In my family, Christmas is all about food. We don’t spend a lot of money on presents (we hand-make many of our gifts), and we generally don’t make much of a fuss about it. It’s more about spending cozy time together by the fire and going for long walks in the snow. But when it comes to food, we like to go all out, splurge a little, and put a lot of love into some special seasonal dishes.
Tourtière is one of those decadent holiday recipes that I only make once a year. I love preparing it because it reconnects me with my French Canadian roots. It’s a traditional Québecois meat pie that combines ground pork and beef with potatoes, onions, and spices, all enveloped in a buttery pie crust. It’s rich and delicious and is traditionally enjoyed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. In my books, nothing quite says Christmas like the taste of a slice of tourtière with a dollop of tomato chutney on the side. There are many different regional variations on tourtière and some families have their own secret ingredient or method for making it. Traditionally, wild game was added which lended additional depth of flavor. I will share with you the way I make it.
First, this recipe is all about the meat, so it’s important to source good-quality meat from a farmer or butcher you trust. I always make sure I can source organic, grass-fed beef and pastured pork before making this recipe. There are three main reasons to chose organic, pastured meat. The first is that the fats in pastured meat are much healthier for you. The second is that conventional meat production is one of the leading contributors to climate change, producing close to one fifth of all human greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, grass-fed cattle actually reduces the impacts of climate change, and researchers have found that we actually need grass-fed livestock to fight climate change. My last reason is that by eating grass-fed and organic, you avoid the GMO soy and corn that most conventional livestock is raised on.
There, that was probably the hardest part of this recipe, finding good quality meat. Once you’ve got that, you’re laughing, because this recipe is relatively easy to make and the other ingredients are likely things you already have in your kitchen.
Last week, I made this tourtière for my friends, along with my mom’s Baba Au Rhum recipe which I’ll share with you next week. I hope the video captured a little taste of the magic and fun we had feasting on these goodies. Bon appétit and my warmest season’s greetings to you all!
Classic French Canadian Tourtière
Tourtière is a traditional Québecois meat pie typically served around Christmastime.
- 1 pound ground organic pastured pork
- 1 pound ground organic pastured beef
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium-large baked potatoes, mashed with skins removed (or about 1 cup of mashed potatoes)
- 3/4 cup beef or vegetable broth (or just water)
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- For the Butter Pie Crust:
- 2 1/2 cup flour of choice (I use a mix of spelt and whole wheat)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup ice cold water
- For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp. water
- In a large skillet or wok, combine the finely chopped onion with the olive oil and sautée for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until onions are soft and golden. With your hands, mix the ground pork and beef together in a bowl. Add the mixed ground meat to the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring it to break up the meat so it doesn't clump together. Add all the remaining ingredients (broth, spices, mashed potato, salt and pepper) and mix together. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Taste the meat mixture and add a bit more salt, pepper, or spices, to suit your preferences. Cool in the fridge for about 2 hours, until completely chilled.
- To make the pastry, cut the butter into small cubes and chill them so they are very cold. Using a food processor or a pastry blender, chop up the butter into the flour and salt until it is small and crumbly, the size of very small peas. Pour in 1/2 cup of the ice cold water and mix into the flour. Add more water, 1 tablespoonful at a time, until the dough comes together into a ball. I find using my hands works best for bringing the dough together and judging whether or not to add more water. The dough should not feel dry and should be pressed into a ball fairly easily. But it should not feel sticky either. Form two balls and flatten them slightly into discs. Wrap and cover them in wax paper or plastic, and let them rest in the fridge for 1 hour. Remove from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Roll out each disc on a floured surface to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Line a 9 inch pie plate with the first circle of dough. Spoon in all the meat filling, patting it down lightly to compress it a bit. Brush the pie rim with water and place the second circle of dough on top, pressing the edges together to seal. Trim and flute as desired.
- The egg wash is what will give your tourtière a golden glow, so don't skip this step! Beat the egg and water together and brush the mixture all over the top of the crust and around the edges.
- Cut some steam vents on top of your pie.
- With the rack in the bottom third of the oven, bake at 375F for about 50 minutes or until the top of the crust is golden.
Yield: Makes 1 meat pie, about 8 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.