Tuesday, November 18, 2014

French-Canadian Classic: Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean

Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean
Most Canadians are familiar with tourtière* - a meat pie made with ground meat and spices. It's so popular that you can buy it ready-made in grocery stores. This is not that tourtière.

This one is a feast of game meat in big chunks, slow-roasted in a pie crust. It is a recipe big enough to feed a whole extended family, and it takes most of a weekend to prepare and cook.

We've served Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean at our New Year's levées, when we've had them, and it is always the star of the show. The spices are not what you typically associate with meat dishes, but, let me assure you, the result is heartily mouth-watering and your house will smell delicious the whole time it cooks.

Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean

Serves 10-12 hungry people

Salt pork (it's really, really salty -- like, the granules of salt stick to your hand)
Prepare about 5-6 pounds of meat, chopping into bite-sized pieces. Typically, the meat would  be whatever game the chasseur (hunter) had managed to bring in along with any domestic meat they had on hand. Following is what we used:
One 4 ½ lb duck** boned (probably results in about 2 lb of meat; in a pinch, use chicken)
One 3 lb chicken boned (about 2 lb of meat; we used chicken breast)
One 3 lb hare** boned
½ lb veal, diced (we used osso buco and added the bones to the broth after cutting off the meat)
½ lb beef, diced
½ lb lean pork, diced
¼ lb salt pork (or fatty bacon), chopped
Because we purchased our duck, hare, and veal, the cost of this meal comes in on the high side, but the melded flavours are sumptuous.

** Tip: boil the hare and the duck first, to get the meat off the bones, otherwise, you'll be driven crazy with picking. Use the resulting broth in this recipe (below).

Broth made from the water used to boil the duck and hare (as well as the other bones and vegetable trimmings.
After removing the meat, we toss the bones back in the water and boil the bejeebers out of it.
It's not a large quantity of spices, but the flavoring is just right.
Combine all the meats, then add the following:
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
2 ½ tsp salt
3 onions, chopped
All the meats and the onions and spices.
Cover the meat, spices and onion, and let them “rest” OVERNIGHT. In the morning, your fridge may smell like swamp. Don't panic; that's just the onion and spices getting mellow.

Line a very, very deep roasting pan -- a great big turkey pan, not one of those skimpy ones that comes with your oven -- with pastry. (We have, in the past, used two lasagne pans.) We purchase about eight frozen pie crusts, but you could always make your own.

This time with the other vegetables added.
In your pastry-lined pan, combine the meat mixture with:
3 lb of diced potatoes
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
Pour in the boiling water or broth (2 cups). Note: although we used our salt-free bone broth, I did not add extra salt to the recipe, and it turned out just fine.

Cover with more pastry. Cut slits or holes in the top crust and bake as follows:
20-25 minutes at 450° F
Cover the edges with foil, then bake 1 hour at 300° F

Cover the entire top with foil and bake another 4 hours at 300° F

I suck at pie crusts, even when working with commercially made dough.
Now pour yourself a glass or three of red wine, talk to cousin Martha and Aunt Ethel, try to keep the grandkids out of the fire, play tug-o-war with the dog. Go for a walk. Read a book or knit a sweater.

Once it's done, let it sit on the counter for five minutes or so while you toss the salad.

It did not slice or serve this beautifully while it was hot out of the oven.
For this pretty picture, I chilled it overnight, then cut it with a sharp knife while still cold..
If you're feeling health-minded, serve this with a big green salad. (Actually, if you're feeling health-minded, you should probably skip this recipe!)

*Tourtière is pronounced "torch-air" by most English-speaking Canadians.

And here's a Pin-able!
Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean, a classic French-Canadian meat pie


  1. I have an ex boyfriend who was French, and his mom always made this over the holidays. SOOO good! The house would smell incredible. We'd polish off at least 2 bottles of wine just in the MAKING of it. LOL

  2. Oh my! That looks sooo good - thank you!!

    1. It really is a one-of-a-kind meal. Perfect for cold winter months.

  3. I'm glad cousin Martha is mentioned, it makes it more likely I will try this one day. Some recipes that take a long time to prepare are well worth the effort.

    1. Yup, I was thinking of you. <3 This one is well worth the time, and is also a good excuse for inviting company over.

  4. This looks delicious! I remember many Christmas Eve celebrations where we enjoyed tortière. mmmmmmmmmmmmm

    1. It's perfect for Christmas Eve -- hadn't thought of that.

  5. When we meet with my family in Québec during the Holidays often there will be a Lac St-Jean Tourtière on the table. We love it.

    1. It's perfect for a big family gathering -- I'm sure you have lots of fond memories.

  6. This looks delicious and unlike any tourtiere I've ever seen! Thanks for sharing.

  7. How mouthwatering! I bet it is incredible… Most definitely going on "the list"!!

    1. The meat is so tender, and the flavours so well mingled that it really is mouthwatering.


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