Category Archives: French Canadian

In Juniper Spirit: Ham in Pastry Crust (Jambon en Croute) Recipe

“All right, all right, I’ll give you a break for now, but we’ll have a serious conversation in January,” I promised my protruding belly’s mirror reflection a week ago.  Christmas is about tradition and comfort food, so it’s OK to feel or look a little pudgy…  Soon I will have all the time needed to martyr myself with celery and quinoa salad and the ideas of how to “look great in a minivan,” I thought to myself later that day, buying a naughty chunk of a Christmas ham to cook for the family dinner…
And what a dinner it was!  Even our most ferocious calorie-count members admired it. Not only that centerpiece ham expressed and celebrated Quebec’s oldest Christmas tradition, it tasted better, than ever and not just because of the wine was on a table. One secret ingredient made that magic. It was neither the ham itself, nor a crust, but a little crushed juniper berry I added to the mustard rub in between.  It infused the ham and crust with the touch of piney Christmas spirit and balanced the flavors wonderfully.
Earlier in fall we had to cut some old juniper skyrockets in our yard and I foraged an impressive quantity of juniper berries. Not that I didn’t know anything about juniper berry as a spice: it turns vodka into gin, improves the fermentation process of sauerkraut, and makes a great concoction for a hot bath…

However, that would pretty much limit my knowledge of its use. Seeing that quantity of unbelievably fragrant freshly foraged juniper berries was kind of a revelation to me. I wanted to know what else can be done with them and start experimenting right away.

Which is how the idea of using them in the rub came first and I made this little ham back in September. WHOA! It worked better than I expected.  I’m usually not a big fan of ham, reserving it to special occasions only, but this one came out really outstanding.

What a complex yet subtle flavor touch to the roasted ham in crust! It made me think of Christmas right away and so I reserved this recipe and juniper berries (both dried and frozen) for the winter holidays, and here I’m sharing it with you today.

I also researched extensively about the juniper berries and came up with this list of

What You Can Do with Juniper Berries in Your Kitchen:

  • Make spirits and bitters: primarily gin by adding juniper berries to vodka along with bunch of other botanicals (this DIY Gin recipe works great for me)
  • Infuse vinegars (bruise the berries and use this easy method): vinegars bring out the citrus element of the berries 
  • Infuse hot drinks: teas, tisanes, mulled wine, etc. with the enhanced piney juniper berries flavor (have also great medicinal effect on upset stomach, urinary tract infections, bloating, heartburn, etc.)
  • Infuse desserts, fillings, gels, creams and frostings 
  • Infuse salt or sugar
  • Use in brines for: brisket, turkey, pork, chicken or fish as flavor enhancer 
  • Add to game or venison stews and terrines (wild boar, hare, deer, etc.), as well as pork
  • Add to dressings and vinaigrette: works well with olive oil, apple cider or balsamic vinegar, horseradish, mustard, mayonnaise, ginger and garlic
  • Add to sauces and gravies: i.e. Madeira, White wine, Cranberry sauce, etc. and/or thickening dripping liquids into sauces
  • Flavor cabbage stews (German, Polish style Bigos, etc.) along with allspice berries and peppercorns
  • Use in fermenting veggies (sauerkraut, pickles, etc.):  works as stabilizer, adds crunch and flavor
  • Add to bird/meat stuffing 
  • Rub in curing meats (along with other spices) to make pancetta, pastrami, smoked meat, ham, game, etc.
  •  Add to stocks and soups included in bouquet garni: adds nutty-woodsy notes of flavor
  • Add to pasta, potato, couscous or polenta water
  • Recycle leftovers jams into glaze by mixing them with water/syrup infused with juniper berries.

Juniper berries are not exactly berries, but the tiny pine cones of the shrub that are so tightly clenched they look like blue-purple berries. They have strong tart, coniferous flavor with a hint of citrus and very small amount is used in particular recipes. If you remember, in one of the episodes of the fantastic comedy Bedazzled (with Brendan Frazer and Elizabeth Hurley) the major character is explaining at some point that the word `Gin’ is short for the French genievre or the Dutch jenever, both of which mean juniper, the main flavor in gin. Juniper berries have been used since ancient times and were especially popular in Greece, Rome and Egypt as medical remedy, to flavor dishes, or be used for spiritual rituals (some have been even found in the tomb of King Tut).

