Elk Tourtière

Fresh nutmeg
Nothing says autumn to me like tourtière.  I don't really do a lot of baking, but I do love baking savoury things.  I like to make tourtière for the holidays.  Over the years I have tweaked my recipe and made several versions.  I had intended to try a new recipe this time, using rolled oats with the meats.  However, as the meat mixture was cooking down, I became concerned that the oats would not thicken the meat as I was accustomed.  I chickened out and used my usual method.

I am fortunate that I live in a rural area and that there are many farms raising different types of animals, within 20 minutes drive of where I live.  One of these is The Elk Ranch, off of Old Carp Road on the outskirts of Ottawa.  I have seen the sign for this farm for years and finally had a reason to go out there (but really, do I ever need an excuse to try out new foods?).

The Elk Ranch is a 90-acre family farm located within Ottawa's city limits.  You can check out their website for other interesting elk-related facts.

I drove up to the property while Fay and Thom (the owners and worker bees) were outside.  I was shown the way to the elk that was for sale and since I knew what I wanted, I was in and out within 5 minutes.  Fay was very helpful by asking questions about which cuts I was going to need for what type of dish.  I was tempted by some elk chorizo that looked quite delectable.  I am working on a recipe for it.  I will return to try some other cuts - so many recipes, only one me.

I am not including a pastry recipe, as there are so many out there, use one that works for you (you could even buy some puff pastry for a different type of crust).  I use a pâte brisée recipe that I got many years ago in a pastry class (which I have scaled down through trial and error).  I am providing a link to a recipe from Martha Stewart's website for pâte brisée that I have used in the past and works really well.

Elk meat is very lean - leaner than most other meats/poultry and contains more protein as well.  So, you should mix it with another fattier meat if you are going to cook with it like this. I used ground pork, but ground veal would be good as well.  Even with the addition of ground pork, it was still evident to me that it was a leaner tourtière than just making it with ground pork.

I am not French Canadian and this isn’t a traditional tourtière recipe, however, I have eaten many (good and bad - shudder) and I believe that all of the flavours are well represented and it makes a lovely savoury pie.

This recipe makes one 9" pie - the quantities easily double for two pies.

·         ½ pound ground elk meat
·         ½ pound ground pork
·         1 large Russet / baking potato, grated
·         1 large cooking onion, finely chopped
·         1 small clove of garlic, minced (about ½ teaspoon)
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
·         1 teaspoon dried marjoram
·         10 springs of fresh thyme
·         ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         1 teaspoon ground cloves
·         1 teaspoon allspice
·         2 bay leaves
·         1 cup water or stock (I used unsalted veal stock) and 1/4 cup of red wine (or more stock)
·         1 recipe for double crust deep dish pie
·         1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water to create an egg wash

Preheat oven to 350F and place a rack in the centre position in the oven.

Prepare and chill your pastry.

Place a large wide pot over medium heat.  Put the meats, grated potato, onion, garlic, and all seasonings into the pot (wide versus deep so as to allow for good evaporation of cooking liquid while simmering).  Stir to combine then add the water or stock and the red wine.  Bring the mixture to a simmer (not boiling), reduce the heat enough to maintain the simmer and cook for about 1 hour, until the mixture is thick.  Taste and adjust the seasonings to suit.  Cool the mixture to room temperature so you don’t melt the fat in the pastry before it bakes, while you are filling the pie shell – this will make for a tough crust.

Elk meat on top, pork on the bottom

Cooling down the filling in an ice bath in the sink

Line a 9” pie dish (preferably glass) with one of the pastry rounds.  Lightly brush the inside of the pastry with some of the egg wash to seal the inside of the pie (helps the mixture not to seep through too much before the crust has time to cook on the outside).  Fill the pie with the cooled mixture and make it as level as possible.  Don’t push too firmly on the mixture while you’re filling it – again, there could be crust integrity issues.  Cover the pie with the rolled out top crust.  Make sure you crimp the edges together – a fork works fine if you feel your crimping skills need some honing.  Brush the top with some more of the egg wash, then prick all over with a fork or make knife slits in the crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake the tourtière on the centre rack for about 50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown (the glass pie dish comes in handy here so you can see how the bottom of your pie is browning).  If it is not as brown as you would like, leave it in an extra 10 minutes.  If during cooking it is browning too quickly, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top.
My pastry class instructor would be impressed!

Serve the tourtière warm with a tomato based condiment of your choosing.

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