Friday, December 30, 2011

Bonne Année, Jehane Benoît!

Christmas has come and gone. December is nearly over. And we’ve calculated that between New York and a couple of stints at Andrew’s parents’, we’ve spent as much of the month away as we have at home.

All that to say I’ve been far from the kitchen and the recipe I’m sharing today dates back to before Christmas. But tourtière, that ubiquitous French Canadian meat pie, is just as appropriate for New Year’s Eve as it is on Christmas.

A note on the recipe : It’s my mum’s, but she derived it from the Québécoise culinary great of the 1960’s and 70’s, Jehane Benoît. She’s relatively unknown to Anglo-Canadians, but her 1963 Encyclopédie de la cuisine canadienne sold a million and a half copies. She was a constant in my mum’s cooking when I was growing up, and my mum’s a helluva good cook, so I owe Jehane a mention.

I’ll leave the piecrust recipe up to you. The best choice is a lard-based crust, but I’ve used a butter crust, which was just fine.

La tourtière aux quatre épices (Four spice meat pie)

5 lbs ground meat (ideally, one third pork, two thirds beef)

1 cup water

1 large onion, diced

1 ½ tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

About 1 cup bread crumps, perhaps more

(Enough pie dough for three 9-inch pies, including top sheets)

Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large, sturdy pot (cast iron, if possible), combine all the ingredients, save for the breadcrumbs. Stirring from time to time, brown the meat on medium-high heat on the stovetop, uncovered. When the meat is cooked through and the ingredients are well combine, turn the heat way down, and start adding the breadcrumbs. This is a gradual thing – you want just enough breadcrumbs to absorb the liquid, but not so much that you end up with a mouthful of dry stuff.

Turn the heat off, and let it cool while you prepare three piecrusts. Fill each crust with a third of the meat mix, and cover with a top crust. If you have a little extra trimming, apply decorative piecrust by dampening it a tad.

Bake for about half an hour, or until your crust is cooked and golden, and the meat is piping hot.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where do I start about New York?

In Central Park Zoo, four trainers fed four sea lions. The sea lions performed tricks, and then gobbled sardines or kippers or some kind of fish. I was too mesmerized to take photos.

Four days in New York is not enough. We walked, ate, gawked, we rode the subway. We also stopped for cold beers in cozy bars as often as we could manage.

We were lucky to have a list of recommendations from Mika. Every time we stopped for a snack or a pint, we referred to that list, to a map, and then back to that list.

High on the list was Prune. We ate the trip’s last meal there.

I need to go back and eat some more.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What December 1st looks like

Some of what I saw on my walk to work this Thursay, December 1st morning. The croissants are at Clafouti, a lovely café on Queen Street West, right across from Trinity Bellwoods Park, where I had a delicious mushroom and asiago croissant sandwich.