As a kid the mince meat pies that sometimes graced our family table come Christmas were always a puzzlement. Delicious to be sure—chock full of apples, cherries, and raisins spiced with nutmeg, ginger, and clove—the question always remained where’s the meat?
I’m not sure if they eat mince meat pie come Christmas in Québéc, but they do eat tourtière—a traditional meat pie—and plenty of it according to Hugue Dufour, the chef of M. Wells Steakhouse in Long Island City, Queens.
“When I was at Au Pied du Cochon we would sell 5,000 a season,” he said noting that delivery in Canada is free for orders of more than 100 pies.
For the past five years Dufour has been selling the $35 meat pies starting Thanksgiving and running through the end of the year. Like most things the chef cooks, his tourtière are over the top. One year the three-pound pies included bone marrow, pheasant, and wood pigeon. Back home, Dufour says tourtière are often very dry and made only with ground pork. Nevertheless, “every Christmas people would buy 15 at a time,” Dufour notes making the pie sound like the Canadian equivalent of fruitcake.
This year’s version of the festive pie features smoked guinea hen, smoked turkey, and braised brisket in a base of ground pork, mushrooms, and pureed potatoes. Juicy, meaty, and smoky the combination of the buttery crust and cranberry ketchup makes a wedge taste like the feast laid out by Fezziwig himself in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
This year Dufour brought on Garrett Plunkett a former Au Pied De Cochon colleague who’s something of a tourtière wizard to lead the holiday pie making charge. “They were making maybe 400 max, I took them to over 4,000,” Plunkett said as he showed me the secret to the pie’s flaky crust, layers of butter between the pate brisee.
Tourtière—along with roast goose and leg of lamb—will be part of Christmas feast my dear friend Chef Dave and I will be having in a few days. Don’t worry if your yuletide feast is all accounted for, you can always grab a wedge at the steakhouse, where they serve it topped with a fried egg at brunch.
M. Wells Steakhouse, 43-15 Crescent St, Long Island City, 718-786-9060