There are so many things to love about the holidays. Families spending time with one another, the cookies and candy, the presents and of course, my children’s excitement Christmas morning as they race down the stairs to see the gifts under the tree.
Food is central to our holiday traditions. As I wrote in this piece a few years ago, my favorite Christmas food (really, we don’t eat it any other time of the year), is Tourtière—French-Canadian pork pie—which was a staple dish served during the holidays when my mother was growing up in New Hampshire, and which she carried on during my childhood. I’m now serving it to my young family in an effort to keep the tradition alive.
My Grande Memere Bouche’s recipe is simple. It involves a double crust (you can use the pie crust recipe of your choice or buy ready made), ground pork, onions, a small amount of mashed potatoes (this keeps the filling in tact so that it doesn’t just crumble after cutting) and a variety of Christmas-y spices, like allspice and nutmeg.
The finished pie is savory yet mild. It’s quite heavy so only a small slice is needed and it is best served with a sharp, astringent salad—like bitter greens dressed simply with olive oil and lemon, which helps cut the fat of the pie.
Grande Memerè Boucher’s Tourtières
makes two 9” pies, each pie serves 8
3 lbs ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 cup water
4 tsp salt
1 tsp sage
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
½ tsp mace (optional)
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
Double pie crusts for two 9” pies (use your own recipe or this one)
In a large pot over medium heat, combine all ingredients except potatoes and crust and stir until the meat is cooked. Then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain off most of the liquid from the meat leaving several tablespoons of liquid after draining.
In a separate pot, cook the potatoes until tender, then drain and set aside. Mash potatoes slightly with a fork and combine with the pork. Continue to mash together until blended (not all of the potatoes may be needed).
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Divide the meat into the two unbaked pie shells. Cover each pie with the top crust. Make 3 steam vents in the top of the crust. Brush a bit of milk over the pastry.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven to 350 and cook for about 15 minutes or until the pies are golden brown.