By Andrew Spurgin
Let me introduce you to one of my favorite things to eat in winter… Tourte au Chou
When I was in my mid-twenties I had the great privilege to work for a firm called Pirets in San Diego. The owners, George and Piret Munger, were true visionaries. They opened a cookware shop in 1974 that carried high-end French brands like Emile Henry and Le Creuset. They also had a cooking school that regularly hosted such luminaries as Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Paula Wolfert and many other icons. Their first restaurant in Mission Hills opened in 1979, serving real French bistro and brasserie cuisine, with cheeses imported from France — many were under the radar and had not yet been seen in this country. (I know this is where I caught the cheese bug!)
We made our own pâtes, terrines and charcuterie from scratch — yes, in 1979! You get the idea. The Mungers, and their general manager, Jack Monaco, were WAY ahead of the culinary curve. It is them, and my restaurateur aunts and grandma in London, that I have to thank for inspiring my career.
One of the most popular items on Pirets’ menu was the Tourte au Chou — it had an almost cult following. Essentially, it’s a cabbage pie with pork and bacon, allegedly hailing from Lyon by way of Pirets’ charcutier. Tourte au Chou is best eaten in front of a roaring fire with a lovely bottle of chilled Riesling. It is SO good (and filling!) you will want someone to share both the tourte and the moment with. Oh, and raise a glass to Pirets for me; such very fond memories…
Tourte au Chou
1 package of organic puff pastry
1 large head organic cabbage
2 large organic onions
1/2 pound organic bacon (Benton’s if you can get it)
1 pound organic ground pork
Sea salt, such as Maldon and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of caraway
1 organic cage free hen egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
Dijon Mayonnaise (to serve with)
* Mix to preferred “mustardyness” ratio
Roll the puff pastry into two circles approx. 12″ each. Line a 10″ pie pan with one circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Wrap the other circle and also refrigerate.
Remove the core of the cabbage and shred, approx. eight cups.
Dice the onions.
Chop the bacon and render. Add pork, cook until it loses it’s pinkness. Add onions and cook for an additional five minutes.
Add the cabbage, sea salt, pepper and caraway to the pot. Cover and cook on medium-low heat.
After cooking for approx. 30 minutes, drain the bacon, pork, onion and cabbage mixture (check seasonings) and allow to cool thoroughly. Save the liquid, it makes an amazing base for a white bean and rosemary soup. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
Remove the puff pastry from the fridge approx. 10 to 15 minutes before you require it. Fill the pie tin with all the cabbage mixture, the more the merrier! Cut a 3/4″ round hole in the middle of the pastry top to allow the steam to vent. Trim the pastry edges, egg wash the corners of the pastry and drape the pastry over the whole pie.
Crimp edges and decorate with shapes, or designs; we choose a Stegosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, no idea why. Egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake in oven until golden brown, approx. 60 minutes, cool on rack. You can make a day ahead if you wish and just reheat.
Slice, serve piping hot with a sauce of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Don’t forget the Riesling!
Photos: Dawn Horine