[Ed. Note: Out of deference to Dea’s father, who was apparently appalled by my tinkering with the “classic” tourtiere recipe (of which, I might add there is not one but dozens if not hundreds or maybe even hundreds of thousands so “classic” is really a relative term with a high degree of flexibility) and at Dea’s request (erm…demand?), I have made the concession of adding “(ish)” to the title of this day.  I still contend that despite the unorthodox ingredients, this dish qualifies as a tourtiere, and who cares that it’s a Christmas dish because this American Food Holidays list clearly gives no deference to the time of year anyway, and I think my dining audience would agree, but I thought I would attempt to appease these fine souls who are apparently deeply mortified that I would dare to put Mild Italian Sausage in my tourtiere (I know, I know – it IS totally unorthodox but … Evs.) and so I now dub it “Tourtiere(ish)”. xoxo B]

There may not be a tourtiere day anywhere on this list, but I’m recording this recipe anyway and subbing it in for caramel since I am doing caramel popcorn tomorrow.  And because it was easter weekend and things went awry as they tend to do …  Speaking of awry – pictures later of my beautiful creation as I don’t have the cord for my camera at the moment.

Tourtiere is a classic French Canadian dish.  I haven’t looked to see if it’s on this list though I have my doubts being as it’s not an American food – but there’s poutine so maybe …  Anyway, tourtiere is a meat pie, with cloves and allspice and cinnamon and can be very bland but is also somehow addictive.

I made my first tourtiere by accident. Eva and I were running the kitchen at the Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Camp and on the night of the big thank you feast, a student visiting from Nunavut brought us some traditional meats as a gift.  We had ground Elk and Caribou meat, some moose (I think) and some … gulp … narwhale (which, by the way is definitely an acquired taste and I have not acquired it).  Not having had the opportunity to cook Elk and Caribou meat before and also not sure what else we could do with it besides make a meat pie for 150 people, Eva and I proceeded to “wing it” as we generally do best.  With the help of some juniper berries to make it less gamey, we would sniff the aromas from the pot and add seasonings until we decided it was no longer making us gag (it was REALLY gamey smelling).  Then we dumped it all into a giant disposable foil roasting pan, covered it in pastry, baked and served – not having tasted the filling once. Remarkably, our invention won rave reviews, with several of the diners telling us it was the best caribou meat they had ever had!  Eva and I like to pat ourselves on the back for that one – we created a delectable dish for the shameless caribou eaters!  Okay – that was a bad one – shouldn’t say that.

[An aside – the caribou have made it onto the species at risk list which is a terrible shame and the reason they are going there is not because of First Nations hunters trying to maintain their traditional diets.  It’s because of the oil sands mining operations in northern Alberta where Big Oil is raping and pillaging the earth and ensuring that nothing good will be left for our grandchildren. If you don’t know about it, educate yourself. It is too important to ignore – our lives depend on it!]

Ahem … back to tourtiere.

I made another one for easter dinner.  I had this extra pie crust in my freezer see, from back when I was going to make 2 pies for Christmas but then got lazy and only made one.  So I was gonna make a pie for dinner but, truth be told, I am sick to death of making sweet things (could have something to do with this blog – Americans sure love their sugar eh?) and P, being the meat-loving, died-in-the-wool carnivore that he is, said “why don’t you make a meat pie?”.  So I did.

I perused some recipes and then decided I would just wing it, since winging it had worked so well that time Eva and I had first tried our hand at this. But I took some hints from some of the recipes and this is, more or less, what I did:

1. Dig out giant copper pan that got for birthday.  Be grateful, for the zillionth time, that P is so thoughtful. This pan is perfect for just about everything!

2. Finely mince 4 cloves garlic and one yellow onion. Sweat in 2 tbsp. olive oil until soft. Add 3 sticks celery, finely chopped, and 2 carrots, grated. Dose with salt, cover and cook until soft.

3. Realize that it would be okay to add some mushrooms – like the ones in the back of the fridge threatening to get forgotten, there to rot and do bad things.  Add mushrooms – having rescued them from an unfortunate future date with the compost pile.

4. Remove veggies from pan and reserve in bowl. Add 1 tbsp. oil to the pan and then dump 2 – 3 pounds (who am I kidding – I didn’t weigh it!  It was a family pack, that’s all I know) lean ground beef into the pan and start it browning.  While beef is browning, realize that need to make some pastry for the top of the pie. Look up recipe for Paté Brisé in Larousse and start putting it together.

5. Look at meat and decide there is not enough to fill very deep pie plate. Go to freezer, rummage around. Discover package of 3 large mild italian sausages. Wonder for a split second if the seasonings will clash. Decide don’t care. Return to kitchen and start rapid thawing of sausages in microwave.

6. Simultaneously drain the fat from the beef and add beef to bowl with veggies while thawing sausages, making Paté Brisé, removing skin from sausages so will have ground pork to cook, browning mild italian ground pork, looking doubtfully at very dry Paté Brisé, wrapping it in foil and setting it in fridge with fingers crossed.

7.  Mild Italian pork is browned and sticking dangerously to pan. Remember recipe that called for cognac. Rummage in cupboard and come up with dry sherry and Crown Royal. Decide the two combined can substitute. Deglaze pan with sherry and then splash in some whiskey.  Sniff doubtfully at result. Reduce until liquid pretty much gone. Add beef and veggies.

8. Add seasonings: [Ed. Note – MASSIVE CAUTION – these amounts are wild estimations. I have absolutely NO IDEA how much of anything I added to this dish.] 1 tsp. each of allspice, cinnamon, thyme, marjoram, ground sage, tarragon, salt, pepper. 1/2 tsp. each of chili pepper flakes (why not?), ground cloves and dry mustard powder.

9. Add 1 litre of ham stock from Christmas ham (makes remarkably good stock actually – remarkably good. Very clovey though which is why I cut back on the amount of cloves in my version of tourtiere), having scooped off the fat. Also add about 2 cups of water.

10. Cook for 20 minutes. Add one large potato chopped into little tiny pieces. Stir. Taste. Decide needs more salt.  No, more of everything. Add a dash of this and a dash of that. Decide mild Italian pork was not a horrible mistake after all.

11. Cook for 15 minutes stirring and tasting periodically.  Add some red wine because … well … why not?  Taste it and decide that meat is still shockingly dry.  Add back 2 tbsp of the fat had skimmed from ham stock.

12. Cook for another 20 – 30 minutes until liquid almost gone. Add some more red wine because it just seems like a good idea. Cook a little longer until liquid much reduced and almost gone.

13. Dump whole roiling mass of meaty goodness (it really does taste quite good despite kitchen sink aspect of things) into pie plate lined with pastry. Roll out Paté Brisé (success! letting it sit in the fridge really does work!) and pop it on top using water/egg white to seal edges together. Crimp edges to make seal stick. Cut steam holes in the top. Paint egg white on top so it will look pretty.  Put in pre-heated 400° oven, turn heat down to 350° and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until pastry is golden brown on top.

Shoe giving the tourtiere the thumbs up.

We had the tourtiere at Easter dinner where there were some east coast ex-pats who were very familiar with tourtiere and they loved this one! Apparently the mild Italian pork is the trick …