Category Archives: slow cooking

Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder with Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

What we have in our house of cards for the main today is a new kid on the block: braised goat shoulder. Please don’t run away, it’s actually better than anything you can imagine braised in red wine, especially if you buy it fresh from the farm where they treat their goats with love and respect. Once you try it, you will know why the goat meat is the most widely consumed around the globe. Heavenly tasty! Paired with roasted sweet potatoes spiked with caraway seeds on a side it’s a pure delight. FYI, this recipe also works very well with goat/lamb shanks as well as the goat/lamb leg or shoulder. PS: this post is also written to encourage you to leave the metropolis from time to time to enjoy the incredible farm scenery in Quebec.

View of Montreal City Downtown from the Farm Road. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm, Quebec. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Contrary to the widely popular goat cheese, goat meat is not exactly a food staple in North America. For those of you who never tried the goat before and believe that it can be a challenging experience, here is an advice about eating some exotic foods for the first time from Jay Rayner,  The Man Who Ate The World: ‘…(Chef) Marcus made a very good point in last night’s show: that the odd is only odd the first time you eat it. After that it just becomes dinner. How right he is. A similar point could be made about the use of the word “exotic” when attached to certain food stuffs. What may be exotic to us, is part of the staple diet to others. For example, both Jody and Tony cooked with goat, which happens to be the most commonly consumed red meat in the world. It’s just not the U.S. and Europe that’s doing all the consuming. Goats are sturdy animals which can survive in arid conditions and that’s why they are so popular in Africa and the Middle East. Jody might not have much call for it in her corner of New England, but that doesn’t make it particularly outré. The same is true of black chickens, monkfish livers, and the rest.’

Goat accounts for 70+% of all red meat consumed world-wide. That said goat meat considered to be highly exotic in North America. However, as much as goat is not in the mainstream of our diets, things are gradually changing as the goat raising segment of industry is becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the livestock production in the US and Canada. People, especially those supporting wholly integrated farms and humanely raised food production, recognize the benefits of goat farming. 

Goat meat is not just about its unique taste quality, check this comparative table of meats and you will quickly notice that goat (chevon) is much lower in calories, minimal in fat and strikingly low in saturated fat while higher in protein than beef or lamb.

There are many other advantages of procuring goat meat: when you buy the locally produced goat meat (which didn’t take off yet in the big groceries) you know exactly where this meat came from (outdoor-bred, pasture-fed and organic), you don’t have to doubt its quality or identity; you support local producers and farming.The freshness and quality of meat factor in hugely in the final result of the dish.

This brings us straight to the Chevriere de Monnoir goat farm and its boutique we came to stock on cheeses to a few weeks ago.  This time I also noticed the new boutique had an amazing assortment of fresh meat cuts, immense variety of sausages, pattys, saucisson, tornedos, rolls, etc. – all made of goat meat from the farm. Seeing all this goodness, I felt like a pirate of Caribbean! 

Boutique at Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm, Quebec. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
New ingredient (with the short list of exceptions including some offal and fugu) puts me in a special excited spirit of adventure – I become fearless and energetic driven by the ambition to come up with the great new dish…

Fresh Goat Curd Cheese from Chevriere de Monnoir Farm, QC. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Don’t expect to just get away with $10.00 – there are so many choices, you can get lost. Their goat milk is pristine and their cheeses are to die for! The daily fresh curd cheese is my absolute favorite (the bag usually never reaches our house – I empty the whole bag while driving) and feta cheese is hard to beat.

1191 Rang de l’Église, Marieville, QC J3M 1N9
Tel: (450) 460-2221
Hours: Wed.-Sat. 10:00 to 18:00; Sun. 11:00 to 17:00

A short trip to this farm is also a nice opportunity to dive into the spring countryside and then may be continue down the Circuit du Paysan and explore the breath-taking lanscape with its vast sky,
beautiful little villages, churches, farms, vineyards and orchards.

