Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Holidays Unwrapped Part One: 'twas the Night Before


My seasonal spirit peaks the night before Christmas. Maybe it's the German in me, or maybe it's just that I like the build up. Or maybe I just like tourtière.

The past few years that we've spent the holidays with D's parents have seen tourtière become a Christmas Eve staple. D's first ever attempt yielded a concoction with a golden, crispy crust and a savory filling of aromatic pork. One small problem: somewhere along the way, D forgot to add the oats or breadcrumbs that act to bind the filling together. As a result, each slice of tourtière would spill its guts all over the plate the upon the touch of a fork. It didn't matter: every stray scrap was hunted down like an escaped felon, soon to meet its reward with a dash of HP sauce.

Here's a fun fact: apparently, the French Canadian meat pie gets its name from what was, once upon a time, its key ingredient: the tourte or passenger pigeon. No wonder the passenger pigeon went extinct: they must have been delicious.

Reveillon Tourtiere
adapted from The Canadian Living Christmas Book

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 lb. ground pork
1 ½ cups beef stock or water
1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
½ - 1 cup finely chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tsp pepper
¾ tsp salt
2 bay leaves
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ dried savory (I used poultry seasoning in lieu)
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 cup fresh bread crumbs or 1 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats
Pastry for TWO 9 inch double-crust pie (I used Martha Stewart’s Perfect Pie Crust)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp water

Cook pork in large skillet over medium-high heat. Break it up with wooden spoon for 7 to 10 minutes until no longer pink. Drain off fat.

Stir in stock, onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery, salt, bay leaves, rosemary, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, savory, and cloves. Bring to a boil. Reduce meat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35 to 45 minutes or until 2 tbsp. of liquid remain.

Stir in bread crumbs. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until cold or for up to a day.

Prepare pastry. (You can make the pastry a day ahead and keep refrigerated in plastic wrap as small ½ inch discs of dough). Bring it to room temperature before rolling out to assemble the pies.

Spoon filling into pie shell, smoothing top. Moisten edge of pastry with water and cover with top pastry, pressing edges together to seal. Trim (a good pair of kitchen scissors are the best for this job) and flute pastry edge.

Combine egg with water; brush some over pastry. Cut decorative shapes from remaining pastry (or if you can’t be bothered slice a few vent holes with a small knife) and arrange on top; brush with egg mixture. Make sure you have some steam vents. Bake at 375ºF for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

To Freeze: don’t cut out any shapes or vents. Wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.

Partially thaw in refrigerator for 6 hours or until pastry gives slightly when pressed. Cut steam vents and brush with glaze.

Bake in 375F oven for 1- ¼ hours or until heated through and pastry is golden, shielding edge with foil if necessary during last 30 minutes.

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