Friday, 21 December 2007

A Québécois classic for le Réveillon de Noël

When we arrived in Montreal many years ago, we brought with us holiday traditions from the US. In short order, though, we realized that our Québécois friends here did things in different and delightful ways.

The classic Québec celebration is a réveillon, a party that begins in early evening and continues until late at night. These days it may include going to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but not necessarily. What is a constant is good food and fellowship.

We had no family here, so for many years we celebrated with other American expats on Christmas Day. Over the years though, Christmas Eve has become more important. Lee’s family used to have a horrible dish called lutfisk, but when I found it impossible to find here (it takes cod preserved in quick lime) I began to make the much better Swedish potato sausage his mother often served on Christmas day. But I want to share a real Québec recipe for a réveillon: la tourtière du Lac Saint-Jean. I make it every year at least once during the holiday season. It cooks all afternoon, and makes the house smell wonderful. And it feeds a crowd—just what you need when you are part of a famille nombreuse as they say here.

La tourtière du Lac Saint-Jean de Mme Gravel de Chicoutimi
(courtesy of Éric Gravel and Donna Duseigne)

Enough pie crust for three ordinary pies
A large roaster or similar deep, oblong oven-safe pot with a lid

1 1/2 pounds pork, cut in cubes 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch
1 1/2 pounds beef, cut in cubes 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut in cubes 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch
3 onions cut in the same size cube
5 potatoes cut in the same size cube
2 tsp each, salt and pepper
2-3 cups chicken bouillon (cut back on salt if bouillon is salty)

Back in the old days the meats would have been things hunted: duck, moose, deer and so on. Feel free to use some game as replacement if you have it.

Line pot with pie crust, rolled relatively thick, making sure that the lid will be able to fit.
Put meat and vegetables, add enough good chicken bouillon to cover the meat. Top with remaining pie crust. Bake uncovered in 375 F oven for an hour. Cover with lid and reduce heat to 225 F for 4 to 5 hours. You may have to adjust heat so that the tourtière continues to bubble a little, but the crust around the edge doesn't burn. Serve with green tomato relish, also called chow chow.

There are other several other kinds of tourtière, and perhaps I’ll post another for New Year’s.

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