Quebec Countryside. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Because it is very low in fat, the goat meat requires a slow cooking with some additional fat: I used bacon strips. The bacon adds a nice touch of smokiness and brings richness and the crunchy indulgence to this slow-cooked dish that along with herbs and spices lift it far beyond a mere meat roast. I also layered the botton of the pan with carrots to place the meat over to prevent burning: you can choose to eat them or discard after. The taste of meat is rich, mineral and distinctly sweet (perhaps because of the way goats graze: unlike the sheep goats never eat roots of the grass).

Step by Step Braised Goat Shoulder Preparation. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

If you have time, marinating the meat overnight (rub it with ¼ cup of olive oil, mixed with three cloves of crushed garlic, 1-2 tablespoon of dried thyme, coarse sea salt and pepper) would be a good idea – the meat will turn out to be more tender and juicier. Although this recipe calls for the red wine, feel free to opt for half a bottle of beer, ½ cup of brandy or 2 cups of dry apple cider. I garnish the cooked meat with minced crisp bacon I used to cover the meat, fresh lemon zest and minced parsley for an extra punch of the flavor – worked well, adding notes of crisp, smoke, tang and freshness.  

Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

The pan-roasted sweet potatoes with caraway seeds perfectly complements the dish and is fast and easy to make.

Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Caraway Seeds. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

If you happen to have the leftovers, just warm up the meat in the skillet along with some other root veggies cooked in the braised sauce – mouthwatering!

Goat Shoulder with Roasted Root Vegetables. Photo © www.letsheatit.com


Here’s my other secret agenda about the goat: it might be that secret dream worker I’ve been looking for years to take over our tractor-cutting-the-grass summer labour (we have a big land – cutting the grass is a bummer). If they do it in France and California, we can do that too, right? Imagine how much time it would save, not to mention the eco-benefits!

Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm Trademark. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Carefully, I approach the issue with the farm owner, Marie-France Marchand: ‘Have you ever thought about renting one of your goats for summer?’ She grins and just nods and nods. ‘One day may be,’she chimes in as she catches my eye. This gives me hope. I love her goats. And her products. We will be back.

Interview with Marie-France Marchand at Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
Happy Braising!
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One Year Ago: 
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RED WINE BRAISED GOAT SHOULDER
Yields: 4-6 portions
Ingredients:
2-3 pounds goat shoulder (to marinate rub it with 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1-2 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon olive oil, coarse sea salt and pepper)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup dry red wine
1-2 onions
5 medium carrots: 3 cut in half lengthwise, 2 chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 leek, chopped (optional)
1 garlic head, halved
3-4 stripes of bacon
2 spring rosemary
2 bay leaves
5-8 Kalamata olives (optional)
2-3 cups chicken/beef broth or water
Salt & pepper
Instructions:
Marinate the goat shoulder from a few hours to overnight with garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line the Dutch oven with the carrots halved lengthwise. Heat the oil in the skillet to the medium high. Brown the meat on all sides. Deglaze with half of the wine. Place the meat on top of the carrots in the Dutch oven.
Add onions, garlic, celery, leek and the rest of carrots to the skillet. Add the rest of wine and stir to deglaze. Salt, pepper and transfer to the Dutch oven and distribute around the goat meat.
Cover the meat with bacon stripes and fix them with the toothpicks. Top with rosemary springs and bay leaf. Add olives, if using. Add the stock. Cover and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 325F and continue baking for an hour and a half to two hours until the meat is tender. Remove from the oven, open the cover and let the meat rest for 10 minutes for the juices to set before slicing. Serve with the side of pan roasted sweet potatoes.
***

SPEEDY PAN ROASTED SWEET POTATOES WITH CARAWAY SEEDS

Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
4 medium size sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons cooking oil, OR mix of cooking oil and clarified butter, OR coconut oil
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Sea salt
Instructions:
Peel potatoes and slice lenthwise. Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan, bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the skillet to medium-high, add oil and caraway seeds and roast them for 1 minute to release the flavor. Drain the potatoes and add them carefully to the hot frying pan with caraway seeds. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon. Increase the heat to high and roast potatoes for 7-10 minutes (depending on the skillet) until crisp on the outside and cooked through.

