Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mini Tourtières

Our family has a few holiday traditions - a big brunch with Mom's infamous Holiday Brioche and Challah taking centre stage, dancing with the turkey and of course as many batches of shortbreads as humanly possible before school starts again in January. Over the years we've added the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve to the docket, too. My own "traditions" during the season involve making granola and biscotti to go into the gift boxes I give in lieu of purchased gifts, and this year I added a new one - homemade freezer meals for both my grandmother and a friend to enjoy in the New Year.

I've always associated meat tarts like Scotch pie and French-Canadian tourtière with spending weekends at my grandma's house - it seemed like that was our go-to dinner at least one night, usually paired with carrots, peas or a salad. It has been ages since I've broken into the flaky shell of one to enjoy the flavourful, spiced meat filling - not only because of my own food restrictions but simply because making them is a process not fit for a fast weeknight dinner. Since it is Christmastime, though, and tourtière is one of the traditional francophonie holiday meals, I decided I'd make some (smaller sized) pastries for grandma to enjoy.

Ironically, these pot pies actually contain no meat at all! With the economic crunch yet again putting strain on the food budgets everywhere, even the cheapest ground meats are getting ridiculously expensive. Our family as a whole has been eating less animal protein and more vegetarian options like lentils, beans and eggs - and in things like chili, bolognese sauce and shepherds pie, we're stretching the meat with TVP. Some foodies will turn their noses up at this, but when soaked in a flavourful liquid (or simply added to the stew or sauce) it's almost indistinguishable - and the same case goes for these tourtières. Not only is the basic recipe spiced well originally, but by combining "unbeef" broth, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce and red wine with the vegetable crumbles the umami flavour really shines through and the texture is dead-on. All that was left is to add were the traditional herbs and spices, grated potatoes and onion - and for a festive twist, a shot of cognac too!

Finally, I thickened the works with some kinako from our Asian market, since we were sorely lacking crackers in any form for the traditional binder.

Mini Tourtières

Whether you're looking to save a little money this season or are simply trying to reduce the meat you eat, these little 2-serving pies are a great option. Make a batch on the weekend and freeze for later - just pull one out to thaw overnight and bake, covered, at 350F for 20 minutes.

Note - for the most "authentic" French Canadian Tourtière flavour, do not omit any of the seasonings. They truly add the "oomph" to the filling and lend nuances of sausage, pork and beef savouriness.

Mini Tourtières
Makes 5 "pot pies", each serving 2

Filling:
1 ⅔ cups TVP granules
1 ½ cups hot not-beef broth or water
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
½ cup dry red wine (I suggest Beaujolais or Pinot Noir)
1 tbsp canola oil or melted Earth Balance
1 large, sweet onion, finely grated
1 large Russet potato, skin-on, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp savory
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp celery salt
½ tsp fennel seed
¼ tsp ground clove
1 cup hot water
splash of Cognac (optional)
⅓ cup kinako or fine cracker crumbs

Assembly:
1 tbsp cornstarch + ¼ cup cold water, for brushing
Pastry for two (2 crust) 9” pies (I used the classic Crisco recipe)
  1. Combine TVP, broth, tamari, vegan Worcestershire and wine in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion, potato and garlic.
  3. Cook about 5 minutes, until potato begins to soften and garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add TVP mixture (with liquid), spices and water (and Cognac, if using), stir well and bring to a boil.  
  5. Reduce to a low simmer and allow mixture to cook, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally (and adding a splash of water if necessary) to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove from heat and add kinako or cracker crumbs. Stir well.  
  7. Loosely cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
  8. If mixture is still "soupy", add in more kinako or crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time and stirring well after each addition, until the mixture is still "wet" but not drippingly so (especially if using kinako, which takes a few minutes to absorb liquid).
  9. Cool to room temperature before using.
Assembly:
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and water, set aside
  3. Roll and cut out about ⅔ of the pie dough to fit into 5 "pot pie" pans (about 5” across and 1 ½” deep).
  4. Fill the pie crusts with cooled tourtière filling.
  5. Roll and cut out the remaining pie dough, top the filled pies and crimp / flute the edges to seal.
  6. Trim the edges and brush with cornstarch slurry.
  7. Cut a cross into the top of each crust to vent.
  8. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, or until dough is golden brown and mixture is steaming.
  9. Let stand 10 minutes before digging in!
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 482.0
Total Fat: 24.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 708.9 mg
Total Carbs: 55.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 9.6 g