[As promised, here’s the other recipe from our Thanksgiving dinner last weekend. Who says you can’t have a delicious feast that’s vegan, gluten free and anti-candida friendly? This meal is from leftovers night on day two: vegan tortière, roasted zucchini and savory steel cut oat-stuffed squash (for those who are interested, I’ve posted the squash recipe on the DDD Facebook page, here.)]
Answer: Alex Trebek.
Question: Who first taught Ricki how to make classic tortière?
Yes, you may know him as “Mr. Jeopardy,” that dapper, affable host with a voice as smooth as a duckless pond on a clear, sunny day. The navy-suited, oft-mustachioed supplier of answers in advance of questions, for $200, $400, $600 or Super-Jeopardy please, Alex. The slick, handsome, game-show staple–Alex Trebek.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t actually teach me how to make tortière in person, but he was, indirectly, responsible for my learning all about the classic Quebeçois meat pie. You see, it’s a little-known fact that Mr. Trebek hails from Sudbury, Ontario, one of the very few cities in Canada where people actually speak French,** and he grew up with a Francophone mom (which would explain why his accent is always spot on when he announces those answers from the “Heroes of the French Revolution” and “Movies Starring Brigitte Bardot” categories).
Well, when I first moved to Toronto as a fresh-faced PhD student back in the 80s, I was (like most students) too cash-strapped to afford much in the way of extra-curricular books and magazines, far too impecunious (or was it just cheap?) to pay for my own copy of TV Guide each week. There was a free guide inserted every Saturday in The Toronto Star (the only day I purchased the paper), called the TV Times. And the last page of said TV Times was always devoted to a recipe contributed by some famous person: one week, it might be apple pie from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (a popular Toronto bakery); another, it could be Caesar Salad from Jeannie Beker (host of Fashion Television, the seminal “let’s watch those barely-clad sticks on stillettoes trundle down the runway” show). And then, one fateful week in winter, it featured tortière, courtesy of Alex Trebek.
Apparently, tortière was a favorite dish from Trebek’s childhood back in Sudbury. (Answer: only after many years of trial and error. Question: did a famous game-show host really make tortière all on his own?). I tore the recipe from the booklet and slipped it into my “recipes to try” collection, a beige cardboard file folder that was by then already straining with countless slips of paper, clipped magazine pages and newspaper columns. (Answer: only my current “recipes to try” folder on my computer’s “Favorites” list. Question: is there anything even bigger than that original recipes file folder?). Having been born in Quebec myself (land of “‘Mon pays, ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver,” Celine Dion, real ski hills, sugar pie and the Habs), I felt it was my civic duty to some day try out the recipe. Even though it contained pork, and ground beef, and probably suet, I figured I’d give it a try at some dinner party and serve it to all the guys, just so I could say I did.
[No, I didn’t pre-slice the crust; that crack is due to my less-than-stellar crust skills. Still tasted great, though!]
Well, the poor recipe languished there for years–nay, decades–until finally, after adopting a vegan diet and switching to the ACD 1-1/2 years ago, in a rare fit of organizing, I finally threw it away. (Answer: just this type of impulsive purging of old papers, bills, income tax returns or recipes. Question: What is one activity that Ricki inevitably regrets weeks, months, or even years, later?)
For some reason, this Thanksgiving, I really wanted to make a vegan version of tortière. Along with poutine, sugar pie, and that Chez Cora’s-inspired Quebeçois classic, cretons (mmm! Couldn’t you go for some right now?), tortière is certainly one of the quintessentially “Canadian” foods. How could I pass up the opportunity? And though I’ve never actually had a “real” tortière, the HH assured me it’s delicious and that he’d love to have it as well. (Answer: Yours truly. Question: Who in her right mind would attempt tortière when a) she doesn’t eat meat and b) she’s never made a successful pie crust of any kind before, gluten free or otherwise?).
It took all of 8 seconds to decide that my latest veg-based faux meat (the one I used in this lasagna) would be the perfect base for this tortière. I mean, doesn’t it look just like ground meat? And wouldn’t it work beautifully with the spectrum of spices that were called for in the original pie? I even had a big container just waiting in the freezer! So I pulled it out, gathered my newly-printed tortière recipes from around the Internet, and began to plot how I’d reproduce it.
