Alcott · Little Women

Cookbook Outtakes: Hannah’s Beef Pie


Author: Alcott, Louisa
Book: Little Women
Difficulty rating: Little Women
Deliciousness rating: Exceeds Expectations

   “That’s the interferingest chap I ever see, but I forgive him and do hope Mrs. March is coming right away,” said Hannah, with an air of relief, when Jo told the good news.
     Meg had a quiet rapture, and then brooded over the letter, while Jo set the sickroom in order, and Hannah “knocked up a couple of pies in case of company unexpected”. (Chapter 18: “Dark Days”)

This is an easy dish to “knock up” if you have a lot of leftovers from a roast beef dinner, but if you make all the parts from scratch, it will probably take all day. Make sure to get the top nice and browned! Horseradish is an excellent recommended condiment for this pie.

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (should be about 3 cups when mashed)
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • ½  cup flour
  • ½ pound white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 shallot or small onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups beef gravy (or follow the directions from Beef Hash, page XX, to make your own)
  • 2 ½ pounds roast beef, cut in half-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  1. Cut the potatoes in large chunks and put them in a medium saucepan with one tablespoon of salt and enough water to cover.
  2. Boil on high heat until very tender and the skins are starting to come off, about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and drain out the water. Allow to cool briefly, then peel off the skins.
  4. Mash the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of butter until smooth, then stir in 2 tablespoons of water and a teaspoon or so of salt, to your taste.
  5. Sprinkle 1 cup of flour on a cutting board or counter, and place the potatoes on top. Knead the flour into the potatoes until it forms a soft dough. Divide the dough in half.
  6. Grease a 9-inch pie plate and pat one half of the dough evenly into the pan, going up the sides and onto the lip.
  7. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan, and saute the mushrooms and shallot with the thyme leaves until they are completely collapsed and browned. Add a large pinch of salt.
  8. Add the gravy and beef, and stir to combine. Heat until warmed through and the gravy is thick, then transfer to the pie plate.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  10. Take the remaining potato mixture and pat it out into a disc the size of the top of the pie, on a sheet of waxed paper.
  11. Transfer it to the top of the pie, trying as much as possible to seal the top layer to the bottom crust at the edges. No need to make it smooth.
  12. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and brush it over the top crust. Take a fork and gently roughen the surface without breaking through it (this will give more crunchy bits once it’s baked!).
  13. Bake in the top third of the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the top layer is puffed and dark golden brown. You can switch to the broiler at the end to get the center done.
  14. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving, to let the gravy thicken a little.

Alcott, Louisa. Little Women. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1896.

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