Today, I am taking you to Canada for a three-meat pie recipe called tourtiere.
In Canada, trying to describe the national dish is just impossible as the country is so cosmopolitan. Each province has its specialties. English-speaking Canada has adopted traditions from British and American cuisines. French-speaking Canada those of French cuisine. Between the two, there is also a winter cuisine called “coureur des bois” cuisine. And you should add to this the recent contributions of Asian immigrants, those of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Caribbean.
Canada nevertheless features some typical dishes like bannock (Inuit bread), poutine (fries covered with gravy and cheese curds), pierogi (ravioli of Polish origin), baked beans (white beans in sauce) drizzled with maple syrup, roasted turkey, and of course tourtiere!
In France, tourtiere is a kitchen utensil used to make pies but in Quebec, particularly in Montreal, tourtiere is a traditional dish served during the end of year holidays. Although this dish is served throughout the country today, tourtiere is a typical meat pie dish from Quebec, precisely Lac Saint Jean.
What is tourtiere?
Tourtiere, the holiday season dish, also called the “Queen of the Quebec tradition”, bears other names like cipâte or cipaille. It is made of dough and minced meat, usually beef, veal and pork (in my recipe, I replaced the pork with lamb). In some regions, notably Saguenay Lac Saint-Jean, they call it “meat pâté” and the Canadian meat pie recipe consists of diced meat rather than minced meat.
What is the origin of tourtiere?
A false urban legend claims that its name comes from the fact that it used to be prepared with the meat of passenger pigeon (“tourte voyageuse” in French), a sort of wild pigeon now extinct. It is said that in 1790, those pigeons were so numerous on the banks of the Saint-Laurent that you could kill them with sticks. There were so many perched on tree branches that they would broke under their weight. As they were damaging crops, they were killed… and eaten!
Fish also have their pie. It’s called “the fisherman tourtiere”. A recipe that is reminiscent of the torta tal lampuki from Malta.
I will not start singing “Jingle Bells” for this Christmas tourtiere recipe… but…
La toure, toure, toure
Qu’on savoure, voure, voure
Quand c’est fête, fête, fête
Faites, faites, faites, faites
Tourtiere is such a popular dish that the words above are just the lyrics of its song. “La Tourtiere” composed by Lionel Daunais, a Canadian baritone opera composer, and performed by the group of Quebec folklore: “La Bottine Souriante”.
Here’s to a joyful and musical Christmas!
- 4 cups flour
- 16 tablespoons butter (soft)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ cup water
- 1 beaten egg yolk to brush dough
- 1 lb beef , ground
- ½ lb veal , ground
- ½ lb lamb , ground
- 4 oz. bacon
- 4 onions , grated
- 3 cloves garlic , crushed
- 4 potatoes , grated
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon dried savory
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 2 whole cloves
- Sift the flour.
- Cut the butter into small cubes and add to flour with the salt.
- Incorporate flour to butter by kneading quickly with the fingertips.
- Dig a well in the middle of the flour. Dilute the egg yolks with water. Combine with flour gradually.
- Roughly form a ball.
- Work the dough with the palm of the hand by pushing and crushing on the worktop. Form a ball. Wrap in a clean cloth.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight, so that it is easier to roll.
- In a large pot, sauté the bacon for a couple minutes over medium heat.
- Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper.
- Grind the meat one more time using a potato masher.
- Cook covered over medium/high heat until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Put the meat mixture into a baking dish and bake 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Remove the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and the cloves. Allow to cool.
- Preheat oven to 450 F.
- Grease an 8-inch diameter cake or pie pan.
- On a floured surface, roll the dough into two unequal discs of about 11 inches and 9 inches in diameter.
- Place the dough in the pan so that the dough overflows slightly.
- Place the stuffing into the pie shell. Cover with the second disc of dough.
- Attach the pie circles with a little water, pinching the edges or crushing them with the back of a fork.
- Create a little chimney through the center of the pie shell to slide a small roll of parchment paper.
- Brush the dough with egg yolk.
- Bake 20 minutes at 450 F.
- Lower the thermostat to 350 F and bake for another 15 minutes.
- Wait 15 minutes before serving.