According to the Chicago Reader,
there was a time when mince pies were a standard on every Thanksgiving and Christmas table. Made from a combination of fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg, and, of course, minced meat, we know they were big in the Holy City thanks to a Charleston Courier
editorial from Christmas 1863. Christmas morning that year — at the height of the Civil War — Charleston faced a surprise shelling.
"The Christmas of 1863 brings no gifts for the boys and girls," reads the editorial. "The sounds of battle have frightened away from our bleeding Southern land the bearer of painted toys, the candies and plums, and their parents and elders will have to be content with wholesome food of simple quality, seeing that hams and turkeys, mince pies and plum puddings are things the contest we are engaged in compels them to do without."
But there's no need to do without tomorrow. Or to at least to try an homage to the pie. Chez Nous' Chef Jill Mathias has a recipe that's reminiscent of this once-popular dish.
"This is a recipe for a sweet and savory tart from the South of France," says Matthias. "It can be served as an appetizer or a dessert. I thought it would be a great alternative to mincemeat pie."
Swiss Chard Tart
For the crust:
2 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix the dry ingredients and add the olive oil and eggs until the dough is smooth. Divide into two discs and refrigerate 30-40 minutes.
For the filling:
2 lbs. Swiss chard
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 oz. grated parmesan
1/2 cup sugar
Blanch Swiss chard and drain well. Plump raisins in a saucepan with hot water. Chop Swiss chard and add drained raisins and pine nuts. Add cinnamon, parmesan, and sugar. Mix in eggs.
Butter a tart pan and roll out both doughs. Place one intact pan and add filling. Cover with other dough and seal edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven, cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.