mushroom and stilton pasties

Mushroom and Stilton Pasties

This recipe was one of an entire feast prepared in my recent “Pubs and Taverns” class at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens after a discussion in the special exhibition Bruce Davidson|Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland. (Guinness Stout not pictured.)

English cheeses, though far fewer in numbers than the cheeses of France, have an important place in their diet, with Stilton being one of the finest. Pasties, or turnovers, are common fare in pubs and taverns. In the Middle Ages, mushrooms only appear in pasty recipes. This is not to say that they weren’t prepared other ways, but the vegetable was not considered appropriate for the wealthy table. Because of their mysterious growth and the fact that they lack visible roots, mushrooms were considered excrementa terrae, or excrements of the earth.

For the dough:
3 cups flour
1 stick butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
1 egg

For the mushroom filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ tablespoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup crumbled Stilton cheese
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

Prepare the dough. Place the butter and the water in a small saucepan and simmer until the butter melts. (This can also be done in a bowl in the microwave). When cool, whisk in one egg. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and slowly add the liquid while kneading. Gather the dough and chill.

Preheat oven to 450º F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Prepare the mushroom filling. Heat the olive oil in a wide pan over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft and all of the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

Roll the dough out until about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out circles and place about a tablespoon of the filling in the center of each circle. Use your finger to brush a little of the egg wash onto the inner rim of the circle. Fold in half, pinch the edges together with your fingers and use a fork to seal. Brush the top with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

(Skip the egg wash if you choose to deep fry the pasties. Instead, heat about 2 inches of grapeseed oil in a deep pot to 365º F and fry in batches until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.)

Makes about 24 pasties

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