Saturday, June 28, 2008

 

Mmm...Canada - Tourtière

I have been to Canada twice: 1997 and 1999. The first time was largely spent visiting family friends on Vancouver Island in the town of Nanaimo. What I mostly remember of that one month in Spring are eating lots of bagels (the first time was a memorable experience, and I could not get enough of cream cheese with dill) and drinking lots of table wine (what else was a late-teen to do?). I also recall that a friend and I established a reputation as "bar stars" because we'd out-dance the hired dancers on the podiums and "vogue" our young hearts out at the Savoy. Oh, how much I loved Madonna's dance remix of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" back then. And I also remember seeing a school of orcas from a ferry as it traversed the North Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island and the mainland. My second visit was only for a few days with my angelheart Eric. We had the use of a friend's apartment in downtown Vancouver, a central hub from which to meet old friends and check out what the student film scene had to offer. I remember drinking vodka out of plastic cups and the rude Canadian officials at the Canada-US border (the only seriously rude Canadians I have ever met). Fast-forward almost ten years, and I know so much more about Canada, politically and culturally, not just as a pretty holiday destination. This brings me to Jasmine - you should know her as the author of one of my favourite blogs, Confessions of a Cardamom Addict. Jasmine is co-hosting a food blog event that captures the essence of Canadian food: Mmm...Canada. Jasmine is showcasing the savoury entries, and Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess the sweet ones. While not Canadian myself, I am not oblivious to the vast nation's great people, famous produce (particularly its maple syrup, which I know is a cliché to mention but its B grade, deep amber syrups are amazing) and culinary traditions.

In an effort to submit a dish to Mmm...Canada, I sought assistance from good friends: the fiercely intelligent and generous Anita and the pensive, jack-of-all-trades Craig. One lived in Canada for a few years and the other was born and raised in Ontario, so I figured they were a source of knowledge from which I could benefit. They informed me of a Québécois dish that is rich in flavour, deep in tradition and perfect on bitterly cold days.

Tourtière is a Québécois pork pie. According to a Jim Cummings' article at Quilter Muse, the origin of Tortière lies in France, where pigeons and other game birds were cooked in a deep baking dish that was originally named for tourtes (big game birds), until they became extinct. Early in Canada's colonial years, Tourtière was recognised as a fowl pâté, and now it is a pie that principally substitutes pork for game birds. As is typical of meat pies of Western Europe provenance, variations on Tourtière include many a spice to lift and complement the meat, such as allspice, cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg, in addition to onion or garlic.

Tourtière is a favourite dish at Christmas Eve, which is fitting given that it is almost time to celebrate mid-Winter Christmas in New Zealand. While there are recipes for vegetarian versions of this famous pork pie (which, to my mind, means that they are not Tourtière at all but vegetable pies - nothing wrong with that, of course, but there is no relation to Tourtière, except for the fact that vegetable pies can be cooked in in tourtières), I am from a pork-loving nation and am not interested in uninvesting myself from this traditional Canadian dish. Having said that, there are old English recipes for similar pies, but they are usually jellied, a love for which has not passed down my father's side of the family to me. I'll have pork pie the Canadian way, thank you.

As for the pastry, it almost seems that any pie pastry will do, so I have decided on one that uses shortening - for its depth and flakiness (if nothing else, the pastry must harken back to its French background, and most French pastries are buttery and flaky).

The following recipe is perfect for a 25cm/10" springform pan.

Tourtière
(Adapted from Jill Norman's Winter Food)

For the pastry:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
160g/3/4cup vegetable shortening
20g/3/4oz unsalted butter
6 tablespoons iced water

1) Sift flour and salt together into a large bowl.
2) Cut in the shortening and butter with either two knives or a pastry cutter until a texture of coarse cornmeal is achieved. With two knives, this requires a bit of patience. I did not reduce all the shortening to mere flakes, which results in cavities in the pie top, as seen in the photos. If you're the type to lose sleep for fear of not measuring up to perfection, then I suggest that you get a pastry cutter.
3) Add water, one tablespoon at a time. When moist enough to gather into a ball, stop adding water.
4) Wrap in clingfilm and roll out slightly with a rolling pin to form a disc.
5) Chill for one hour.
6) Leave on counter for approximately 20 mintues to allow pastry to come to a temperature at which it is pliable.

