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Tourtière: A French-Canadian Classic

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Tourtière is a savory meat pie that originates from the French-Canadian culinary tradition, particularly associated with the province of Quebec. This hearty dish is typically served during the holiday season, especially on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and has become a beloved staple across Canada and beyond. Let’s delve into the history, ingredients, preparation, and cultural significance of Tourtière, along with a traditional recipe to make this comforting dish at home.

History and Cultural Significance:

Tourtière has deep roots in French-Canadian culture, dating back to the 1600s when French settlers first arrived in Canada. Originally, Tourtière was made with a mix of meats such as pork, veal, and game, seasoned with herbs and spices, and encased in a flaky pastry crust. The dish was traditionally served during the Christmas season, symbolizing warmth, community, and celebration.

Over the centuries, Tourtière has evolved, with variations in filling ingredients depending on regional preferences and family recipes. Despite these variations, Tourtière remains a symbol of French-Canadian heritage and culinary pride, cherished for its comforting flavors and the nostalgia it evokes during festive gatherings.

Ingredients:

For the Pastry:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 6-8 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal or beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes (optional, for binding)
  • Pastry for double-crust pie (prepared or homemade)

Instructions:

1. Prepare the Pastry:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the cold cubed butter and blend using a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Gradually add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until the dough just begins to come together. Form the dough into two disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Make the Filling:

  • In a large skillet or frying pan, cook the ground pork and veal (or beef) over medium heat until browned and cooked through, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon.
  • Add chopped onion, minced garlic, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and aromatic, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Stir in chicken or beef broth and mashed potatoes (if using). Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the filling is moist but not soupy. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. Assemble and Bake the Tourtière:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish.
  • Roll out one disk of chilled pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to fit the pie dish. Carefully transfer the rolled-out dough to the pie dish, gently pressing it into the bottom and sides.
  • Spoon the cooled meat filling evenly into the pastry-lined dish, spreading it out into an even layer.
  • Roll out the second disk of chilled pastry dough and place it over the filling. Trim any excess dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhanging dough under itself and crimp the edges to seal. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.

4. Bake and Serve:

  • Place the Tourtière in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is heated through.
  • Remove from the oven and let the Tourtière cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm, accompanied by cranberry sauce or a simple green salad.

Tips for Serving:

  • Variations: Some recipes incorporate diced potatoes or even game meats such as rabbit or venison for a richer flavor profile.
  • Make-Ahead: Tourtière can be assembled and frozen (unbaked) for up to 3 months. Simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking as directed.
  • Leftovers: Leftover Tourtière can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated in the oven or microwave.

Conclusion:

Tourtière embodies the rich culinary heritage of French-Canadian cuisine with its flavorful meat filling encased in a flaky pastry crust. Whether enjoyed as a holiday centerpiece or a comforting meal year-round, Tourtière invites you to savor the warmth and tradition of French-Canadian cooking. Embrace the spirit of celebration and community with this recipe, and create your own cherished memories with the deliciousness of homemade Tourtière.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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