Karl’s Native American Hand-Pies

This is not a “Native American” recipe, as in a recipe that any Native American tribe would make this dish. It is more in terms of the Native American ingredients—turkey, wild rice and cranberries—included in the recipe. As follower of my blog may realize I am very fond of hand-pies, so this is more in line with what the British colonists might come up with in the 1700’s.

Karl’s Native American Hand-Pies

Karl’s Native American Hand-Pies

Karl’s Native American Hand-Pies



12 oz. butter, unsalted (1½ sticks)

3 large eggs, separate uses
½ cup full fat sour cream

2 ½ cups AP flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt


¼ cup wild rice
6 oz. spinach
2 Tbs. dried wild mushrooms
1 lb. turkey thigh meat

2 Tbs. ghee (clarified butter)
½ cup  yellow onion, finely diced
¼ cup carrot, finely diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt

¼ cup dried cranberries, lightly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs. AP flour
½ cup water

2 Tbs. Chicken Better than Bouillon, reduced sodium
1 Tbs. sage
½ tsp. black pepper, cracked



Note: Crust dough may be made up to two days ahead of time.

1. Put the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour.

Tip: You will be using a box grater to mix the butter into the flour.

Note: While you want the butter very cold, you do not want it frozen solid, as that makes it difficult to grate.

2. Scramble the eggs in a small bowl and scramble them well.

3. Reserve one tablespoon of the eggs for your egg wash, just before you put the pies in the oven.

4. Whisk the sour cream into the eggs.

Tip: It is important to use full fat sour cream. The fats in the egg yolks and sour cream bind with the flour to prevent the formation of too much gluten.

Note: I usually use a variation of French pastry for much of my baking. The English technique is to work the butter into the flour to melt and bind up its gluten forming properties. I chop the butter into fine discreet cold bits. When these bits of butter melt during baking they create little pockets of steam that create the crusts flakey texture and provide some “lift” in a pastry that does not have other leavening. The fats in the wet ingredients substitute for some of the butter to bind to the flour and to prevent too much gluten formation and a tough crust.

5. Put the flour and salt into a medium bowl and mix well.

Tip: Sifting the flour and salt together several times works well.

6. Mix the wet ingredients into flour.

7. When most of the dry flour has been incorporated, turn the dough out onto a work surface.

Tip: I bought a pastry marble at a yard sale that is probably the best buy I have ever made.

Note: The cold marble prevents the butter from melting and the smooth surface prevents the dough from sticking too much.

8. Using well floured hands and a board scraper, work the rest of the flour into the dough ball.

9. Knead the dough for 1-2 minutes.

Tip: You want to ensure that the dough is fully mixed, but not so much that you get too much gluten formation.

10. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a 12 inch snake.

Note: I had made a double batch of short crust to make enough shells for my hand-pies. In the ATK recipe they made a large pie with just a top crust. Their recipe called for wrapping up the dough ball and letting it chill. I was planning to make 24 hand-pies. If I divided the dough after I had chilling it would be very difficult to work with. I decided to divide the dough when it was still soft and chill each small ball of dough separately. That way they would be ready to use right out of the refrigerator.

11. Divide each dough snake into 12 even pieces.

Tip: Cut the snake in half and set the halves side by side. Cut the halve in half again.  Finally cut each quarter once again to make eight pieces.

Note: Roll each piece of dough into a small ball. Each ball should be 1inch in diameter. At this point, you may take a pinch out of any ball that is a bit large and work it into any smaller ball.

12. Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Tip: I made 24 dough balls and placed them in a well floured mini muffin pan—covering it in plastic so that they did not dry out.


13. Place the wild rice in a small pot or pan and add some water to cover it well.

Tip: As the water boils away you may add more as needed.

Note: Pre-cooking your wild rice is a very important step. Wild rice has a very tough hull. As a result, it takes a lot longer to reach tenderness that rice that has been polished. If you simply cooked the wild rice with the other ingredients, they would become overcooked long before the rice became tender enough to chew.

14. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch your spinach for 3-4 minutes.

Tip: Cool the spinach quickly by putting it in cold water.

15. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach, chop it finely, and reserve.

Tip: Take fistfuls of the spinach and squeeze. This process leaves you with compressed “pills” of  spinach. Use a knife to shred these pills into a finely chopped mass. Fluff to separate the leaves into bits.

