Tourtière is a French Canadian double crusted meat pie that apparently goes back to the 1600s. It is a big part of French Canadian Christmas and New Year’s celebrations although it is eaten at other times as well.
There is a theory that the name refers to the now-extinct passenger pigeons of the day called tourtes in French. Or it may refer to the round, deep ceramic dish you bake it in.
To me tourtière is Christmas. In Quebec I usually saw it served with a side of beets. I am not sure if it was for the red color on the plate or if there was a particular affinity for the taste of the beets. I still make tourtière every year but now I serve it with my red cabbage. I like both the red hit on the plate and the taste! Here is a little hint for you… if I don’t have time or inclination to make my own red cabbage I buy a few jars of Kuhne red Cabbage and heat them up. For the ready-made I still like to give an hour or so in a 350 degree oven to soften it up. Or you can do 3-4 hours in your slow cooker too. Just doesn’t get any easier than that!
I have had this recipe hand written in my book for so many years I don’t know where it came from. I suspect it was from Madame Benoit. She was the first Canadian celebrity chef I think, broadcasting on radio and TV in the 1950s and 60s. She went to the Sorbonne in Paris and the Cordon Bleu Cooking school. She wrote about 30 books in her lifetime including The Encyclopedia of Canadian Cuisine.
I remember her best as the spokesperson for Tenderflake lard.. she had a high voice with a beautiful French lilting accent and she used to say “Tenderflake…makes it tender and flaky and nice!” (Anybody my age that knows Madame Benoit will have that lilting earworm now!) She was also one of the first chefs to endorse the microwave. Oh boy … did I just date myself or what!!
For this recipe you will need enough pie crust for 3 – 9″ double crusted pies. These pies freeze and reheat well. I bake them first so if you freeze them you just need to bake long enough to heat them through. If frozen I let them defrost in the fridge throughout the entire day. The I reheat them in a 350 degree oven covered very loosely with foil. Don’t tamp the foil down around the crust just lay in on top so the crust doesn’t get too brown. They don’t completely thaw but it helps to reheat them in a reasonable amount of time, 45-60 minutes.
I like my own pie crust recipe but you can use your favorite if you like!
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb lean ground pork
- 1 lb ground veal
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 yellow onions minced
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 2 Tbsps flaked parsley
- 2 oz brandy
- 1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs Or use potato flakes for gluten free
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- Pie Crust for 3 9" pies (see note for gluten free)
- Heat oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven.
- Brown the 3 types of meat, mixing it well and ensure there are no large chunks.
- Add the onions and garlic and continue cooking another 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and spices and simmer uncovered 20-30 minutes.
- Add the brandy, bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Heat through. If you can see distinct liquid around the sides of the pan drain the excess off until the meat is just juicy, moist.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Line the pie plates with dough. Fill each pie with 1/3 of the meat. Position top dough layer and make 3 generous slits to allow steam to escape.
- Bake 10 minutes at 425 then reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake 25-35 minutes more, until pastry is a nice golden brown.