The English have a way with meat pies and lovely shops and street vendors sell an astounding variety, from chicken with tarragon to beef and kidney with stout, even some amazing vegetarian options.
One of these popular meat pie purveyors is a regular stop for me in London and I always have a tough choice choosing which variety I want. Flaky, rich pastry encloses all sorts of flavorful meat and vegetable wonders.
Ham and Parsley is a popular version, and ham steak with parsley sauce is a pretty standard English recipe. For me, this seems like the perfect creation for using up that leftover Easter ham in a unique and filling way. It would make a lovely Easter night dinner or a Monday meal.
I think it is an all-in-one dinner, packed with potatoes, ham and parsley, but it’s nice with a simple green salad as well. Of course, if you don’t have leftover ham, buy some thickly sliced ham from the deli counter and cut it into pieces.
Ham and parsley pie
3 medium leeks, white and palest green parts only
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
8 ounces small yellow potatoes
2 Tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half
2 Tablespoons grainy mustard
8 ounces cooked ham, diced into small pieces
1 cup packed parsley leaves
salt and pepper to taste
pastry for a double crust pie (homemade or bought, ready rolled)
1. Slice the leeks in half, then slice them into thin half moons. Place them in a colander inside a large bowl and run water over them to fill the bowl. Swirl the leeks around with your hands, then lift the colander out of the bowl and shake out the excess water. You want the water to get into all the leek pieces to wash the dirt away, and then leave the dirt behind in the bowl.
2. Melt the butter in a large, deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, with a little water clinging to them, and stir to coat. Dice the potatoes into small chunks and add to the leeks with a good pinch of salt. Stir to coat, then cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until the leeks are wilted and soft and the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and stir several times to make sure nothing is catching on the bottom of the pan. When the potatoes are just tender, sprinkle over the flour and stir until it disappears into the vegetables.
3. Pour in the stock and stir, and cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Pour in the half and half, then add the mustard and a generous grinding of pepper and stir. Cook until the sauce thickens up again, then stir in the ham. Cook until the sauce is thickened and just coats the ham and vegetables.
4. Finely chop the parsley – I frequently pulse it in a mini food processor for speed, though a good session with a heavy knife works as well. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Leave the filling to cool.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a deep 9-inch pie plate with pastry, then spread the filling evenly into it, smoothing out the top. Lay the second crust over the top and seal the edges to the bottom crust with your fingers.
6. Bake the pie until warmed through and golden on the top, about 30 minutes. Let the pie sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Notes: I like to use small yellow potatoes, frequently called Dutch Creamers and leave the peel on, which helps the potatoes hold together and add a nice texture and heft to the pie. You could also use Yukon gold or a white potato.