Most French Canadian families serve tourtière, a traditional Quebecois meat pie, as part of their Christmas Réveillon (post Midnight Mass meal). Tourtière varies (greatly) by region. For example, the Montreal version is made with ground meat, Lac St. Jean pies are filled with diced meat and those from New Brunswick contain seafood. As with most traditional dishes, every family has their own version and theirs is the ONLY original and authentic tourtière recipe. A word of advice: if someone offers you a slice of their mother’s tourtière, there is only ONE tiny compliment you have to give: “This is the BEST tourtière: no tourtière ever tasted as good and no other ever will.”
Being from Montréal, the version I grew up with is made with a mix a 3 kinds of ground meat, onions, garlic, potato and spices. Below is an updated version of my mother’s tourtière recipe made with my grandmother’s pastry recipe.
Onions, carrots, celery and garlic are chopped finely.
A cartouche is created by cutting a piece of parchment paper into a circle. The cartouche is placed over the chopped onions to help them to ‘sweat’. (The edges should be pushed all the way out to the edge of the pot.)
The vegetables are cooked with thyme and bay leaves until soft.
The ground meats are added to the pot. Water, cream and beef stock help to break the meat apart (and provide additional flavour). Cook until thickened (the meat pie needs to stay together when you cut a slice). Note the meat filling forming a mound on the spoon.
Grandmama’s recipe was used to make the pastry (as was her rolling pin and pastry cutter).
2/3 of the recipe is used for the bottom crust and 1/3 for the top.
Finished tourtière, ready to be devoured with Quebecois Fruit Ketchup (we will publish that recipe next year).
Yield: 3 pies (1 ½ pound each)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1-2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
- 1 1/2 lb ground veal
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups of beef stock
- 1/2 cup of cream
- pinch dried savory
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary (rub in palms to break apart)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 4 Tbsp Bovril
- 1/4 cup Worchestershire sauce
- 1 TbspTabasco
- TT Salt and pepper
- 3 small mashed russet potatoes (i.e. a starchy potato variety)
- Sweat the onions: Heat oil and add onions. Cover with a cartouche (parchment paper – see picture above) and heat on low heat until soft and translucent. (~30 minutes).
- Add bay leaves, thyme, garlic, celery and carrot and continue to heat on low heat until beginning to soften.
- Increase heat to medium high and add meat with just enough water to separate the meat into pieces.
- When meat is no longer pink, add beef stock and cream. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to a bare simmer. At this point, add about half of the spices, salt, pepper, Bovril, worschestershire and tabasco to start building flavour.
- Boil and mash potatoes. Set aside.
- When meat mixture has thickened (it should form a small mound on the spoon – this can take several hours), add mashed potatoes.
- Add remaining spices and other flavourings and adjust to taste.
- Allow to cool.
- Line 8-9″ pie plates with pastry (see pate brisée recipe below). Fill with 1/3 of the meat filling and top with pastry.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Put pies in oven and turn heat down to 325 degrees. Heat until golden brown, approximately 30 – 40 minutes.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup shortening (see note below)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 egg yolk
- approximately 1/2 cup ice cold water
- Sift flour and salt into a bowl.
- Add shortening and incorporate into the flour using a pastry cutter until the mixture has the appearance of oatmeal or bread crumbs. (It was written as ‘apparrence farineuse” in the original recipe.)
- Mix egg yolk and lemon juice and add to flour using your fingers.
- Slowly add water until the dough comes together. It will feel a little on the dry side but should stick together with mild pressure. Do not overwork. (The exact amount of water used to obtain this consistency is variable.)
- Leave to rest in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes prior to rolling.
Note: We experimented with the fat content of the pastry using vegetable shortening, lard (pork fat) and butter, both alone and in combination. We found that butter gave a great taste and lard resulted in very flaky pastry. We used 2/3 lard and 1/3 butter in the last pie (of the 12 that we made) and it was fantastic!