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The writer’s grandparents, “Mémé” and “Pépé.”

Food and Drink

A family favorite

French-Canadian meat pie: a versatile tradition

Dot Read and her family run the Readmore Inn in Bellows Falls, where she gets to make these recipes for her guests.

BELLOWS FALLS—French-Canadian meat pie, or “tourtière,” is a traditional dish passed down in my family, a treat that was served on Christmas Eve and other special occasions.

This is my version, as I have substituted local ground turkey and sausage for the usual beef and pork. If you eat red meat, you may use it here; there are many options for locally raised, sustainable meats.

Of course, when my grandmother made a French-Canadian meat pie, she used the most sustainable meat possible: that which was raised on her own farm and fed with grain they grew.

I’ve also made this tourtière with ground soy protein (Gimme Lean), and it tastes pretty much the same! In fact, one meat-eater grabbing seconds didn’t realize he had served himself from the vegetarian pie. I didn’t tell!

This recipe makes two bountiful pies, and they freeze well.

Mémé’s “Good Times” French-Canadian Meat Pie

¶One large luscious onion, diced

¶1 Tbsp. duck fat or olive oil

¶2 pounds ground Vermont turkey

¶1{1/2} pounds fresh Vermont pork sausage, removed from casings

¶1 Tbsp. poultry seasoning

¶1 tsp. dried sage, or 2 Tbsp. fresh, minced

¶1 tsp. ground cinnamon

¶{1/2} tsp. ground cloves

¶1 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika (my addition!)

¶Salt and pepper to taste

¶1 large bay leaf

¶Chicken stock or water to almost cover, about 2 cups

¶One sleeve of crackers, smashed into crumbs

¶1 cup diced potatoes, partially cooked but still a bit firm

¶2 double pie crust recipes (total four crusts)

¶Egg wash

Sautée the onion in the fat in a large pan. Add the ground turkey, sausage, spices, and enough stock to just cover with bits poking their heads up. You can also use just plain water here — that’s what my grandmother used — but I think the stock adds a little more flavor.

This is the strange part, but it’s necessary: bring to a boil, cover, reduce, and cook slowly on low heat, covered, about 1 hour, stirring now and then. (Note: if using soy alternative, boil for about 15 minutes or so). The house will smell like Christmas Eve!

Remove the lid, stir, and remove some of the fat and liquid that have accumulated. Add crackers and potatoes. Stir well, and spoon back a little of the liquid if need be. The mixture should be very soft and moist, but with no visible pools of liquid.

Pour into two prepared bottom crusts and make smooth. Add the top crusts, and always a little pastry decoration. This is, after all, holiday food, so it should look as pretty as it tastes. I like to decorate with little leaves made from the pastry trimmings.

Brush all with an egg wash made of an exquisite organic egg and a little cold water, and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 to 50 minutes. It should be golden brown!

Check when the house starts to smell really good. It will let you know.

Let set at least 20 minutes before cutting. A half-hour is better.

Traditionally, this pie was served with a brown gravy, but I like it much better with a mushroom gravy on the side.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #334 (Wednesday, December 2, 2015). This story appeared on page E1.

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