Parson Woodforde and his circle were not the only eighteenth century English epicures acquainted with the allure of the giblet. As Peter Brears explains in Cooking and Dining with the Wordsworths (Ludlow, England 2011): “Goose-giblet pie is now a virtually forgotten dish, but up to the late nineteenth century it was relatively popular, served either alongside the roast goose, or as a separate meal in itself.” (Brears 64) Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal indicates that she prepared the dish for her husband William and their circle. Brears believes that in common with “most better off families in the north” of Britain, she “added beef, mutton or veal steaks, which added the required bulk, and absorbed the rich flavour of the giblets…. ” (Brears 64) Brears bases one from 1812, three years before the end of our Long Eighteenth Century. The Editor’s variation will make a good pie for four.
For the filling:
- giblets and neck of a goose, if you have them, or about 1 lb chicken giblets
- a coarsely chopped unpeeled onion
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-5 stalks parsley
- heaped teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet (optional but recommended)
- salt and pepper
- 1 lb boneless beef or lamb of uniform width, cut to hug your piepan in a single layer
- about 4 oz warm heavy cream ( see the Notes)
For the shortcrust pastry:
- 4 oz flour
- 2 oz lard
- pinch salt
- about 2 Tablespoons icewater
- some beaten egg
1(a). If you are using the innards of a goose, “[p]repare the giblets by removing the gall-bladder from the liver, squeezing and washing the heart, skinning… the neck, opening and washing the gizzard, and tearing away its thick lining.”
1(b). If you are using chicken giblets, just throw them in a pot.
2. Add the onion, herbs, Kitchen Bouquet, Worcestershire, salt and pepper to the giblets in a small pan, barely cover everything with water, bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to the gentlest simmer for about 30 minutes.
3. Remove the giblets, strain the stock (toss the solids) and leave it to cool.
4. Make the pastry by dumping all its ingredients but the egg into a food processer: Pulse them just until the pastry barely holds together.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
5(a). If you have chosen goose, shred the meat from the neck, toss the bones and chop the other innards.
5(b). If you have chosen chicken, chop the giblets, trimming away the sinewy bits.
6. Lay the beef or lamb in the bottom of a shallow piepan that holds them snug, top the meat with the giblets and pour enough of the strained stock into the pan to nearly but not quite cover them (This should prevent soggy pastry.).
7. Roll out the pastry to a diameter that overlaps your piepan, wet its edges and set the pastry over the filling, crimping the edge with a fork and trimming away the overlap.
8. Cut a hole in the center of the pastry and decorate it with the scraps, then brush it with a film of the beaten egg.
9. Bake the pie until the crust turns a deep gold, usually in about an hour.
10. Remove the pie from the oven and slowly pour the warmed cream through the hole in the pastry. Do not add too much of the cream or it will flood the topcrust and render it sodden.
-As with our eighteenth century giblet soups, turkey offal is an excellent alternative to the goose or chicken.
-Unlike The Woodforde recipe for giblet soup, this one contemplates use of the liver, which makes it easier to shop for the chicken variation, because chicken livers, alas now often frozen, are widely available in small plastic buckets. They do, however, freeze well enough.
-You still can make the pastry if you lack a food processer by going the Old School route. Rub the flour, lard and salt between your fingers until intermixed, then slowly dribble the water into the mixture while you gently knead it in stages. The entire process will take some time but try not to use too much water or overwork the wetted dough.
-Alternatively, use thawed frozen puff pastry from the store instead of the more authentic shortcrust. The pie will taste nearly as good. Both Pepperidge Farm and the significantly more expensive Dufour puff pastry are good products.
-In Ireland a topcrust pie like this is called a ciste, Gaelic for coffin. It more likely would be made with suet pastry , an appealing variation. Use self-raising flour, substitute a like amount of suet for the lard, add a heaped ¼ teaspoon of baking powder and work the dough with your hands rather than using a processor. The suet pastry is much easier to work and to make. Lay it over the filling. You need not punch a hole in the center or paint it with egg, but you must cover it with pleated foil to allow for expansion and prevent the pastry sponge from scorching. You can pry a gap through the pastry at the end of baking to add the cream.
-Brears suggests as an option a layer of peeled and sliced potato between the giblets and crust.
-His list of ingredients includes five ounces of cream but Brears never says what to do with it. It was, however, a standard eighteenth century practice to enrich the gravy of pies like this with a shot of cream.
-Brears cites ‘Meg Dods’ as a source, but her version from the Cook and Housewife’s Manual bears scant resemblance to his. She does, however, include potatoes, either sliced under a topcrust or mashed to make one, which may account for the reference.