Charles Marcoux was my father-in-law. We called him Chick, Charlie, Chickie or Pop. Today marks the first anniversary of his death and I’m honoring it with his signature dish– tourtiére, which we will savor (or maybe choke down, depending on how deeply emotions run) along with stories and memories of years past. Chick’s family was from Canada. In fact they were some of the earliest European settlers to come from Champagne, France and land in Beauport, Quebec in the 17th Century. Comment dit-on “Blue Blood” en français?
Tourtiére is a classic French Canadian, double-crusted pork pie that my father-in-law introduced me to when I began dating his son what seems a millennium ago. His famous tourtiére, handed down by his aunt Simone, always had a prominent place at the Christmas table as a first course. Super-spicy and lusciously rich, it’s heavenly on a chilly day but it may be just a bit too heavy for late July, especially as the mercury nears 98°. Hey, tribute is not always convenient nor should it be, lest the intention be somewhat diluted. Truth be told, we often filled up on it, making the rest of the meal a struggle to get through (well, almost). Chick was a great cook and really proud of his tourtiére. His had an ungodly amount of black pepper, not-so-lean ground pork and potatoes, which he mashed together and baked between two layers of store-bought pastry. We of the slightly more health-conscious generation would belly-ache (claiming it gave us a bellyache) every time he presented it but not loudly or vigorously or for very long. Before we knew it, half the pie was gone. He knew. You can make a large pie, like Chick always did or make individual hand pies like I’m doing as well (Chick was also part Scottish, hence the “pasties”). For my version, I’m using half turkey and half pork so our arteries don’t clog and taming the black pepper buzz so our tongues don’t blister. Please try it and say “Merci bien, Chick” when you do.
This recipe will make one 9-inch pie AND 6 hand pies OR one very large 10-inch deep dish pie OR twelve hand pies (how’s THAT for options!)
active: 40 min; total: 2 hrs plus cooling
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
Kosher salt (Diamond crystal)
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, finely cubed and frozen
about 3/4 cup ice water
1 pound turkey
1 pound bulk sausage
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or to taste
1 pound baking potatoes (2 medium), peeled and coarsely shredded
1 cup low sodium beef or chicken broth
2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as savory, thyme, chives and sage
1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
- In a bowl, combine the flour with 1 teaspoon salt and add the butter. Using a pastry blender or 2 butter knives, work the butter into the flour until it is the size of small peas. Add ½ cup of the water and stir quickly to moisten. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer raggy. Knead it once or twice to bring it together, then divide it into 2 pieces. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 30 minutes.
- Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the pork and turkey and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until cooked through. Spoon off any fat and transfer the meat to a bowl. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and add the onion, celery and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add the pepper, allspice and nutmeg and cook for about a minute. Add the potato and broth and simmer until the potato is tender and the broth is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Scrape the filling into a bowl and let cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. On a floured surface, roll one piece of dough a scant ¼-inch thick and ease it into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. Refrigerate the rolled out pastry to keep it chilled.
- Scrape the filling into the pastry, pressing lightly to compact and brush the edge lightly with water. Roll the remaining dough ¼-inch thick and place it over the filling. Trim the overhanging dough to ½-inch, tucking it under and crimp decoratively. Brush the top with egg wash and make a few small slits to vent the steam.
- Bake the tourtiére in the center of the oven until bubbling through the vents and deeply golden, about 60 t0 70 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
If making individual pies, cut the pastry into 5-inch rounds, gathering up the scraps and gently pressing them together to roll out more. You should have about 5 from each piece of dough. Divide the filling between the rounds and bake . (There may be a bit left over which is delicious if fried crispy in a skillet and topped with an egg!) Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 40 minutes until bubbling and golden.