Sunday, 18 November 2012

Tortiere, Two-Way

Ah, and so begins my Ode to Canadian Food.  Once I figure out what Canadian food is, anyways....

Tortiere (tor-tee-ay) pie is a very traditional French-Canadian meat pie.  It was typically served on Christmas eve, but due to it's ability to be made ahead of time and it's sheer simplicity, it seems to be served a whole lot more in many households around here--spreading well beyond the French-Canadian border and into Anglo-Canadian homes everywhere (and is one of the most available foods-in-a-box at any grocery store in any part of Canada).

So, tortiere is typically made with a mixture of ground meats.  Beef, Veal, and pork, most often, but sometimes game meat is in there, too, for an extra punch of flavor.  My mom made this a lot when we were growing up.  With all 3 kinds of ground meat.  Funny thing is, even though we ate almost nothing but pre-packaged box foods from the freezer aisle, THIS she made from scratch.  In our house, it was served at any time through the winter on a weekend, but especially Christmas eve, Boxing Day and New Year's Day because it could be prepped ahead of time, leaving my mom free to entertain/socialize with the rest of us.  My mom was no slave to the kitchen; she was (and still is) a social butterfly that to this day outshines anyone else in the room at a party.

When I grew up and moved out, I started buying the frozen-boxed variety of it because I couldn't stand making pastry.  Or being a social butterfly at a party.  It was never as good as home-made.

Turns out this stuff is ridiculously easy to make.

And I've found that I like mine made with nothing but pork like Montrealers do it.  Easy-peasy.

Now, I've made this recipe two ways--the "traditional" way, paleo-ified up, for when you have guests coming, for special occasions, for pleasing a family that feels robbed of their comfy carbohydrates from your pre-paleo days...  And I've made a simple pared-down low-carb weeknight version for those days when you just want food.  Real.  Simple.

Classic Tortiere


  • 1 c almond meal
  • 3/4 c tapioca starch
  • 1/4 c butter, coconut oil or lard, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1Tbs cold water, to bind
Meat Filling:
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tsp savory
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbs tapioca


First, get started on your meat.  In a big dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan, add all ingredients except the tapioca.  Bring it to a boil and simmer it for 30 minutes, frequently breaking it up with a spoon.  Use tapioca, dissolved in a bit of water, to thicken into a gravy at the very end.

While you meat is simmering, work on your pastry.  Mix all dry ingredients in bowl first, then, using bare hands, work in butter until pastry is crumbly.  Add egg and cold water.  Form into a ball and set in fridge for at least 5 minutes, preferably 15 minutes.  Don't skip this step (like I did)--you'll be fighting with your pastry if you skip it.  I had to re-roll mine twice before I realized what I'd done.

Now pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Ok, after it chills for a while, pull it back out and divide it onto 2.  Roll out your pastry between 2 layers of waxed paper or parchment paper.  Paleo pastry is definitely more crumbly to work with, so save yourself the aggravation and use some paper.  After your first piece is rolled out about 1 - 2 inches bigger than your pie dish, carefully loosen the top piece of waxed paper and then put it right back on, loosely.  Flip the whole thing over carefully, loosen the other side, then try to transfer it to the pie dish.  Don't worry if it STILL crumbles a bit.  It's the bottom and no one will see it.  Just press the crumbles back into place.

Pour in your prepared filling.  Then do the same pastry routine with the top layer, press the edges together, cut a few slashes into the pie to let steam escape, and stick it in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Sometimes paleo pastry darkens faster around the edges than traditional pastry.  You can carefully place a few narrow strips of tinfoil around the edges to cover them when they start to get brown, or just ignore it like I do.  It still comes out great.

Now, if you want the simple version, just follow all the meat steps the exact same, but skip the pastry.  As soon as you get your meat simmering in the pot, throw some cauliflower into another pot and simmer it up for some classic mashed cauliflower.

Know any other traditional Canadian foods?  How do you define traditional?  Canada is such a mixture of cultures that anything goes, and it varies by region.  Let me know what you think!  

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