The first time I have tried the famous tourtière, it was during the carnival of Quebec in one of the oldest house of Quebec (1675), now a restaurant that serves traditional Quebec food: Aux Anciens Canadiens. Pickle and roasted red beets were served as a side dish. It was delicious!
Tourtière is not an exclusivity of Quebec. It is a traditional French-Canadian dish served by generations of French-Canadian families throughout Canada as well as in the bordering regions of the United States. In the New England region, especially in Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, the dish was introduced by the late 19th and early 20th century immigrants from Quebec.
From my trip to Quebec, I brought back a cookbook about the traditional cuisine in the different regions of Quebec. And while I was reading the book, I discovered that there is no one correct filling for the famous tourtière; it depends on what is regionally available. In coastal areas, seafood is commonly used, whereas pork, beef, rabbit and game are often included inland.
I never made a tourtière when I was in France. We have something similar – le paté en croute et la tourte à la viande (also with vegetable like mushrooms, fish or seafood). You can buy them anywhere in France and they are quite delicious when they are prepared artisanally. Why to do it, we buy them ready to eat.
And may be, because it is prepared by professionals in France, I always felt that it was too difficult or it took too long to prepare, and this until recently. Paul, a friend of mine, who is preparing 6 to 10 pies each year to share with friends during the holiday’s season, inspired me. I was ready to take the leap.
This is Paul toutière’s recipe. I have made some minor changes. It is impossible for me to follow a recipe at 100%, but I kept the essence of his recipe as well as his instructions for the different steps. My conclusion, it is really easy to do. Unbelievable! It is also really delicious; I will do it again, and again. I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe.
Portion size: 8 to 10
900 g lean ground pork (2 pounds)
I doubled the quantity of meat (as well as all the other ingredients). After a first try, I thought it was not enough meat; I wanted to get back my souvenir of the tourtière I have enjoyed in Quebec.
I chose to use pork tenderloin. It is really lean and tasty. I also asked my butcher to grind it for me. America’s test kitchen has shown that freshly ground meat is significantly more tasty and flavorful than the pre-packed ground meat. And this makes a difference!
2 onions, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
4 to 6 fresh sage leaves (alternative: 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage)
120 ml Beer
Paul normally uses boiling water in his recipe. Instead, I have decided to use beer. Pork meat has a mild flavor that picks up whatever seasoning or marinades you use and I wanted to give some pep to my tourtière by using one of my favorite beers – or more precisely my first barleywine:
As they explained, they kicked it up a notch with their Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout, aging it in Kentucky Bourbon barrels. The rich chocolate, coffee and dark fruit flavors from their Imperial Stout are married together with the vanilla, oak and warming alcohol from bourbon barrels. Together as one, the result is an incredible blend of aroma and taste. And this is true! We really enjoyed this beer, and I wanted to cook with it. My Burgundy roots! The tourtière was my first try; I also used this beer when I cooked a French onion soup. Both were incredible!
Recipe pastry for a 9-inch (23-cm) double crust pie
300 g flour (150 grams all-purpose flour and 150 g spelt flour)
150 g of butter, cubed and very cold
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
80 ml very cold water, plus more is needed
Whisk together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Add the cubed butter to the flour mixture, and cut it using a pastry cutter (rubbing it in with your fingertips also works in a pinch). Keep working the butter into the dough until in coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.
Scrape off any residual butter-flour mixture from the pastry cutter, and drizzle in the water.
Gently work the water into the dough with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until it becomes a shaggy but relatively cohesive mass. Give the dough a few kneads with your hands (fewer than 10) so that it forms a rough ball. Try to work these steps as fast as you can. This is one of the secrets for a flaky crust.
Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, and chill for at minimum 30 minutes or overnight. This allows the water to fully hydrate the dough, making for a more cohesive product that’s easier to roll out.
In a saucepan, combine pork, onion, beer, salt, black pepper, marjoram, cloves as well as sage and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils; stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is cooked, about 20 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and sage leaves, and almost all the juice and fat. You can use the juice to prepare a sauce to accompany your tourtière.
Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool to room temperature.
The meat can be prepared one day in advance. Cover it and refrigerate overnight. I did it and it was perfect the day after to assemble the pie and cook it.
With the rack in the lowest position, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (220 degrees C).
On a lightly floured surface, cut dough in two pieces (roughly 60 and 40%). Roll out the bigger one and line a 9-inch (23 cm) clay pie pan with it.
Brush with egg wash (whisk an egg up with a splash of cold water or milk until pale yellow and perfectly mixed). Spoon the meat mixture into the pie crust.
Roll out remaining dough and cover the tourtière with it. Make an incision in the center. Press the edge to seal with a fork or your fingers. Brush with egg wash.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.
Tourtière can be made up to 2 to 3 days in advance. We have kept our pie covered with aluminum foil in the fridge and we have reheated it at 250 degree F for 20 to 30 minute before to enjoy it.
As I said previously, the taste of this tourtière is incredible. We enjoyed every bite, we were in paradise for gourmands. A real alchemy between the pork flavor, the different herbs and the complexity of the “Kentucky Bastard” beer!