I had been living in Montreal Quebec for a couple of years working as a police officer - which for those who know me, was the classic example of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole - and had just recently gone on sabbatical in order to return to school.
For that reason, 1989 had not been a great year and Christmas wasn't looking much better. I was due to fly out of Montreal late Christmas eve to visit friends and family in my hometown of Winnipeg Manitoba, but wasn't looking forward to the questions I knew would be coming about why I had chosen to leave the police force. To make matters worse, it was going to be a long and lonely evening waiting for my 10:00 pm departure.
A good friend had offered to drive me to the airport a few days before, and I was grateful, at least, to have some company. But that afternoon she called and threw a wrench in my plans - something had come up and she was going to have to take me to the airport in the afternoon. I offered to call a cab but she was insistent that she would drive and that we could grab a drink in the airport lounge.
She picked me up at my apartment at about 2:00 pm, and then asked if I would mind stopping for a quick hello at her mom's house to say Merry Christmas. I had always liked her family, so I readily agreed. What followed puts a lump in my throat to this day.
In most French Canadian families Christmas eve, not day, is a big deal and celebrations that begin in the late evening often go all night long. But this Christmas Eve my friend's mom - who was appropriately named Noella, decided to begin a little early - just for me - so that I could enjoy a traditional French Canadian celebration with their family.
When I walked into their warmly decorated home, candles twinkled brightly, and I was greeted not only by a table literally bending to accommodate all of the food, but by the welcoming voices of people sincerely glad to see me. The moment became a highlight - one of those memories you return to on days when the sky is not as blue...
We laughed and we drank and we ate.
Coquilles St Jaques, Arugula Salad, and Noella's ultimate recipe for tourtieres.
These delightfully spiced meat pies have become a mainstay, now, in my own Christmas celebrations. Such is the beauty of the connections we make through food, friends, and hospitality. Somewhere in this world is a beautiful woman named Noella; she lives her life with no idea the impact one Christmas eve had on a lonely young person just trying to make her way. Because of that, I live with the constant desire to pass it on.
Please enjoy my easy to follow recipe video and cook along with me!
For printable recipe click HERE
- 2 pounds lean ground organic pork
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
- 2 large pears, cored and diced
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons allspice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups beef stock
- 4 cups of mashed potatoes or 1, 114 gram package powdered roasted garlic mashed potatoes (I use Idahoan brand)
- pastry for 4 x 2 crust, 9" pies
- Brown meat in a large dutch oven or frying pan. Drain off excess fat and place back in the dutch oven or large sauce pan.
- Add onions, pear, spices, salt, pepper, and enough beef stock to cover mixture. Mix well.
- Place over high heat and bring to a boil then reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring frequently until liquid just about gone..
- Add mashed potatoes to meat mixture blending well.
- Remove mixture from heat and let cool completely before filling the pies.
- On lightly floured surface, roll out pastry into 1/4-inch thickness. Fit into 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in filling. Top with remaining pastry.
- To make-ahead: overwrap in heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks; thaw in refrigerator. When ready to bake, brush with egg white. Cut steam vents in top. Bake in bottom third of 400°F (200°C) oven until hot and golden brown, about 50 minutes.
Apple Sauce Ingredients
- 4 apples - peeled, cored and chopped
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1. In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher.
Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, a former website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada, the $20,000.00 winner of the online competition "The Real Women of Philadelphia" and a finalist on the Food Network Canada show Recipe to Riches. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.