11 December 2013

A Post Revisited: Tourtiere for a French Canadian Christmas

From 2006:

A decade ago, when I started writing a weekly food feature for a local newspaper, my first topic was tourtiére, the French Canadian meat pie that is an integral part of Christmas Eve. I wanted to personalize the assignment with a nod to my culinary heritage.

I don’t recall a single Christmas Eve without meat pie. My grandmother made it, then my aunts. Now I make it, though I will admit to skipping a few Christmases when time was scarce.

Traditionally, tourtiére is served following midnight or Christmas Eve Mass. My great-grandmother, whom we all called Mémere, washed it down with Champagne. Grandma Annie liked it with Mogen David (likely preceded by her Seven-Up and brandy “highball”). I like a nice Cabernet or a Shiraz with hints of berries and spices.

There are many different versions of tourtiére. Our family tradition is just fresh-fround pork, onions and seasoning. I have two recipe cards, one in my mother's tidy backhand and the other in Jane's slap-dash printing. They just called it "French Meat Pie."

Tourtiére a la Plourde-Laurin Famille

Three pounds ground meat: I like a combination of fresh ground pork and ground chuck
One large onion, minced
Dash nutmeg
Dash allspice
Dash freshly-ground pepper
Dash sea salt
1-2 eggs
1/3 cup cracker crumbs, a hefty pinch of flour or cornstarch

Prepare your crust. Again, I used this pate brisée recipe from Lucy's Kitchen Notebook.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown the meat and onion in a large skillet. Season with pepper and spices. Set aside; you can make this ahead and keep it refrigerated.

Pat your bottom crust into a greased pie plate. Before adding the meat, blend in an egg or two, depending upon the size of your pie. I also add the salt and thickener at the last minute. The eggs keep the pie from crumbling, too.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. I use an egg wash on the crust.

You may serve tourtiére warm or cold. It pairs well with a vegetable side dish, like green beans, carrots or Brussel sprouts and a salad that has a dash of sweetness, such as a pear-blue cheese salad, or perhaps one with apples or cranberries. Cole slaw and applesauce offer a more casual alternative. I treat meat pie as I would a pasty, which my husband's Cornish ancestors ate.

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16 comments:

Tanna said...

I cherish the few things I have in my mother's handwriting.
Looks like a yummy meat pie.

L Vanel said...

Very nice, Mimi. Your crust looks wonderful.

Mimi said...

Tanna, I agree. You can own an object, but handwriting connects you somehow.

Lucy, the crust was perfect! Great texture, taste, and mouthfeel (a crust can certainly have that! I will make it again and again.

Jann said...

I think I would enjoy this served warm.....what a wonderful family recipe and story!

Mimi said...

I think it's better served warm, too. Funny thing, my husband would not eat it in the past, but because I wrote about it here, he agreed to try it.

FarmgirlCyn said...

I, too, have a meat pie recipe from my French Canadian Memere. Years ago I called her and asked her to send on her recipe, as I wanted to make it for our Christmas buffet. She had severe arthritis in her hands from years of working at the fabric mills, but she wrote the simple recipe out for me despite her pain. It is all I have of hers, as she has been gone several years now. Your post brought back many happy memories. So sweet.

Mimi said...

Cyn, I am sure this was once my Memere's recipe. Where did your Memere work? Lowell, where mine did briefly, or one of the other mills?

Ah, I have learned life is too short, and my Memere was part of my life for too brief a time.

It is my intent to honor her here.

christine said...

What a wonderful legacy you have in that recipe Mimi. It looks wonderful and I'd make it tomorrow if I didn't have to watch carbs right now. I'm filing it away though for another day.

Mimi said...

Good thing it's a once-a-year meal!

FarmgirlCyn said...

Mimi,
My dad's side of the family are all from Rhode Island, where I was born. My Memere worked in Pawtucket, I believe. Her recipe has potatoes in it...a bit of a twist on your recipe, I believe. The only way my kids will eat this is with ketchup! Kind of like a banquet pot pie!!!

Mimi said...

Cyn, everyone has a version of meat pie and that's what makes it so interesting! I saw something online about the debate over what really goes into tourtiere. I say, vive la difference!

Terri said...

Mine is very similar to yours, in all ways, except my girlfriend used the potatoes (which I did) and then mashed it with fried ground pork, onions, spices and put it into the pie shell.
Bon apetite!

Mimi said...

Sounds good! Another specialty of the Upper Peninsula, pasties, remind me of meat pie. The Cornish (my husband is one of them) made theirs as a "pocket pie" so they could carry it into the mines with them. Same basic flavors, though.

WILLOBIE said...

The recipe I remember was seasoned with "savories". There are two kinds. Summer savory (easy to find, and annual) and winter savory (rare but can be grown in the midwest as a perenniel. It resembles rosemary and has a 'piney' odor. Both were used.

Unknown said...

Hope you have a Merry Christmas Mimi. Your pie seems familiar to our English mince pies which are not made with meat but mixed fruit as you probably know. Originally it was felt that people might have been too poor to use meat so they came up with a fruit combination instead. They are as your pie is traditional Christmas fare.
Anne

M.D. Johns/New Communications said...

Merry Christmas, Anne, and thank you for posting! Yes, I think they are similar. And certainly the tradition is!

Mimi