Friday, December 9, 2011

Tourtière du Québec (French Canadian Meat Pie)


Painting By Pauine Paquin capturing the joy of winter in Quebec

For French Canadians, this is the time of year when we prepare the Tourtière that will be eaten during the Holidays.  


One of my fondest food memories is of my mother preparing 10 tourtières at one time in the evening after dinner as she got ready for the upcoming festivities.   The smell in the house was wonderful.  A mix of spices and the buttery pastry smell of freshly baked pies.  After they were baked, they were all lined up on the kitchen counter to cool - beautifully golden and steaming.   This wonderful odor represented the beginning excitement of the next few weeks when family would arrive, the tree would be decorated, Christmas music would play and all those wonderful feelings that come with the Holidays.


It is tradition to serve a tourtière on Christmas Eve when we celebrate Réveillon.  This is how it was always done in French Canadian homes.  After midnight mass, we celebrate Christmas with a wonderful feast.   Every family has their favorites but for us there was always a homemade tourtière on the table (and lots of other wonderful foods).


This is my mother's recipe and how she taught me to make it.   The recipe is a little different for every family but generally it is a combination of meats, potato and spices (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg).  It is always served with a pickled type of vegetable or fruit chutney which adds a subtle acidic sweetness to the dish and can also be served with gravy (everyone has their own preference).  


You will need:  (To make one large deep dish tourtière or two smaller ones)


For the pastry:

  • 350g of flour
  • 175g of butter (softened - but not too soft)
  • large pinch of salt 
  • 2 eggs
  • 40 ml of cold water
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  1. Put the flour and salt in a bowl and combine with a whisk;
  2. Add the butter and incorporate with the flour by using your fingers (rub your hands together like you are trying to keep you hands warm while lifting the mixture high above the bowl to incorporate air.  When you are done it will look like breadcrumbs.  You can also do this in the food processor but won't get as much air and therefore a denser pastry);
  3. Add the eggs and water and mix together with a fork until it just sticks together; 
  4. Lay on a floured surface and kneed for no more than one minute until the dough is smooth (it is important to not work the dough too much as you will develop the gluten and it will become tough);
  5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to rest for at least 1/2 hour (this will make it easier to roll out).
Note:  Sometimes I will use a short crust pastry for the bottom and a puff pastry for the top.  This makes the top very light and flaky.



For the filling:

  • 200 g of ground veal
  • 200 g of ground pork
  • 400 g of ground beef
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled
  • Milk/cream (to mash the potatoes)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp of allspice (this spice represents the perfect flavor of spices needed, i.e. cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.  If you can't find it just use 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of nutmeg and 1 tsp of  ground cloves)
  • 1/2 cup of beef stock
  • Salt and pepper
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  1. Start by cooking the potatoes in salted water until they are tender;  while they are cooking;
  2. Sauté the onion in a little olive oil until translucent;
  3. Add the 3 different meats and brown, drain the fat and return to the heat;
  4. Add the beef stock and let simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated, set aside;
  5. Mash the potatoes with some milk or cream (like you would for mashed potatoes);
  6. Add the potato mixture to the meat mixture and blend well (the potatoes bring moistness to the filling and prevent the dish from drying out);
  7. Add the spices and season to taste;
  8. Let cool for about 30 minutes; (if you put hot filling in the dough, it will make it too soft and soggy and won't cook properly)
To assemble:
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp of cream (to glaze)
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  1. Roll out enough of the dough to fit in the pie plate your are using (you will need to roll out the bottom and then a top cover which will be a little smaller);
  2. Lay the dough in the pie plate allowing about 1/2 inch of overlap.  Fill with cooled meat filling;
  3. In the top dough cover, cut out a small hole or slits in the center to act as a chimney and allow the steam to escape;
  4. Place the top dough over the filling and fold the edges over with the edges of the bottom dough to create a seal;
  5. Brush the pie with the glaze and let sit for 5 minutes;
  6. Brush the pie a second time with the glaze and bake in a 175° C (350° F) oven for 30 minutes or until golden (you should always glaze your pies twice to make them extra shiny and golden);
  7. Remove from oven and let cool.
Note:  The tourtières can now be frozen and just heated before serving.  Serve with a fruit chutney, ketchup and/or gravy.