French Pork Pies (Tourtières) OR “Keep on Looking Busy for the Love of TV”



Don’t tell anyone this, but sometimes when I’m bored at work I go into the men’s room and watch myself in the mirror while I angle my arms in different directions and pretend I’m a hieroglyphic.

Other times I sit at my desk and stare silently, with a balance of frustration and thought on my face.  You’d swear I was trying to work out a production issue.  But in my head, I’m actually deciding what music I want played at my funeral.  I’m nearly ceratin that the “thinking theme” from Match Game ‘76 is what I’d like for when they carry my casket out of the church.

Working in television is not glamorous.  Appearing on television is glamorous, but working in television is just long hours.  Minimum ten to twelve a day, sometimes sixteen or more, almost all of it on your feet when you’re in production, and then far too much of it in a chair when you’re in post-production.

You’re often working out of rooms with no windows, overhead Gestapo lighting, a shortage of trash cans, and heavy, boxy old Mac desktop computers that crash when they try to bring up a website and auto-save a phone list at the same time. The kitchen has nothing but diet sodas, Hershey’s Miniatures and Cheez-Its.  You may start a television show eager and optimistic.  But by the time the show spits you out the other end, you’re pale, your pants don’t fit, and you discover all your house plants are dead.

But there’s no time to express how tired you are while you’re in the thick of it.  You’re almost always behind schedule.  Your shows aren’t being edited fast enough. The network has decided your set should be red instead of lime green even though you wrapped production six weeks ago and the set is sitting in a dumpster in Lancaster.  Also, you can’t use that shot of the breaded chicken strips you desperately need because the camera caught some idiot standing where he shouldn’t have been standing, and upon closer inspection, it turns out that idiot is you.

You just have to keep working.  You have to always be busy.

And when you’re not busy, you have to make it appear to everyone else that you are.

When I absolutely can’t concentrate on work any more, I’ll pick up a piece of paper and walk around the halls for ten minutes or so with a look of rushed worry on my face.  Another producer might say, “What are you working on?” and I’ll say to them, “Trust me.  You DO NOT want to know.”  And then they’ll run away from me as fast as they can, like I’ve just started talking about my experiences with prison sex.

Sometimes I have the phone up to my ear and when someone comes up to assign me another task, I just hold up the “can’t do it right now” finger, then point at the phone and make a sad face.  They’ll walk away thinking I’m trying to convince a contestant to sign that release form no one remembered to have them sign before they appeared on the show. They’ll never know what I’m actually doing is listening to what time Inside Out is playing in theaters across the country, one zip code at a time.

I believe in breaks, but television production does not, so I have to make them happen any way I can.  I’m really not qualified to participate in any other field except show business.  Thankfully in show business, with a lot of stamina, a little bit of brains, and a massive talent for being able to trick people into believing what you want them to believe – home viewers, studio audience members, the person about to hire you –  you can go very, very, very far!

I’d share more tricks on how to always “look busy,” but I’m under the gun to get these pork pies done in time for dinner tonight.

Or am I??

This is my second month participating in the Burwell General Store Recipe Swap.  run by my friend Christianna.  I found out last week that I’m currently the only man with a membership in this elite cooking club, and though work has been brutal the last three months, I must represent for my gender, even if the meal we’re supposed to put our own spin on is called “pork fruit cake,” and the most detailed instruction included in it is, “Bake very slowly.”  Luckily, men aren’t real fanatics about stopping and asking for directions.

French Pork Pies (Tourtières) with Raisin-Worcestershire Sauce
Adapted from AllRecipes.com.  Makes 12 servings

Crust:

  • 4 oz. cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 Tbsp ice water

Pork Filling: (will make enough filling for 12 pies)

  • 2 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 large onion, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 baking potatoes, peeled and cubed

Raisin Sauce:

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup jellied cranberry sauce

Optional: 10-ounce ramekins. You can also simply fold the filling into the dough close it up and cook them as pocket pies.

Egg wash for tops of pies (1 egg beat well with a pinch of salt

Make the Crusts: Mix flour and salt in a bowl.  Cut in butter and work with a fork or your fingers until you get a crumb consistency (you can also pulse it in a food processor, but don’t overdo it). Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time and continue to mix with a fork or your hands until it all comes together like a dough consistency.

Gently knead the dough on a floured surface.  Roll into a ball.  Gently bat the ball down and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Depending on how you use the crust, you may want to double this part of the recipe.  I lined the inside of my ramekins and cut tops as well.  This was enough for 3 ten-ounce ramekins.

Make the Filling: In a large saucepan, mix together the ground pork, cloves, cinnamon, onion, salt, celery, bay leaf and water. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 3 hours, or until the water has evaporated. If need be, add additional water in 1/4 cup increments.  Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.

Towards the end of the pork cooking time, place the potatoes into a separate saucepan and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and mash potatoes. When the pork is done, stir the mashed potatoes into the pan until evenly blended.

Roll out dough gently to about 1/8 inch.  If using ramekins, cut circles for insides, or insides and tops.  Or cut into circles approximately 6-8 inches in diameter, fill with the mixture and cook as pocket pies.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spoon equal amounts of the pork filling into each crust. Cover with top crusts and flute the edges to seal.  Brush lightly with egg wash.

If in ramekins, bake for 45 minutes in the oven, or until crust is golden brown.  If not using ramekins, cook for approximately 20-25 minutes or further until crust is golden brown

Make Raisin Sauce: Pulse raisins and brown sugar in a food processor until almost pureed.  Stir together with the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan.  Heat over low heat, stirring until cranberry sauce melts. Serve warm over top of pies or on the side.



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8 thoughts on “French Pork Pies (Tourtières) OR “Keep on Looking Busy for the Love of TV”

  • September 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm
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    Well you are actually the one that really tried replicating. You are brave man, very brave!

  • September 11, 2012 at 4:54 am
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    There are a fair amount of days in lab where i spend a lot of time trying to look busy…that usually involves sitting at my desk with a science paper frowning and shaking my head. My boss hasn’t questioned me yet.

  • September 11, 2012 at 10:20 am
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    Fabulous write up; I was a producer at some previous point in my life and loved the quick trip down memory lane! We have similar dishes and I would be you would agree the fruit sauce is the component that pulls it all together. Great Swap!

  • September 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm
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    Oh Gary, this is lovely. Your writing is the best. Love love love it. And I like how true you actually stayed to the original. The only theme I kept was meat + fruit. (not even pork and raisins ha!)

  • September 12, 2012 at 11:18 pm
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    He, he, he, I sometimes try to look busy when my girls run to me with a mind-blowing, Earth-shattering problem (they are 12 and 14 and all the problems are like that:) Good to know I am not the only one!
    It’s a pleasure to finally meet you:) I did not participate in August, as I just returned from Serbia where I spent the summer, but I am looking forward to getting to know you better (we are neighbors, I assume, as I live in South Bay:)
    Your dish contains a lot of the original ingredients, but it actually sounds appetizing, unlike the abominable pork fruit cake (Christianna really knows how to pick them:)

  • September 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm
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    hahahahahha! I am totally going to start using some of your tactics for looking busy and keeping occupied at work! The phone trick would be especially fun at my office.
    mmmm, pie. I am especially intrigued by the raisin sauce! What a fun condiment!

  • September 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm
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    you are an awesome addition to our group! thanks for making me laugh! great food! wow! impressive!

  • September 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm
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    Way to tackle the original recipe! I am impressed. It’s good to have you in the group. Love the description of your job. You made me grin.

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