When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Eve Tourtiere (Meat Pie) *gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free

Christmas is quickly approaching (though not quickly enough for the youngest member of our family, it seems!), and this weekend all four of us have been enjoying time together completing some of our favourite "getting ready for Christmas" activities.  Our kitchen has been full of delicious smells and trays full of yummy things to eat over the past few days, and Matt and the boys and I are all looking forward to the special meals and celebrations coming up where we'll be able to enjoy them all.

One of my family's Christmas holiday traditions when I was young was to share an evening meal of delicious homemade meat pies (or tourtiere).  The recipe was one that had been passed down through several generations in my mom's family, and the rich, mildly spiced pies were a real memory-filled treat, as my mom and my grandma only made them at Christmastime.  I have not had this pie in years, since I'm no longer able to tolerate several of the ingredients in it, but this year I was determined to find a way to make it myself, without gluten, dairy, or eggs.

A few months ago I discovered a great savoury crust in Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook that I knew would work perfectly for meat pies.  I made a few slight modifications to that recipe, and then emailed my mom to ask her for the recipe for the filling.

Now there's something you should understand about the women in my family:  we don't really have "recipes" for many of the dishes we make.  It's more of a "throw a little of this in and some of that, but not too much" kind of situation, and none of this is very helpful when you're trying to make something for the first time and your mom isn't close by to show you!  After my mom laughed when I asked her for the "recipe", she did her best to quantify ingredients and be more specific about instructions, and I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best as I stood over my stove!  While these meat pies are a little different from my family's traditional recipe because of the changes I had to make, the delicious flavour of them is very reminiscent of the ones I loved so much as a child.  I think my mom and my grandma will be proud.

Christmas Eve Tourtiere (Meat Pie)


For the crust:

4 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp dried parsley
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
3 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, sea salt, baking soda, and parsley.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil and water.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined. 

Measure out half a cup of the crust mixture and set it aside.  Divide the remaining mixture between the pie plates you're using.  (I used four larger sized ramekins for individual pies, plus one nine-inch glass pie plate.)  Press the crust mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of each dish, using your fingers to create a nice scalloped edge along the top.

Take the half a cup of crust mixture that you reserved earlier and roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper using a rolling pin.  Cut out holiday shapes (I used a snowflake) with cookie cutters.  Place these "cookies" on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Place the prepared crusts and the "cookies" in your preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, until they are all golden brown.  Keep an eye on the "cookies", as they may brown more quickly and may need to be removed from the oven a little sooner.

Allow the crusts to cool while you prepare the meat mixture.

For the meat mixture:

1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
1 1/2 lbs of ground pork
enough water to cover the meat in the pot
1 small onion, minced (optional -- I left it out because I would rather not listen to my children complaining at the Christmas Eve dinner table!)
1 large carrot, finely grated
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp ground sage
sea salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 tsp allspice
2 tbsp arrowroot flour

Combine all of these ingredients (except for the 1/4 tsp of allspice and the arrowroot powder) in a large pot over medium high heat, using a spoon to break up the meat a little.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low medium and continue to simmer until the meat is cooked, stirring often.

Once the meat mixture is cooked, remove it from the heat and discard the bay leaf.  Skim most of the fat off of the top of the mixture and discard it.  Sprinkle in the additional 1/4 teaspoon of allspice and the 2 tablespoons of arrowroot flour, stirring constantly.  (I added one tablespoon of arrowroot flour at a time and stirred it well to see how much it thickened the mixture.  You want it to be somewhat thickened, but still juicy.)  Let the meat mixture cool.  (It will continue to thicken a little as it does.)

Spoon the cooled meat mixture into the pre-baked pie crusts.  Place them in a 400 F oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the pies from the oven and let them cool.  Once they have cooled slightly, place the little "cookies" you made on the tops of the pies to give them a festive flair.  :)

I am so excited that these meat pies turned out so well -- I can't wait to share this Christmas Eve tradition with my little family this coming week!  We will enjoy ours with some potatoes, carrots, and parsnips roasted with a little olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and citrus zest, plus this pretty holiday salad featuring baby spinach, clementines, pecans, and pomegranate.  I love that this Christmas Eve meal will remind me fondly of loved ones who live far away, even when we can't be together.

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