Savory pies are near and dear to my heart, reminding me of trips to London with my mother, who would let me eat pasties while we walked the old streets in between church and museum visits. At the time, I didn't know anything about beef suet crust, of course — I just knew British meat pies were the best thing I'd ever had the pleasure of eating. Now, I like to make this version on very cold nights, when it feels exceptionally rich and comforting.
Technique tip: The key to this dish is to make the beef filling a day in advance to give the flavors time to meld. Be sure the filling is cold before going into the dough, otherwise it will melt the crust before it even has a chance to bake.
Beef Suet Dough (makes enough for two 12-inch pie crusts)
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 4½ teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 ounces beef suet, finely chopped or ground through a medium die (2½ cups), well chilled
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 pounds boneless short rib, cut into 2-inch cubes
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 pound pearl onions (2 cups), peeled and trimmed
- 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1⅓ cups white wine, such as Chardonnay
- 5 cups beef stock
- 1 bunch thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 13 ounces fingerling potatoes
- 1/2 recipe beef suet dough (recipe above)
- 1 ounce cambozola cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- Flaky sea salt, for finishing
For the beef suet dough:
1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and beef suet and process until the mixture looks like rough ground cornmeal. With the machine running, slowly stream 1/2 cup cold water into the processor until the dough forms a ball.
2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, rotating the dough and adding flour as necessary to avoid sticking, until it has a sticky, silky texture, about 50 turns.
3. Form the dough into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to chill before rolling out as directed in any given recipe. Store the dough, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.
For the filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the short rib all over with kosher salt. Working in batches, add the meat and cook, turning, until golden, 6-8 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate, leaving behind the rendered fat and oil in the pot.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are golden brown and the garlic is blistered and golden, 8-10 minutes. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the mixture and toss to coat. Cook until the flour starts to brown, 3-4 minutes.
4. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the wine, bring to a simmer, and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Add 4 cups of the stock, the thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cover, then transfer the pot to the oven and braise until the meat is tender and can be pulled apart with a fork, 2½-3 hours.
5. Meanwhile, in a large pot, combine the potatoes with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch and salt it like the sea. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain immediately. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them into chunks.
6. Remove the meat from the oven, stir the potatoes into the pot, and check for seasoning and consistency. The gravy should have reduced a great deal to thickly coat the back of a spoon, and it should have a velvety texture. If the filling seems dry, add the additional 1 cup stock to loosen it up. Cover and refrigerate the filling until well chilled, a minimum of 4 hours, or ideally overnight.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Roll the dough into a 12-inch round 1/4-inch thick. Place the chilled short rib mixture and all of the gravy in a deep 9- or 10-inch pie dish. Dot the cambozola evenly on top of the filling.
3. Cover the pie with the dough. Trim any overhang and use a fork to crimp the edges, brushing liberally with the beaten egg.
4. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Let the pie rest for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the top with flaky salt and serve.