Behind the Scenes: Pork, Apple and Braised Red Cabbage Pies

Image from the Bourque Street Bakery book.

I’ve had a few requests for the “secret” to my prize winning pies I cooked for 86’d at The Drake .  There is no particular secret, but a practiced technique that work every time.  An experienced cook memorizes techniques and ratios rather than recipes.  Memorize the patterns in your favourite dishes and before long you’ll see what I mean.

The Bourque Street Bakery book is a fantastic companion.  It is gorgeous and I recommend getting yourself a copy.  Today, I’m writing about my modifications and tips.  Here is what most recipe books won’t tell you:

Making pie/tart shells is a lengthly and time sensitive project.  You have to chill your dough before rolling it and chill it after it is rolled and cut.  You have to work quickly to make sure the chilled dough doesn’t stretch from the heat of your hands (which will cause shrinking in the tart shell).  For this particular instance I used buttered and floured muffin tins instead of French rings, which worked very well.  I made sure to take the shells out of the tin as soon as I could handle them and put them on a cooling wrack. My “secret” in this case is using vinegar instead of water in the tart shell.  Vinegar or any briny substance will cause the shell to flake nicely.  Going half and half on lard and butter works nicely too.

The second issue was the braised meat.  A lot of people argue about searing a piece of shoulder or simply placing it into the pot.  I personally find that searing meat generates far more flavour.  This particular book instructs to put the meat on top of the gently cooked vegetables.  Instead I seared the meat, removed from the pot and cooked the vegetables on top of the meat and deglazed with liquid. I’ve literally written a one page recipe in that previous sentence.  Follow it and it will treat you well.

Thirdly, taste your food.  Taste your food in the beginning, in the middle and the end of the process.  Taste, taste, taste.  Taste your raw dough. Know what is happening in that pot!  Jesus murphy, just do it.

When I tasted the filling from the book it wasn’t right.  I know I’d done everything to the letter, but it wasn’t ground breaking.  There wasn’t enough tartness to the sweet, fatty meat.  What’s the perfect contrast to hot, sweet fat? What’s sour, crunchy and cold?  A pickle.  Et voila.  Added a pickle to the bottom of the tart.

Use your imagination when you cook.  Have fun!  There are no secrets.



A few people have also asked me what was in my prize loot bag.  I won five books (Anthony Bourdain, Raw not pictured).  Reviews and buzz to follow.


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