Rooted in tradition! In an autumn reinterpretation of a pasty, the humble rutabaga—and just about every other root vegetable you can think of—shines. Try this month’s On The Table recipe.

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New England has the lobster roll. The Windy City has a Chicago Dog. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has the pasty. These handheld meat pies originally hail from Cornwall, England, and were the go-to lunch of Cornish immigrant miners throughout the U.P. in the mid-1800s. The iron and copper mines in which pasties were eaten have long since closed, but seemingly every roadside diner from St. Ignace to Ironwood still serves the dish. Over the course of now-countless trips north of the Mighty Mac I’ve had pasties served with a pat of butter, slathered with gravy and offered with ketchup. While the condiments vary, the filling is often the same—a mixture of beef, rutabaga and potato that is flavored with suet.

Look, I come from a long line of meat-and-potatoes folks. I married a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. I am sincerely happy to be a simple meat-and-potatoes gal when I’m not “on the clock.” But if I’m being honest, the traditional pasty has never really done it for me. I’ve always wondered why Michigan cooks haven’t followed in the footsteps of Cousin Jenny’s on Traverse City’s Union Street and explored more modern interpretations of the meal. The original in-tent—a warm, portable lunch eaten in-hand—is pure gold. But I’d love to see pasties loaded with eggs and potatoes for breakfast. Where is the version that’s filled with chorizo and green olives like an Iberian empanada? And every fall I’ve always wanted to make a vegetarian pasty—stuffed with a seasonal rainbow of root veggies. So, I did.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Related Read: On The Table: Spicy Shakshuka to Celebrate Harvest Season.

With respect for tradition, I doubled down on the rutabaga. But there are also magenta beets, coral-colored carrots, purple Peruvian potatoes, even a tart autumn apple. Instead of suet, there’s goat cheese and olive oil. I threw in a kiss of fresh thyme. I know change is hard. But so, too, is adulting. If my autumn reinterpretation of Northern Michigan’s favorite portable meal gives us one more recipe to feel good about throwing at our families on everyone’s way out the door—a more seasonal, scratch-cooked option to eat from behind the steering wheel—that’s a win in this happy circus.

Root Vegetable Pasty Recipe

Makes 8 supper-sized pasties

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling out the dough
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 small rutabaga, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound any other mixed root vegetables—carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, waxy potatoes or radishes— peeled and diced
  • 1 green Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 cup diced red onion, about half an onion
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large, 10.5-ounce log goat cheese, crumbled
  • Leaves from 8 thyme sprigs
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, gently beaten with a fork

Photo by Dave Weidner

Root Vegetable Pasty Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine flour and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Place pieces of cold butter in the bowl and work it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until well incorporated. If any pearl-sized pieces of butter remain, pinch them between your fingers until they break down and disappear into the flour, working quickly so the mixture doesn’t warm.

2. Place a few ice cubes into a liquid measuring cup and fill it with cold water to the 1-cup line. Add small amounts of cold water to the flour mixture, kneading it with your hands as you go. Add more water just until the dough sticks together to form one ball, knowing you may not need the entire cup. Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough with the palms of your hands briefly, just until the dough is one cohesive unit.

3. Break the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces and form into individual balls. Press down on each ball with the palm of your hand to form a disk the size of a hamburger patty.
Wrap each disk with plastic wrap, place the wrapped disks in a sealable plastic bag or container and set them in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 3 days.

4. Meanwhile, peel and dice the rutabaga, root vegetables, apple and onion and add them to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt and toss with your hands to evenly coat.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and remove the dough disks from the refrigerator. Working over a lightly floured surface, roll each ball out until it is 8 inches in diameter, about the size of a salad plate. Divide the root vegetable mixture evenly among each circle of dough, placing about 1 cup onto one half of each disk. Distribute the goat cheese and thyme leaves evenly among all 8 pasties and top each heap of vegetables with a few twists of freshly ground black pepper.

6. Carefully fold the empty half of the dough over the top of the filling, tugging it gently to get it to stretch over your colorful pile of root vegetables and meet the other edge. Press the two edges together with your fingers to seal. Working with your thumb and forefinger, press overlapping folds of dough along the edge of each pasty and place the pasties on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, paint both the top and crimped edge of each pasty with the beaten egg, and place the baking trays in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, swapping the location of the two baking sheets halfway through baking, until pasties are a deep golden brown. Allow the pasties to rest until they have cooled enough to handle, hand them out as you fly out the door and eat on the run.

ADVANCED PREPARATION: Dough can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. Assembled pasties can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen until you are ready to bake them.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Stacey Brugeman is a 20-year food and beverage journalist. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Saveure, Eater and on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Dave Weidner is an editorial photographer and videographer based in Northern Michigan. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook @dzwphoto.

Sarah Peschel is a stylist and photographer with an appreciation for all things related to local agriculture, food and drink.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner