If you aren’t familiar with the dish, Tourtière, then let me introduce you. This traditional French Canadian meat pie comes from the Province of Quebec and is typically made from a mix of beef, pork or veal with a distinct spice mix, baked in a pie crust. It’s simple, yet so incredibly packed with flavor.
Growing up in Canada, French is our second language and the French Canadian culture is present throughout the entire country. It’s a culture which I embraced wholeheartedly. The language, the food, the art. J’adore les Francais!
I had a very good friend who was French Canadian, from Montreal, while I lived in Vancouver and I fell in love with the food and culture even more. Tourtière was a dish that he introduced me to and ever since then I have been in love with it. I found a million recipes online, but I wanted to recreate a particular version I used to buy from a French butcher on the south side of Granville Street in Vancouver. It had to taste just like that one, or it just wouldn’t be the same. It’s all about the warmth of the spice blend. And, I think, I might have figured it out. Much to my delight!
1 double pie crust (Pioneer Woman pie crust recipe here)
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup reserved potato cooking water
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 pound regular ground pork sausage
1 large russet potato, mashed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice seasoning
Combine all of the spices together and set aside. Dice the onion and set aside. Have pie crust bottom rolled out and ready in your pie plate with the top crust set aside and ready to assemble.
Peel potato, cut in smaller pieces and boil for about 10 minutes until fork tender. Drain the potato water into a cup and set aside. Mash the potato and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and stir and fry until translucent. Add spice blend to the onions and coat completely. Add in the ground beef and pork and brown. As the meat is browning, use a potato masher to get a very finely crumbled texture that is thin and even. Add in the mashed potato and about a ¼ cup of the potato water to start. Combine into meat mixture until the potato is completely absorbed and the mixture is feeling a bit thick and stew-like. It should not have any runny liquidy water. If so, fry/cook for a couple of minutes until it steams off.
Pour the entire mix into your pie plate with crust. Press into plate and pack it down. Put the top crust on top and trim and crimp edges to seal around the entire edge. Make a hole or a few slits through the top crust to allow steam to escape.
Place in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is browned and the inside is hot and bubbly. Slice and serve.
Here’s how it turns out:
I like to get all my make-ahead ingredients ready to go when I cook so I often think ahead of what I need, and when, and I try to make the process as seamless as possible. Having everything cut up and mixed before you even begin is a great way to make for an easy time!
So I diced up my onion.
I combine all my spice ingredients and set those aside.
I peeled, cut and boiled my potato until tender.
Then mashed it and kept the potato water to the side for a little later.
I got the bottom crust in my pie plate and had the top crust rolled out on my counter and ready to go as well. If you are using a store bought crust, prepare it exactly this same way through the instructions.
Then I got out my large frying pan and turned it up to medium heat. I melted the butter and then added my diced onion to it to fry for about 2 minutes until translucent. I forgot to take a picture, but I then added my spice blend to the onions and stirred it all together. When the spice blend hits the heat, boy oh boy does it ever smell fantastic. The heat wakes up the dried spices and this particular mix is outstanding.
Then add in your beef and pork and brown completely. Once it’s been almost completely browned, I go in with an potato masher and really grind it up finely. You get a more fine, even texture with small pieces. You don’t want big chunks.
Then you want to add in your potato – it should be about ¾ of a cup or so for a large potato. This seems like a funny ingredient, but this is our binder. It’s the part that gives it a tiny bit of a creamy texture and holds it all together. Add a little of the potato water as well to help incorporate it all together with some starchy moisture. Start small, with maybe an ⅛ or ¼ of the water. If you find it feels a little thin, then let it fry for a couple of minutes until it steams off.
You want a paste-like, stew-like mixture that is thick and not runny. It should just be sticking together and feeling thick. If there are clumps of potato, keep stirring. You want it totally combined into the mix.
Have your pie crust ready in your pie plate and put all of the meat mixture inside. Pat it down firm and tight so it’s packed hard.
Put your second crust over the top. Trim and crimp the edges so you have a tight seal all the way around your pie.
Then cut out a center circle or make little slits through the top for steam to escape. Or you can be cheesy like me and make a heart. Because that’s my secret ingredient. Now you know. A little love when cooking for your family makes it taste so much better.
Put this into your preheated 375 degree oven for about 45-50 minutes.
When it comes out, you’ll hear the insides bubbling away and the steam will be escaping. The top of the pie will be nice and golden brown and the smell in your house is going to be mouth watering.
If you have had this pie, you will know the distinct smell I’m talking about. It’s…..seasonal? It’s savory, but because of the few spices that are normally associated with pumpkin season in the fall, it has a very distinct warmness to it. It’s earthy and warm. It’s the best way I can think of to describe it. For most French families on the East Coast this is typically something they make during holidays. So it stands to reason.
When you cut into it, it should stay together nicely and packed down and holding together. The light, flaky pie crust with this savory meat pie is such a comfort food during the winter for me. It’s just beautiful.
So if you are looking for a different type of savory pie, other than shepherds pie, here’s a great alternative and a wonderful new taste to try!
J’espère que vous apprécierez ce beau dîner français! J’aime cela!
Merci et au revoir,
– La Femme Heureuse