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The meat pie known as tourtière is a four-century favourite in Quebec. Its name can be traced back to the cast-iron pan of the same name brought to New France by settlers in the 17th century. Originally made with leftovers of roasted meat, usually pork, it has as many variations as there are Quebec cooks.
Beef is often used, as is veal. The basic vegetable is the onion, but some recipes include potatoes, carrots, garlic or leeks. Bread crumbs are the usual thickener. My pie uses rolled oats, a tradition that developed after the arrival of the Scots on the Quebec culinary scene. Using cloves and cinnamon together is a tradition dating from medieval cooking in Europe. Savory, Quebec’s favourite herb, and celery leaves are tourtière regulars.
5 cups (1.25 L) all-purpose flour
4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
1 package (1 lb/454 g) lard, cubed
1 large egg
4 tsp (20 mL) fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
2 lb medium ground beef
1 lb lean ground pork
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup chopped celery, with leaves
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp dried savory
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and cloves
1 tsp each salt and black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup large-flake rolled oats
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the lard until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. In a liquid measuring cup, use a small whisk or fork to combine the egg and lemon juice. Add enough ice water to make 1 cup. Drizzle the egg mixture slowly over the dry ingredients, tossing them with a fork to make a ragged dough that clumps together. Press the dough into 4 equal discs, wrap individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
In a large heavy pot, combine the beef, pork, onions, celery, parsley, water, savory, cinnamon, cloves, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, constantly breaking up the meat and stirring until the meat has lost its pinkness and is crumbly, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat; stir in the rolled oats. Let cool.
On a floured work surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out 1 of the pastry discs to a scant 1/4-inch thickness. Line a deep 9-inch or 10-inch pie plate with pastry, leaving the edge untrimmed. Fill with half of the meat mixture. Moisten the pastry on the rim of the pie plate with water. Roll out a second disc of pastry and unroll over the filling. Trim and flute edges to seal. Repeat for the second pie. There will be leftover pastry scraps. Reroll and cut out decorations, fleurs de lys, for example, and press onto the top of the glazed pies. Brush the cutouts with glaze.
Cut steam vents in the centre of each pie. In a cup, mix the egg yolk with the milk and brush over the surface of both pies. Bake in the bottom third of a 400°f (200°c) oven until the pastry is golden and the filling piping hot, about 40 to 50 minutes.
To test the hotness of the filling, insert a pointy knife through one of the steam vents. Let it stay for 15 seconds; remove and feel. If the knife is piping hot and the crust is golden brown, the tourtière is ready.
Serve Quebec Tourtière with Fruit Chili Sauce, known in Quebec as ketchup aux fruits, or pickled baby beets.
Excerpted from “Canada’s Favourite Recipes” (Whitecap Books) by Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird. Photo by Tracey Kusiewicz.