Monday, December 21, 2009

A Little Solstice Pomp....

The most abbreviated of days, and I believe it's going to
fill up with rain. This descent into darkness always
thrills me, oddly. I think it's because it always ends
in Christmas, which, oddly (or unlike many adults
I know) I still rather enjoy. Of course as the years
have accumulated, the delights exist less in the
material world and more in the pleasures
of the palate.

My sons have unanimously requested tourtiere
for Christmas Eve dinner. It's a French-Canadian
meat pie which was a tradition in my home
growing up. Here's the recipe:

1 # ground beef
1/2 # ground pork
2 pieces bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup water
1 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
3/4 t. sage
1/2 t. thyme
1/4 t. allspice
3 T. chopped parsley
1 potato, boiled & mashed

pastry for a two-crust pie

Brown the meats, add the onion and garlic; cook for a few minutes.
Add everything else except the parsley and potato.
Simmer for 20 minutes. Add parsley and potato, let cool.

Fill pie shell with mixture, top with remaining pastry.
Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until brown.

My mom served this with buttered peas on the side.
She always would roast some beef and pork earlier
in the week, then grind them in her hand-crank grinder
(which clamped to the table's edge and was stored
in an old Quaker Oats cylindrical box with pictures
of Woody Woodpecker on the back.) She used this
meat instead of the pre-ground beef and pork.
I loved feeding the meat into that grinder,
turning the handle and watch it spiral out
on the other side!

My kids grew up with this pie also. On the Christmas
Eve morning of R.'s first quarter of culinary school,
I was happily ensconced in the kitchen, stirring up
my tourtiere, when R. came into the room, grabbed
the spoon out of my hand and bullied me out of the
way. WTF???? He firmly and calmly stated
that he was trying to INTRODUCE SOME CLASSIC
KITCHEN. Hrrrmmmpppphhh!

Boy was that a mistake. I told him that this was
about as classic as it gets, or, at least, classic country
French-Canadian. This recipe has its roots in our
Quebec ancestors, Thomas Hayot and his wife
Jeanne Boucher, who, along with their children
Genevieve and Rodolphe, emmigrated from
Mortagne au Perche (France) in 1638.
R., in his new-found expertise, was not impressed.
I finally demanded that he leave the kitchen.

If you know R., you'll know that this is very
out of character for him. He's genial, easy-going
and generous of spirit. We had more than one
culinary run-in that fall, where I finally told him
that for 19 years he'd loved everything that had
come out of this kitchen. Moreover, I hadn't yet
poisoned him, forced him to eat watery gruel,
or made him suffer the penury of anything
from a store-bought-mix or squeezed out of
a tube.

Happily, as he progressed in his studies, his
criticism of All Things Mom eased, to the point
where I find nothing more pleasurable than an
afternoon spent in the kitchen with him.
Yes, we do engage in some good-natured
verbal sparring now and again over this spice
or that cut of meat, but it's with respect and
curiosity now, and the desire to learn.

My greatest pleasure, though, is when he asks
for cooking advice! From me!

Here's his Christmas gift to me (and himself)....
He endured way more than his share of adversity
while on the road to this piece of paper --
heart attack, victim of a violent crime, legal fall-out
from his father's death, plus other serious health issues.
But he persisted, Classical French Cooking Techniques
and all:


  1. . . . "the delights exist less in the material world and more in the pleasures of the palate . . .

    Hear, hear!

    And that pie sounds delicious! (Although steak and kidney pie is my all-time favourite).

  2. I have French-Canadian in me as well (on my mom's side, by way of an area of Cape Breton).

    I tried to give you the snow code, but the comment box won't accept it. So, go here:

    copy the above into an HTML gadget in the layout of your blog and save. (I put mine at the bottom of the blog in the middle boxes below the posts.)

    Have you ever read the book or seen the series, "Emilie"? I think it would appeal to your roots.

  3. For me the delight is first in the company of old and dear friends throughout the season.

    I'm missing so many of them because of being so sick. Talk about the shortest day of the year? I didn't even get out of bed until nearly 1 pm, after going down last night at 10, to wake up even more sick than yesterday. Day 6 of getting worse.

    This is so painful because of missing so many people. So many of our friends travel constantly for work, or are busy with television and movie schedules, exhibit deadlines, journalism, the academic semester, etc. so this is the season they stay home, particularly those who are parents. Also, so many old friends come to NYC between Thanksgiving and the first two weeks of the New Year.

    I really hate this! Whine, sob, tantrum.

    And I can't eat either. No appetite.

    Love, C.

  4. Dumdad, I've not had the pleasure of tasting steak and kidney pie, but I think I'd prefer it to be heavy on the steak side. Just sayin'.

    Kat -- thanks for the link! Yay! Virtual snow! I'll check out that series.

    Foxessa: Poor baby! Is it swine? Sending wellness vibes your way.

  5. excellent, all of it, everything!

  6. Congratulations to Reilly on his diploma, and to you for getting your smarts back. I found that after my children had gone through adolescence and out the other side, my IQ increased dramatically, at least in their eyes. (Of course, it had been falling since they were five and started school.)

    I love tourtiere, but I'm so veggie lately, I find myself trying to invent a vegetarian tourtiere. Hmmm.

  7. the dish sounds dee-lish! So glad for Reilly - he persevered. That speaks volumes about his character and his passion.

    A very Merry Christmas to you, dear T., and your family.