Back to our Christmas ham: this is a wonderful, festive, traditional Quebec recipe for frugal (and beyond) holidays. It keeps the meat juicy, yet well done. The juniper berries not only add flavor, but work as a natural anti-bloating agent. The juniper-mustard flavored pastry crust helps the dish taste and look elegant and exquisite.

Simply put: it’s a super easy, convenient and impressive centerpiece dish on a budget for many occasions. I do hope you will try it and like it and get back to me with your comments.

Final note: juniper berries are not hard to find on-line or in whole food/organic stores and only a small quantity is used in the recipe. The initial recipe however didn’t have juniper berries in it, so if you can’t get a hold of juniper berries, feel free to substitute with a tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds or dried tarragon.  

Happy Holidays and Enjoy Your Cooking!

Other Festive Recipes for Holidays:
Two years ago:  Crispy Cod Croquettes
For Ham in Crust:
3 pounds (1.5 kg) smoked ham, boneless, fully cooked
1 bouquet garni with 6-8 juniper berries added
3 tbsp (45 mL) Dijon mustard
2 tbsp yellow mustard grains, crushed
1 tbsp juniper berries (about 8-10 berries), freshly crushed
1 pound (450 g) puff pastry
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbsp (30 mL) water for brushing the dough
For Madeira Sauce Infused with Juniper Berries:
3 tbs (45 mL) unsalted butter
½ cup (125 mL) shallot, minced
½ cup (125 mL) Madeira or Port wine
1 cup (250 mL) brown veal or beef stock
¼ cup (60 mL) 35% cream
Salt and pepper to taste
4-5 juniper berries for infusion
Cover smoked ham with cold water in a big pot, add bouquet garni and bring to boil. Simmer the smoked ham for an hour and half to two hours to remove some salt. Let cool.
Drain the liquid and pat dry the ham carefully. Mix the Dijon, crushed mustard and juniper seeds in a small bowl.  Rub the ham with mustard-juniper mixture all over.  
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Roll out the puff pastry into a sheet/s about ¾ in (1.5 cm) thick and transfer to the baking sheet. Place ham in the center of the dough sheet and wrap the ham with the dough completely. Add patches of dough when necessary to make sure all ham is well-covered for the juices not to drain out.
Mix the egg yolk with water and brush the pastry from all sides. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden and puffed. Remove ham from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes for the juices to set before carving. Cut the ham with the knife long enough to cut the entire length of it. Serve with Madeira sauce, mashed potatoes, rice or fresh pasta.
Madeira Sauce with Juniper Berries:
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add chopped shallots and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add Madeira (or Port) and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Add brown veal or beef stock. Add cream and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper.  Add 4-5 juniper berries for infusion and set aside covered for 10 minutes. Strain the sauce from juniper berries before serving.
Adapted from: « Le cochon à son meilleur » by Philippe Mollé, Les Éditions de l’Homme, March, 1996

