Natchitoches meat pie
Natchitoches meat pie with beans and rice
|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||Louisiana|
|Main ingredient(s)||Pie shell, ground beef, ground pork, onions, peppers, garlic, oil|
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2011)|
Ingredients include ground beef, ground pork, onions, peppers, garlic, oil, and a pie shell. Natchitoches meat pies are often fried in peanut oil because of that oil's high smoking temperature. A number of restaurants in the historic district in Natchitoches serve meat pies, and frozen pies are available from grocers in northern Louisiana.
It has a savory meat filling in a crescent-shaped, flaky wheat pastry turnover. It is similar to a Spanish picadillo beef empanada. Varieties are throughout the colonies of the Spanish Empire. The Natchitoches meat pie is nearly identical to the traditional ground beef empanada of Argentina.
This meat pie is not generally available from other ethnic regions of Louisiana (Anglo to the east and Franco et al to the south). The Picayune's Creole Cook Book, published in 1901 by The Times Picayune of New Orleans, contains nothing comparable to Natchitoches meat pies in its list of over a thousand recipes. Recently, Natchitoches meat pies sold at food booths have become popular at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
The use of wheat flour as an ingredient is significant. Corn is grown locally. It is a staple of both Spanish and Native American food. Wheat is difficult to grow in this wet, warm climate. It would have been imported initially by annual supply convoy over El Camino Real de los Tejas (a portion later became The Old San Antonio Road) or from the French port on the Red River at Natchitoches. Historically, wheat flour would have been very expensive and reserved for high status and celebratory foods. Catholic Church Festivals continue to provide an opportunity for older women to pass on the meat pie legacy.
The recipe has evolved over the last 300 years. Ground pork or pork sausage is now blended into the ground beef for additional flavor. Onions, bell pepper and when used garlic and parsley provide aromatics. Ground black pepper and cayenne pepper are added to get attention without being uncomfortable. Flour is added to the browned meat and vegetable mixture to dry, thicken and loosely bind the filling. The meat filling can be used in other foods (e.g. tacos, tamales, enchiladas, stuffed bell pepper et al) but the wheat turnover crust is a defining element. The traditional size is approximately 4 ounces (by weight) on a 5"-6" diameter pastry dough. The filling should be made the day before to allow the flavors of the ingredients to meld. Filling, dough and tools should be chilled before assembly. Warm filling will cause the dough to disintegrate.
In the first part of the 20th century, meat pies were sold from home kitchens or from carts by street vendors. By 1967, Natchitoches meat pies were produced in commercial kitchens. Now, they may be ordered online. This progression has allowed more people to experience the memorable meat pies and their fame continues to grow.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting aired a program January 20, 2007, describing how to make Natchitoches meat pies. It is available on DVD entitled "A Taste of Louisiana with Chef John Folse & Company: Our Food Heritage - The Spanish Shows". An annual Meat Pie Festival, held in September, celebrates the Natchitoches meat pie. It includes pie making demonstrations, a meat pie cook-off, live music and more. The festival draws visitors from around the globe to sample the tasty pies.
See also 
- Laws of Louisiana, LL 170.9, 2003.
- Meat Pie Festival page at Natchitoches online city guide
- Official recipe at Natchitoches online city guide
- Los Adaes State Historic Site
- State of Louisiana Los Adaes Site Explorer
- Los Adaes at Texas Beyond History
- The Chicken War of 1719
- Ranching in Spanish Texas
- Cane River Heritage Area
- Adai Caddo Indian Nation