Friday, December 20, 2013

Lentil and Tempeh Tourtière

During the holiday season in Quebec, tourtière is as much of a necessity as pumpkin pie.  French Quebecers have been mixing multiple meats in this traditional pie since long before the monstrosity known as the "turducken" was foisted onto the earth's population.  Indeed, enjoying tourtière with family and friends is a time-honoured highlight of the season.  I've been a vegetarian since before I arrived here, so I've never actually had it.  This year, however, I'm determined to not miss out on the fun.

While not difficult, this recipe will take some time to put together.  I recommend making the pie crust the night before (buying prepared crust is a decent option too) and allowing some time for the filling to cool before packing it into the crust.  I've used two types of lentils, tempeh, and mushrooms to make this version, but just as Quebecers experiment with the meats they include, feel free to make substitutions based on what you have at hand.  Subbing one type of lentil for another won't make a huge difference, though I would keep red lentils to a minimum as they break down so much during the cooking time.  

INGREDIENTS - Yields one 10 inch pie 

Pastry for double-crust 10 inch pie (recipe forthcoming)

1.5 cup french lentils
1/3 cup red lentils
3.5 cups water or vegetable stock (I used half a cube of buillon)
2 bay leaves

1 onion - medium dice
4 stalks celery - medium dice
12 oz mushrooms - rough chopped
8 oz package tempeh - crumbled

2 tbsp Spice Station tourtière spice mix, divided*
White wine for deglazing the pan (optional)


  • Rinse the lentils thoroughly and place in a medium stock pot with the water/stock and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, partially cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes - until lentils are soft and water is absorbed.  Set aside.  If the lentils are soft and there's still extra liquid, drain off the excess liquid.  Remove the bay leaves.
  • Place a dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat.  Add the celery, onions, a fat pinch of salt and a quarter-sized drop of olive oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to release their juices and become translucent.  It's okay if they brown a bit.
  • Add the tempeh, mushrooms, and a tablespoon of the tourtière to the pot and continue to cook until the tempeh browns, and the mushrooms release their juices.  
  • When the veggies are well cooked, deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine or stock,** then remove from heat and stir in the cooked lentils.
  • Add another tablespoon of tourtiere spice mix, and add salt to taste.  (1/2 teaspoon or more, depending on how salty your stock was)
  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Add cooled filling to prepared pie crust, cover with the top crust, and make it look fancy.  Or don't.  I'm not terribly gifted with pie tops.  Whatever you do, cut a few vents for steam to escape.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 40 - 50 minutes, until golden brown.  

Before deglazing
After deglazing and adding lentils

I had enough to make an extra, tiny pie

* If you live in Montreal or LA, you're lucky to be in a city that has a Spice Station.  They carry high quality spices and teas and make some really exquisite mixes, including the tourtière mix used here.  If you don't have access, try making your own mix with cloves, sage, savoury, celery salt, thyme, and nutmeg.  There's a recipe here.  

** To deglaze, turn the heat up to high and add about a half a cup of white wine or stock.  Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan constantly, to release the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, add lots of rich flavour to your filling.  It will bubble quickly and reduce quickly.  When the liquid has reduce by half or more, remove from heat.

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