Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We have a pretty low-key Christmas. Neither of us have any family in the area, so we don't have the big extravaganzas like most people. Dale's daughters slept over last night--we watched "Christmas Vacation" and "A Christmas Story" and ate cookies. This morning we slept in and then opened gifts. Those guys are all watching "The Simpsons--Season Nine" right now.
One of the things I wanted to do this Christmas was make Tourtiere, the traditional French-Canadian meat pie. I had been inspired to do this after reading the wonderful post by Mimi at French Kitchen in America: A Traditional Tourtiere
I remember my Gramma Ethel making this not just at Christmas, but for family gatherings in general.
My dad sent me her recipe. This recipe is different from most in that it uses a baking powder biscuit dough for the crust rather than the pate brisee that I usually see in other recipes. We are sure she used lard instead of shortening as well. I wanted to used lard, just to be traditional, but believe it or not, the grocery store was out of lard! I know people use it to make tamales and this is the height of the tamale-making season. I didn't want to make a special trip to the Hispanic grocery store, so I ended up using good old Crisco. My arteries got a reprieve. For now.
So I made the tourtiere and it was GREAT! I sort of spaced-out on adding the water to the meat mixture as Gramma's recipe states, and the mixture was looking pretty crumbly, so I added two eggs as I saw in Mimi's recipe. I was also a little unsure of cooking this thing at 450 degrees, which seemed a little high. What I ended up doing was 20 minutes at 450, covering the top with foil, turning the heat down to 400 and cooking it for another 15 minutes--just to make sure the filling was nice and hot. Instant read thermometer at 160 degrees was just right. Turned out perfect! Dale and I each had two helpings. I had the feeling Gramma was pleased too!

Ethel's Tourtiere

2 pounds lean shoulder pork, ground once
1 large onion, diced

Cook the meat in a cast iron fry pan over low heat.
Add seasonings and onion.
Simmer until meat is cooked.
Pour in water to cover and cook several minutes.
Skim off grease.
Thicken meat sauce with flour and water, like gravy.

Make biscuit dough, divide in half and roll out top and bottom crusts.
Place bottom crust in 9" pie plate, top with meat mixture.
Place top crust, flute edges and add decorative vent holes.

450 degrees, 20 minutes
(check with instant read thermometer, if not 160 degrees, cover crust with foil, turn oven down to 400 degrees and cook till 160 degrees)

Baking Powder Biscuit Dough

2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Cut shortening into dry ingredients, add milk to make a soft dough.
Roll out.

Here's the meat cooking. Obviously, I didn't use the cast iron pan.



I also had fun the last week or so baking Christmas cookies. I was feeling a little guilty when I bought 4 pounds of butter the other day, but what the heck, its Christmas, dammit. And its not like I eat them all myself, right?!
Three new recipes this year--Double Chocolate Cherry Thumbprints and Almond-Orange-Cardamom Cookies both come from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The third is a re-creation of a cookie I remember our dear family friend, Auntie Clara used to make. It is a striped icebox-type cookie. I started with this Butter Cookie recipe. I used half the recipe and divided that into three portions. To one I added cocoa powder, chopped nuts and cinnamon. To another I added chopped candied cherries, red food coloring and almond extract. The last one has poppy seeds and grated lemon zest. Sandwich them together in a loaf shape, then slice. I used the other half of the dough to make the star cutouts.
The Chocolate-Orange Biscotti are a repeat, as are the Molasses Cookes, Date Bars, and Tutti-Fruitti Bars, which came from my 1950 Edition of "The Betty Crocker Picture Cook-Book"

Yesterday, I harvested some of our backyard's bounty and squeezed up a jug of orange juice to drink as we opened gifts. These are (I think) Valencia oranges, so they aren't really for eating out of hand, but perfect for juice. I'm sad and embarrassed to say I rarely make juice. Usually the juice it a little too sour for my taste and I add a little simple syrup. This batch did not need any sweetener.

I think I'm going to wrap up this post, grab a couple of cookies and watch "Season Nine". Maybe later, a trip down to the beach.


Mimi said...

Wonderful photos!

For some reason, I thought you would be in the Midwest for the holidays, Mary Ruth - I spoke to the California branch of my family this afternoon - wish we could all be together.

Enjoy the day!

MaryRuth said...

Thanks Mimi. My trips back home are usually done in the summer. It is just too nuts to do it at holiday time. BTW, the tourtiere was great reheated for lunch today!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Happy holidays Mary Ruth! Everything looks great. So where did all that food go since it's just two of you? :P

MaryRuth said...

Thanks WC! We both took cookie trays to work, but for sure, I eat my share!