Montreal

My holiday recipe: Let the smell of fresh-baked tourtière fill your home

Montreal food blogger Monique Dykstra is the brains behind My French Canadian Year, a project where she cooks her way through Quebec's culinary traditions.

Montreal food blogger Monique Dykstra is the brains behind the blog My French Canadian Year

Monique Dykstra has been cooking her way through the Quebec culinary tradition, and recommends a classic Tourtière for any holiday feast. (Submitted by Monique Dykstra)

Montreal food blogger Monique Dykstra is the brains behind My French Canadian Year, a project where she cooks her way through Quebec's culinary traditions.

Over the course of the year, Dykstra has been experimenting with all the classics: from pea soup to maple taffy to a full roasted Lac-Brome duck.

When the holiday season rolls around, she is quick to turn to the classic tourtière, which has been a staple on Quebec Christmas tables for centuries.

Monique Dykstra bought the frozen five-pound duck on a visit to a farm in Knowlton. (Submitted by Monique Dykstra)

Dykstra said that there's a lot of variation when it comes to the different recipes floating around, and no two are exactly the same.

"That was one of the hardest things, figuring out what was the quintessential tourtière recipe," she said. "And then I realized that it's really regional differences and there was no one recipe."

She ended up adapting her recipe from a few different sources, simplifying and tweaking to make it simple and approachable.

My French Canadian Year has covered a great number of Québécois delicacies, from savoury to sweet. (Submitted by Monique Dykstra)
​Dysktra insists that she's not a "natural chef," so when she experiments in the kitchen, she likes to keep things fun and easy.

Her tourtière is a mix of pork, veal and beef, and takes the better part of a day to create. It's labour-intensive, so not a bad option for Boxing Day or later, Dykstra said, since spending all of Christmas Day in a hot kitchen can take some of the fun out of it.

"So, this is something that I would make the 26th or the 27th, and it's just a nice simple dish that's tasty — it's cooking away and you can smell it," she said.

"It's delicious and it fills the house."

Now, having come full circle on her first year of running the blog, Dykstra said she's discovered a lot of new recipes and dishes that she plans to bring back year after year — tourtière definitely makes that list.

"It's really good. I don't even like tourtière, but after I made this, I've just come to love it."

Ingredients

Prepare 3-4 hours ahead of baking time

1½ pounds ground pork or veal
1½ pounds ground beef
2-3 onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
6 potatoes, cooked then mashed
1-2 cups beef or vegetable broth (or just water)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
Salt and pepper to taste

Pie crust 
Makes two covered pies or four shells.

5 cups flour (635 grams)
1½ tsp. salt
2½ cups shortening (320 grams)
1 egg
½ cup cold water
1 tbsp. white vinegar

This classic French Canadian dish is a classic addition to any holiday table. (Submitted by Monique Dykstra)

Instructions

Start by making the tourtière​ filling. Heat a large skillet, add oil, then sauté chopped onions for about 10 minutes on medium heat until onions are soft and golden.

With your hands, mix the ground pork and beef together in a bowl. Add the fried onions. Return the meat and onions to the frying pan and cook for another 10 minutes, chopping up the meat as it cooks.

Add the remaining ingredients to the meat (broth, mashed potatoes and spices), and mix together. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat. Taste the meat mixture and add more salt, pepper or spices if needed. Cool in the fridge for about two hours, until completely chilled.

Making pie crusts 

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add room temperature shortening. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture until it forms rough crumbs.

Beat egg, water, and vinegar together, then pour over flour mixture. Stir mixture together with a fork until moistened. Divide dough into four equal size balls, roughly 275 grams each.

Roll out out one of the balls of dough, and put it in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in half of the meat filling, patting it down lightly to compress it a bit. Brush the pie rim with water, and place the second circle of dough on top, pressing the edges together to seal. Trim edges and decorate the top.

Repeat to make the second pie.

Egg wash

The egg wash will give your tourtière a golden glow, so don't be tempted to skip this step. Beat the egg and milk together and brush the mixture over the top of the crust and around the edges. Cut steam vents on top of both pies to let moisture escape.

With the rack in the bottom third of the oven, bake at 375 F for about 50 minutes or until the pies are golden brown.

Consult the recipe on My French Canadian Year here.


This is part one of a series where Montrealers share their favourite holiday recipes. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marilla Steuter-Martin has been a journalist with CBC Montreal since 2015.

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