A Heavy Rich French Canadian Tourtière Made With Offal!
During the recent Great Recession, many fine dining restaurants perished because they failed to adapt to hard economic times. When times are tough, there is no such thing as disposable money and the dining public seeks value. Many fine dining chefs streamlined the list of gourmet ingredients and offered value oriented cuisine options, like a petite portion pre-fixe menu. A few fine dining chefs in Las Vegas successfully survived the economic recession by grasping the opportunity to market gourmet offal entrées. This strategy captivated members of the dining public that longed for classic offal entrées that have not been offered in restaurants for many decades. Classic offal preparations usually offer good dining value too.
The word "Offal" basically means secondary cuts of meat. Secondary cuts of meat include organs and parts of a harvested animal that typically are not in high demand. Liver, tripe, kidneys, neck bones, hocks, shanks and oxtail are fairly common offal offerings that can be found in nearly any grocery store. To find even more specialized secondary cuts of meat, one must shop in an ethnic food market or visit a food store in the poor end of town.
The first time that I had Tourtière was back in high school, when I was invited to dinner at a French Canadian friend's house. The family was from Quebec and their home cooked meals were heavy and rich, just like they were back home.
When the tourtière was cut open at the table, I smelled liver and kidneys. I asked my friend what was in the meat pie and he said "Don't ask!" Then he started laughing. I guess that he thought that I had never eaten these items before. I just responded by saying I like liver and dug into the hearty meal.
My friend then described the list of offals that were in the Tourtière that his French Canadian mother cooked. Tripe, chicken liver, pork liver, calves liver, kidneys, beef heart, pork lardons and ground pork were the homemade meat pie. The meat pie was also heavily spiced. My friend then explained that this Tourtière was an old family recipe and that most modern tourtière are not made this way. I never forgot that old fashioned Quebec style meat pie. That old fashioned Tourtière tasted very rich and it was well prepared.
Recently, I decided to make a few recipes that featured offal. I remembered that French Canadian Meat Pie from way back in the high school days, so I did some recipe research on Tourtière. I was surprised to see that no modern recipes for Tourtière had any offal in the list of ingredients. Nearly every modern Tourtière recipe that I saw was made only with ground pork. The Tourtière that I recalled from long ago was definitely not a simple Pork Pie.
I then thought that the French Canadian family's Tourtière must have been a very old recipe, so I looked into the origins of this meat pie. French Canadian Tourtière was originally an Acadian recipe that was made with wild game offal or secondary cuts of farm animals that had its origins in old French cooking. This may be the reason why the Tourtière was so heavily spiced. Long ago before Canada and America were nations, the settlers wasted nothing. Eating offal was routine. Organ meat is highly perishable and in the old days the offal of any slaughtered animal was prepared first. A big pie full of offal and meat scrap was a good way to get the highly perishable items cooked, so they would not spoil.
Tourtière is definitely a heavy hearty meal that is perfect for an icy cold winter day. Today's old rustic style Tourtière d'abats version is as rich tasting as a meat pie can be!
Tourtière d'abats Filling:
This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups. (Enough for 1 single portion meat pie!
Any combination of offals is good for this recipe. Lamb or veal kidneys were not available when I gathered the ingredients, but they are a nice option.
There are three kinds of Beef Tripe that can be found in food markets. Blanket Tripe is usually used to flavor sausage. Honeycomb Tripe is by far the popular to eat. Book Tripe is popular too and it was used in this recipe.
Step 1: Place a small pot of water over medium low heat.
Add 1 bay leaf.
Add 1/4 cup of small bite size pieces of trimmed Beef Book Tripe.
Add sea salt.
Simmer the tripe, till it is fully cooked and gelatinous.
Drain the water off of the tripe and set it aside.
Step 2: Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of pork lard.
Add 1 slice of hickory smoked bacon that is coarsely chopped.
Sauté till the grease has rendered and the bacon becomes a golden color.
Step 3: Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
Step 4: Add 1/2 cup of bite size pieces of calves liver.
Add 2 coarsely chopped chicken livers.
Sauté and stir till the livers are fully cooked.
Step 5: Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour while stirring.
Stir till the flour absorbs the excess grease.
Step 6: Add the reserved tripe pieces.
Add 1/2 cup of brandy.
Stir and deglaze the pan.
Step 7: Add 1 1/2 cups of beef stock.
Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
Add 2 pinches of thyme.
Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
Add 2 pinches of cinnamon.
Add 2 pinches of nutmeg.
Add 2 pinches of minced ItalianParsley.
Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Step 8: Bring the liquid to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring.
Step 9: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Simmer and reduce till the mixture is a heavy thick consistency, with a minimum of excess sauce.
*Stir more often as the ingredients thicken!
Step 10: Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Remove the bay leaf.
Place the offal mixture in a mixing bowl.
Add 4 ounces of lean ground pork.
Add 2 tablespoons of diced pork fat.
Mix the ingredients together.
Step 11: Place the Tourtière d'abats Filling in a container.
Chill to 41ºF.
This recipe yields 1 single portion savory meat pie.
Step 1: Lightly brush a 5" pop-ring cake mold with melted unsalted butter. The pop-ring mold should be 2 1/2" to 3" tall.
Step 2: Cut 1 round shaped sheet of chilled Pâte Brisée that is 10" in diameter.
Cut 1 round shaped sheet of chilled Pâte Brisée that is 6" in diameter.
Step 3: Drape the 10" round sheet of Pâte Brisée over the pop-ring pan and press it into place.
Roll a rolling pin over the rim of the pop-ring pan to trim off the excess dough.
Step 4: Place the Tourtière d'abats filling in the pie shell. Fill the pie shell, so the filling is 1/8" from the top.
Brush the exposed edge of the pie shell with egg wash.
Step 5: Drape the 6" round sheet of Pâte Brisée over the pie.
Press the top sheet of Pâte Brisée onto the egg washed exposed pie shell edge.
Step 6: Trim the excess dough off with a knife.
Press the pie dough edge, so it looks even and nice.
Step 7: Brush the top of the pie with egg wash.
Cut 2 small steam vents on the center of the pie top.
Cut a decorative shape out of the excess Pâte Brisée and place it on top of the pie.
Brush the decorative shape with egg wash.
Use the back of a knife to cut shallow decorative slashes on the pie crust edge.
Step 8: Place the filled pie mold on a baking pan.
Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
Bake till the crust is a golden brown color.
Step 9: Remove the pan from the oven.
Allow the pie to cool to a safe serving temperature.
Carefully remove the pop-ring mold.
Use a spatula to place the Tourtière d'abats on a plate.
Sprinkle 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley on the plate.
Tourtière d'abats looks as heavy and rich as it tastes! This heavy meat and offal pie will provide plenty of warmth on a cold winter day!