It was probably through blogging that I first heard about Christmas Eve tourtiere. It’s a Canadian meat pie, and when I say meat, I mean meat! Ground meats in between two crusts! This dish originates from Quebec. I’m not a huge fan, personally, of a chunk of meat, but I was really attracted to the tradition of serving tourtière at Christmas time.
If you happen to spend Christmas Eve in Canada, you might be lucky enough to be invited to a festive dinner after midnight Mass. The feast is an old tradition from France called reveillon, and it’s something to look forward to after a long day of fasting.
Personally I’d probably have some sherry and hit the hay.
I searched for a recipe online, because I have no French Canadian cookbooks, and found a recipe from King Arthur Baking. It turns out, like many traditional recipes, the specific meats in the tourtiere can vary, even including game meat. The seasoning mixture can vary as well, from the common cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, to also include sage, thyme. savory, and rosemary.
According to a King Arthur French baker, “there are as many recipes for tourtiere as there are cooks in Quebec.”
Well, here’s the recipe I used from King Arthur Baking, and I liked it!
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (454g) water
2 cups (340g) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
2 pounds ground pork, or a combination of ground pork and ground beef; or meatloaf mixture
1 1/2 cups (227g) onion, diced
1 to 2 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
2 1/2 cups (283g) King Arthur Pastry Flour Blend or 2 1/2 cups (300g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
10 tablespoons (142g) unsalted butter, cold
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 to 8 tablespoons (71g to 113g) ice water, enough to make a cohesive dough
To make the filling: Put the salt, water, and potato in a medium saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes, saving the water. Mash about half the potatoes, leaving the other half in chunks.
In a large skillet, brown the meat, draining off any excess fat when finished. Add the onion, garlic, spices, salt, and reserved potato water to the meat, stirring to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Stirring occasionally, continue simmering the mixture for 35 minutes or so, until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are tender. Add the mashed potatoes to the meat mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in the diced potatoes. Set the mixture aside to cool.
To make the crust: Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Add the butter, mixing it in thoroughly. Unlike a typical American pie crust, this “short crust” shouldn’t have any large pieces of butter remaining; the mixture should look like breadcrumbs. Drizzle in the water, until you’ve added enough water so that you can squeeze the dough together and it’s cohesive. It should hold together nicely; if it doesn’t, add a bit more water.
I always make my doughs on the wetter side; it’s always easier to add flour. And obviously, I used a food processor.
Divide the dough into two pieces, making one slightly larger than the other. My larger one was 15 ounces, the other, 13 ounces. The larger piece will be the bottom crust; the smaller piece, the top crust.
Shape each piece into a flattened ball, or wheel; they should look like big hockey pucks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight, if desired. Next day, let it warm at room temperature for about 30 to 45 minutes before rolling it out.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Select a 9″ cast iron skillet that’s 2″ deep; or a 9″ pie pan that’s at least 1 1/2″ deep. Roll the larger piece of dough into a 13″ circle (for the skillet), or 12″ circle (for the pie pan). Let the dough rest for 10 minutes; this will help prevent it shrinking as it bakes. Gently settle it into the pan, being careful not to pull or stretch it.
Spoon the filling into the crust, gently patting it flat.
Roll the other piece of dough into a 10″ circle, and lay it atop the filling. Tuck the overhanging bottom crust over the edge of the top crust, pinching and pressing to seal. Crimp the edge of the crust, if you like. Cut a circular hole in the center of the crust, or some decorative slashes, for steam to escape. I also brushed the top crust with an egg-cream wash.
Bake the pie for 45 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and set it on a trivet or rack.
Allow the pie to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Personally, with dishes such as this one I always refrigerate overnight to help everything settle. It definitely made the filling more cohesive and the pie easier to cut into slices.
The pie is very good. The seasoning is great. And the crust recipe is perfection. I’m glad I made this! Merry Christmas to all French Canadians!
If I were to change one thing – I don’t think the chopped up potato adds anything, and doesn’t adhere well to the meat when slicing the pie. The mashed potato is more critical.