Big Right Now: Meat Pies

Everyone loves a piece of pie, especially during the holidays. But fruit and custard aren't the only things you can tuck into pastry dough. Pie can be part of your main course when it comes stuffed with meat or other savory ingredients. People have been eating meat pies since Ancient Greece and possibly before that. And nearly every culture has its version, from pot pies to samosas to empanadas.

As a French-Canadian, I grew up on tourtière around the holidays. Typically, they are shallow pies filled with ground pork and beef, but the deep-dish Tourtière du Lac St.-Jean that my aunt made was a heartier affair, stuffed with game meats, potatoes, onions and seasonings. Now that I live in New York, you'd think I wouldn't have access to these gut-busting pastries, but several Montreal-themed restaurants have opened in the city, including Mile End, in Brooklyn, which serves tourtière.

Owner Noah Bermanoff says the secret to his meat pie, stuffed with ground veal, braised beef and, occasionally, duck sausage, is to leave a little hole in the crust so that he can inject extra stock into it and pop it back in the oven before serving it.

"Traditional tourtière uses game meats, like wild boar and goose, but the essence of the meat pie is to use what you have on hand," says Bermanoff. "It's such a perfect meal for winter: piping hot meat in a buttery crust... what more could you ask for?"

The clock is ticking, but if you want to add a meat pie to your holiday dinner table and aren't up for baking one yourself, there are several savory-pie experts around the country still prepared to ship you one. Crusts away!

English Pork Pie Company

Known for its traditional British pork pies, small servings of chopped pork and gelatin baked into a crust, The English Pork Pie Company also makes a pretty mean steak and ale pie. Pies like these – steak and ale, steak and kidney, steak and mushroom – are ubiquitous in the U.K., where pubs serve them with thick-cut chips (that's fries to you, Yank). This beefy pie is sure to nourish you on a cold day, but beware serving it as part of your holiday feast: you might not have belly room for much else. Pork pies are $3.99 and steak and ale pies are $5.95, plus overnight delivery.

Natchichones Meat Pies: Pronounced Na-Kah-Tush and named for the Louisiana town of Natchichones, these empanada-style pies are one of Louisiana's official state foods. Stuffed with ground beef and pork, onions, peppers, garlic and sometimes cayenne pepper, these pastries are often fried in peanut oil, resulting in a slightly sweet, crispy crust. Natchichones Meat Pies sells its original or spicy version in bulk online, at a minimum of 48 pies for $52.95, plus shipping. It also offers crawfish, chorizo and breakfast varieties, and mini versions of each.

Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co.

The classic chicken pot pie is the epitome of comfort food. A lobster pot pie, however, is something special. Hancock Gourmet makes its Pemaquid Point lobster pot pies with chunks of lobster meat and a sherry-splashed cream sauce, all topped with flaky puff pastry. They come in reusable ramekins so they definitely qualify as an edible gift. But why would you want to give these away when you could have them all to yourself? Small pies, shipped frozen, come two to a pack for $48. Overnight delivery via UPS is available.

DUB (Down Under Bakery)

To the untrained eye, these look an awful lot like British pies, but DUB's baked goods are actually inspired by the savory pies of Australia and New Zealand. The signature offering is steak mince, or ground beef, consisting of tender, high-grade meat baked with onion gravy into a flaky crust. It also can come laced with sharp white cheddar cheese. Regular steak mince pies come in packs of four for $21, the cheesy version are $24. DUB delivers hot or frozen pies to the New York area, and will ship frozen ones beyond the city limits via UPS.