Monday December 16, 2013 | 09:53 AM

           Tourtiere is a colorful culinary centerpiece for a delicious array of flavorful side dishes. 

 Tourtiere buffet

Tourtiere "Noel" buffet with Butternut Squash with Apple Cider Soup

            French-Canadian meat pies are a tradition in Franco-American families, who typically serve them during Les Fêtes. They create an attractive buffet when surrounded by an assortment of colorful side garnishes, fruits, relishes and soup.

Think of tourtiere as a buffet opportunity for creating, and presenting a taste testing feast for side dishes with festive colors.

Indeed, our family engages in a culinary hobby. Every year, we try to create at least one new side dish or condiment for tourtiere. This year, our tourtiere buffet addition is Butter Nut Squash with Apple Cider Soup, a recipe creation prepared especially for this tourtiere “sides” taste tasting blog.

Traditionally, most tourtiere purists prefer theirs served with ketchup as the primary condiment. But, adventure a little beyond ketchup, by mixing in a little horseradish. This combo-condiment provides another layer of flavor to the tourtiere.

Tourtiere slice with condiments

Colorful condiments create a colorful Tourtiere buffet- Ketchup being a stand alone tradition

Simple sides create an interesting diversity to the tourtiere buffet. Celery sticks, for example, are a refreshing palate cleansing side, but the simple stalks also add a nostalgic flavor to the buffet when served in Memere’s timeless Celery Dish.

Serving sliced, or pickled beets or cucumbers are among the most traditional condiments. Try a dash of chili sauce or mild tomato salsa to vary the assortment and variety of condiments. Of course, fresh cranberry sauce flavored with orange juice (and therefore less granulated sugar content) adds a splash of holiday brilliance to the condiment collection.

Memere classic celery dish

Celery Dish reminds us of Memere - a nostalgic addition to our Thanksgiving table

Condiments with a bittersweet or vinegar base will sharpen the flavors of the spices added to the meat pies. Arrange these sides in dainty china, glass or porcelain dishes to add a vintage look to your buffet assortment.

Adult diners will also appreciate a sample of Holiday spirits to accompany the tourtiere. (This spirited tradition probably originated in the practice of breaking the Advent fast, following Christmas Midnight Mass,  which was a time when tourtieres were served at le buffet de minuit, i.e., the midnight buffet).

Here’s our family’s 2013, tourtiere side dish.  This soup is so flavorful, we’re determined to serve it more often, either with or without the tourtiere.

La Soupe:  Butternut Squash with Apple Cider

(Equipment – a blender)

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons of butter

1 cup chopped medium onion

1/3 cup diced celery with leaves, if possible

2 ½ pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

½ chopped Granny Smith or McIntosh apple

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 ½ cups apple cider

½ tsp. thyme

½ teaspoon salt (or to taste) and ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper

Preparation:

In a large soup pot, on medium high heat, melt the butter; add the chopped onion and diced celery; sauté while stirring often until the onion is translucent, or about 5 minutes. Add the squash and apple and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the chicken broth, and apple cider, with the thyme, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until the squash is cooked, or about 20-25 minutes. Add another 1 tablespoon of butter while the soup cools slightly before blending.

Blend these ingredients. Ladle a little at a time into the blender jar. Be careful to hold the lid securely with a towel while blending, to prevent splatter.  Blend until the mixture is very smooth. Pour into an oven proof soup tureen. Serve hot. This soup is excellent when prepared a day ahead and reheated.

Bon appétit!  Bones fêtes! 

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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