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St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Cooking Up Beef Pates with The Crucian Contessa

Editor’s note: The Crucian Contessa is back with another great recipe filled with practical tips born of experience for one of our all-time favorite snacks – St. Croix style pates!

Pates (pronounced Pah Tays) were my fast food growing up. After Hurricane Hugo blew away our high school cafeteria in ’89, lunch time was trimmed down and simplified. Some days it was just a Pate, either beef or saltfish, and an “Island Dairies” juice box, either passion fruit, iced tea, or guava. Total Cost $2.00!!

What I remember about those pates were the crispy crunchy dough with the raised welts and blisters fried into place where the hot oil met and melted the fat in the dough in a puff of steam. Sigh… it was food heaven!

Ingredients – Meat Filling
  • 1 Pound Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 Yellow Onion Diced
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/2 Green Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
  • 2-3 Seasoning Peppers
  • 2 Stalks Culantro or 2 Tbsp Cilantro
  • 1 Tsp Thyme
  • 2-3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Hot Peppers, Salt and Pepper to Taste

I have longed to find the perfect Pate ever since. I usually ran into pates that were too greasy, or too doughy, or packed with too much butter/shortening. None were able to capture the balance of textures for me of those high school pates.

I am almost convinced that every culture has its version of meat encased in some form of delicious pastry. Spanish empanadas, Jamaican beef patties, French pasties, Italian calzones, British meat pies – we all understand that something special happens when dough and meat come together!

A thousand tries and a bag of flour later, I’ve bumped into the kind of pate that I couldn’t stop making. The kind of pate I craved for lunch AND dinner. On the same day! The kind of pate I was dangerously testing and retesting to make sure that I sacrificed and brought you, the reader, the very BEST in pate pastry of course!

Ingredients – Pate Shell
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tsp Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Shortening
  • 1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp Water
  • Oil for Frying
  • 1 Egg + 1 Tbsp Water for sealing the pate

Yes, I did it for the blog!!! I am STICKING with that story to justify the unholy amount of pates I “tasted” in arriving at this final version! Spiced and flavorful beef wrapped in a crimped tender, flaky, pastry.

The kind of beef you use can have a serious effect on this dish. I used local Senepole ground beef I bought at one of my favorite local meat shops, Annaly Farms. Senepole is a very lean meat with strong beefy flavors. In fact, the Senepole Cow was bred specifically for St. Croix to tolerate our warm weather. They feast on grass in Crucian pastures and the flavor of the beef is just beautiful. The only downside of Senepole is that it is incredibly tough. But the grinding process makes it perfect for pates!

I don’t expect you to bump into Senepole beef in your local grocery store, but any good quality lean beef would work well here. If you can’t find a lean cut of beef, you can simply drain some of the fat from the cooked filling.

Also, this isn’t a recipe you can fiddle with in terms of the dough. The recipe calls for shortening. I use an organic, vegetable, non-hydrogenated shortening, but any good shortening will do! Pleaaaaaaaaaaase don’t use butter! Pleaaaaaase don’t use margerine! Pleaaaaaaaaase don’t use a butter substitute or anything that isn’t Shortening! Your taste buds will thank you!

Veggies for the pate meat | Crucian Contessa
Veggies for the pate meat | Crucian Contessa

Directions – Meat Filling

In a skillet, heat just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Once oil is sufficiently hot, add diced onion, red and green bell peppers, seasoning peppers, garlic, and thyme. Cook until onions and green peppers are completely softened and translucent. Then add Ground Beef and cook until done.

Sprinkle cilantro over the mixture and add the tomato paste. Feel free to add a little water if necessary to keep the mixture from sticking. But the goal is to keep the “sauce/water/oil” content to a minimum so that it doesn’t make the pastry soggy or greasy after frying. Add Salt and Pepper to taste or even some “hot” peppers to your taste, if you enjoy a more spicy filling like I do.

Pate meat | Credit: Crucian Contessa
Pate meat | Credit: Crucian Contessa

Directions – Pate Shell

Measure out the two cups of flour by using the “Dip and Sweep” Method I described in Contessa Tip #4. Flour can become compacted during processing. So, if you want a more accurate measurement of the flour you are using, aerate the flour by dipping your measuring spoon into the bag and letting it fall back into the bag. Do this a couple times before scooping out the measured amount. Then use the back of a knife to sweep off any excess. This will ensure you don’t have too much flour in your dough which can change the texture of the final outcome.

Mixing up the dough | Credit: Crucian Contessa
Mixing up the dough | Credit: Crucian Contessa

In a food processor, place the dry ingredients – flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Run the machine for a few seconds to mix all the ingredients together evenly. Add the cold shortening and pulse 10 times to break the fat evenly into the flour mixture. Finally, stream the cold water into the mixture as the machine is running. It should start to pull away from the sides and form a ball.

The dough may seem slightly crumbly, but it will all come together during kneading. Knead the dough for about a minute to bring it all together. Form a flat disc, and let it rest for about an hour.

TIP: I used parchment paper to knead the dough into the disc shape. This kept me from having to add flour which would change the texture of the dough.

Pate dough ready to roll | Crucian Contessa
Pate dough ready to roll | Crucian Contessa

Once the meat Meat Mixture is completely cool. Roll out the dough as thin as possible. I tried to quantify how thin it should be, but my ruler wouldn’t let me. Best guess: shoot for about 1/16th of an inch.

Tip: If you don’t have a French Rolling Pin, you’ll want to get one. I love the control I get from using this type of rolling pin rather than the traditional one.

Rolling out the dough | Credit: Crucian Contessa
Rolling out the dough | Credit: Crucian Contessa

After rolling out the dough, use a small bowl about 5 inches and a pastry cutter to make the circles. Add the meat mixture to the center of the pate, leave sufficient room to close the pate with at least an inch border for sealing.

Adding the meat | Credit: Crucian Contessa
Adding the meat | Credit: Crucian Contessa

In a separate bowl beat together the egg and water and with the tip of your finger trace half of the circle. Fold the other half of the dough over the meat mixture and press to seal with a fork.

Wrapping pates | Credit: Crucian Contessa
Wrapping pates | Credit: Crucian Contessa

Place enough oil in your fryer for the pates to deep fry. Let the oil get very hot. Lowering or raising the temperature of the fryer as you see fit throughout the frying process.

Pates frying | Credit: Crucian Contessa
Pates frying | Credit: Crucian Contessa

Very gently, without splashing the oil, drop one or two pates (depending on the size of your fryer) into the oil and let fry until puffy and golden brown.

When they are completely finished they should look like this…

Yummy finished product! | Credit: Crucian Contessa
Yummy finished product! | Credit: Crucian Contessa


For more great Crucian Contessa recipes, be sure to visit website here.

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