Ahh, this thing was a masterpiece! I was inspired to make tourtière (pronounced tort-ee-AIR) for the first time this year in honour of Canada Day. My family on my paternal grandmother’s side is French Canadian, having arrived in Quebec in the 1690s. French Canadian cooking is the ultimate comfort food, I think—Quebec winters are bloody cold and it seems that even summer doesn’t last very long. Traditional dishes like split pea soup, maple syrup pie, tourtière, sugar pie, butter tarts, and all manner of other pastries and stick-to-your-bones baked goods and meats are actually pretty easy to cook, and I have plans on attempting a few other newer French Canadian treats too—croissants and bagels. Mm.
At its heart though, tourtière is a simple mince meat (usually pork) pie with some unique spicing; cinnamon and cloves. I grew up thinking this combination was absolutely normal, since that’s how dad always made hamburgers—turns out it’s a throwback to his Montreal upbringing.
The Australians to whom I served this thought it was fantastic, so I guess it goes to show that a delicious meat pie is going to be appreciated in any culture.
Also take note that I’ve used a new recipe for pastry—an all-butter one from Smitten Kitchen. I do quite love my basic pastry recipe, but it requires a few more ingredients and requires a careful hand. This all-butter pastry is very quick, ever-so-flaky, and hard to screw up! (And got compliments from boys who could care less about these things. Just sayin’.)
Traditional French Canadian Tourtière & All Butter Pastry
Tourtière recipe from Canadian Living: Cooks Step By Step, p. 76 (see below)
Pastry from Smitten Kitchen
Makes: 1 pie
Cooking time: 30 minutes hands-on, not including pastry
For the pastry:
- 2.5 cups plain or pastry flour
- 1 cup cold butter
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- a few tbsp very cold water
For the pie:
- 900 g ground pork (2 lbs)
- 2-3 onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups chopped mushrooms (4 large white mushrooms; or 4 large handfuls of button mushrooms)
- 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 medium stalks)
- 1.5 cups prepared beef stock
- 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and sage/savory
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2 tbsp dried
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- salt, pepper, olive oil, and an egg for glaze if desired
Start by making your pastry. Toss together the flour, sugar, and salt until well combined. Chop your cold butter into small pieces (or as small as you can bother with) and add to the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or your hands, crumble the butter until it’s about the size of peas. When I use my hands, I end up ‘massaging’ the butter into the flour and the heat from my hands melts it a bit—technically I don’t think you’re supposed to do this, but it results in less water being used to hold the dough together, which means a lighter pastry. Once the butter is crumbed in, sprinkle 1 tbsp at a time of water over the dough and use your hands to slowly toss it together—it’s ready just when the dough holds together in a large ball. Divide in half and refrigerate.
Heat a very large saucepan (I used my wok) and add the pork. Stir and break it up into smaller chunks as it browns. Drain off any fat if needed. Meanwhile, start chopping your onions and garlic, and add to the pork once you can see no more pink. Chop and add mushrooms and celery, stirring through each ingredient thoroughly. Add spices (including dried parsley, if using) and beef stock and bring to the simmer; leave for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has been reduced to 2-3 tbsp.
Stir in bread crumbs and chopped fresh parsley (if you’re not using dried). Cover and let cool slightly; about 15-20 minutes if using straight away, otherwise pop it into the fridge for use later.
Roll out one half of your pastry and press it gently into the pie plate, prick it all over with a fork or sharp knife. Add meat mixture and cover with the other rolled out half of the pastry, and press the edges together (I fluted mine—check out this video for a how-to).
I used a cookie cutter to make little tree decorations with some pastry scraps. Cut three steam vents in the top of the pie. If desired, beat 1 egg with 1 tsp cold water and brush it lightly over the pie to give it a nice shiny, golden appearance once baked. Milk used in the same fashion also achieves a similar result but is not quite impressive. You can save the leftover egg for baking with later.
Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F / 190 C for 40-45 minutes, or until a lovely golden brown on top. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.