Tortiere: a Delicious Traditional Quebec Meat Pie
Photo: Kelly Rossiter
I belong to a book club that reads books about food, and then we cook a dinner on the theme of the book, but sometimes we get a bit off-topic. Last night's event was a book about Samuel de Champlain, and not about food at all, but it gave us the opportunity to make food from Quebec. We had a wonderful thick pea soup, roasted Jerusalem artichokes, a tortiere and a corn bread drenched in butter and maple syrup for dessert.
Tortiere is a classic Quebec dish which is traditionally served after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but it's so delicious, that it's worth making anytime. It's basically a meat pie, so if you have an eater who doesn't like vegetables mixed in things, this is a great recipe. Serve vegetables such as steamed broccoli or roasted root vegetables on the side. You can make this in advance and reheat it when you are ready. Just to make the pie look pretty, I used a cookie cutter to make oak leaves that I then lay on top of the pie crust, sticking them down with a bit of egg wash. You can cut out your own leaves too, if you like.
I usually make my dough with butter, but I followed the recipe and used vegetable shortening which is what my mother always used. All the women in the group said the crust tasted like their mom's!
This recipe is from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup lard, or 1 cup vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 to 3 tbsp cold water as needed
1 lb ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Scant 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1. Make the dough at least an hour before you wish to start baking. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix well. Cut in the lard or shortening to make evenly moistened crumbs. Mix together the egg and vinegar and stir in. Try pulling the dough together. If it is still crumbly, add 2 tablespoons cold water and mix; if this is not enough to moisten the dough thoroughly, add a little more cold water. When the dough just comes together, pull it into a mass.
2. Cut the dough into 2 not quite equal pieces. Place each piece in a heavy plastic bag, flatten it out to a disk and seal well. Refrigerate until 10 minutes before you roll it out. When you are ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 500F.
3. To prepare the filling, place the pork and onion in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir to break up lumps in the meat. Add all the remaining ingredients except the bread crumbs and stir as the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to break up any remaining lumps in the meat, until the onions are completely softened and golden.
4. Remove from the heat and add 1/4 cup bread crumbs. Stir, then let stand 10 minutes. If there is still liquid in the mixture, add the remaining bread crumbs and stir well. Let stand for another 10 minutes. The filling should be moist but without much extra liquid. Let cool.
5. Place the larger piece of pastry on a lightly floured work surface and flatten it with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to an 11 inch circle. If the pastry sticks to the surface, use a dough scraper to gently detach it. Lay the pastry over an 8 inch pie place and use your knuckles to ease the dough into the plate. Spoon in the cooled filling, mounding it in the centre. Roll out the second piece of pastry to a 9 inch round and lay it on top, then crimp the edges together by pinching them between your thumb and forefinger all around. Cut 3 or 4 slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.
6. Bake the pie until well browned on top, about 20 minutes. If after 10 minutes the edge is starting to darken too much, place a strip of foil over the edge to protect it. Serve hot or warm.
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