A yummy treat from my visit to Butte America: Land of Mullets and Pasties
When visiting Butte, Montana, you will quickly discover that you are not, in fact, visiting Butte, Montana, but rather: you are visiting Butte, America. Or, so the locals here tell me. Also, to clear up any confusion from the very start, here it’s Būtte (loooong “u”), not “Butt.” There, that said, now Butte, America, is a place honestly like no other on earth and probably worthy of multiple article pieces. It’s a mining “city,” a tinge on the rough side, a lot on the Irish side, and home to three things you will learn within your first five minutes of arrival: Evil Knievel, the mullet hairstyle (not kidding) and more importantly: the pasty (pas-tee). Shoot, this wasn’t meant to be a lesson in grammar today, but there you have it.
If you have not yet encountered a pasty, which given there popularity outside of Butte, America, is probably the case, I am here to bring the pasty to you and save you a trip to Butte. For, while Butte is a “special” place, well yeah. We’ll leave it at that. It’s just a special place. Now. To the pasty and my most favorite thing about the entire Butte scene (with momentary sidestepping for the sake of history). Rumor has it that the pasty was the lunch of choice for mine workers who needed food underground that was handheld, stayed warm for hours, downright filling and super easy to eat. Apparently it was the Cornish miners whose wives were the first to send their hubbies down to the depths of the earth with comforting pasties. I’ll forever be indebted to those Cornish wives, that’s all there is to it.
The basic ingredients for the filling in a pasty are very simple: beef, potatoes and onions. The best part is the flaky pastry crust that these come enveloped in, right along with the the overwhelmingly delicious dose of gravy smothered on top. (You mustn’t forego the gravy, trust me on this one.)
The basic ingredient list looks like this
2 ½ cups flour
2 cubes of butter, chilled
7-10 tablespoons of water, chilled
Cut butter into flour mixture until butter is in small pieces. Stir in only as much water as needed to form a dough. Divide into fourths. Cover until ready to use.
4 medium potatoes, chopped into small cubes
2 cups steak, chopped into small 1 inch cubes
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Combine all ingredients with seasonings to taste, minus the butter.
Roll out one of the fourths of dough into a round circle, approx 10 inches in diameter. Pile on ¼ of your filling on one side, plus a small amount of butter (1/2 tablespoon). Fold the other side over on top, fold the dough upon the edges and seal. You can brush the tops with egg yolk for a golden brown if you feel like getting showy. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. *Do not poke any holes in the dough, you want to keep the moisture in to bake the filling. Also, do not prebake the potatoes or the meat. This is the authentic “Butte way.”
If you wanna eat pasties like a real Butte local, here’s the nitty-gritty stuff. The thicker the “edge” on the pasty, the better. In the olden days, this is what the miners held on to with their grimy hands and then they tossed it at the end, ensuring a clean meal with no silverware needed. Now it’s thick cause it’s just dang good. Eating a pasty with a ketchup is a sin. Gravy only. And gravy always. Putting vegetables like carrots and parsnips in there is for wimps. Steak is best. But hamburger will do. An Irish beer is the best accompanying beverage. And, finally: more butter is always more better.
It may sound simple, and oh, it is. But it’s the combination that’s simply divine, mouthwatering and ridiculously, insanely, illegally good. I’ve yet to have them outside of Butte, so for all I know it may have been something in the water… but I swear. Try them. You’ll be hooked. But the mullet? That stays in Butte, America, right where it belongs.
About The Author: Freelancer Jocelyn may live in LA but she will undoubtedly return to Butte for an authentic pasty at some point. At the moment when she isn’t traveling and writing about food, you’ll find her writing for Air & Water and working on winter guides for their propane heaters.
Photo Credit – Flickr: puritani35