Red Apron on Paying it Forward

At the Red Apron we have many occasions throughout our day to feel good about the service we provide. It’s such a privilege to know the work you do is meaningful and important. It’s not always easy to feel valued in the service industry, where wages are low, and staff are often treated badly by clients and sometimes even employers. That’s why at the Red Apron we work so hard to fight these stereotypes and soak up the good vibes when we get them.

Today I was speaking with a regular client, named Paula. She has mobility issues, and relies heavily on her service dog, friends and family to help her manage. She was the first person to place her Turkey Dinner order this season. She shops regularly at the Red Apron, asking friends to pick up her food because she lives outside our delivery zone. However each year she orders our turkey dinner for Christmas to enjoy herself, and give to those friends that support her throughout the year.

I was telling Paula that, in addition to all the turkey dinners we cook and sell (about 1500 portions each Thanksgiving and Christmas), we donate turkey dinners to CHEO in partnership with our good friends at Refuse to Lose. For as long as we can remember we have been sending 20 or 30 meals over to the Oncology Ward, where some kids are too sick to leave the hospital for the holidays. The Red Apron donates the dinners so that the children, their families, and the nursing staff can enjoy a turkey dinner on Christmas day, just like the rest of us. Paula raved about our meals, our service, and the work we do in the community, and it made me feel good. And feeling good about what we do is important to me, and my team. 

So as we plunge head first into our busy season, which will stretch our abilities to their max, I am going to take a few minutes to feel good, and be grateful for the fact that I love what I do and feel proud of the business we run.  It’s not without challenge, hard work, and occasional frustration, but the Universe has been kind to us and seems to always have our back!

All this to say, the Red Apron 2019 Holiday Menu is posted on our website and we are taking orders now, until we sell out. The meals will be ready to pick up fresh on December 23rd and 24th which falls on a Monday and Tuesday this year. Our Tourtière is ready now and available for pick up in our retail freezers, to bake from frozen. We also have our Turkey Pot Pies, a delicious seasonal treat that our clients love. One pie can serve 4 people VERY generously, and 6 people with a side salad or vegetable. 

If you are feeling up to a bit of an adventure, I am sharing our Tourtière recipe here, filling only. You can make these pies ahead of time, assemble them with the pie dough (link to recipe) and freeze them for later. This recipe will yield 1-2 pies, depending on the size of your pie plate. I suggest one large deep dish 10 inch pie plate. 

Red Apron Tourtiere

Tourtière Filling

1 lb ground pork (we use local Patch Farm or Ontario Berkshire pork)
1 lb ground beef (our beef is all from Enright Family Farm)

1 cup diced onion
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoons dried savoury
1 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
a pinch of cloves

1/2 cup Panko
1 tablespoon dark balsamic

NOTE:  The herb and spice blend is really what makes the difference in this dish, and it’s also a matter of personal taste. I suggest you mix all the spices and herbs together and blend them well. Then add half the mixture to the meat and taste. Continue adding and mixing in the spices until you find the flavour that works for you. You may need to add more salt after you have found the desired taste.

In a large sauce pan on medium high heat, add the pork first, cooking until some of the fat has rendered. Remove the pork and add the diced onions, and sauté the onions until clear. Add the beef and cook stirring constantly so the meat doesn’t clump. Add back the pork, mix, and add the salt, herbs and spices, mixing until thoroughly combined. (See Note Above) Then add the cider, balsamic, and last the panko. The panko is added to absorb all the liquids and fats so that the mixture is not dry. Turn off the heat and continue to stir until everything is combined. You can add more panko if the mixture seems too wet.

Allow the filling to cool completely. Line your pie plate with your bottom crust (see recipe below). Add the Tourtière filling, packing in gently and filling just to the top of the pie plate. Place your top crust on and pinch your edges. Cut one small hole in the middle of the pie top and brush with an egg wash.

At this point you can freeze the pie to bake from frozen at a later time, or bake right away.

Bake from frozen (or fresh) in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the meat is fully warmed through. 

Pie Crust

The secret to a good pie is in the crust. We have found that the simplest and most effective pie dough is made using 2.5 cups of flour, a pinch of salt, ¼ cup butter, ¾ cups of lard and a small amount of ice water. The flour, cold butter & lard can be pulsed together in a food processor until the texture resembles crumbs. Do not over mix. Transfer the ingredients to a large bowl and sprinkle with enough ice water to allow you to form the dough into a ball. Divide the ball in 2, wrap in plastic wrap and let the ball cool in your fridge for at least a half an hour. This makes one full bottom and one full top, or two pie bottoms for an open-faced pie or galette.