MM #8 – Savory Cakes – Tourtière Bonne Femme
I’ve always wanted to try a Tourtière, the traditional French Canadian meat pie, ever since I read about it, which must have been in rec.food.recipes or the old MM-recipes mailing list nearly a decade ago, but somehow, I never made one. There is no big tradition of savory pies in Germany, aside from the borrowed quiches of Alsace, although the cookbook of Henriette Davidis lists a „Fleischpastete“ and the recipe reminds me a lot of the Quebecquois pie.
Meetas Monthly Mingle #8, featuring savory cakes, gave me the perfect opportunity to make
I tried to find out what is considered traditional. The Wikipedia only offers a handful of sentences regarding Tourtière:
A tourtière is a meat pie originating from Quebec, usually made with ground pork and/or veal, or beef. It is a traditional Christmas and New Year’s Eve dish in Quebec, but is also enjoyed and sold in grocery stores all year long. This kind of pie is known as pâté à la viande (literally, meat pie) in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Tourtière is not exclusive to the province of Québec. Tourtière is a traditional French-Canadian dish served by generations of French-Canadian families throughout Canada. In the U.S. states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, citizens of Québécois ancestry have introduced the recipe to the states‘ culture, and it is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve.
The tourtières of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area are deep-dish meat pies made with potatoes and various meats (often including game), which are cut into small cubes. In Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, this variety of tourtière is sometimes referred to in French and in English as tourtière du Lac Saint-Jean to distinguish it from the varieties of tourtière with ground meat.
At the Quilters muse virtual museum, though, I found this:
In France the tourtiere pie-dish was a kitchen utensil for cooking pigeon and other birds. The contents of the dish were known as ‘piece tourtiere’ and during the first years in New France these distinctive words were used. Over the years the word ‘tourtiere’ came to mean a pate of fowl or game cooked and seasoned according to a special household recipe in the family stew pan, for into it went not merely turtle-doves but every kind of edible bird.
which explains why some recipes on the net use indeed fowl and pork (I might try one of these the next time).
This time, I chose a recipe I found on an eGullet board, and the author, Margaret McArthur, did some extensive research on the etymology as well as the history of tourtiere, it is a fine read I can highly recommend: Christmas en Croute, Fuel for the frozen north.
I followed her recipe for a Tourtiere Belle Femme very closely and the amounts given below are hers, with my adaptations in brackets.
2 C all purpose flour [2 1/2 cups!!]
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t celery salt [I don’t have celery salt, I used herbal salt for the whole amount of salts]
1/2 t savory [doubled this]
1 1/2 t lemon juice [cider vinegar]
1/4 t turmeric
1 large egg, beaten
5 1/3 oz (150 g) lard, cut into pieces
1/2 C boiling water
In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients, herbs and spices until combined. Add 2/3 of the lard and pulse until it resembles coarse crumbs — about 8 pulses. Add the remaining lard to the boiling water off the stove — stir until melted. Beat in the lemon juice and egg. With the motor running, add to the flour mixture and turn off immediately. Knead briefly on a floured surface, wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours.
Actually, I made the pastry a day ahead, and as stated above, I needed half a cup more of flour to make it a smooth pastry. This makes conveniently enough to cover even a large pie dish, and once cooled it is a snap to handle, doesn’t stick, rolls out easily, easy transfer to the pie dish – definitely a keeper recipe I will use for other dishes, too. The turmeric adds a nice healthy color to the dough.
1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
2 medium potatoes, grated
1 small onion, grated or chopped molecularly fine
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground clove, or to taste
1/2 t savory [more like 2 tablespoons, which turned out perfect]
Pinch of nutmeg [a very generous pinch 🙂 I grated fresh nutmeg over the mince liberally]
Pinch of celery salt [as above, used herbal salt for all the salt in here]
1/2 C water
Combine the ingredients in a medium frying pan and cook for about thirty minutes. Grey the meat, do not brown it. Chunk up the pork with a spatula: you don’t want lumps, you want a fine uniform mix. Stick in the fridge to cool off — room temperature minimum.
Even reading this I was sure it would neet a lot more seasoning than the original recipe suggests, and I was right. With my modifications the filling tasted a lot like good sausage, although still lacking something I cannot figure out (maybe garlic 🙂 ).
Assembly and baking
Roll out the bottom crust in a standard pie pan, preferably Pyrex. Smooth in the pork filling, spread the top crust thereon. Slash, decorate, and bake in a 350 oven for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove when the pastry is puffed slightly, golden and crispy. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.
The pastry was terrific. The filling was good, bot nothing spectacular, and I might try the modernized version from Canadian Living one day, using celery and mushrooms and garlic as an add-on. And this pie is very filling, with a small side dish, steamed veggies or a salad, this will easily feed 6 people (at least if they are not working outside in a Canadian winter 🙂 )