When I was growing up we always had oyster stew for Christmas Eve dinner. To tell you the truth, I never particularly cared for it. Okay. None of us did. As an adult, I served Chili for many years at my own gatherings. Always a hit. Then when Stacey moved here, I mentioned that my friends Terry and Ken had meat pies on Christmas Eve, but I had never tried them. We both decided it sounded like a good idea, and I searched the Internet for recipes. I learned that it's a French Canadian thing, and most of the recipes I found were similar variations on a very simple recipe.
The pies were a big hit, served with a simple salad [tossed with Penzey's French Country Vinaigrette]...and homemade eggnog of course [scroll down the page to "Holiday Spirits" for that recipe]! Each year I make the filling, and Stacey makes an old school lard crust from scratch. It's such a simple and delicious meal, perfect for spending the evening with the ones you want to be with- and not the whole night in the kitchen!
1 onion, finely chopped
1 grated raw potato
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon of a dried French herb blend
[I use Penzey's "Perisian", or their French Country dressing base]
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 9 inch pastry crusts
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until soft. Add the meats, potato, and a little water, then simmer until the meat is lightly browned and onions and potatoes are soft. Stir in spices and herbs, and then salt and pepper to taste.
Fill pastry lined pie dish with the mixture and cover with the top crust. Slash the top crust in 3 or 4places to allow steam to escape. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned.
This is Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for an old fashioned lard crust. It's the one Stacey uses, and it is bar-none the best pie crust, EVER! You'll need 2 of them for each pie.
1 1/3 cups pastry flour, plus 4 teaspoons (6.5 ounces/ 184 grams) or all-purpose flour (if using all-purpose flour, reduce the water by 1 teaspoon for more tenderness)
1/2 teaspoon salt (use 3/8 teaspoon if using rendered caul fat)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold lard (4 ounces/ 113 grams, if using commercial lard, use 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons; if using rendered caul)
1/4 cup ice water (2 ounces/ 59 grams)
4 teaspoons cider vinegar (0.7 ounce/ 20 grams)
2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour or wheat flour, approximately
1. Place a medium mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.
2. Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a re-closable gallon-size freezer bag, and whisk them together.
3. Using a melon baller, scoop 1/2-1 inch balls of the lard directly into the flour, shaking the bag occasionally to distribute and cover them with the flour.
4. If the room is warm and the lard starts getting very soft, place the bag in the freezer for about 10 minutes before proceeding.
5. It is is still firm but squishable once it's all been added, using a rolling pin, roll together the lard and flour until the lard is in thin flakes.
6. Place the bag in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
7. Empty the flour mixture into the cold bowl, scraping the sides of the bag to release all of it.
8. Set the bag aside.
9. Sprinkle on the ice water and vinegar, tossing gently with a rubber spatula to incorporate it evenly.
10. Spoon the mixture back into the plastic bag (if using caul fat, which is softer, the dough will already hold together, so it's easier to empty it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and knead it lightly from the outside of the wrap).
11. Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
12. Sprinkle the dough on both sides with a little whole wheat flour, wrap it with plastic wrap, flatten into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.
13. STORES refrigerated up to 3 days; frozen, up to 3 months.
NOTE: When rolling the dough, roll it directly on the counter or on plastic wrap.
14. Sprinkle both sides of the dough and the counter or plastic wrap amply with whole wheat flour as needed to keep it from sticking.
15. (The whole wheat flour will not toughen it and will give it extra crunch and a lovely, wheaty flavor.)
POINTERS FOR SUCCESS: Pay particular attention to temperature, keeping the lard well-chilled. When mixing the lard flakes/flour mixture with the liquid, stir gently so as to maintain large flakes of lard.