Hemingway Champagne & Cuban Rabbit Fricassee Recipe

With the whooping record of 3 million tourists this year and a hope for the end of the US embargo of 50 years, Cubans have something special to celebrate this New Year’s Eve. And while my festive rabbit stew (no need to advertise this light and savory Caribbean dish) is piping in the oven, I decided to drop a line to reflect on our most recent travel to Havana last summer and, particularly, the drink called Hemingway Champagne.


‘I drink to make other people more interesting,’ says the quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway. That’s quite an understatement from the celebrated writer known for his way around the women, best bars and drinks from Paris to Madrid, from Key West to Havana. A well-known fact: drinks, bars and people in them helped Hemingway to create his characters and add the depth and thrill to his prose. In a letter to poet MacLeish he explained that: ‘It’s good for us both to lay off the old liquor too; but by God it’s dull work doing it. I’d like to hunt and fish the rest of my life and be just drunk enough to sleep well every night… But instead I’ve got to write, and boil the liquor out to be able to write my best, and get my sensitivity back to be able to write where (I) have sort of burned it away in war. Hell of a job.’

I’m a big fan of Hemingway’s works, so when we went to Havana last summer my first move was to go in the footsteps of ‘Papa’.  Obviously, I’m talking about the historical bars with character, where Hemingway used to spend his afternoons to kick start his muse during those good 20 years of his Cuban residence. Let’s put some Buena Vista Club on and go for a little Havana Vieja journey.

We hit the streets of Havana on one excruciatingly hot summer day to see what’s up with Hemingway’s Caribbean drinking memorabilia in the old city.  The first stop was at recently re-opened Sloppy Joe’s seafood and cocktail bar featured in the movie Our Man in Havana, which reopened its doors in 2013 after being closed for 48 years. Hemingway used to hang out there with many other celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Nat King Cole, Ted Williams, Errol Flynn and Gary Cooper. Back in the 50s the bar was also a prototype of the not less famous Sloppy Joe’s in the Key West I featured in this post.

We stepped into the freshly painted sleek bar décor and ordered Cuban pork sandwiches with sweet potato fries and ‘Cuba Libre’ cocktail they offered to go with the sandwich (from ‘To Have and Have Not’).  I loved the freshly re-constructed Art Deco Miami-style flair about the area, the cleanness inside out and the fast service. Don’t forget, this place was a complete ruin for 48 years, so one should not under-estimate the effort of the Cuban government and of course the Cuban expats to reconstitute the place. Hopefully, one day it will completely return to its glory – it definitely has now a potential for that.    

Corner of Zulueta (252) e/Animas and Virtudes, Old Havana, Cuba

Armed with the few heavy calories we headed to find the El Floridita, almost two hundred years old fish and cocktail bar at the corner of Obispo and Monserrate streets, where Hemingway used to team up with the famous Cuban bartender Constante Ribailagua to create his Papa Doble Daiquiri and other signature drinks. 

After few minutes walk through the Park Central which felt like a century due to the heat and the crowds of hookers of all ages and persuasion chasing us (surprisingly, not to offer their services, but just to ask for a soap or a tooth brush: sadly, YES, that’s how desperate is current Cuban’s economy nowadays), we managed to find the El Floridita bar. 

The frozen daiquiri tasted good and refreshing indeed, although it was three times more expensive than at any other bar in Cuba (you’ve gotta pay premium for the name and I have no problem with that). The life size bronze statue of Hemingway was leaning over the bar to remind that it used to be his haunt. However, the place didn’t feel like IT and was too crowded with tourists to feel comfortable.
ADDRESS: El Floridita
Corner of Obispo (esq. 557) and Monserrate Streets
Hours: 11 AM till midnight 

