The Code of the Woosters, Ch. 2, Part VI
Chapter 2 Menu
- Breakfast: bacon, eggs, kippers, coffee, toast, marmalade
- Brandy & soda
- Cold Lobster with cucumber slices
- Game pie, dinner rolls
The game pie is in the oven — I’ll add the rolls a little closer to the estimated finishing time. And yes, I will indeed be testing my aim later with rolls & pie, Drones-Club style. Right now, though, I’m hanging out, listening to music, drinking a very short beer (remnant of the stout that went into the pie) and eating the closest thing to potato chips I’ve had in months.
I’m also feeling mentally clearer than I’ve felt in a long time. I’m off the fibromyalgia drug I had been taking, after increasing the dose slightly gave me the most hellishly, desperately depressed week I’ve ever experienced. Now I’m waiting a few days for it to clear out of my system before I try the next one (here’s hoping it’s less foggifying and just generally fucks with my head less). I’ll probably have to lay off the drinking (what there is of it — it’s been minimal since I’ve been unwell) for a week or two while I adjust to it, so cheers to the interregnum, to spring sunshine, and to cooking projects just getting to the point of smelling delicious.
I’ve made savory pies a few times, and while I’ve never attempted a game pie, it’s not rocket science — people have been making these since at least the Middle Ages. I skimmed and scanned all the recipes I could find online, and then just winged it. Last night I went out to Woodside, Queens after work to visit one of the outposts of the Balkanized Ottomanelli butchery empire for game acquisition purposes. I read this article on the way over, trying to make sense of the conflicts within the clan, but ended up none the wiser. I can tell you that the missing S on the sign out front is for the late Sal Ottomanelli — his knives are hanging behind the counter in a memorial case. I don’t know if the obliging butcher who helped me pick out a pheasant and some buffalo meet was a direct descendant, but it seems likely.
Game pie can really have any combination of game meat. There’s often pork (sometimes in the form of bacon or lardons) added, but I decided to skip that part. I was hoping for some venison and maybe rabbit to go along with the pheasant, but they were sold out, so buffalo meat, why not? Game Pie Americain.
The recipes I consulted, as I said, were varied. A lot of them were incredibly complicated — many taking days to prepare — so I took a few shortcuts. Rather than make broth from the pheasant bones, I cut to the chase with beef broth. I also, as is my custom, bought a pre-made crust. I know, right? But you know what? I have been doing this for some time now and it works for me. I never buy frozen crusts, only the rolled-up refrigerated kind, and they fill the bill wonderfully.
I only came to this cheater-crust phase of my life after devoting myself to mastering crusts of all kinds. I made killer olive-oil crusts, flakey lard crusts, and world-beater lard & butter crusts. And, in the end, I found they were barely distinguishable from a decent purchased crust, which saved so much time it made me love baking again. Labor-saving devices, ahoy!
So now you know my secret.
Getting the meat off the pheasant was some work, but went smoothly enough. I didn’t need it to look beautiful, since it was going to be chopped into gobbets anyway, so my lack of butchery skills was no real impediment. The buffalo meat was ground so I made it into lumpy little meatballs. I squirreled away the best remains of the pheasant carcass (including the tail, wings, and various bones and bits) into the freezer for stock some other night, and piled the meats into a big bowl to marinate with spices, oatmeal stout (in place of the red wine or port that most recipes called for), and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Meanwhile, I diced a couple of potatoes and a big onion, cooked the onion for a bit, then added beef broth, the potatoes, some garlic, and a few seasonings and let it simmer for a bit. I shoved some breadcrumbs into the meat & marinade, dumped the onion & potato mixture on top, mixed it a bit, put the whole mess in one pie crust and then topped it with another.
I know meat pies often have elaborate pastry designs on the top crust, but I felt more in the mood for a rustic look (i.e. I was lazy). Maybe I need to invest in some pie tools? For now, though, a crimped crust and a few vent holes is as elaborate as I need.
Traditional meat pies in the UK are usually baked in tall springform pans, but lacking that, I used my blue Emile Henry ceramic pie dish. I do not have the words to express how much I love that pie dish. I bought it at an especially penniless point in my life, and it seemed a huge expenditure, but I never regretted it for a moment. It’s just one of those things that makes me happy for reasons I can’t really articulate.
Into the oven it went. The rolls are in, now, too, and I think they’re about done. The pie’s a little trickier — I don’t want to undercook it, but I don’t want to burn it either… A little longer, maybe? The juices are just starting to bubble out the top and the crust is just starting to turn golden brown, so I’ll give it another 15 minutes or so and see what happens.
I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to eat an entire 9” meat pie, but I am hoping to take a cold slice on the season’s first picnic, which I’m planning for tomorrow. (Check A Picnic in Every Park later to find out how that goes.) Game pie seems like a classic picnic food, doesn’t it? Wodehouse doesn’t mention it, and in fact doesn’t mention anyone eating game pie at all, just using it as target practice for dinner rolls at the Drones Club, but I’ll give it a try.
I’m glad I had those chip-like things and beer, or I’d be ravenous by now. The smells are getting very tantalizing, and I know it’s going to need to sit and cool of for a bit before I slice into it.
OK, success. Delicious, delicious success. Well, not so much with the target practice — it took me three, OK, four tries to hit the damn thing. I guess my dinner roll aim needs more practice. My game pie making, however, is excellent as is.
And so that concludes chapter two. A very culinary (and delicious) portion of a very culinary book. Onward to Chapter the Third!