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Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

A New Year's Pie!

New Year's Pie by Mrs. Bliss of Boston, 1850


Many cultures engage in some form of traditional eating on New Year's Day. The idea is that eating lucky things, or one particular time-honored dish, will bring good fortune in the coming year. 


This coming year, more than ever, the world needs some good luck. That's why we're posting our version of a New Year's Pie, based on Mrs. Bliss's 1850 recipe for "A New Year's Pie." The original recipe is reproduced, with commentary, in our book Northern Hospitality, p. 261.


The New Year's Pie appears to descend from the traditional Yorkshire Christmas Pie, as presented in Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery ("To make a Yorkshire Christmas pie") and from Elizabeth Raffald's and Maria Rundell's renditions of "A Yorkshire Goose Pie," with their various boned geese, ducks, turkeys, pigeons, and other fowls stuffed into each other until the largest bird contains all the small birds, the whole of which is then stuffed into a pie crust and baked (after which, in Raffald's case, a buttery gravy is poured in to fill all the cavities in the pie, while in Rundell's "force and sausage meat" and hard boiled eggs fill the interstices, plus a bit of calf's foot for the jelly it makes). Many an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cookbook author was taken with the idea of these kinds of pies—versions of our modern-day "turduckens" in which one filling (a boned bird, usually) is tightly packed inside or beside another in the pie.


All well and good to speak about pies and birds inside birds, but, you may ask, isn't it a bit late to make anything so elaborate for the main meal of New Year's Day, 2022? After all, this is being posted on the very holiday itself. True. But it's not too late to imagine making and eating such a lucky and delicious pie! And we happen to think that the imaginary making and eating of a pie on this particular New Year's Day (2022) is quite fitting. Haven't many of us around the world spent the past year . . . ah, two years . . . imagining our future pleasures—travel, reunions with family and friends, restaurant dining, and just plain having fun? The pandemic has made us quite practiced at imagining good things to come, so why not imagine we're making and enjoying this good pie? Then, when we have time, and are feeling up to giving the future some positive vibes, let's actually make and eat this lovely pie!


For any time is a good time to begin anew. 


And any time is a good time for a pie stuffed with good things to eat. Those things, in 1850, conventionally included beef tongue, goose, turkey, duck, and chicken. But if you'd rather not stuff your pie in the manner of the 1850 "New Year's Pie" in The Practical Cook Book by Mrs. Bliss, that's fine, too. You can use a series of any kind of boneless meat or poultry, or any assortment of vegetables, for that matter, like mushrooms, potatoes, and roasted brussels sprouts, perhaps with farmer's cheese to fill the gaps. What counts is that you have a well-packed, nicely seasoned, paté-style filling which will make a rich and luxurious tasting pie. We've made such pies with roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella cheese, and butternut squash, and, we humbly say, they've been delicious. We've also made similar pies with a boned whole chicken stuffed with sautéed onions, spinach, rice, and cheese, all placed within a rich puff pastry—sublime!

The point is to make a layered pie for good luck, and don't look back. That's the spirit of New Year, whenever you choose to make and eat your New Year's Pie.


Wishing you a very happy 2022, and may the year bring you plenty of pie!


A New Year's Pie

a variation on an 1850 recipe by Mrs. Bliss (of Boston)
Preheat oven to 375° F


For the rolled poultry roast:

2 tablespoons olive oil or other good cooking oil
1 lemon, juice and zest
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 cup red wine, broth, or water
1 lb. boneless chicken breast
1 lb. boneless turkey breast
1 lb. boneless duck breast
Cooking twine

For the mushroom topping:

2 tablespoons butter
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

For the pastry crust:

3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed, or see our post on making puff pastry!
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Press the three meats together tightly and wrap them up with cooking twine in the form of a rolled roast. Pat the spices all over the meat, and sprinkle on the lemon zest. In a large, heavy-bottom, oven-proof pan, heat the olive oil and brown the roast on all sides. Cover the meat with the cup of red wine, add the juice of the lemon, and bake in the oven, covered, for 1 hour, or until the meat reaches 165° F on a meat thermometer inserted in the center. Remove the rolled roast from the pan and cool, retaining the juices in the pan for gravy.


In a separate skillet, sauté the mushrooms in the butter and set aside.


Turn the oven up to 400° F.


To assemble the pie, first carefully remove the string from the cooked meat, keeping the rolled form as best you can. Place the rolled meat on a sheet of puff pastry, and top the roast with the mushrooms, pressing down. Wrap the pastry up around the sides of the roast. Place another sheet of puff pastry over the top, and pinch the two pieces together, wetting the sides a bit to help the joint hold together. If the pastries don't reach, cut strips from the extra pastry sheet and piece together until the roast is completely covered with puff pastry. With remaining puff pastry, make decorations for the top of the pie.


Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet  and brush it all over with the beaten egg and water. Bake at 400° F until the puff pastry is golden, about 25 minutes.


Meanwhile, reheat the gravy in the baking pan, scraping down the sides, and transfer to a gravy boat.


Serve the pie warm, with the gravy.

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