Hemingway’s Photo via Wiki

Next: ‘My mojito in La Bodegita, my daiquiri in El Floridita’, and so we followed Hemingway’s tip to try the best Mojito in Havana at La Bodeguita del Medio. When we reached the place, it was packed with locals, tourists, artists and musicians all drenching in sweat (forget the conditioner – it’s too much of a luxury in most places in Havana). We had to literally elbow-fight to get through to the counter to have a speedy Mojito, which didn’t much differ from any other Mojito you pay eight-plus pesos in the rest of Habana Vieja.  The spirit of Papa was nowhere felt.  I must admit though, the place did have character with all the musicians, graffiti and surroundings (playing kids, puddles of urine, etc.) as opposed to two previous bars. Oddly enough though, it was so far my least favorite. 
ADDRESS: La Bodeguita del Medio
206 Calle Empedrado 206 (between Cuba and San Ignacio Streets), Old Havana, Cuba
Hours: Noon till midnight

Our final stop of the day was Hotel Ambos Mundos at the corner of Obispo and Mercaderes, where Hemingway spent seven years of his life in the 30ies. I was excited to see his room on the upper 5th floor, his typewriter and the views of the Old Havana and the harbor sea that inspired him daily. 

It was a bummer to see the sign ‘Hemingway’s room is closed for visitors’ next to the old elevators, of which the guards were very protective of. I was beginning to feel that the ‘lost generation’ term was actually quite literate. Hopeless to find any leftover of the spirit of Hemingway, we went through the hall with the walls covered with fading cheerless images of the writer and his life in Cuba. 

The uniform-dressed woman at the lobby desk had a major presence signifying that if we would like to find some trace of Hemingway, we’d rather go back home and read a book about him. We retreated to the empty bar in the lobby and just sat there with the gloom of disappointed kids waiting for the bartender to come… 

Catching our pointless glare, the bartender asked if we would like to try some Hemingway Champagne. We agreed. In a gesture of encouragement, he procured a bottle of absinthe from under the counter and poured some of it in the flutes. He then topped them with the iced champagne and handed us the milky mix right away. Our disappointment evanesced the minute we took a sip of that drink. ‘OMG, this is where he is,’ I realized suddenly – ‘HE IS the DRINK in this sweaty, ruined, wonderful Havana!’  
ADDRESS: Ambos Mundos Hotel /Bar

153 Calle Obispo, Old Havana, Cuba

And this is how we scored our ‘in the footsteps of Hemingway’s cocktails game’ that day. I must say it was a tough mix of alcohols. ‘You can’t handle it, little mama,’ was the last thought in my head (with the voice of Ron Burgundy (aka Will Ferrel) before I passed out in the hotel room that afternoon. Clearly, the ‘Death in the Afternoon’ (alternative name of this drink) is an acquired-taste type of the cocktail, at least in my case.  Ernest Hemingway created this drink further to his non-fiction ‘Death in the Afternoon’ about Spanish bullfighting and it was later published in the 1935 collection of celebrity cocktail recipes. His instructions were: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” If you feel like trying it, I suggest you go for the legal absinthe alternative for this drink, Pernod, in the same proportion.

Tonight we’re going to drink simple but elegant Crémant d’Alsace. There will be no Hemingway Champagne. So why was I telling you all that? Definitely, not to encourage you drinking. Because it’s the New Year’s Eve, many are going to the most popular Caribbean destination; and it’s time to have fun, reflect on 2014 and celebrate the miraculous.  There will be an upscale Cuban dish on our table though: a wonderful one-pot rabbit fricassee full of Creole flavors and sunshine.  

Lean, healthy, light, highly aromatic: it makes you feel like dancing all night long – no wonder Cubans have the historic affinity for the rabbit dishes (from Batista to Castro). 
Note for Paleo and Gluten Free people: skip dusting the rabbit in flour and proceed with browning without it.

Happy New Year Everyone – Peace on Earth!

