Tourtière success

DSCF0770My pie crust turned out perfect! It was light, crispy, and flaky, and the whole tourtière was very tasty. I know I’m tooting my own horn here, but I’m so happy that I managed to do it myself.

Part of the fun in cooking is also the giving. I brought a pie down to a friend, and he was ecstatic.

Also notice the huge rolling pin I received as a gift from my in-laws. It’s a bit hard to judge the size in the picture, but it works like a charm. I swear, I’ll never go back to a regular-sized rolling pin again.

Tourtières or Pâtés à viande?

Traditions are especially important during the holiday season in my French-Canadian family, but not having relatives close by or children of my own, I needed to find a way to connect with my heritage this season. So, I decided to make tourtières.

People, including French-Canadians, have different ideas of what a tourtière is. Is it the kind that looks like a pie filled with ground meat? Or does it have potatoes, carrots, and meat covered with a thick crust?

The answer to those questions depends on where you’re from. If you’re of the  Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region in Québec, the former is a pâté à viande and the latter a tourtière. Everywhere else in French Canada, as far as I know, a tourtière is a meatpie, with nothing but ground meat (usually beef, pork and/or veal), onions, salt and pepper, and maybe a couple of herbs. These are the meatpies I made yesterday. Here in the North, however, many substitute the beef for caribou or moose meat. I’m anxiously waiting for a friend of mine to drop off some moose meat.

I’ve only made tourtières a couple of times before, and each time I had the help of a seasoned cook. This time I was on my own. Of course I had to make the necessary phone calls to my mother and grandma to make sure I had things right.

Judging by fluffiness and flakiness of the small pastries* made with the leftover dough, I succeeded with my pie crusts; actually, I think it’s the best crust I’ve made yet. The meat mixture was also quite tasty, so I’m guessing that my tourtières will turn out to be good, but only at dinnertime tonight will I know for sure.

*When I’m done with pie crust pastry, I roll out the leftover dough, brush on some butter, and spread brown sugar, (you can add cinnamon and nuts if you like.) then roll it up, cut it up, and bake it. Nothing is wasted!

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure

Looking out onto Lake Ontario from my father-in-law’s backyard at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs, I had no idea what surprises were hidden at the bottom of these cliffs. Coming from the north, I was awestruck by the lush greenery on either side of me and was curious about the area below where few people could be spotted walking along the gravel road.

Overlooking the Bluffs

Overlooking the Bluffs

Lush greenery surrounding us

Lush greenery surrounding us

After inquiring about ways of getting to the bottom of the Bluffs, we walked down a sloped trail at the base of which was a metal sculpture by Marlene Hilton Moore to honour artist Doris McCarthy. The sculpture resembles the ribs of a canoe or a fish. More information about the dates etched at the base of each rib and the interpretation of the piece can be found by clicking on the image. [Update 2010/05/02 - A sincere thanks to John McEwen for pointing out my egregious error.]

Passage by Doris McCarthy

Passage by Marlene Hilton Moore

It’s almost unbelievable that an area surrounded by millions of people can be so deserted: we met a couple walking their dogs and a trio of kids on bikes scrounging for metal by the look of the copper pipes poking crookedly out of their backpacks.

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The length of shore we strolled along seems to have been the recipient of scraps from demolished buildings. Perhaps this mixture of concrete, glass, and other debris were dumped there to help the breakwaters. There are also stories floating around that tell of the  ship Alexandria that sunk in 1915 near the Scarborough Bluffs and the possibility that some of the bits from the ship has washed up.

If I lived in the area, I would be the first to haul back scrap from the beach. There are pieces of eroded bricks, some that still have porcelain or ceramic tiles still attached to them which would make great conversation pieces. There are also rust-coloured egg-shaped rocks, obviously eroded red bricks (unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of them). I pictured a bed of this red stone/brick on a landscaped surface under green shrubs or bordering a flower bed.

A find

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Ontario & NL 2009 086

Since bringing rocks back over 5500 km didn’t seem like a smart idea, I opted for a smaller kind of treasure: beach glass.

An ex-boyfriend turned me on to beach glass hunting where salt water meets the rocky shores of the Bras D’Or in Cape Breton. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours walking along rocky beaches from Haines, Alaska, to St. John’s, Newfoundland, looking for these little treasures polished by the waves’ action.

There are many, many pieces you have to throw back into the water to let Mother Nature continue her work, and it can take hours to find only a few bits worthy of pocketing. But here on this empty shoreline with nothing more than a few ducks nearby and flocks of geese overhead, it only took a few minutes before I spotted my first keeper. After searching for less than a couple of hours, I walked away with a handful of glittering glass. I felt like I had found the motherlode.

Sure you can buy the sandblasted kind by the bag, and they’re everywhere in custom jewellery shops, but in my eyes, these man-made replicas are comparable to plastic rings found at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.

Where are these tiny colourful gems from? How long have they been in the water? There’s so much mystery around each piece of glass. Oh, one can speculate, but you never really know: broken bottles, glass from ships, garbage dumped? Regardless, they’re my little treasures now to do with as I wish.