Spiced Pork Pie-lets

Cook's Country - TourtiereMike and I recently saw a promotional banner outside of a local meat shop, reminding passersby to reserve their holiday turkey.  Before you check the date of this post, I will confirm that it is going into Easter weekend.

At first we thought that perhaps it was just a generic banner that they could hang for any holiday or perhaps it just hasn’t been on an employees to-do list to take down since the end of the previous holiday season.

More than likely, I was our own holiday ruts that Mike and I was having a hard time looking past. I will admit, we get locked into traditions. Turkey for thanksgiving. Ham for Easter. Perhaps I wouldn’t hurt to think outside of the normal meal box.

According to Cook’s Country, “unless your ancestors were French Canadian, tourtiére just may be the most delicious Christmas tradition you’ve never heard of.”

Christmas Meat Pie - French CanadianThis tasty dish is served as part of a post-midnight Christmas Eve feast and is a hearty pie of pork spiced with cloves, allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg wrapped in a buttery, flaky pastry shell.

According to the recipe from Cook’s Country magazine, a tourtiére “is always a double-crusted pie with warm spices, but many of the other details are up for debate” such as whether or not to use a potato, a meat mixture of beef and pork or just pork and unlimited crust options.

Pork Christmas PieGoing into Easter weekend, this recipe appealed to us on various levels. It was a savory pie that wasn’t of the usual pot pie variety. Personally, I am absolutely smitten with “warm spices” such as nutmeg & cinnamon (which I add to my morning coffees) — which aren’t overly popular cooking spices during spring. And of course that whole living dangerously in the kitchen by baking something out of season to celebrate the season.

Our Changes:
While we followed the recipe, we made a few changes. Okay, one crucial one. Since it is just the Mr. and I, we halved the recipe and divided the filling into four ramekins & only did the top crust — think personal pot pies with a Christmas touch. Why? Well, we aren’t huge fans of a lot of crust. It really just becomes more about the shell and less about the innards.

A Lesson We Learned:
Be sure to watch the onions while browning in the dutch oven. Brown to burnt is a very short time frame. Luckily our corner market carries onions and we were able to start over with only a bit of a hiccup.


Tourtière

Makes 1 large pie (the original recipe courtesy of Cook’s Country, Dec/Jan 2014)

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 (about 1/2 a potato)

CRUST

  • 1/2 cup sour cream, chilled
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (if halving the recipe, use the full egg. It makes for a tasty crust.)
  • 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. 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.

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.

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