***

CUBAN STYLE RABBIT FRICASSEE

Yields : 6 servings
Ingredients :
1 (about 3 lbs) rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces
3-4 tbsp flour
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp curry powder
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
2-3 tbsp olive oil
6-8 strips of bacon cut in cubes
1 tbsp paprika
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
¼ tsp saffron powder (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
2 ½ cups chicken stock or water
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup capers, drained
1 cup raisins
¼ cup green pitted olives, whole or chopped
1 can (10 oz) green peas, drained
Salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Season the rabbit pieces generously with salt and pepper. Mix the flour with thyme and curry powder and cover the rabbit pieces with it (use the Ziploc bag if necessary to evenly distribute the flour mix). Heat the butter and olive oil in the deep skillet to medium high, place the rabbit pieces and brown on all sides for about 6-7 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to the Dutch oven.
Add the bacon to the skillet and brown on medium high for a few minutes. Distribute bacon pieces over the rabbit. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bring the skillet to the high heat. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, saffron and cumin to the skillet for 2-3 minutes mixing vigorously. Add diced tomatoes and wine, mix well. Add the onion-tomatoes mixture to the rabbit-bacon mix. Drizzle with lemon juice. Add bay leaf.  Pour the hot chicken stock or water over the rabbit and bring to boil.
Cover the casserole with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 350F and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to boil. Simmer for 3 minutes and drain the water. Set aside.
Remove the casserole from the oven, check the seasoning. Add parboiled potatoes, capers, raisins and olives. Cover with foil and return the casserole to the oven and cook for another 30 minutes.
Check the rabbit for tenderness: the meat should be starting to fall off the bone when it’s ready.  Stir in frozen green peas and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes uncovered.

Remove from the oven, check the seasoning and serve immediately.

My Take on Pissaladière for Sweet November

This is my recent take on the great French classic, Pissaladière.Piss – what?’ Correction: ‘pissala’ (deriving from either Ligurian piscialandreaor Occitan pissaladiera) was a paste made of the salted baby anchovies used in the recipe at the time of its inception when a big part of Southern France was in Italian possession. This explains why it is pizza rather than bread. Despite the fact that you will have a fisherman breath while eating it, pissaladière is an incredibly tasty and addictive meal or snack. Originating from the Nice (yep, from no less than The Côte d’Azur) and relatively unknown few decades ago, pissaladière is slowly but steadily becoming more and more popular all over the world as a unique and comforting kind of pizza, which by its savory characteristics can only come close to the classic French onion soup (although the anchovies and black olives addition in this pizza make a strong salty-savoury punch to otherwise gently sweet caramelized onion in this dish).

Pissaladière is an easy crowd pleaser (specifically for those who like caramelized onions, cheese and olives). Not to mention it’s a very low budget fare, so if your fridge is empty, or you feel destitute for this or that reason, this easy to pull off pizza can comfort you within less than 30 minutes. It is also a great idea for a vegetarian cocktail or potluck party.

I used the fresh goat feta cheese we procured at La Chevriere de Monnoir goat farm because it was so good (gently sweet and moderately salty), it really had to be showcased. I also made two kinds of this pizza: one with anchovies on a side (making it a pure caramelized onion and goat cheese tart) and the one with anchovies in (making it a true pissaladière style). 

It’s November already, the gloomiest month of the year, with its heavy leaden sky, moonless nights, violent gusts of wind and down-pouring torrents of cold rain – all pushing the cheerful October leaves into desolation and death, leaving the trees and hedges sad and homeless.  However, it’s exactly the November sky that makes this month so present, with its infinite vastness and its temper. It becomes a giant canvas that imprints the weather’s mood swings striking the eyes so vividly:

From dull and gray…

To layer cake like colors, changing its ‘high austerity to delight’…

Back to heavy leaden and bright with occasional windows of the light, spanning their beams across the naked fields as if trying to vacuum the last drop of life from the nature…

To peaceful and pastoral again, like in this image taken at the goat farm…

November sky has always been an inspiration to many of great artists depicting it in their masterpieces (although a friend of mine has a theory it was simply because there were no more bugs and mosquitoes to disturb them from their work). Well, I incline to believe it’s inspirational…

