tablespoons on top of bubbling hot meat mixture to make 6 biscuits. Bake at 425 degrees 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and chopped parsley. Makes 6 servings.

Cornmeal Topping

1 cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, beaten egg and melted butter.

Note: Cornmeal Topping can be prepared with one (8 1/2-ounce) package corn muffin mix, if desired. Follow directions on package.

Prepared in individual casseroles, Chile Verde Pot Pies will appeal to those who are real aficionados of spicy food. These can be baked and frozen for future use, if desired. Reheat them in a microwave or conventional oven.

CHILE VERDE POT PIES

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 (7-ounce) cans green chile salsa

3 long green chiles, seeded and chopped

1 serrano chile, chopped

2 teaspoons oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds

Salt

3 small tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained

1/4 cup chopped black olives

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Cornmeal-Cheese Topping

Brown pork in oil in large, heavy saucepan. Add garlic and onion and saute until tender. Stir in chile salsa, chopped long green and serrano chiles, oregano and cumin. Season to taste with salt. Cover and simmer until pork is tender, about one hour. Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes, olives and cilantro.

Divide mixture among 4 to 6 small individual casseroles. Divide Cornmeal-Cheese Topping among casseroles, spreading evenly to cover tops. Bake at 375 degrees about 45 minutes or until cornmeal is baked through. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Cornmeal-Cheese Topping

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cornmeal

1 egg, beaten

1 cup diced Jack cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine milk, butter, chili powder and salt in saucepan and heat to boiling. Gradually stir in cornmeal. Heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Mix in egg and cheeses.

A Norwegian cheese is used to add flavor to this delicious ground pork pie. The crisp pastry crust is made with sour cream, and the cooked pie is served with an easy dill-flavored sour cream sauce. It makes a scrumptious meal.

SCANDINAVIAN PORK POT PIE

2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup shortening

1 cup sour cream

2 eggs

2 pounds ground pork

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Dill weed

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup shredded nokkelost cheese

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup

2 tablespoons milk

Combine flour and 1 teaspoon salt in bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in 1/2 cup sour cream and 1 egg. Form into ball and chill several hours.

Brown pork in skillet, stirring with spoon to break into bits. Add garlic, mushrooms and onion. Cook several minutes until vegetables are tender. Pour off drippings. Blend in parsley, 1/4 teaspoon dill, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Divide pastry in half. Roll out on lightly floured board to fit 12x7-inch baking dish or 9-inch pie plate. Stir cheese and 1/2 cup soup into meat mixture. Spoon into prepared crust.

Roll out remaining pastry to cover top of pie. Crimp edges to seal. Pierce top with fork. Brush with remaining egg, beaten. Bake at 375 degrees 45 minutes or until crust is golden.

Combine remaining soup, remaining sour cream, milk and 1/8 teaspoon dill weed. Heat over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Serve hot with pie. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Food styling by MINNIE BERNARDINO and DONNA DEANE / Los Angeles Times

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