Tourtière

From Cook's Country | December/January 2014

Why this recipe works:

This French Canadian meat pie is a Christmas tradition for feeding a crowd. After settling on ground pork for our pie filling, we had to fix the dry, pebbly texture that resulted from cooking the meat twice—once in the skillet and once in the oven. Adding shredded potato to the meat moistened… read more

This French Canadian meat pie is a Christmas tradition for feeding a crowd. After settling on ground pork for our pie filling, we had to fix the dry, pebbly texture that resulted from cooking the meat twice—once in the skillet and once in the oven. Adding shredded potato to the meat moistened it and made it cohesive, and we found that mixing the pork with baking soda before cooking tenderized it. We flavor the filling with savory onions, garlic, and thyme cooked in butter and then add the warm spices customary to the dish—allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Finally, we bake the filling in our favorite tender, flaky sour cream crust.

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Serves 8

Plan ahead: Both the pie dough and the filling need to chill for an hour or more before the pie can be assembled and baked. If time is short, use store-bought dough. Shred the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater just before cooking. Don’t soak the shreds in water or their starch will wash away and the filling won’t thicken properly. To cool the filling quickly, chill it in a large baking dish. Eat the pie when it’s just slightly warm.

Ingredients

  • FILLING
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 12 ounces russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
  • CRUST
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, chilled
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • EGG WASH
  • 1 large egg yolk lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water

Instructions

  1. 1. FOR THE FILLING: Dissolve 1¼ teaspoons salt and baking soda in water in medium bowl. Add pork and knead with your hands until thoroughly combined. Set aside until needed, at least 20 minutes.

    2. Meanwhile, melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth and potatoes, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring often, until potatoes are tender and rubber spatula leaves trail when dragged across bottom of pot, 15 to 20 minutes.

    3. Add pork to pot, breaking up pieces with spoon, and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Transfer filling to 13 by 9-inch baking dish and refrigerate, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until completely cool, about 1 hour. (Cooled filling can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 24 hours before assembling pie.)

    4. FOR THE CRUST: Combine sour cream and egg in bowl. Process flour and salt in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse until only pea-size pieces remain, about 10 pulses. Add half of sour cream mixture and pulse until combined, about 5 pulses. Add remaining sour cream mixture and pulse until dough begins to form, about 10 pulses.

    5. Transfer mixture to lightly floured counter and knead briefly until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and form each half into 6-inch disk. Wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let chilled dough sit on counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes, before rolling.

    6. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Roll 1 disk of dough into 12‑inch circle on lightly floured counter. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 9‑inch pie plate, letting excess dough hang over edge. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with your hand while pressing into plate bottom with your other hand. Wrap dough-lined pie plate loosely in plastic and refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate.

    7. Pour filling into dough-lined pie plate. Roll other disk of dough into 12‑inch circle on lightly floured counter. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto filling. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate. Pinch edges of top and bottom crusts firmly together. Tuck overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Crimp dough evenly around edge of pie plate using your fingers. (If dough gets too soft to work with, refrigerate pie for 10 minutes, then continue.)

    8. Cut four 1-inch slits in top of dough. Brush surface with egg wash. Bake until edges are light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown and liquid bubbles up through vents, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Let pie cool on wire rack for 2 hours before serving.

    TO MAKE AHEAD: Wrapped dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let dough thaw completely on counter before rolling. Assembled pie (without egg wash) can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before brushing with egg wash and baking.

Tourtière, for the Uninitiated

This pie traditionally includes meat, potato, and warm spices in a flaky crust. Ours works within that tradition but takes it up a notch.

RICH, EASY CRUST: We include sour cream and an egg in our dough for tender texture and great flavor.
THICK, COHESIVE FILLING: We peel and shred russet potatoes and cook them in chicken stock, adding the ground meat to the resulting starchy sauce.
WARM SPICES: Tourtière uses unusual spices for a savory pie—cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves.

Test Kitchen Discovery: Not Just for Baking

Most of the time baking soda lightens cakes, cookies, and pancakes, ensuring that they rise. It has a different function for our tourtière: We mix the ground raw pork with a little water, salt, and baking soda to keep the meat tender despite relatively long cooking.

SURPRISE FIND: Baking soda helps tenderize the meat.
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