Holiday Tourtière Again and Again

By Juliana L’Heureux

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Readers cannot seem to get enough information about tourtière, especially around les fetes (the Christmas Holidays). Requests for the Franco-American holiday tourtière recipes are common because some people loose their family recipe and want to find another one while others simply want try out a totally new recipe. Practically every Franco-American yearns for the nostalgic smells of tourtière pie filling cooking on the stove during the Christmas holidays. For Franco-Americans, this special nostalgic smell is like a magical potpourri bringing back joyful memories of past holidays.

Recently, some readers asked for a green tomato relish recipe to serve as a tangy side dish to tourtière. Surely, it is too late in the season to make green tomato relish (my recipe was given to me by Julie Cote of Sanford), but almost any tart relish will taste wonderful alongside tourtière. Zucchini relish is very good; also diced pickled beets or even simple cucumber relish will work. Traditional Franco-Americans garnish tourtière with ordinary ketchup but our family expands on this condiment by offering a variety of sweet and sour side dishes. 

Some people make tourtière totally with ground pork. Although tourtière is also commonly known as "pork pie", some people never use pork in their recipe at all. Actually, one good recipe calls for one half pound of ground beef and a half pound of ground deer meat, rather than pork. 

Today, making tourtières is easier than ever because the pie crusts can be purchased rather than made from scratch.

So, once again for those who repeatedly ask for it, is my family’s recipe for tourtière. Cook one half pound of lean ground beef with an equal amount of ground pork. Simmer this meat mixture with one large diced onion and about two cloves of crushed garlic and just enough water to cover the meat. Season the meat mixture with about one tablespoon of cinnamon and about two teaspoons of cloves, about one-quarter teaspoon of salt and a generous dash of black pepper. Place half a potato on the top of the meat while it simmers to help absorb the fat. Simmer this mixture for about 2-3 hours. It is a good idea to simmer the meat for as long as possible because the extended cooking time breaks down the meat to a fine texture. Next, we cook and mash one large potato separately from the cooked pie filling. Drain the meat mixture thoroughly after simmering, discarding the half potato. Taste the filling for spices and add more to taste. Mix the new mashed potato into the meat filling to help to hold the filling together during the baking and serving of the pie. Pour the filling into a prepared pie crust. This is where you cheat on the fat a little. Dot the top of the meat with just a little butter. Place the top crust over the pie and bake in a moderately hot oven at about 375-400 degrees until the crust browns, or about 30-40 minutes. Placing the pie under a broiler flame briefly at the end of the baking time will create an especially rich brown color on the crust. 

Bon appétit!

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Published on December 16, 1999
Copyright 1999-2000, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine and Juliana L'Heureux