Holiday celebrations this year will feel even more special as many of us get together with our families as many of us renew traditions that were skipped a year ago. During our annual “holiday food” conversations with local chefs and restaurateurs, each of the recipes they chose to share had some connection to their roots. We hope these dishes encourage you to spread warmth and hope to your loved ones this holiday season.
Northern Essex Community College Culinary and Hospitality Program
For Denis Boucher, manager of the culinary and hospitality program at Northern Essex Community College, it’s traditions that mean the most during the holidays. His family embraces its Franco American culture, enjoying multiple celebrations. When it comes to a traditional dish, Boucher says his family’s recipe for tourtiere — a French Canadian meat pie served throughout Quebec and by Franco American families during the Christmas season — has been passed down by the women in his family for generations.
Boucher grew up watching his memere (grandmother) and mother in the kitchen, sparking his love of cooking at a young age. Despite his culinary experience, Boucher says he initially found it difficult to capture the unique flavor of his grandmother’s tourtiere. “If I changed one little thing, such as substituting warm spices for savory herbs, I heard about it,” he says.
Boucher finally made a breakthrough when he was able to trick his family into thinking his mother had made the beloved pies. “They loved them,” he says. This year will be even more special for Boucher, whose mother died in July. He plans to continue the annual tradition to honor her and his grandmother.
Northern Essex Community College
Mémère Porell’s Tourtière
Yield: one 10-inch pie; 8 to 10 servings
2 cups or 9 ounces all-purpose flour
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) of butter cut into small dice and kept refrigerated
3 ounces ice-cold water
1 teaspoon salt
Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and add the cold butter. Pulse until the pieces are the size of a pea.
Add water and pulse until the dough forms a loose ball. Do not overmix.
Empty the dough onto a floured surface and gather together until it forms a cylinder.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least
1 hour. This can be done a day ahead of time.
Note: It’s OK to use store-bought pie dough in a pinch.
2 pounds ground pork, at least 80% lean
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion; chopping it in a food processor is OK
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 cups mashed potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
1/4 cup milk
Combine the pork, onion, salt, pepper, herbs and water in a medium saucepan. Stir until well combined.
Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated (2 to 3 hours). Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
In another saucepan, boil the potatoes until tender, drain, and mash or rice.
Combine the pork mixture with the potatoes. Place the mixture in the refrigerator while you prepare your pie dough, or until cool.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and cut into 2 pieces, 10 ounces for the bottom crust and 8 ounces for the top crust.
Roll out the bottom crust and line a 10-inch pie plate.
Spoon the cooled pork and potato mixture into the bottom crust and smooth into a slight dome, using the back of a spoon. Brush the milk onto the edges of the crust.
Roll out the top crust and place over the filling, overlapping the top crust by 1 inch. Seal the edges by pressing together lightly.
Flute the edges of the crust. Insert your thumb into the middle of the top crust to create a vent hole.
Brush the crust with milk and bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes or until the top crust is browned and a thermometer inserted into the center of the filling reads 160 F.
Serve warm or at room temperature.