The first hurdle was the crust. I was browsing through Maggie’s yummy blog a few weeks back and had tried out her pie crust for the first time with great success. So, with a few of my own little changes (I just can’t resist), I used her recipe here. It worked perfectly! The filling, too, came together easily; basically, it’s just sautéed onions and garlic, spices, and the faux meat. Couldn’t be simpler!
Answer: This vegan tortière. Question: What will you want to rush out and try as soon as you finish reading this blog post–maybe sooner?
[I know: that filling really looks like meat. Eerie, isn’t it?]
The final product is dense without being solid, the spice-warmed bits of the meat mixture offering a moist, savory chew lightly sandwiched between a perfectly flaky crust. Like a piece of really good shepherd’s pie, it fills you up without being too heavy; it felt as if we were spooning up authentically-prepared comfort food at a local French bistro. As we sat eating out meals, the HH seemed to be enjoying his immensely, savoring his pie between bites of gravy-laden mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts and stuffed squash.
“Does it taste like real tortière ?” I asked. He paused. He inhaled the wafting scent of cloves, thyme and cinnamon and took another bite. He cocked his head and glanced across the room as he chewed contemplatively.
“Well, I think you’d eat it and you might know it wasn’t meat, but you wouldn’t be sure what it was instead. . . it just tastes really, really delicious. I’d say this was one of your more successful dishes. I’d definitely eat this again.” Wow. Coming from the usually-reticent HH, that was praise enough for me.
My answer? “You can have it any time you like, sweetheart.” And the question? Well, sorry, that’s personal.
**I know that statement was a shock to many of you. But even though Canada does have two “official” languages, 90% of the country doesn’t speak one of them. (Answer: Um, it doesn’t make sense to me, either. Question: Then why is every single product produced or sold in our country required to display labeling in both English and French?) Quel bêtises!
Looking for more Thanksgiving recipes? Here’s my mega roundup of 75+ Healthy, Whole Foods, Vegan & Gluten-Free recipes.
Vegan Tortière (suitable for ACD Stage 2 and beyond)
Although it takes time to make the faux meat for the filling, I tend to mix up two or three batches at a time and then freeze them for later use. If you have frozen “meat” available, the recipe is actually very quick to prepare. Don’t tell people what’s in this and have fun listening to their guesses!
Dough for an unbaked, double pie crust (I used this recipe)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 to 1/4 cups (240-300 ml) vegetable broth or stock, depending on how moist you want the filling
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) dried thyme
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 ml) herbs de provence (see here to make your own)
heaping 1/4 tsp (1.5 ml) ground cloves
ground pepper, to taste (see note)
1 batch (about 4 cups/1 liter) faux meat from this recipe
Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare the crust: Fill the bottom and sides of a 9″ (22.5 cm) pie plate with crust and dock the crust by poking with a fork 6-8 times across the bottom. Roll out the top crust on waxed paper, into a circle about 1/2 inch (1 cm) larger than the pie plate all around and set aside.
Make the filling: Heat the oil in a large frypan (I used a cast iron pan). Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, 7-10 minutes. Add the broth, herbs and spices and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the faux meat and stir everything together to blend.
Turn the filling into the unbaked crust and spread to fill the crust entirely (do not pack). Fold the top crust into quarters and transfer over the filling; unfold and pinch the edges to join with the bottom crust, crimping or using a fork to seal the edges if desired. Cut small holes in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Brush with unflavored soy or almond milk, if desired (this will help the crust brown as it bakes).
Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes to one hour, rotating the pan about halfway through, until the crust is lightly browned. Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
Note: I didn’t need to add any extra salt because the “meat” was salted, as was the vegetable broth I used. However, if you used unsalted broth or like your food salty, feel free to add salt to taste.
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This post is linked to Amy’s weekly event, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. which collects dishes that are made a little bit healthier. Check it out–or post your own recipe!
Last Year at this Time: Faux Chocolate
© 2010 Ricki Heller