French-Canadian tortière is one of those dishes that I always think of when Fall comes around. I think I'm reminded of it because there were always these Fall foodfests up along the Canada-US border (where I was born and raised) that celebrated the locals' French-Canadian roots. Folks would knosh on these small meat pies while walking around watching all the action. There were artisans making snowshoes, woodworkers carving wooden bowls and spoons, lumberjacks showing their prowess with axe and picks, fiddlers playing Quebecois folk music. There were sometimes canoe races on the St Lawrence River. Women baked bread in the outdoor clay ovens, fried beignets for those with a sweet tooth, stirred potage on open fires. It was always fun to go to one of these events. And over it all, there was the smell of the spicy meat filling that was so intoxicating! It would draw you into the line for 'just one more'.
My father worked with a couple Frenchies on the telephone company line crew ... he would sometimes come home with a meat pie around Christmastime. It is a typical holiday dish in French-Canadian households, made in huge batches ... warm and spicy with a crunchy crust. So delicious! We counted ourselves lucky that his friends shared their Christmas tortières with us ...
Fast forward about fifteen years ... I got this recipe from a neighbor of ours when we lived in Rehoboth, MA. April Levesque came from Pawtucket, RI. Her family moved down from Quebec back in the mill days of the early 20th century and they brought this recipe with them. She was making it one day when I walked over to pick up my daughter from a play date. The smell was just as intoxicating as my memory from the past! When I asked her for her recipe, she graciously shared it. I still have her carefully typed index card in my 'bag of food treasures' ... and today is just the day to make ...
April's French- Canadian Tortière
Oven: 450° F for 10 minutes and then 350° F for 35 minutes longer
1 lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground pork
1 small onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. ground sage
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce (my addition)
½ c. boiling water
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, boiled, and mashed with a bit of cream and butter
Pie crust for a two crust pie
Making the Dish:
1. Prepare your favorite pie crust recipe (2 crust pie recipe) and chill th dough.
2. Brown the meats in a heavy Dutch oven, breaking the meat with a fork into small crumble.
3. Add the onions, garlic, spices, and seasoning sauce and continue to sauté until the meat and veggies are softened.
4. Add the water and stir well. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and let half the water cook off.
5. Meanwhile in another saucepan, boil the potatoes and mash them with just a bit of cream and butter.
6. Roll out the chilled pie crust and line the bottom of a 9 or 10-inch pie plate. Roll the top crust and have it ready to top the tortière immediately after putting in the warm filling.
7. When the liquid has reduced on the browned filling, add the potatoes and stir to incorporate them.
8. Let the filling cool a bit before turning into the pie … then turn it in, place top crust on and crimp edges, cut some steam slits or make a decorative design.
9. Bake for ten minutes at 450°F and then turn the heat down to 350°F for another 35 minutes.
10. Serve hot from the oven with a salad or vegetable side dish.