Flock of Sheep at Pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, 1655
November in general is inspirational in many ways, including to our appetite, which grows almost proportional to the dropping temperatures, leaving us craving for this or that comfort food. Pissaladière(or French pizza if you want) is one of those fall comfort foods for me.  I always make it in November and it makes my November sweet and cozy. Not surprisingly, after I bought all types of cheese at La Chevriere de Monnoir, I decided to apply one of them to the featured twist. What a wonderful marriage of tastes you have in the result! Salty-sour- tangy-aromatic-crunchy and soooo gently savory sweeet: a real dance the taste buds weary of pumpkin and squash.
Tips for the first time onion caramelizing:  
Slice the onions as thin as possible (sharpening the knife is always a good idea).
Use the scratch-less, non-stick skillet, OR be ready to use much more oil to prevent burning the onions.
Begin with medium-high heat and the minimum amount of oil, lowering the heat progressively as the onions begin to brown.
Do not leave the onions unattended for longer than 2-3 minutes, or they will burn.
Don’t forget to include garlic and thyme (fresh or dried) in the process – these two ingredients are crucial for the final taste result.
A splash of dry wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar in the final minutes would add an extra layer of taste and a nice touch of sourness to the onions.
The layer of onions spread on the pizza should be half as thick as the crust.

As for the pizza dough, which I’ve tried many, and can tell you that this recipe is really foolproof and the best one for me. As long as you have a working yeast, it always, always works, so please take a 
note of it.

Well, thank you all for reading this post. I hope you will have fun making your own pissaladière and my recipe will be of help. For now I’m just going to eat another piece. Oooops, it’s gone in less than a minute. Well tried and tested and highly recommended for your own sweet November. The Enya’s gem song might as well put you in the mood.
Sweet November Everyone!

***
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PISSALADIERE: CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA WITH GOAT CHEESE, BLACK OLIVES AND ANCHOVIES
Yields 6 portions
Ingredients:
1 pizza dough (see this recipe for the foolproof homemade pizza dough, OR use store-bought) 
1 tbsp cornmeal for dusting
4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzle
2 lbs onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp thyme, fresh or dried
1 big splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of pitted black olives, halved
3 oz (2/3 cup) goat cheese feta, crumbled
8 salted anchovies fillets (rinsed and patted dry if baked in) (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the pizza stone in the middle of the oven (if using). Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a flat round or rectangular shape. Transfer the dough to baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic or a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet to medium-high. Add onions, mix vigorously and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle with thyme. Keep mixing every other minute. Add garlic and mix. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes until the moisture has evaporated and the onions caramelized to almost a marmalade consistency. Add a splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar. Stir and evaporate for the next 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove plastic or cloth from dough, brush with 1 tablespoon of oil and spread the onion mixture, leaving ¾ inch border all around. Arrange cheese, olives and anchovy fillets (if using) over the onions, then slide onto the hot pizza stone (if using) or onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake pizza for 18-20 minutes, or until the crust has browned. Remove from the oven, cut into wedges and serve warm or at the room temperature.

