Sunday, December 23, 2012

THE NUTMEG OF CONSOLATION - a Recipe idea for Christmas Eve

I've thoroughly enjoyed the Patrick O'Brian nautical historical series, starting with Master and Commander and continuing on. Some of you may remember this from one of my later favorites - The Hundred Days.

"I am very sorry for the pandemonium, Stephen, he said at last they sat down to their breakfast, brought in by a now silent, timid Killick. "All this mad rushing up and down, bellowing like Gadarene swine". The breakfast itself was adequate with quantifies of fresh eggs, sausages, bacon, a noble pork pie, rolls and toast, cream for their coffee, but there was little to be said for it as a fleshly indulgence, since every other bite was interrupted by a message from one ship or another, often delivered by midshipmen, washed, brushed and extremely nervous, presenting their captains compliments.

I've been on the go all year it seems  Lots of travel, taking care of Dad, professional obligations.  It's been good when I could get home for a hand crafted meal, a chat with a friend on the phone and a decent night's sleep.  So it  didn't take much more than a mention of  this breakfast repast  in the book to get me thinking about creating something of the pastry/meat variety.

Meat pies are part of almost every culture.  In the US, outside of the "pot pie" they are not really popular in U.S. cuisine, with the exception of the Natchioches meat pie which is one of the official state foods of Louisiana.  The Cornish Pasty, found in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. where mining is still a good industry has it's origins in another land.   In Latin American empanadas may be pies or sometimes pastries, baked or fried and are popular in the Southwest U.S. as well. Steak and kidney pie and pork pies are seen in both England.

In Australia and New Zealand the meat pie is a common convenience food found in gas stations and convenience stores.  

But for this holiday, something Canadian in origin and my personal favorite.  From Quebec. Tourtiere is typically made and served on Chrismas Eve (though it's tasty ANY part of the winter) the recipe passed down from generation to generation. I'm proudly American but I also have family from Montreal. I'm a sucker for the gourmet Canadian Cuisine as well as the Halifax Donier, and will not turn down a fresh beavertail with my coffee if offered.   

But this is a dish worth making when you have the time.  It's delicious in any culture, and "mmmm" sounds pretty much the same wherever you are. No, this isn't a typical tourtiere, but my own adaption..  The recipes vary from family to family and city to cities, many with all pork, some, from Quebec city, with more game meats. There is good natured rivalry for who has the best recipe that exceeds any seen at a Hockey game.  This may not be the best, but it is my favorite. 
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb ground pork, beef and veal
  • 1-1/2 cups beef stock
  • 2 T. bacon fat
  • 3 onions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • generous handful of chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried summer savory
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • tiny pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of cognac
  • a pinch of maple sugar
  • 1 cup chopped fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Pastry for double-crust pie 
  • 1 egg , beaten
  • 1 tsp water
  • a pinch of maple sugar (optional)
Cook meat in a a heavy pan of French oven over medium  heat in oil, breaking up with spoon until it is no longer bright pink in center.  Do not brown, as it will cook further in stock.  Drain off the fat and set meat aside but do not rinse meat.  In a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat, cook onions until starting to soften, add in celery and  dried spices, stir over medium for a couple of minutes, adding the mushrooms in the last minute. Then add meat back in with the stock, cooking on low to medium low for 40 minutes until you have about 2 Tablespoons of liquid remaining.  Remove from heat, add cognac, and stir in bread crumbs and fresh parsley. Cover and put in the fridge for at least a day (trust me, it gets better as it sits).  Make up double crust pie, making bottom crust about 1/8 inch thickness.  Place in pan, spoon in filling, smoothing the top and top with remaining pastry pressing edges together and sealing.  Combine egg, maple sugar water and brush over top, making small steam vents in the top with a small knife.  Bake at 375  for 45-50 minutes until goloden brown.  Leftovers are as good cold as they are hot and make a great lunch.
Easy perfect pie crust. (from my butcher at Moody's Butcher Shop)  Makes 3 crusts, two for a pie, one for a quiche.
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of rendered lard (if you've not tried, get thee to a butcher shop)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon of vinegar
  • 5 Tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
Cut the flour and lard together. Beat egg in a cup and add the vinegar, water, and salt. Add to the flour mixture. May need a little more water to make a nice ball. Roll it out. Makes about 3 crusts. Bake at 350 degrees unitl done.


  1. Thankfully, I'm already hungry!


  2. I'm not a huge fan of cloves, but a Tourtiere without it is like an apple pie without cinnamon - it's just not done!!! I've made my Tourtiere with chopped and fried bacon mixed in with straight ground venison.

    And don't forget a toast with Quebec Sortilege!!! (Maple syrup and whisky liquer)

  3. A glass of wine with you, Dear Lady.

    I'm sure you're aware of this Aubrey/ Maturin cookbook: Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels (Patrick O'Brian) I'm sure if I ate and drank like the heroes, I too would weigh 20 Stone.

    It's been 10 years since I finished the O'Brian series: it's probably time to make my reacquaintance. However, the Sharpe series beckons...

    Merry Christmas Eve!

  4. Hey! That is my Grandmothers recipe for pie crusts. I've been using it exclusively for years.

    As I read this post, I am currently fixing breakfast, consisting of: bacon, fried potatoes and eggs.


  5. Marty - yours sounds wonderful! Barkley says "thank you Uncle Marty" for his toy. He kept trying to steal it from under the tree so I opened it for him this morning so he could play in the snow with it.

    Thanks from both of us!!

    Uno Mas - a toast to you as well! It's an excellent series! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Idahobob - It makes the best crusts, doesn't it. Breakfast was big here then off to play in the snow and work it off.

  6. Sounds yummy... their is a great place to get homemade cornish pasties just up the hill...
    I will have to try the pie crust recipe... because mine could be used as body armor in a pinch...

  7. When I lived 'way up north (mainly French speaking town) we'd go to church at midnight on Christmas Eve (on foot, -30 Farenheit).

    Then come home, play cards, enjoy some rye, and feast on tourtiere around 4 am. My mother-in-law used generous amounts of moose meat cuz...let's just say we had lots of it. Served with gravy in the local style.

    Forty years later, that's still Christmas to me.

  8. Looks pretty good. When I was a kid, we grew up eating these quite a bit, usually with a bit of brown gravy or chili on them. They were quite popular around here when I was growing up.

  9. It is the lard that does the crust. I will try your version for New Years. The one handed down to me was a tad heavy on the potatoes for my liking, but it was the family tradition. Thanks for a new recipe - and have a Merry Christmas.

  10. I'm halfway through The Letter of Marque right now...for the third time - ain't they grand?
    Thought they cast Russel Crowe just right for Aubrey in the movie; Paul Bettany as Maturin was close, but not quite...
    Merry Christmas from Clan Differ


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