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February 12, 1987|BETSY BALSLEY

They're patently old-fashioned and homey. At the moment, they also are gloriously chic. Meat pies, redolent with herbs and spices and rich in good, simple fresh flavor, are enjoying a return to popularity on America's dinner tables. Trendy restaurants and takeout delicatessens feature them. Supermarket frozen food cases are filled with them. It's obvious these earthy casseroles that have survived generations of food fads have once again earned a prominent spot on menus everywhere. And why not? After all, a meat pie is the quintessential comfort food.


Whether cooked in individual casseroles or one large one, a Beef Pot Pie is a wonderful treat after a long and busy day. Cubes of cooked beef roast are simmered with onion, carrot, corn and peas until the flavors are well blended, then sealed in a casserole with a rich, Swiss cheese-flavored pastry crust. Serve the casserole with a crisp green salad for a satisfying meal.

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped peeled carrot

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can clear beef broth

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can clear chicken broth

1/2 cup flour

4 cups diced cooked beef, drippings reserved

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained

1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained

Salt, pepper


1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Heat oil in skillet. Saute onion, garlic, celery and carrot in oil until tender. Combine beef and chicken broths. Add water to measure 4 cups. Add to vegetables. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Combine flour and 2/3 cup water, stirring until smooth. Stir into simmering broth. Heat and stir until boiling and thickened. Stir in meat, horseradish, peas and corn. Add any beef drippings left from roasting meat to broth. Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mixture into 2 1/2-quart oven-proof casserole or individual 4- to 5-inch oven-proof casseroles. Set aside while making Pastry.

Roll Pastry to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut round or rounds of dough 1/2 inch larger than tops of casseroles. Press Pastry against edges of each casserole to seal. Sprinkle cheese over Pastry. Place casseroles on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes or until pastry is golden. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons shortening

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until size of peas. Stir in cheese. Add enough water so dough clings together. Gather into ball.

Our easy version of a Shepherd's Pie combines cooked lamb with quick-cooking frozen and canned vegetables. Topped with a rim of Cheddar cheese-flavored mashed potatoes, it's a rich, all-in-one meal for a cool evening.


1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup rose wine

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon dried fines herbes

1 (10-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables

3 cups diced cooked lamb

1 (1-pound) can boiled onions, drained

Salt, pepper

Seasoned mashed potatoes

Shredded Cheddar cheese

Melt butter in large saucepan and stir in flour. Gradually stir in water, wine and milk. Add fines herbes. Cook, stirring, over low heat until sauce bubbles and thickens. Add vegetables, lamb and onions and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Turn mixture into 2-quart casserole. Spoon mashed potatoes (or pipe from pastry bag) around outer edge of casserole. Sprinkle potatoes with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees 30 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned and lamb mixture is bubbly. Makes 6 servings.


A quiche-like entree, our Olive-Artichoke-Sausage Pie is delicious either hot or cold. Ingredients popular in Italian cookery--ricotta cheese, artichoke hearts, sweet Italian sausage and olives--blend in an appetizing fashion in this elegant, yet easy, main dish pie.

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage

1 (9-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts

2 eggs

1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives

1 pound ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shell or (10-inch) tart pastry shell

Pimiento strips

Simmer sausage in water to cover 5 minutes. Drain and cut into thin slices. Simmer artichokes in small amount boiling water 5 minutes. Drain. Combine eggs, olives, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses in blender and blend until combined. Sprinkle sausage and artichokes over bottom of pastry shell. Spread cheese mixture over surface. Bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Garnish with pimiento strips. Makes 8 servings.

Another open-face easy meat pie combines chunks of ham with apples and bread crumbs in a pie shell made of refrigerated biscuits. A warm, orange-flavored maple syrup is spooned over each serving of this simple creation. Keep this one in mind for a last-minute company brunch.


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