For the filling:

1 large potato, peeled and boiled
8 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
1kg/2lb ground pork
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon thyme
1 bay leaf
salt
pepper

1) Mash the potato and soak it in the cream.
2) Heat oil in frying pan and add pork and onion, break pork with a wooden spoon.
3) Season with nutmeg, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper.
4) Cook until pork juices have evaporated, approximately 20 minutes.
5) Off the heat, remove the bay leaf and stir in the mashed potato, mixing it well with the pork.

To complete the Tourtière:

egg wash, made by breaking an egg into a vessel, lightly beaten with one tablespoon of cream, milk or water.

1) Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F.
2) Prepare your springform pan (butter and flour it).
3) Lightly dust surface to roll out pastry. Dust your hands and the rolling pin with flour, too.
4) Remove one-quarter of the pastry and leave aside.
5) Roll out the pastry and fit into pan (a large enough circle such that there is an overhang).
6) Fill with cooked pork.
7) Roll out remaing pastry to fit pie top. Fold the overhang over and crimp. You should see before folding the overhang over if there is excess pastry - remove it.
8) Brush egg wash over surface.
9) Cut a hole in the centre of the pie top.
10) Bake until pastry is deeply golden.

The nose knows when this is ready. It is amazing that such simple ingredients can almagamate to a richly satisfying dish. The flaky pastry is a dream - even though it takes a good chunk of time to cut shortening into flour, the texture and flavour make the time spent very worthwhile. Its richness complement the pork, and the few herbs and spices used give added depth of complementary flavours. Served with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and spicy relish on the side, Tourtière is festive and rich without being over the stop.

Those Canadians sure know a good thing when they taste one. Mmm...Canada!

Post-script: Please visit Jasmine's round-up of the savoury edition of Mmm...Canada, and please go here for the sweet edition.

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Comments:
Looks very tasty Shaun... I always learn something when I read your posts!
 
My dearest Shaunnie,

What a great post--table wine, Madonna et al. I can just imagine you Voguing the night away...

Thanks so much for participating --you never disappoint, my dear.

xo
j
 
Hello Shaun!
I.WANT.PIE. =) It looks truly yummy. I can almost smell it baking in my oven. Plus the weather's been cold here so it would be almost quite perfect. =)

I agree with you on the maple syrup. I would love to try bacon and maple syrup on pancakes. lol. I hear it's traditional breakfast fare. =)
 
Your tourtiere looks perfect! Living in Quebec and having French Canadian relatives, the tourtiere is definitely a part of our Christmas celebration.
Maple syrup is a year round staple in our home. Next time you're in Canada, come and visit Quebec!
 
Oh my goodness Shaun, I think that I am going to make this for lunch on Sunday! And thanks for the b/g on it.

So good to see you always. Hope the Angelheart is doing well.
 
I love Vancouver. But next time head over to Quebec. It's a different world ... and the food is fab! (Not as fab as yours, though!)
 
That looks just wonderful! I made tourtiere for dinner this past Christmas and it was lovely.
 
Shaun! I made it today and it came out perfect! The taste is fantastic and the crust, OMG!

This is defintely going to be made as a treat when entertaining and I think I'll follow the tradition this year and make it on Christmas eve!

Thanks so much for the recipe.
 
Bruno ~ Actually, its tastier than it looks - the pastry is rich and the pork is really pronounced.

Jasmine, honey ~ Sadly, I can't quite "Vogue" away as I used, too, but I take great satisfaction in knowing that I really tried to make the most of my youth.

Thanks again for the invitation to participate. It was a fun and educational exercise, as these food events tend to be.

Victoria ~ I loved the smell of the kitchen as the pie finished baking. It was a treat to inhale its aromas as the pie rested on the counter, too.

As for maple syrup on pancakes, it is a great combination - sweet, fluffy pancakes and dense, rich syrup. Both the pancakes and pie are perfect cold-weather food!

Liliana ~ Welcome! Thank you for the kind comment. I have heard many wonderful things about Quebec from many friends who have visited. Hopefully, it will not be too far in the future before I can visit your beautiful province.

Cynthia ~ I'm glad that you were inspired to make the pie and that it was a success for you, too. Because the recipe is simplicity itself, it dares to be tried. I loved the richness of the pork, and how it is enhanced by the rich pastry. I have a mid-Winter Christmas party to attend in a couple of weeks and am thinking of making this again.

Anthony ~ You're such a sweetheart. Would love to cook for you and your partner one day. Quebec is on my list of places to visit, too.

Sara, darling ~ It was simple yet delicious - everyone wanted seconds. Now I can see why it is popular on a buffet table at Christmas time!
 
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