16. When the rice is almost tender—about 20-30 minutes—drain and reserve the rice.

Tip: Do not discard this liquid.

17. Put the dried mushrooms into a cup and add hot water to cover.

Tip: I used to water from boiling my wild rice.

Note: By reusing my rice water I am both saving energy and recapturing the flavors that were released by the grains of rice during cooking.

18. Remove the plumped mushrooms from the cup and squeeze them dry.

Tip: Reserve the mushroom liquid to be added to the pot later.

19. Chop the mushrooms finely and reserve.

20. Cut the turkey meat into small pieces and reserve it in the refrigerator.

Tip: You could use ground turkey for this dish, but I wanted discrete bits of turkey in my pies.

21. Melt the ghee in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and salt.

22. Sauté the vegetables until soft, about 5-6 minutes.

Note: This dish is all about the meat flavor, you do not want to brown the vegetables too much.

23. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and sauté the garlic in the hole in the center of the pan.

24. Add the cranberries to the pan and mix the garlic into the vegetables.

25. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and sauté the flour and vegetables for another 3-4 minutes.

Tip: You are making a rough roux cooking the flour in the fat coating the vegetables. You want to cook off the raw flavor of the flour.

26. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.

27. Form the chilled turkey meat into one large patty.

28. Fry the turkey until well browned on both sides.

Tip: If necessary you may add more ghee to the pan before adding the meat.

Note: This is a America’s Test Kitchen trick that allows you to get plenty of the flavorful Maillard reaction without turning all of your meat into little rocks of dried out burger.

29. Transfer the turkey patty to a plate to cool.

Tip: When the meat is cool enough to handle break it into small bits.

30. Deglaze the pan with the water and return the vegetables to the pan.

31. Stir in the bouillon, sage, pepper, and the reserved mushroom liquid.

32. Return the meat to the pan and simmer until the gravy has thickened.

Tip: Add more liquid as necessary to reach your desired consistency.

Note: This is the tricky bit. You want your gravy to be thick enough, so that it is not runny—which would make it difficult to get into the crusts—but you do not want it to be too dry either.

33. Remove the pan from the heat and let the stew cool.

Tip: The gravy does not need to be stone cold, but you want it cool enough that it does not start cooking your crust on contact.


Note: Preheat the oven to 350º F about 10 minutes before you are ready to bake the pies.

34. Put the reserved tablespoon of egg into a small bowl and scramble in one tablespoon of water.

35. Remove several of the dough balls from the refrigerator and set them on the counter for 10 minutes.

Tip: If you try to flatten the dough balls cold from the refrigerator the edges will crack as you are rolling them out. Letting them warm just slightly produces better smooth round disks of dough.

36. Flatten the dough balls with your palm into 2 inch disks on a well floured board.

Tip: You want enough flour that the dough does not stick as you roll it out. You also want to flour your rolling pin as well. I use a tapered 10½ inch jiaozi rolling pin that is perfect for rolling out small, thin disks—it is half the size of a French style rolling pin. I bought mine in China, but I was unable to find them online.

Note: Keep the majority of your dough balls in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. If the dough comes to room temperature it becomes stickier and hard to roll out.

37. One at a time, roll the dough pieces out into 7 inch disks.

38. Place about half a cup of the cooled stew down the center line of each disk.

Tip: If you end up with more dough balls than filling the dough freezes really well. Defrost them in the refrigerator the day before you wish to use them.

Note: I actually made only 12 pies at this time. I froze the remaining 12 dough balls to use later and I had about a quarter of the filling left to make fresh pies at a later date.

39. Use a brush and the egg wash to moisten a quarter inch along half of the disks edge.

40. Pick up the dry edge and pull it over the filling.

41. Line the edges up and use the tines of a fork to press the edges together or roll and press the edges—as show in the picture above.

42. Use a wide pancake turner or board scraper to move the finished pie to a lipped baking sheet.

Tip: I found it unnecessary to lay down parchment paper while baking these pies. There is enough butter in the crust to self-grease the pan.

Note: In the ATK recipe they cut a vent hole in the top of their pie. I found this unwarranted. Unlike the pies I have made using biscuit dough or raised dough, these crust did not develop blowouts or thin spots.

43. Bake the pies at 350º F for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

Tip: Rotate the pan half way through to ensure even baking.

44. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes.

45. Serve warm.

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Filed under California Fusion, Main Dishes, Turkey

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