Over the years tourtière has become a New Year’s Eve tradition. A nice break from turkey, a spiced meat pie on a chilly winter’s night is the ultimate comfort food. I decided to change it up this year and include my new fave vegetable: fennel. Fennel and pork are a popular Italian combination, that I thought my half Italian boyfriend would enjoy. The licorice flavour pairs nicely with the pork, and adds to the festive seasoning of the filling. Flaky, rich and hearty, this French Canadian Fennel Tourtière will keep you fed for days!
I have always been intimidated by crust, and I’ve tried many different recipes with mixed results. A few years ago I took a culinary course at George Brown College where I finally learned how to make the perfect crust. This is a sure-fire recipe and the secret is to make sure your dough stays very cold. What is great about this recipe is that the dough can be used almost immediately and doesn’t need to chill for an hour like most doughs. I also read somewhere that using vodka instead of water makes for a crispier crust, and I swear by this trick now.
Originating from Canada, immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century introduced this dish to Quebec and since then, has become a French Canadian Christmas or New Year’s Eve tradition. The filling varies depending on the region. For instance, the tourtières of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area and Eastern Quebec are made with potatoes and cubed pieces of meat, while in Montreal the pies are made with ground pork only, spiced with cloves and cinnamon and served with maple syrup, ketchup, chutneys or preserves. In St. Boniface, Manitoba, similar herbs are used as well as celery salt, nutmeg and dry mustard and the pies are served with mustards and relishes, while an Acadian tourtière is made with pork and may also contain beef, chicken or hare.
My tourtière is influenced by both the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Montreal tourtières. I like using ground pork and beef instead of cubes, and the mashed potatoes help to bind the filling (and I also love mashed potato). Spicing the meat is essential for that festive aroma, and I like my meat pie more on the savory side so I prefer a combination of marjoram, thyme, sage, cloves and now, fennel. Finally, I serve my tourtière with some homemade ketchup, gerkins or beet chutney to balance out the richness. I’d love to try serving with some relishes and mustards, I think a maple mustard or a cranberry relish would be really tasty.
With this recipe you can either make two medium thick pies, or one thick pie. I usually make one large pie, however the tourtière tradition is to make a whole lot to give away during the holidays. So if you need a last minute gift, making the second meat pie is always an option! Either way, your home will be filled with the wonderful aroma of fennel, cloves and sage.
French Canadian Fennel Tourtiere
For the filling:
- 5 peeled Yukon gold potatoes
- 1 cup finely chopped fennel including stems
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
- 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp ground sage
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 Tbsp water
For the crust:
- 750 grams pastry flour
- 500 grams shortening chilled
- 250 ml chilled vodka
- 15 grams salt
Boil salted water in a large pot and add potatoes. Cook until soft, then push through a potato ricer*.
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the fennel and garlic for 5 minutes or until softened.
Crumble the ground pork and beef into the pan and cook until the meat is no longer pink.
Add fennel seeds, marjoram, thyme, sage, cloves and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the wine and cover the pan. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Combine flour and shortening in large bowl and cut with pastry cutter until reduced to irregular pea sized crumbs.
Dissolve salt in vodka and add to flour mixture all at once. Mix just enough to combine without overmixing.
Transfer dough to floured surface and shape into four discs (or just two if making only one pie). Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in fridge until ready for use*.
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Grease either 2 x 9-inch pie pans or 1 x 11-inch pie pan.
Once the filling has finished simmering, stir in the mashed potatoes and parsley. Set aside to cool.
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface into four (or two) thin rounds.
Fill each pie chell with 1/2 of the cooled meat mixture and top with the remaining pastry, sealing and fluting the edges with your fingers to form a ruffled border.
Cut small steam vents in the tops of the pies using the tip of a sharp knife and brush the pies with the egg yolk glaze
Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before cutting into wedges to serve.
*a ricer is a utensil that pushes the potato through small holes, resulting in fluffly mashed potatoes. A potato masher can be used as well but can result in over mashing, making the potato too gluey. *if making only one pie, use the extra dough to make a few mini meat pies or to add additional crust decor *always keep your dough cold, this will "firm-up" the shortening which in turn makes the dough easier to handle