Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tourtière, French-Canadian Meat Pie

Every year I bake huge amounts for the holidays, but I never make the same things. I may repeat a cookie or two, but I like to change it up. Even the decorated sugar cookies I make come from a different recipe every time (this year's recipe was a keeper, though I doubt I'll be able to find it again next year). You may be wondering just where the cookie posts have been. I've made at least 6 kinds of cookies but not managed to get photos. Most of them were boxed up and gifted as soon as they cooled. You've probably had enough cookies by now anyway, right?

So, how about something a little lighter? Well, not exactly light, but to me it's not Christmas without it. Tourtière is a French-Canadian meat pie that is always served at Christmastime, usually Christmas Eve. There are many variations, using different types of meat, including wild game but I always make mine with pork. The pie is rich but not fatty, spiced and incredibly savoury. Tourtière is best served with something acidic like a chutney or homemade ketchup or beet relish in my case. Actually I don't like anything at all on it, just some of my homemade coleslaw on the side. I'll be sharing this pie with my family on Christmas Eve, and may even make another one for Christmas Day. It's so much better than turkey, trust me.

Source: Lucy Waverman, The Globe and Mail
Makes 1 double-crust pie

Crust for a double-crust pie: lard is traditional, but I used this butter one

2 tablespoons oil
3 cups chopped onions
1 kilogram/2 pounds ground pork
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon ground allspice (I used 2 allspice berries, ground)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves (I used 2 whole cloves, ground)
generous ¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons dried savoury
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 cup beef or chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons oatmeal
  1. Saute onions over medium heat until softened and brown. Increase heat and add pork, breaking it up and sauteing until no longer pink. Add garlic and all spices and saute for another few minutes, stirring and continuing to break up the pork. Drain fat if necessary. Add broth and oatmeal and simmer, covered for 45 minutes, until thick. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 450℉. Roll out half of pastry and line a 9" deep pie plate. Fill with meat mixture and top with crust. Flute edges and make slits in pastry for steam to escape. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375℉ and bake for another 35-45 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly before cutting and serving. Serve warm or cold.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Daring Cooks Make Char Siu Bao!

Do you know that saying 'A day late and a dollar short'? I think that's my motto. I seem incapable of getting anything done on time. Completely done is more accurate. This challenge was made and it was only the photo (and the dreaded write-up) that were missing (for the third challenge in a row). So, what do you get? A short post and a photo of a 4-day-old steamed bun. Merry Christmas!
I love barbequed pork and steamed buns, but I had few of the ingredients to make these. So, I went over to a friend's place. She has a cupboard full of Chinese cooking ingredients and has taken cooking classes in Beijing. In fact, she had made this exact dish there. Unable to follow a recipe to the letter, I combined a few different recipes to make the marinade for the pork. The most interesting ingredient was fermented tofu marinated in rice vinegar and ground red rice. We didn't need any food colouring with this, and you can see that the pork was quite pink. I assure you that it was cooked. I also used pork shoulder, as tenderloin can be dry, being the boneless skinless chicken breast of the pig world. The picture above is of the very end piece, which was fattier than the rest. The meat had a great texture and flavour. For the buns, we boiled the marinade as a sauce, adding a bit more of this and that to make it delicious. 
This was a fun and tasty challenge, and it really wasn't that much work, so I urge you to try it. Thanks Sara of Belly Rumbles! Check out what the rest of the Daring Cooks made in the slideshow. Find the full challenge and recipe pdf here.

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nutty as...

How would you finish that title? Fruitcake, right? I couldn't bring myself to put fruitcake in the title, because I am a lifelong and vocal fruitcake basher. I can't stand the stuff, but not so much because it's like a brick, but because it has raisins in it. Raisins, and nasty artificially dyed 'fruit'. Since when are cherries bright green? Blech. Nuts and booze and nice dried fruit are just fine with me, however. So, when I saw this cake I thought I'd give it a try. I wasn't sure, though, so it took a few years for it to make the move from bookmarked to baked. And another month and a bit to make the move from baked to blogged (and eaten), but at least I was bathing it in Amaretto for that month. The results were surprisingly good. I cut into one to share some with a friend and found myself unable to stop taking another thin slice, and another and then maybe just one more. Make it now and it'll be fab over the holidays.

Oh, I forgot the almost-best part: it's called Dowager Duchess Fruitcake! I think I saved it for the name alone. It's full of candied orange peel and almonds, but there is cake too, reminiscent of pound cake. The original recipe called for sherry, which sounded too dowager-y and dowdy to me. I used rum, then doused it with Amaretto, about ⅓ cup for each cake over a month, making it potent and tasty too. I won't get up on a fruitcakey soapbox and try to convince you that this is the fruitcake that will erase all your bad fruitcake memories like so many well-meaning folks have done to me, but I will say that I like it very much indeed.
What I used for a half recipe

Dowager Duchess Fruitcake
Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 2-9" loaves, apparently, but it wouldn't fit in my loaf pan. I made 2-6" cakes instead from a half recipe

1 pound/454 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 pounds 4 ounces/1 kilogram candied orange peel, cut in 1 cm pieces (I made my own, but you can buy it too)
15 ounces/425 grams whole blanched almonds
2½ cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons Amaretto or rum, plus extra for soaking
4 cups all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat oven to 300℉/150℃. Line cake pans with buttered parchment paper. Combine orange peel and almonds in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping bowl after each addition. Add Amaretto/rum. 
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour a cup at a time, beating only until combined. Fold in orange peel/almond mixture.
  4. Divide batter amongst pans. You can fill to the top as it doesn't rise. Bake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 1 to 1¼ hours. Remove from oven and douse each cake with 2-3 tablespoons Amaretto, depending on size of cakes. Let cool completely on rack.
  5. Remove cakes from pans and discard parchment. Wrap in cheesecloth and store in a tin in a cool, dark place for 1 month, dousing them with Amaretto (1-2 tablespoons) once a week. I alternated soaking the top and bottom and turned the cakes every week.
  6. Slice thinly to serve.