Posts tagged: Quebec

Tourtiere – Quebec Meat Pie

Tortiere

Tortiere

A “Tourtière” is a meat pie from Quebec, and is a classic part of the Christmas/Christmas Eve réveillon and New Year’s Eve meal (It’s also great when you are having a bunch of people over for dinner and you are sick of making “bangers in a cloud”, another great recipe that I will post soon). While meat pies are found in many cultures and parts of the world, the tourtiere gets its name from the the creature from which it was traditionally made, the “tourte,” or passenger pigeon. These days there is no one filling that makes a tourtiere what it is, it may be made from any type of meat, though the most common ones are made with pork, veal, beef, or a combination of meats (if you hunt dove, it might be an interesting way to prepare the bird, similar to the original recipe). In Quebec, serving this won’t turn heads, but in the US, tourtiere is not so common, and you may get some “what the… Meat pie?” type of comments. Ignore them, and remember… Knives are for threatening, too. This dish has a lot of flavor, and this is one of my favorite touriere recipes. When you try this, you will see why this is so popular up north.

Ingredients:
Pastry dough for a bottom and top crust (store-bought is fine)
1 tablespoon light olive or canola oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Roll out your pastry dough and cut into two equal circles, enough to fit a 9-inch pie pan, and line the bottom of the pan with one piece of the dough.

3. In a pan, heat the oil and saute onion, garlic, celery, and carrot briefly. Add the meat and cook until done.

4. Drain the excess oil and add the stock, herbs, spices, and cognac to the pan and simmer over a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes.

5. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes and then spoon the mixture into the pastry crust in the pie pan and cover with the remaining dough.

6. Seal the pie crust, cut a few vents in the top, and design however you please (if you please).

7. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake the tourtiere for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top turns a golden brown.

8. Let cool for a bit and serve while still warm.

This will easily serve 6 to 8 people and the proportions can be increased to be made in a larger pie mold (or pan).

The Slow Food of The Eastern Townships, Quebec (l’Estrie)

horses of the eastern townships

Horses of the eastern townships

Strawberries for sale

Strawberries for sale

I’m very fortunate I am able to spend time in an area of Quebec called the Eastern Townships, or les Cantons de l’Est (and now becoming l’Estrie). The region is special in a number of ways; however one particular aspect of it would make me continue to spend time there even if it were situated in the ninth circle of Hell. The food. While the grocery stores are similar enough to what I see in New York (other than everything being labeled in French), the Eastern Townships happens to be an area of agriculture and animal husbandry, and due to that, much of the food we eat is grown or produced locally. Very locally. It is “slow food” at its best.

Eggs for sale

Eggs for sale

It is a place of lakes and hills (and a few ski mountains too), farms and pastures, fruit and dairy. The Cantons has always been a place deeply rooted in working the land, and the culture has encouraged the growth of small businesses which sell their produce scarcely feet (or meters) from where it was grown. Your raspberries may have been picked this morning and your eggs just descended from the bird (that may sound gross, but if you have ever eaten an egg laid the same morning, you won’t ever want to eat a supermarket egg again, it is a different product altogether).

While I go to the store for paper towels, for my fruit, vegetables, eggs and even meat, I jaunt a few minutes down to the road to pick up food for lunch or dinner; it is in fact more convenient than driving to the store. Meat, eggs, and fruit abound in roadside stalls, more fresh than the competition which has been sitting in a truck for days or weeks. It is the slowest of slow food, not even having journeyed to a farmers market.

Gaston's Farm Stand

Gaston's Farm Stand

Vegetables

Vegetables

Vegetables and more fruit are available in small farmer’s stands also along the side of the road, such as one run by Gaston, the friendliest purveyor of local produce I have met. He knows what is being harvested and when, as well as the day he will receive it. He is my local source for the dark, rich maple syrup I stock up on every year, available only to those who ask specifically. The #1 light/clear abounds on every market shelf, being perceived as a better product. However those of us in the know understand that the darker, “lower quality” syrup has more flavor and deep maple tones than the light syrup. Gaston’s farm stand is the place where all the locals go for fresh produce when the summer bounty screams for attention, and it is easy to eat like a king while spending like a pauper.

The author with Gaston

The author with Gaston

The Eastern Townships can feel like an island of a century past. A local monastery at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac sells some of the most amazing cheese that I have ever eaten, which they make on premises. Another group at Abbaye cistercienne de Mistassini sells dark chocolate covered wild blueberries for a few weeks of the year, while in season. The roadside is filled with horses, cows, and sheep (and even a few llamas). Riders on horseback occasionally clop by your house. The days feel slow yet productive. But the food, particularly in the summer, seems the way food ought to be. In the eastern Townships, food seems no longer a commodity, but a celebratory aspect of the region. A local Relais & Châteaux, Manoir Hovey, even has an internationally acclaimed restaurant, in which they espouse local cuisine, many ingredients being sourced from within a few kilometers of the hotel (duck from Lac Brome, local raw-milk and artesianal cheeses, and dishes garnished with edible flowers picked from their own garden).

Chocolate covered blueberries

Chocolate covered blueberries

The slow food of the Eastern Townships is not slow as a marketing angle, but a natural occurrence resulting from a culture that appreciates what it has. While I do the region a disservice by not mentioning the thousands of examples of local cuisine and produce available, the old-world feel combined with the food craft gives the eastern Townships an ambiance all its own. No place could feel so far from where it really is, and the accessibility and appreciation of locally produced foods is miraculous. There are many places in the world that have a renowned dish or food item, but nothing that I have experienced quite matches the diversity of culinary interest or availability in the eastern Townships of Quebec.