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.
And - I can assure you this one is delicious and traditional, having come from Madame Benoit herself!
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 and 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!!
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 so I look forward to it every holiday season and occasionally rejoice when I have a spare to pull out in January or February!
- For this recipe you will need enough pie crust for 3 - 9" double crusted pies. I like my own pie crust recipe but you can use your favorite if you like!
- A deep dish pie plate if you have one or two will promise a healthy serving but you will have to increase the amount of pie dough to account for the extra depth.
- When your meat mixture is almost ready to fill the pies i.e. after you have added the brandy and bread crumbs, if you see a lot of liquid bubbling in the pan use a large spoon or ladle to remove some. You want the mixture to be glistening with liquid but not floating in it. You don't want a soggy pie!
- Be sure to remove the bay leaf before you fill the pies. You don't want to find a sharp bay leaf in your piece of tourtière!
- Be generous with your filling. Your pie should be nicely rounded on top after filling.
Can I Make Tourtières Ahead?
This is one of the easiest (and best!) make ahead dishes for the holidays especially. They freeze and reheat beautifully!
I find I have the best results when I bake them first and then I just need to bake long enough to thaw and heat through. I have had some sketchy (slightly soggy bottom crust) results when I bake the unbaked pie from frozen. Having said that - you can choose whichever method appeals to you. Since the filling is already cooked there is no danger involved. You just want a flaky crispy crust and a hot center.
- If you reheat from frozen bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 60-65 minutes. Cover them loosely with foil so the pastry doesn't get too dark. Don't stick the foil down because you don't want them to steam.
- You can also let them defrost in the fridge overnight or for a day. They don't completely thaw but it saves a bit on the reheat. Reheat them in a 350 degree oven covered very loosely with foil. Again don't tamp the foil down around the crust just lay in on top so the crust doesn't get too brown. Give them 45-60 minutes.
- You can freeze them immediately after assembling them (ie unbaked). To serve bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes. Check mid point or toward the end in case you need to lightly cover them with foil to keep the top crust from over browning.
How Do I Serve Tourtière?
- 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!
- And - ketchup or gravy are always a welcome addition to the plate. Full disclosure- since the making of the tourtière doesn't produce a gravy - I often serve it with canned gravy! Just use the best gravy option you have!
Wine Pairing for Tourtière
My first choice here is a red. A classic French Rhone or Cabernet Sauvignon both go well here. The meat has some seasonings in it so a spicy Zinfandel or Malbec would also work well. The meat protein and the rich pastry will pair well with the most robust of red wines so all your options are open!
White - hmm... look for something rich and oaked like a California Chardonnay.
MADAME BENOIT'S TOURTIÈRE MAISON
- 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
- ½ teaspoon sage
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 2 Tbsps flaked parsley
- 2 oz brandy
- 1-½ cups fresh bread crumbs Or use potato flakes for gluten free
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon 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. Remove the bay leaf.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Line the pie plates with dough. Fill each pie with ⅓ 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.
Note 2: These pies freeze and reheat well. Option 1 - Bake them first according to the recipe and wrap well. Let them defrost in the fridge several hours (8) before serving . Reheat in a 350 degree oven covered very loosely with foil for 45-60 minutes until heated through.
Option 2 -Bake them first according to the recipe and wrap well. To bake from frozen reheat in a 350 degree oven covered very loosely with foil for 60-65 minutes until heated through. Option 2 - Freeze after assembling. Bake from frozen in 375 degree oven for 60-65 minutes. Cover loosely with foil toward the end of bake time if the crust is getting too brown Nutrition is per 9" pie.