Haute Homey Meat Pie: Lac-Saint-Jean Tourtière


I wish my parents in law would live long enough to try my take on this traditional French Canadian holiday food. They would be so pleased. Contrary to more popular crass variety of meat pie tourtière you can find frozen in any grocery, I could not believe my tongue when I tried a piece of this gamey-smoky mix of meat and potato morsels.  I’ve never made Lac-Saint-Jean Tourtière before, but this year I could not resist the temptation any longer.  The comfort pie made a massive come back this fall popping up all over menus at once. Just the latest issue of Signé M food magazine by Louis-François Marcotte (LFM) alone is featuring at least three varieties of tourtière recipes and they all look to die for.  And what can be better than having fun with a familiar favorite? So last week-end I gave it a swirl (we also shoveled a lot, as snow storms are our other familiar ”favorite”).
The name tourtière(for those who don’t know) comes from the word tourte, French for the Passenger Pigeon wild bird which was used in this pie when people were step-dancing much more than today  Up until the bird was over-hunted (for its flesh and feathers) and disappeared. The name was kept, but different kinds of game meats like partridge, fowl, pheasant, rabbit, deer, wild boar, deer etc. are now used for filling mixed with pork, veal and beef. Or, sometimes, three kinds of red meat are combined with poultry or game.  Duck and pork make a very interesting filling too, but I prefer to use it in individual small mini-pies as duck taste is pretty intense.
Now, does this dog look to you as if she was touched by the pigeon story?  Why is she so sad? Obviously, she is not suffering from malnutrition. So why these beggar’s eyes? The answer is: acting skills beyond imaginable dog’s capacity. This is how she actually acquired her middle name Sarah – in honor of the divine Sarah (Bernhardt). Doggie simply wants to come inside, because she is bored. Check her out just few minutes ago.  Once she saw us shoveling the backyard, she put up a real fight and wanted to eat all the snow being shoveled (she doesn’t like her landscape to be altered). She gave up 15 minutes after realizing that it was fruitless, and this kind of face was meant to ask to go back in where she could smell the cooking and/or join us for a poker party later.
Back to the pie. Lac-St-Jean Tourtière is made of various meats and potatoes cut in small cubes (both are not pre-cooked as opposed to ground meat pie varieties). The mix of meats (cubed pork, veal and chicken + lard in this case) and spices (onion, garlic, oregano, savory, white wine, salt and pepper) has to be marinated in the fridge overnight. I did not have the cubed veal, so I used the ground veal instead and it worked very well. For the meat cuts, shoulder or top round parts are the best to use.  Next morning it is mixed with cubed potatoes and then distributed evenly into the deep dish lined with the pie dough. 
The pie is cooked for a long time. It is important to make a big hole (2’+) in the center of the pie for proper ventilation, and cook the pie covered with foil (after the first 45 minutes). Keep it moist by adding some stock (though the vent hole) when necessary. Decorate the top with the dough scraps shaping them with cookie mold and fixing to the pie with a clove.
I used standard 9 by 13 inches dish for baking, but if you are going to use a deeper dish (with more meet), add hours of cooking accordingly (i.e. 3 more hours for twice more filling). Once cooked, let it stand for about 15 minutes and serve hot with cranberry sauce/salsa, home-made ketchup or your favorite chutney.

Bon appétit and enjoy your holiday prep!
***
Tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean
Yields: 8 hearty portions
Ingredients:
250g veal (or beef), cut into ½ inch cubes
250g pork, cut into ½ inch cubes
250g chicken breast, cut into ½ inch cubes
60g salted lard, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried savory
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 cup white wine (or mix of cider vinegar and water)
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
Home-made** or store bought pie dough (1 kg)
1 egg combined with 2 tbsp. water
Instructions:
Mix the meats, onion, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and white wine in a bowl and keep refrigerated for overnight or 12 (up to 24 hours) covered. After 12+ hours, remove bay leaves and toss the meats mix with cubed potatoes (using your hands) seasoning with salt and pepper additionally and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Divide the dough in two balls (for the top (1/4) and the bottom (3/4) crusts). Roll the dough (bottom part) and line it up in the deep baking dish covering the edges.  Spread the meats-potato filling and cover with rolled dough (upper part). Make a 2’ inch hole in the center and few incisions in the dough for ventilation. Seal the edges pressing with the fork and brush with egg-water mixture. Place at the center of the oven uncovered and cook for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, lower the temperature of the oven to 300 F, cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 4 hours. Remove from the oven and let the pie rest for 15 minutes. Serve hot with cranberry sauce/salsa, home-made ketchup or your favorite chutney.
** Home-made pie dough:
5 cups flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/3 cups vegetable shortening
1 cup ice water
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. With a dough knife, mix the shortening in with the dry ingredients. Continue mixing until the shortening is reduced to pea-sized pieces. Add the water quickly and mix the dough gently. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

No Fuss Coq Au Vin

”Have you ever tried Coq au Vin?” ”No, but I once let an Italian put his hand up my jumper on the back seat of his Fiat…” Anglophones truly love the play of French words in this dish. But, whatever the jokes are, Coq au Vin (rooster in wine) continues to tickle the taste buds and enthrall the world’s pickiest eaters through the centuries.

And maybe it’s not so bad that this French classic is so ‘’oxymoronic’’ – for sure it helps to create certain gastronomic enigma à propos de complexity of the dish. Which in fact is very simple to make and quite inexpensive if you adjust the ingredients set to create a healthy and easy weeknight meal. In this one I traded rooster for chicken, Burgundy for a good quality dry red wine (Cahors), and pearl onions for a regular yellow onion (the last one is REALLY a good idea when you want to have a quick supper without spending some extra 30 minutes peeling pearl onions). 

