I’ve often said, for at least four Christmases, that once there isn’t even the remotest joy in Christmas, it’s time to have kids. I didn’t realize how true that was until this Christmas, the first in my own home with my family. Never one to participate in the Christmas shindig at my parents’ house in my later years(except for opening presents!), I rearranged my tree three times to get it straight. OK, maybe I suck at setting up a tree, but the point is I didn’t concede that it was pointless and give up. And my kid hasn’t got a clue about what’s going on!
This is also the time to establish some traditions for future years, or at least carry some forward. Like the advent calendar my mom created with her bare hands that counts the days down to Christmas (the right way for an advent calendar to work): the little one likes that tradition; she doesn’t even know you’re supposed to get a candy every night.
A tradition I both somewhat started and somewhat carried forward last year was making a tourtière. Only somewhat carried forward, because, as a running joke, my sister and I called it ‘torture’ growing up. Not sure why, and probably don’t want to delve too deep, either; I think it has something to do with my mistrust of savoury pies. Pies should be sweet!
Also, somewhat started, because I didn’t ask anyone in the family for a recipe, I just made my own up. After doing a little wiki-research, I found there is no ‘traditional’ tourtière recipe, but thousands. No recipe? Why, the possibilities! And so, I created this little masterpiece. Everyone can stop now, I’ve found the traditional tourtière, for everybody. You’re welcome!
Actually, my only twist are the sweet things: maple syrup, dried cherries and dried blueberries. Syrup is a tasty French-Canadian sweetener. The dried blueberries, likewise French-Canadian. And, damn it, this is pretty much the only dish listed by name when you search for Canadian cuisine, so a little more French Canada can’t hurt. The dried cherries are just delicious, they need no explanation.
You can prepare the filling a day ahead and place it in the fridge. A way to quickly cool the filling at any time is to use that cold Canadian winter for something good: a giant outdoor freezer, just put the pan you cooked it in on your porch, covered. Careful though: too long and you’ll freeze the filling. Anything more than 15 minutes is too long.
For the crust, make a 3-2-1 pie dough using 9 ounces of flour. I spike savoury crusts with herbs. I’ve used rosemary and sage for this dish and the missus didn’t even notice!
Makes one 9" pie
- 9 oz flour
- 6 oz butter
- 3 oz water
- 2 -3 sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 large white onion, finely diced
- 1 large stalk celery, peeled, finely diced
- white wine
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- salt and pepper
- 3 cups chicken stock
- handful breadcrumbs
- 25g dried blueberries
- 100g dried cherries, roughly chopped
- 2-3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 egg
Make the 3-2-1 pie dough and place in the fridge to firm up until ready.
In a hot pan, add the olive oil and butter, brown the pork. You may need to do it in batches.
In a sauté pan on medium heat, add butter, sweat the onions and celery.
Once the pork is finished, deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the pork to the celery and onions. Stir. Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper to the mixture. Stir. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Bring to a boil again, uncovered until there is roughly 2 tbsp of liquid left, about 10 minutes on high heat.
Remove from the heat, let cool for 5 minutes before adding the bread crumbs. Let cool to room temperature.
When ready to construct the pie, add the dried fruit and the syrup. Stir to combine.
Roll out your dough. Place it in the pie plate, add the filling. For the lid, make a few holes to vent the steam; get ornate as you like. Add a little water to the egg and beat lightly. Brush pie with egg wash. Bake in a 425F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375F for 25 – 35 minutes more.
Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Goes with pickled beets (I don’t know why).