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Year of the Horse Inn
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Tourtiére (pronounced Tour-tee-air)
Sauté onion in butter. Add meat, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook slowly, stirring occasionally. Peel, boil, and mash potatoes (do not add any milk, butter, etc. to them). Add cooked meat to potatoes and mix well. Mix in spices to taste. Fill pie crust, cover, puncture the top crust, and paint with milk. Cook in oven at 425 to 450 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower oven to 350 degrees until it is what my mom called "golden done," 45 to 55 minutes in all.
Serve piping hot. Some Québecois like to lift the lid of their slice and smear it with ketchup. I prefer not, but it is a matter of taste.
NOTE: This is the traditional meal of the Québecois, and I have the recipe from my mother, who passed away in July 1998 at age 87. I believe she had the recipe from my father's family. Both my parents were from Québec, my father born there, one of 16 children of a hotelier in the mining town of Thetford Mines. So in a way, operating a B&B for me is returning to my patrimony.
My mother was a Chicagoan transplanted to New England, but both her parents also came from Québec, so the recipe may very well be her mother's. She never said, we never asked. It was how Mom did it. She never had much in her life. She knew pain and conquered it with grit - when my younger brother was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident when he was barely 16 years old and when our father died at barely 50 years old that same year. My mother fought life and won the battle. She was the pillar around which our family revolved.
Every New Year's Day, we would gather at her place and she would have two or three of these delicious-smelling meat pies waiting for us along with plates of pickled beets and a platter of olives, sweet pickles, and celery stuffed with cream cheese. It wasn't New Year's Day if it didn't include Tourtiére. Richard Hébert
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