January 03, 2011

The Last Pie of the Year is also the First Pie of the Year

Which can only mean one thing: Tourtière for New Year’s Eve (and again, New Year’s Day). (It's also often made for Christmas Eve, instead, depending on where you hail from.)

Tourtière is one of those wonderful foods which can be summed up as “those Quebecois pork pies” (doing it something of a disservice in brevity), but also holds an awful lot of holiday tradition, and hot debates as to the exact ingredients required (or, in some cases, permitted). There is the great potato debate - should it be included at all, should it be in chunks, or should it be mashed smooth? There is the meat debate - all pork, a mixture of pork and beef (and the percentages thereof), should you use game, such as venison or rabbit? And finally, last but not least, the seasoning. I’ve seen arguments for salt-and-pepper only (boring, but safe, I suppose), nutmeg and cloves (my personal favourite), and a sort of kitchen sink approach which encompasses every possible option from the spice rack, and infinite variations in between.

I am not Quebecois (although part French), and therefore do not have a family imperative to include in my definition of this dish, but I have a great fondness for French food in general, including its many regional variations. Here is an ad-hoc version that should prove tasty to most meat-pie loving folks:

Dawna’s Tourtière

Serves 6 - 8
Total Preparation & Cooking Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Pastry for one double crust pie
2 cups flour
½ cup butter, cold
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons cold water

Using a food processor fitted with a metal blade, blend the flour, butter and salt with quick, full-speed pulses until the butter is the size of little peas and evenly distributed throughout the flour. With the motor running on low, add the water all at once through the top of the food processor. Immediately crank the speed up on the processor, and in a few seconds it should start to become dough, little chunks of which start to glomb together and try to crawl up out of the bowl. Pull the dough clump(s) out onto a lightly floured counter, and knead just barely until it comes together. Separate into two roughly equal pieces, and pat down into disks. You’re done! You can refrigerate them until you are ready to work with them, or you can roll out the pastry now if your filling is ready. This pastry works beautifully for sweet or savory pies and tarts.


600 grams lean ground pork
300 grams extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bayleaf
1 medium potato, boiled and mashed (as smooth or lumpy as you wish)
½ teaspoon salt
Good pinch of ground nutmeg
Good pinch of ground cloves
Small pinch ground sage
Small pinch ground thyme
Black pepper to taste (lots)
½ cup vegetable broth

Brown the pork and the beef in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and bayleaf and stir and saute until the onion becomes translucent and tender. Stir in: first the seasonings, then the broth, and finally the potato. Stir about, and taste. Adjust the seasonings to your liking, remove the bayleaf, and remove the filling from the heat.

Roll out your pie’s bottom crust and place it in the pie plate. Heap up the filling in the middle, and then spread it about so that the pie will be full, without gaps by the side crust. Sprinkle the filling with extra nutmeg, and lay the top crust over the filling. Trim and crimp the sides, and cut slits (air vents) in the top of the pie, and brush it with an egg wash (essentially, one egg, beaten smooth, applied with a pastry brush until the whole top surface, including crenellations, are liberally coated with yellow goo. This only uses up about a tablespoon, at the most, of your beaten egg, so put the rest in the fridge (in a little dish, covered well) for a future omelette or other baking tasks).

Place pie in a 450 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F and continue to cook for another 20 to 30, depending on your oven.

Allow to cool for about five or ten minutes before slicing, to help it preserve its shape when cut.

You may wish to serve this with a nice tomato chutney, or banana ketchup, or even salsa. I won’t judge - well, not much, anyway.

Happy New Year!


Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

Thanks for the introduction to this pie...I have never tried it before. It would make a hearty meal for my hubby.

Dana said...

We tend to have tourtiere with my Mister's family's Christmas dinner. His mum's is very similar to yours. Looks great!