Updated Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Total Time: 45
Yield: 8 servings
Another nod to British cooking, these Beef & Ale Pies get a pleasingly bitter edge from a small amount of dark ale in the gravy. You can bake them ahead and freeze for an easy portable meal--just put them right from the freezer into a 300° oven until warm.
First, make the dough: In a medium-size bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Sprinkle butter over flour mixture and use your fingers to work it in (rub your thumb against your fingertips, smearing the butter as you do). Stop when mixture looks like cornmeal, with plenty of lumps.
Sprinkle in 10 tablespoons chilled beef broth, and stir with a fork until dough comes together. If needed, add another tablespoon or two of broth. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times. Dough should look mottled, with streaks of butter. Gather into a ball; then press into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (up to 3 days).
Make the filling: In a shallow bowl, stir together flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper. Add beef cubes and toss. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoons oil. Add floured beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Lower heat to medium and add onion, celery, thyme, garlic, and remaining salt. Cook, stirring often, until lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add another tablespoon of oil if needed.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring beef broth to a simmer. Add carrot and potato, and cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain vegetables, reserving broth. Set aside.
When onion mixture is done, pour in ale, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add reserved beef broth and stir; then add browned beef, carrots, and potatoes. Simmer until sauce reduces to a thick gravy, 6 to 8 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400° and set rack to middle position. Prepare the crust: Sprinkle counter with flour; then unwrap dough, divide into 8 equal portions, and turn in flour to coat. Roll one piece of dough out to a 7-inch circle.
Scoop about 1/3 cup filling into center, and fold crust over filling to make a half-moon shape, leaving a 1/2-inch border between top crust and bottom. Fold bottom edge up over top and crimp edges to seal. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling until you have 8 hand pies.
Brush crusts with egg wash and decorate with fresh thyme leaves if you like. Bake until pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.
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