Lakror (St. Basil Meat Pie)
January 2: Feast Day of St. Basil the Great
During our courtship in college, Highlander would stop by at the end of Islander’s international communication night class and escort her back safely to our dorm. One of her classmates from Albania seemed to have a crush on Highlander and flirted with him every time he came to pick up Islander (she was more amused than jealous because Highlander was merely interested in her Albanian culture than in her!). Islander’s class had an international potluck party at the end of the school year and brought Highlander as her date, of course.
That was many years ago and we do not even remember her name or the Albanian dish she brought to the party. But we do remember to observe the Feast Day of St. Basil the Great on January 2 (see Notes for other feast dates) by making a meat pie from her country. Lakror has an aromatic and tasty ground meat filling sandwiched between layers of crisp, buttery and flaky phyllo dough. Like many special dishes associated around the new year and Epiphany, this meat pie may contain a hidden trinket, such as a coin, to represent the Baby Jesus hiding from King Herod. Traditionally, the one who finds the coin in his/her slice will be blessed with good luck in the coming year!
(Adapted from Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf)
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ¾ pound lean ground meat (we used beef but it is traditionally a mixture of ground beef and lamb)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- pepper to taste
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
- ¼ cup cooked rice
- 3 eggs
- 1 (8 ounces) package of phyllo dough, defrosted according to the package instructions
- ½ cup butter, melted
In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onions until transparent. Add the ground meat and stir to break up any large chunks. Season with garlic, salt, oregano and pepper. Drain off any grease.
Mix in the parsley, rice and eggs until well blended. Set aside.
Cut the phyllo dough sheets to fit a 9 x 13-inch rectangle or 10×10-inch square baking pan. Brush the bottom of the pan with melted butter. Lay a sheet of the phyllo dough on the bottom, brush with melted butter, add another sheet, brush with butter again and repeat until half of the sheets (about 10) are layered on top of each other. Spread the meat mixture evenly on this layer. Place a clean coin on top of the meat (optional).
Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on top of the meat mixture, brush with melted butter, add another sheet, brush with butter again and repeat until all sheets of phyllo dough are used. Use a sharp knife to score down the meat pie for easier cutting after it is baked. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven. Slice the pie using the score marks as guides. Serve immediately.
- To stretch out the filling in the meat pie, feel free to substitute diced potatoes for the rice as an ingredient in lakror.
- Heat any leftovers in the oven instead of in the microwave to retain the crispness of the meat pie.
- If there is a coin hidden in the meat pie, let others know about the symbolism—and safety!—before they eat their slice.
- The Feast Day of St. Basil is observed on January 1 in the Eastern Orthodox Church; January 2 in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches; January 15 in the Coptic Christian and Ethiopian Orthodox churches; January 30 in the Byzantine Rite; and June 14 in the Episcopal Church.