The food: Individual tourtières
My mother’s background is a little complicated: her family can trace its French lineage in Quebec to the 1700’s, but her father’s French surname, Langlais, means “the English (person).”
At age 20, my bilingual mother left Montreal and moved to Toronto, where she’s lived ever since, and where she mainly cooks and eats food from cuisines that originate in countries far from Quebec – countries like Italy, France and China.
Once in a while, though, she makes tourtière, a classic Quebecois meat pie that was a food staple in her youth. Her version is a contemporary one – it freshens the meatiness of the ground pork and beef with some chopped pear and a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and is served in individual pastry shells for a pretty presentation.
Recently, she called me and offered me some extra tourtières she had made. I eagerly accepted, and ate two for (a delicious) dinner with a little peach chutney and a green salad.
Afterwards, I looked up the origins of tourtière and found a history that said tourtière was once known in Quebec as “Pâté à l’angloise.” I think I see a pattern developing here.
Recipe for Tourtière (à la Mme Langlais):
1 T. olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 pears, cored, peeled and chopped
1 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 T. fresh tarragon leaves
2 T. Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. ground savoury
1 dozen frozen individual pastry shells (unsweetened) plus 1 large frozen pastry shell.
1. Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Sauté shallots until soft and translucent, 2-3 minutes.
2. Stir in fresh and dried herbs and chopped pears.
3. Add ground meats, use wooden spoon to break up, and cook meat until no longer pink and well combined with shallots, herbs and pears, stirring often.
4. Strain off liquid from meat mixture.
5. Thaw large frozen pie crust shell 10 minutes, then cut into 1/2 inch wide strips.
6. Spoon meat mixture into individual pie shells. Top with lattice strips.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.
8. Serve with chutney, not ketchup. Unless you really like ketchup.
Makes 12 individual tarts.