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Posted on Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 8 a.m.

Pasties with bacon and harissa - an unusual version of a traditional Upper Peninsula favorite

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu

My very good blogging buddy Angela — who features lovely simple but sophisticated recipes on Seasonal and Savory — offered the following for my "Chopped" challenge, in which I had asked readers to suggest ingredients that I would then have to use in creating dishes:

" about harissa, oranges and bacon"?

Since no course was mandated, I thought about making an appetizer of roasted chickpeas with crumbled bacon in a coating of orange and harissa ([hah-RIH-suh] = a very spicy, vibrantly colored North African pepper sauce). I gave serious consideration to making a sweet, spicy and salty dessert. But then I had a new idea ....

Angela spent some time in Michigan's Upper Peninsula ("da U.P., eh?" as they say up there with their quaint Finn-Canadian-ish accents). Thus, she is well acquainted with the requisite Northern dietary mainstay: the pasty [PASS-tee], a hand-held pie that miners could bring with them for lunch.

Now, no self-respecting Yooper would serve a pasty flavored with harissa — it would be a sacrilege. Chopped beef, potatoes, onions, rutabaga, salt and pepper — that's it for the filling.

But I'm a troll: someone who lives under the bridge — south of the Mackinac Bridge, that is — in the state's Lower Peninsula. No one expects me to know how to make a proper pasty anyway, so why not have some fun with it?

Pasties are dry ... very dry. You'll note that the above listing of essential ingredients doesn't include any kind of liquid to bind them together. And those starchy vegetables are served in a crust. This serves a practical purpose, of course, to make them more transportable. But "dry" is an understatement when talking about pasties, as is "bland." The harissa was very welcome for livening things up a bit.

Ketchup is the usual accompaniment to pasties, though sometimes gravy is served. Rather than incorporating the required oranges into the main course itself, as I was doing with the harissa and the bacon, I thought they would lend a brightness to a sauce which, as far as I'm concerned, is a mandatory condiment for this dish.

So I offer you a hearty winter meal with a nod to Michigan's history but featuring a unique flair! Everything turned out perfectly, with great flavor. I like to call these "Troll Pasties," with love and affection for both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas!

Troll Pasties

Filling: 1 large baking potato, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 large rutabaga, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon harissa powder (or use 1 tablespoon prepared harissa and eliminate the water)
2 tablespoons water
6 strips bacon
1 small onion, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Stir the potato, rutabaga, oil and salt together in an 8x8-inch baking dish. Stir together the harissa powder and water; pour over the vegetables and stir to coat. Bake for 1 hour or more until the vegetables are golden and very tender.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet; dry bacon on paper towels and crumble. Drain most of the fat from the skillet and saute the onion just until translucent. Stir the bacon and the onion into the potato mixture; cool to room temperature.

Crust: 4 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cold water
1 egg

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the shortening until the mixture resembles meal. Add the 1/2 cup of water bit by bit; mix with your hands until the dough holds together well and forms a ball, using more or less water as needed. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Divide the dough into 6 portions. One by one, roll a portion into a 10-inch circle. Place 2/3 cup of the filling onto half of the dough.

Lightly dampen the dough around the filling, then fold dough over to form a semi-circle. Trim the rough edges, then crimp the edge of the dough; press the edge with a fork to seal the pasty.

Place onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat to make the remaining 5 pasties. Combine the egg and 1 tablespoon water; brush over the pasties.

Bake the pasties for 50-55 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Gravy: 2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
juice and zest of 1 orange
juice and zest of 1 lemon

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and salt; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the stock, incorporating each addition before pouring more. Add the juices and zest; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes until thickened.

To serve: Place 1 pasty onto a dinner plate and serve with gravy.

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Mary Bilyeu writes about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

You should also visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.


Sarah Rigg

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

Born and raised in the U.P. here, and in the interest of maintaining our friendship, I will pretend I never saw this recipe or your suggestion of ketchup to go on pasties. ;)

Sarah Rigg

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

In the UP, among pasty lovers, there are two main camps: Ketchup vs. gravy. In our family, though, we didn't do eitehr. WE melted cheddar cheese on top (or stuffed bits of cheese inside and let it melt). I'd also argue with the fact that traditional pasties are dry. If you make it with the barebones ingredient list, yes, for sure, they can be; but a lot of cooks up there create a little gravy of some kind for the meat before filling to make them a little bit saucier. :)

Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

You are so funny! I have never - NEVER - known anyone who didn't put ketchup on pasties, except for me. No wonder I like you, now that I know we're kindred spirits here! Jeremy adored these, but wants me to make a "real" pasty now that I've mastered the technique (never having made them before, but tickled by the success and how easy they were to make). So have no fear - I'll stop being a troll and honor the true pasty spirit! :)