The family tourtière recipe
Last week, I was online boasting that the house smelled like fresh tourtière. It was utterly delicious! Loic Nunez quickly replied, “Real meat pie? Lac-Saint-Jean style?”. After more than a few “likes” and recipe requests, I decided to ask the keeper of the family recipe, my aunt and renowned chef Louise Duhamel, to share some stories and secrets about tourtière here on the blog. Get ready! It’s time to smack your lips and cook up something special for the holiday season! Even I promise to try my hand at this recipe… next year. – Jan-Nicolas Vanderveken
One of Québec’s tastiest traditions is also much lauded in song. Lionel Daunais, La Bottine souriante and maybe even your sister-in-law have celebrated the tourtière in song, “C'est la toure-toure-tour' la tourtière. Qu'on sa-voure-voure-vour' tout entière”. Yes, our national meat pie is much loved and heartily consumed.
Whether it comes from the Lac-Saint-Jean, Charlevoix, Gaspésie, Bas-Saint-Laurent or Montréal region, it’s all good! Whether it’s made with game, pigeon, veal, beef or pork, whether it’s prepared in the old way or revamped for Martin Picard’s sugar shack, what makes the best tourtière has always been hotly debated across the regions of Québec. My suggestion? Never discuss tourtière during dinner. Especially if you’re a guest.
Sadly, we did not invent tourtière. Believe me when I say this, it’s as true as the nose on your face. And considering that even English Canadians will try to horn in with their suggestions of “beef stock, garlic, mushrooms, celery, bread crumbs, parsley” (Tourtiere recipe and instructions, Canadian Living website), there’s no point in stirring up a controversy. Best save your energy for dinner!
Trust Nicolas’ favourite auntie. To make a good tourtière you need (1) to make it with love and (2) the very best ingredients. To make a tourtière that fills the house with aromas and will be devoured, you must make it with joy. I recommend adding ambience by playing some Christmas carols, inviting over good company (I love to invite my sisters, mothers, aunts… and all their children too) and thinking about your loved ones as you make it.
Looking for tips? Don’t overwork the pastry, which must be made with pork lard. Ask your butcher for the best cuts. I love my butcher in Val-David, who sells local, hormone-free meat. So fresh too! The meat must also have a little fat on it (don’t start complaining about your waistline, that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for!) Add potatoes – shredded or cut in tiny cubes – to absorb the fat and make your tourtière soft and its texture smooth. Once the meat is cooked (don’t, DON’T overcook it!), crumble it with your fingers to break up bigger clumps of meat.
Take the time to flavour your meat with cinnamon sticks. Sticks, and not that cinnamon powder that’s been lurking in the back of your pantry forever! You may also add that savoury you lovingly grew in your garden or rooftop terrace. It’s so “in” to grow herbs on a balcony. I picked some from a snow bank on my balcony just last week! Now that I think about it, why didn’t Simon & Garfunkel include savoury in their hit song?
What? You don’t have a recipe either? Allow me to share with you the recipe that my sisters and I make every year, never losing hope that one day, the next generation – our children – will step forward to continue the tradition. I don’t even mind if they decide to change the recipe just for the fun of it. Really! Let me take this opportunity to tell our children now: it would be a great, great pleasure to see you rolling out the pastry! I’ll even thank you in advance!
Makes 3 tourtières of 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter. Give one to friends, freeze one and eat the third in the days following your cooking session.
- 1 lb (500 g) minced pork
- 1 lb (500 g) minced veal
- 5 ounces (150 g) onion, peeled and chopped
- 12 g salt
- Cinnamon sticks, to taste
- 2 cloves, crushed into a fine powder
- Savoury, to taste
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
- 5 ounces (150 g) potato, shredded or finely cubed
- Combine all the ingredients except for the potatoes. Bring to a boil and let it simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the potatoes and let cook until the meat is ready. Let cool.
- Crumble the meat for a consistent texture with no big clumps.
- 5 cups (1,375 l) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt
- 1 lb (500 g) pork lard
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vinegar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Cold water
- Combine the flour and salt and then add the pork lard. Crumble the mixture.
- Mix the vinegar and egg in a measuring cup, then add water until you have 1 cup (250 ml) of liquid.
- Add the liquid to the pastry until it becomes more firm.
- Cover the pastry and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Putting it all together
- Roll out a 150 g piece of pastry for the base. Add 500 g of stuffing to the tourtière.
- Roll out a 100 g piece of pastry and don’t forget to cut a 2 cm-diameter hole in the middle. Use milk or water to stick the edges together, then pinch the crust to your little heart’s delight!
- Brush the top of your tourtière with some milk to help give it a crunchy, golden crust.
- Cook the tourtières in a preheated 375F-degree over for 30-35 minutes. When ready, the pie top will have a lovely brown colour.
- Cool on a rack before serving.
Bon appétit and happy holidays!
Louise Duhamel’s reputation for using the finest ingredients from local growers and producers has been evident throughout a 35-year career that began when she opened a small bistro in the Laurentians and eventually ran the Loup Garou restaurant for 15 years. Duhamel founded the cooking school Parfums & Saveurs in Sainte-Adèle and was the Executive Chef of La Reserve ski resort.
Gourmet Magazine featured the renowned Relais & Chateaux Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario while she was serving as its Executive Chef. Chef Louise also worked with Charles Barrier, chef/owner of the famous restaurant Le Nègre in Tours, and at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris.
Louise is currently a chef and teacher at École Hôtelière des Laurentides, where she teaches a new generation of food lovers about the pleasures of the kitchen. She also hosts culinary video capsules for the Les Touilleurs website, writes a food column in the Ski-se-dit magazine and fully enjoys living in Val-David thanks to long walks in summer and winter.
Image credits : Woman Cooking in a Kitchen, U.S. National Archives