Sunday, November 28, 2010

Albina Shepard St. Hilaire's Turkey Stuffing

Thanks to Cousins Bill and Annette for this contribution

Etta Wills and Arthur Louis St. Hilaire on their wedding day
Louis Street, Cohoes, NY

When Etta Wills (1917-1992) married Art St. Hilaire, Jr. (1918-1996) in 1937, Art's mother, Albina Shepard St. Hilaire (1898-1963) taught Etta how to make the family's traditional Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. Etta passed down the recipe to her granddaughter who continues the tradition of her mémère today. It's a variation on the traditional French-Canadian Christmas tradition of tourtière (meat pie). Every Franco-American family had their own way of making tourtière. Apparently at some point someone in the St. Hilaire family thought it would be a good idea to leave out the pie crust entirely and just stuff it in a turkey, or simply bake it in a casserole dish. I never heard of anyone in the St. Hilaire family making an actual pie. Below is the recipe, as told by Albina's great-granddaughter (Etta's granddaughter). Folks were not big on exact measurements, so follow this with caution and adjust to your taste. This must have been a pricey dish to make in the depths of the Great Depression when Art and Etta got married, with meat costing a fortune:

1 lb Tobin's First Prize pork sausage*
1 lb. ground beef
5 lbs. potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp. Bell's Seasoning (or to taste)**

Boil the potatoes until done and set aside.
Brown the pork sausage in one frying pan until done, and drain well.
Brown the ground beef in a separate frying pan with the onion until done, and then drain well. (Or you can brown both meats in one frying pan as long as you drain and clean the pan well between meats.)
In a large bowl, mix the meats together.
Mash the potatoes, little by little, into the meat mixture, using a potato masher, until well mixed. Add the seasoning as you go along. The mashed potato should serve to hold together the meat mixture.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, covered. Remove cover and add a bit of turkey broth if the mixture looks too dry, and then bake for another 20 minutes until a bit crisp on top. (Or just stuff the turkey, if you're doing it that way.)

This concoction is obviously not suitable for vegetarians, but I plan to create a vegan version using sausage and beef substitutes, and I'll report back on how that turns out.

Bon appétit!
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*Tradition says you must use Tobin's brand, which originated in Albany, NY, in 1924.


**Bell's Seasoning  is a mixture of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme, and pepper,

a New England tradition created in Massachusetts in 1867 and apparently adopted by the St. Hilaire family. Other tourtière recipes out there call for various mixtures of one or more of these spices.

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