I also skipped the roux turning it into a gluten free meal (the sauce turned thick enough without any flour in it and, yes, turned into a gel comme il faut when placed in the fridge). The result: my very FRENCH (Canadian) hubby devoured it in seconds without even noticing there were no pearl onions in it, which are usually a big deal for him.  And if this did not convince you yet, please also note that for a true comfort dish like this, it is VERY low in calories. At different times, I served it with egg or rice noodles, with roasted or mashed potatoes, as well as with potato leek gratin, but my favorite part is just dipping the crusty bread in that savory wine sauce that is so typical in taste to this particular dish. HEAVENLY!
Although many historically attribute the origin of Coq au Vin to Burgundy region of France, rumor has it the Caesar’s cook made it when Romans were battling the Gauls (at that time Romans were very well established in the area of modern Southern France and they really liked local wine). The Gauls sent Caesar a scrawny rooster as a message of defiance. Caesar ordered to cook the rooster in wine and herbs and invited the Gauls to eat it to demonstrating the overwhelming sophistication of the Romans… Or so it goes… But most agree that Coq au Vin existed as a rustic dish long before that and was a way for peasants to recycle an old rooster or an old egg-laying hen by slow cooking in wine and herbs.  
Today Coq au Vin is made with cuts of chicken from hen or capon and has many designations depending on a wine being used: Alsacienne (with Riesling), Nuitonne (with Côte de Nuits), Jurassienne (with Arbois rosé), etc. My twist relates to Quercynoise version and table travels me to the beautiful town of Cahors where I tried Coq au Vin for the first time. It was made with a real cockerel (rooster) and Cahors wine; and included true Quercy-Perigord ingredients: fresh ceps wild mushrooms and duck fat. Needless to say, that a splash of Armagnac flambé was applied to the browning process in this version… The taste of it comes back to me each time I am looking at the pictures or am thinking of that travel…  
Again, this is a speedy version of the Coq au Vin, with no ceps or duck fat in it, but as hearty as the dish can be. The stock, wine, mushroom & bacon sauce imbues chicken and veggies with the iconic flavor during slow cooking transforming any cheapest piece of commercial chicken into a little French culinary voyage. Free range chicken however would deliver much tastier results, but you already know it. 
And, of course, if you are a true admirer of ‘’Mastering the Art of French Cooking’’ and are not looking for any tasty ersatz, I suggest you use Julia Child’s recipe or the version of the host of the Iron Chef of America, both of which are designed to turn you into a real connoisseur of the dish. 
 Cheers to all and happy French cooking!
***
NO FUSS COQ AU VIN
Yields 4 servings
Ingredients:
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into bite size
3 lbs chicken thighs and drums (8+), skin on
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots peeled and cut into cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. butter
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups dry red wine
6-8 fresh parsley springs, minced
3-4 scallions, minced
¼ kosher salt (or to taste)
¼ freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
In a large skillet, brown bacon bits, remove them to the paper towel and set aside while reserving the bacon grease in the skillet to brown the chicken. Add chicken pieces skin side down and sear them on the medium high heat until golden brown on all sides for about 6-8 minutes each side.  Transfer chicken to the Dutch oven or another casserole dish.  Add onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaves and thyme to skillet and continue sautéing for about 6 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Transfer the mix to the casserole to cover the chicken pieces. In the still hot skillet, add butter, mushrooms and shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add wine and broth to the skillet, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens a little bit (5 minutes). Add seasoning, mix well and pour over the chicken in the casserole dish. Simmer or bake for 30-40 minutes at 350F. During the cooking process, carefully skim off and discard any fat from the surface with the spoon. After 30 minutes of simmering, verify the seasoning, add chopped parsley and scallions and give it another 10 minutes of simmer. Serve hot with roasted/mashed potatoes or egg noodles and crusty bread on the side. Enjoy!