July 7, 2022

A la Carte: For Lee, Winter and Widowhood Mean it’s Time for Tourtière

Lee White

Before the holiday season, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a wonderful cookbook writer who lives mostly in Maine and visits Italy often, talked about the French-Canadian tourtière

I made it a few times for my husband but he really didn’t like the seasoning. He said the same when I made Cincinnati Five-Way Chili (chili with beans, onions, seasoning, spaghetti and cheese). Doug had pretty good catholic (small “C”) food preferences and so, after the tourtière discussion (and all the time, really), I just made food he enjoyed.

In any case, I love all those spices and I adore savory pies like chicken and beef pot pies.

But now it is winter and widowhood, so I can cook anything I like and share the bounty with friends.

The recipe looks long, but if you use a pre-made crust (preferable Oronoco frozen pie crusts), this recipe is a snap. As for the spice blend, quadruple or quintuple it and save in a tight-lidded jar for tourtière or Cincinnati Five-Way Chili for next time!

Tourtière (French-Canadian Meat Pie)
Adapted from Chef John on allrecipes.com 

Photo by Rebecca Matthews on Unsplash.

2 pre-made frozen pie crusts, thawed
Spice blend
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Filling
1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pinch salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup finely diced celery
1 pound each ground pork and beef
1 cup potato cooking water, plus more as needed

Egg wash
1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water, stirred

Place potato quarters in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer until cooked through. Remove potato and mash; save water.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and salt and stir until onions turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, celery and spice blend and stir until onions coated with spices, 30 seconds. Add meat and ladle ¾ cup of potato water into skillet. Cook until meat is browned and has an almost paste-like texture. Continue, stirring, until meat is tender and most liquid is evaporated, 45 minutes. Stir in potatoes and remove from heat. Bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill bottom crust with meat mixture and smooth out. Brush edges of bottom crust with egg wash, then place top crust on the pie and press lightly around edges to seal. Trim excess dough from crust. Crimp edges of the crust and brush entire surface of pie with egg wash. Place in preheated oven. Bake until well brown, about 1 hour. Let cool to almost room temperature before serving.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.