Beat the Wheat: Gluten-Free Pork Pie

By: Carol Blymire

AKA  Because Sometimes Sunday Lunch Needs a British Accent

For a few years, I was in a relationship with a Brit. When we went to Cambridge to visit his family, his mum made the most-glorious meat pies. Beef, pork, lamb, sausage — no matter what meat, the pies were warm and salty, with lush potatoes, herbs and a buttery rich crust. Savory meat pies — my favorite is pork — are such a special treat. Simmering the meat on the stove makes the house smell cozy and inviting, and the moment you can start to smell the buttery crust turning golden brown in the oven makes your Sunday sublime.

Fall, winter and spring find me making a meat pie of some sort at least once a month, if not more often. In the summertime I like to spend more time outside at the grill instead of in front of the oven, but on a rainy summer Sunday, I've been known to churn out a pork pie or two, then invite friends over to eat, watch a movie, enjoy a bottle of Malbec and listen to the raindrops hit the windows.

It's taken me a long time to perfect pie crusts, now that I have to be gluten-free. I've tried every method, tool and trick in the book, and I've talked to gluten-free cooks, professional pastry chefs and others about the challenges they've faced when making a really light, flaky crust without gluten. Do they use a food processor or mix it by hand? Ice-cold butter or melted? Xanthan gum or no xanthan gum? A pan of water in the oven for steam versus a dry oven? I've tried them all and then some.

What I've landed on makes, to me, the most-perfect, flaky, buttery, light savory crust I've ever had. It gets an even, light golden-brown topping, doesn’t burn, and has great flavor and texture. The secret is, wait for it, fish sauce. It adds a depth of flavor that was always missing in previous renditions. You certainly don't taste it in the finished product, but there's an extra little robust boost of salt and flavor that complements the meat filling.

Gluten-Free Pork Pie
Total Time: 2 hours
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 1 hour 45 min
Yield: 6 to 8 slices of pie
Level: Moderate
For the Pie Crust:
1 1/4 cups white rice flour (5 ounces or 141 grams)
1/2 cup tapioca starch (2 ounces or 56 grams)
1/2 cup Mochiko or sweet rice flour (2 ounces or 56 grams)
1 scant teaspoon xanthan gum
8 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup cold water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Extra rice flour for dusting
Parchment paper

Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse 5 times to combine. Add butter and pulse 10 times to combine. The mixture will look like small gravel. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl, add the water and fish sauce, and stir to combine. It will still be somewhat gravelly. Using your hands, divide the dough in half and form each half into a ball. Wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature (about 10 minutes).

Lightly coat the inside of your pie dish with cooking spray or unsalted butter.

Lightly dust one dough ball with a teaspoon or so of rice flour and roll it flat between two pieces of parchment paper until it's about 10 to 11 inches in diameter. Remove the top layer of parchment and gently place your pie dish face down on top of it. Then, flip both over together and carefully peel off the parchment so your pie dish is now lined with the bottom crust. Lightly dust the second dough ball with a teaspoon of rice flour and roll it flat between two sheets of parchment paper until it's about 9 to 10 inches in diameter.

Place the second crust on top of the pie once you've filled it with the meat filling.

See below for additional instructions.

For the Pie Filling:
2 pounds ground pork
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of cumin
3 cups water
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (a little over a pound)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon mustard
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 homemade pie crusts (see above recipe)
1 tablespoon whole milk or buttermilk

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine the pork, onion, shallot, celery, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-high heat and allow mixture to simmer for 1 hour, or until the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and discard bay leaves and thyme stems. Near the end of the pork mixture's cooking time, place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon kosher salt in a separate large saucepan or Dutch oven, and add enough water to just cover them. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and cooked through.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Strain the potatoes and add them to the cooked pork mixture, mashing them into the mix with a fork or wooden spoon. It's OK if small chunks remain. Add the mustard and parsley and stir well to combine. Pour mixture into dough-lined pie dish, and cover with top crust. Crimp or pinch the edges together as best you can before baking. Brush surface of pie with 1 tablespoon whole milk or buttermilk.

Bake for 45 minutes, centered on the middle rack of the oven.

Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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