We've been fighting off some pretty nasty colds for a while, so things have been quiet around here - unless you count the sounds of coughing and nose blowing! Time to slowly catch up on things.
Part of our Acadian Christmas tradition is the tourtierre, a type of meat pie. Every family seems to have their own version of it. Here's a recipe from Mdm Benoit that's the foundation of the secret recipe I inherited from my MIL. (I highly prize my Mdm Benoit cookbooks - if you find any, snap them up! My favorite is Mdm Benoit Cooks at Home.)
First, the filling (quantities for 1 pie).
1 pound minced pork
1 small onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp savory
1/4 tsp celery pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup water
1/4 - 1/2 cup bread crumbs.
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, except the bread crumbs. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring often to heat up the meat. Remove from heat.
Add a few spoonfuls breadcrumbs [and stir in]. Let Stand 10 minutes. If the fat is sufficiently absorbed by the bread crumbs, do not add more. If not, continue in the same manner.
Cool and pour into a pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with pastry. Bake in a 500F oven until the top is well browned. Serve hot.
Note: Feel free to mix and match your ground meats. The original tourtierre were made using game birds and only changed to pork when it became common. You can also use things like potato flakes or flour in place of the breadcrumbs. Experiment with the herbs, too. We've never found celery pepper, so we use ground celery and added our own pepper and other herbs and spices to taste.
The recipe is easy to increase - we've used as much as 38 pounds of ground meats, adjusting the other ingredients to match. The only increase that isn't necessarily proportional is the water and breadcrumbs, depending on what meats you use. At that amount, the filling was divided into a pair of roasters (actually, a single roaster with a lid that could also be used as a second roaster), each over a pair of elements on the stove. With careful stirring and occasional reversing of the roasters, they cook just fine. We'd then put them in my FIL's trunk to cool down for the night, then make the dough and bake the pies the next day. Obviously, that doesn't work if you don't live in a cold enough winter climate! ;-)
We also never baked them as such a high temperature!!! Usually, we could fit 3 or 4 pies in the oven at once, baking them at 350F until well browned, rearranging the pies half way through the cooking time.
Now for the crust, also from Mdm Benoit.
Hot Water Pie Crust
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Bring water to a boil. Add shortening. Remove from fire and stir until smooth.
Sift, measure and re-sift flour with salt and baking powder. Combine mixtures. Stir until smooth.
Set in covered container in refrigerator for 2 -3 hours.
Note: This is NOT a flaky crust in any way, which is perfect for such a savory filling. We usually quadrupled this recipe. Using modern appliances makes it a lot easier, too. After boiling the water, we'd add it to a mixer bowl with the shortening and beat it with an electric mixer. We'd then put on the dough hook, then switch to the bowl of dry ingredients and let the machine to all the work. We also did just fine using all purpose flour, and even did half and half with whole wheat flour.
When making multiple recipes, divide the mixed dough into the number of portions you need for each top and bottom, then chill.
Another trick to make things easier - especially when making large numbers of pies - is to use a sheet of thick, clear vinyl. These can be bought off rolls at most fabric stores. The sheet we got was large enough to cut off a square somewhat larger than the width of the pie dough we'd be rolling. Place the larger sheet on your rolling surface, then dust with flour. Take one of your portions of dough and coat both sides with flour, then top it with the smaller piece of plastic. Roll dough to size. You can then use the plastic to help you move the dough onto the pie plate.
When the pie plates are filled and you're ready to add the top crust, wet the edges of the bottom half with water, first. After you've trimmed and crimped the edges, cut steam openings in decorative designs into the top.