Growing up in the States didn’t do my taste buds any favours. California was a bit of a culinary wasteland in the late 80s where Tex-Mex was considered the height of fusion cuisine. But every now and again something that was close to authentic would make an appearance on the family dinner table, Enchiladas with red sauce, a proper Hass avocado and corn tortillas. Living in Southern California the closest I could get to any authentic cuisine was Mexican and even then it was very white washed. Chinese meant soggy chicken balls in a sickly red sauce and greasy fried rice. Italian meant overcooked pasta and meatballs with jared sauce. Strangely, what I remember most is the food I ate in Dinners, I honestly thought that Dinner food was American cuisine! Imagine moving to Toronto where there is a little (insert nationality here) everywhere. Foods from all over the world are available here in my city . I would never have to travel to another country to experience the cuisine of that place….please don’t tell Chef I said that, he won’t see the point in traveling if he knew.
I still have no idea what “Canadian” cuisine is even after living in this country for over 25 years. It seemed to be everything from all over the world, did we have no identity of our own? This reminded me of “American” food lack of place. What is it exactly? is there a dish that defines us as a nation? Or will we be forever marginalized by ethnic dishes that we have adopted as our own?
This called for a little research, okay a lot of research. Sadly the answer to ” is there one dish that defines us as Canadians ?” is no.
However, There are dishes that have become defining to us. I will start with a French Canadian Tourtier, this is a pork pie that is eaten in the fall and winter. This pie finds its way onto the Christmas Eve dinner table in many house holds including mine. I personally wouldn’t save this pie for just the holiday season (it’s just too tasty). Once the weather starts to cool down, I am wanting the rich flavours and fragrant spices I associate with Fall in general. Thankfully, a Tourtier meets all of the criteria for a Fall Feast.
The following recipe makes about 6 servings……..but who are we kidding here? This makes a serving for Myself and one for Chef then we back away slowly while Boy Wonder eats the rest.
1 celery stalk
2 TBSP butter
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 lb ( 500g) ground pork
1/2 lb (250g) ground veal
3/4 C water
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp savory
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe of sour cream pastry
Coarsely chop the onion and dice the celery. Melt butter in a medium frying pan set over medium heat. When the butter is bubbling, add onion, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. About 5 minutes.
Crumble pork and veal over sauteed veggies stirring often to keep meat crumbly. The meat should no longer be pink after 10 minutes of cooking.
Stir in water and spices, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Continue to simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let filling cool slightly.
Pre heat oven to 425F
Roll out 1 pastry disk until it’s 1/8 inch thick. Carefully roll the pastry disk over the rolling pin and unroll over the pie plate. Gently press the dough into the plate using the back of your hand. Brush the edges of the pastry lightly with water, pour in the filling.
Roll out the second pastry disk until 1/8 inch thick. Gently place this pastry over the filling. Press edges of pastry together to seal, trim to the lip of the pie plate and crimp both for a decorative edge.
Cut three steam vents in the top of pastry. Bake on the bottom rack of a preheated oven for 12 minutes until the edges are golden, then reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden; about 30 minutes.
Sour Cream Pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg yolk
This pastry can be made by hand or in a food processer fitted with a metal blade. To make by hand, measure flour into a large mixing bowl. Add cubed butter and cut into flour with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. The butter should be the size of small peas. Add sour cream and yolk, mix with a fork until dough forms a ball.
To make in a food processer, pulse flour and butter together until the butter is the size of small peas. Add sour cream and yolk, wiz just until the dough forms a ball.