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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Tourtière, or the importance of compromise


I wish I could say this is the one I baked, but, alas,
it is a free image grabbed from the net

In his New York Times cooking column this week, Sam Sifton offered a recipe for tourtière, the French Canadian two-crust meat pie that first appeared in Quebec and is traditionally served at Christmas and the New Year. Originally the pie was filled with pork, cut in tiny pieces, and other meat, even wild game. Many cooks today use ground meat. Sifton’s version, however, mixes the two versions and calls for chunks of pork shoulder with chicken thighs and ground pork. As Sifton’s recipes are usually excellent, I clipped it and saved it. But the complexity may put it beyond the capabilities of my kitchen—or me as a hot-plate cook.           

By coincidence, I made a much simpler tourtière for supper Monday night. Comparing the two made me realize all over again that to cook with a hot plate and a toaster oven instead of a stove and in a kitchen with limited counter space, you have to make compromises.

The first compromise I made was using a prepared pie shell, admittedly not as good as homemade (Sifton’s recipe puts two sticks of butter in the crust!) but easier in my limited space. While I have a rolling pin, I don’t have a pastry board (I used to have marble) and not enough counter space to roll out dough. Besides, pie crusts are not one of my best accomplishments.

Here’s what I used for the filling:

1.5 lbs. ground sirloin

1 cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 tsp celery salt

¼ tsp. allspice

¼ tsp. black pepper

Salt to taste

A generous splash of Worcestershire

1.5 cups beef stock (from Better than Bouillon)

1 medium potato

           Sauté the onion and garlic quickly, add beef and cook over medium heat until there is no pink. Add the bay leaves, celery salt, pepper, allspice, salt and Worcestershire. Stir thoroughly to mix spices in and add the beef broth. Bring to a simmer. Here’s the weird part: grate your potato and stir that into the mixture. The potato will soak up the liquid. When the liquid is almost all absorbed (the surface looked dry, but a good stir revealed a nice bit of moisture), take the pan off the heat and let it come to room temperature. You don’t want to put a hot meat mixture into an uncooked pie shell.

Line a pie plate with one of the crusts. As always sprinkle a little flour over the bottom so it doesn’t stick (my prepared crusts came already floured). When meat mixture is cool, spoon into the pie shell. Carefully place the other crust on top, crimping the edges and poking steam vents in it. For a shiny surface, brush the top with a mixture of egg yolk and water, about 2 tsp.

Bake at 375o until crust is browned and meat is bubbly—about 25 minutes. We served it with Christian’s green beans—sauteed in bacon grease and seasoned with cider vinegar. A good meal on a chilly fall evening.


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