Another pause from the Spanish Tales to mention a brief visit to an interesting Louisiana city. Natchitoches is in Central Lousiana, the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Territory. Initially, it was on the Red River, but a logjam diverted the river and another waterway was formed. It is located on the Cane River. A dam was built down-river and now the city is on Cane River Lake. Natchitoches was the setting for the movie “Steel Magnolias,” and several of the sites in the movie and other interesting points of interests are available for tours. The church used for the movie is down river near the Melrose Plantation. It was built by Augustin Metoyer for the plantation family, is named St Augustin Catholic Church and has a portrait of St. Augustin at the altar and another of Mr. Metoyer in the church foyer. Still an active church a fund raiser is held each fall to help sustain its activities.
In Natchitoches itself, the French influence permeates the entire town. A charming downtown with New Orleans-style building is across the main street from the river. A park lines the river bank and on the Saturday Night that I visited, two different jazz groups from Northwestern University played a free concert. Later we ate crawfish etoufee at a local restaurant, the Landing. At lunch that day we had mini-meatpies, chicken and sausage gumbo and delicious chicken salad at Merci Beaucoup on Church Street. Since no hotels had rooms (we never figured out exactly what was going on in town except a large wedding), we felt fortunate to find a B&B.
My friend and I drove south along the river to the Melrose Plantation. Our guide, a descendant of the first owner, a slave whose freedom was bought by the Frenchman who fathered 10 of her children, gave us a first-class tour. The owner’s crowning accomplishment, aside from running a plantation, was buying freedom
for all of her children and grandchildren. Her descendants and others are Creoles of color in Central Louisiana. The guide and her daughter recommended a convenience store on the main highway that had meat pies, tamales, crackling and other foods. We tried the delicious meat pies, and I munched on the crispy cracklings for several days.
If you haven’t had a Natchitoches meat pie, either make your own or go to Natchitoches. Even though I’m including a recipe, I highly recommend going to Natchitoches.
For the filling:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground meat
1/2 ground pork
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 chopped bell pepper FYI–These three veggies are called the “trinity” in La cooking.
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
l tablespoon flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
A “dash” of the following: paprika, dried oregano and dried thyme.
For the pastry:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons lard
3/4 cup milk
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water)
Solid vegetable shortening for deep-frying
Or prepared pie crust. (This is a good choice if you make miniature pies. This recipe makes such a rich pie that the minis are a great choice.)
In a large skillet heat oil and cook beef and pork, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, Essence, cayenne and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are wilted, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to3 minutes.
Dissolve the flour in the water and add to the meat mixture. Stir until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the green onions. Mix well and let cool.
In a mixing bowl, sift together flour salt, and baking powder. Cut in the lard until mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small beat the egg with the milk. Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, working it to make a thick dough. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll each portion of dough into a thin round of about 5 inches in diameter. Place about 1/4 cup of meat filling in the center of each round and brush edges lightly with egg wash. Fold edges together and crimp closed with a fork. (If using a prepared dough, just cut as many as possible from the rolled crust. Use the scrap to reform a ball and roll into a round. For miniature pies, cut 3″ circles.)
Heat shortening in a deep pot or electric deep-fryer to 350 degrees F. Fry the pies. To bake, set oven at 350 degrees F. and bake until the crust is golden brown.
Hmm. I have a free evening. These would taste SO-O-O-O-O GOOD.
Happy cooking and eating.