10 Ways to Enjoy Poutine with One Big Campfire Special

Honestly, I wish we had the weather like today back on Tuesday, June 24th, so our Saint Jean Baptiste celebration wouldn’t got screwed. It was nerve-wrecking watching all that rain pouring cats and dogs on those masterfully constructed bonfire-to-be structures that finally never took off – a real bummer… A comforting traditional supper was the only way to save the holiday. Fortunately, in the food-haven city of Montreal there’s always plenty to choose from to celebrate. We opted for a home-made good old Poutine among others, one of the great French Canadian creations that put Canada on the world’s culinary map.  A mountain of freshly cooked French fries smothered in gravy and cheese, which you can top with unlimited number of your own favorites, from Italian sausage, to magret de canard, to umami anchovies to make that simply irresistible caloric bomb and save the day…
Poutine is a true culinary oxymoron: a greasy, salty, heavenly-tasting convict of the premeditated gluttony, it is a real fast food junk on one side – but a valuable haute cuisine material on the other. Take the glorious creations of Poutine Foie Gras by Chef Martin Picard or Lobster Poutine by Chef Chuck Hughes, for example: each made an instant hit at their restaurants, respectively, long time ago each doesn’t seem to slide off the menu any time soon.  Since the time of its inception in the 50s, Poutine has been a subject of a lot of grotesque stories and anecdotes that don’t seem to end, but all that jazz only reinforces its popularity.
Everybody likes crispy fries and squeaky curd cheese. Almost everybody likes gravy. Combined together in Poutine, they make a one huge memorable feast you won’t forget soon.  My recently discovered trick was to use other kind of cheese in the absence of the curd cheese that is not always available. Guess what, apart from the missing squeakiness the dish works quite well with simple Mozzarella or Cheddar, or even Feta, and, especially well, with savory cheeses like Gouda or Gruyere. Of course if you are by-the-book rigid with recipes chef, I suggest you stick to the curd cheese and disregard this post completely.
Another affordable adjustment is using the store-bought Poutine gravy, or make it from the store-bought organic beef stock (in the absence of one) by adding some flour (or corn meal in gluten free cases), Worcester sauce, butter.
 For the camping purposes, feel free to use the non-perishable cubed or powdered beef stock.
 As you can see from the images, making fries at home and turning them into Poutine is a no brainer. One big killer app for successful and faster cooked pan-fried or roasted potatoes I’ve been using for years: boiling potatoes in the water for exactly 4 minutes uncovered (for the rustic chunks), 3 minutes for French cuts, 2 minutes for shoestrings; draining them and shaking carefully with canola or sunflower oil before pan-frying or roasting. Always delivers the best results! Another good tip: always use baking potatoes, such as Idaho or Yukon for fries or roasted potatoes; they are the highest in starch and therefore deliver the best results for the crispy on top, light and fluffy inside fries.
OK, this little fresh oregano leaf might be the only healthy thing on the plate, but Poutine takes no prisoners: there won’t be a drop left within a few minutes. And here is a fun fact: no matter how full of salt and fat Poutine is, Monsieur Putin is still much more dangerous.
There are many ways to enjoy Poutine at home or elsewhere in Montreal or Quebec in general.
Image via Wikimedia
 Here are my 10 WAYS TO ENJOY POUTINE in Montreal, or Quebec in general.
1. Go to one of the Poutine specialized placesserving the authentic Poutine, like La Banquise, Poutineville, Smoke’s Poutinerie in Montreal or Chez Ashton in Quebec City.
2. Upscale yourself to one of those haute Poutine places like Au Pied de Cochon or Garde Manger.

3. Go North for the world’s best poutine experience at  the hidden gem, little bistro Chez Perron in the Saint-Prime town in Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, where they top their poutine with the mountain of their own produced squeaky cheese and lace it with variety of savory gravies at Fromagerie Perron poutine buffet.

4. If in a hurry and/or on a strict budget, try no frills places like La Belle Province, Valentine or similar local fast-food corners for a soggy to my taste, but an acceptable alternative.When desperate, pressed with time or transport constraints, try the convenience store (depanneur), McDonald or Burger King variety for an ersatz of Poutine.
5. Buy some ready-made French fries, curd cheese and gravy and assemble the dish yourself at home for a quick TV dinner. 
6. DIY your own Poutine at home from scratch(see the above paragraphs).
7. In winter or fall (and for weird people like me), enjoy the Poutine served in the movie theater in the comfort of the darkness, big screen and loud noises. Don’t take me wrong though, I would never have it offered in a blind restaurant for the fear of any organic extra added to the dish (roaches, rodents, spit, etc.) no matter how attractive the idea of enhancing your senses in the dark is.
8. My summertime favorite: hit the road and explore the casse-croûtes spots in Quebec countryside, the real place of Poutine origin. 
Go North, South or East of Montreal during summer and stop here and there at the tiny casse-croûtes along the road while enjoying the breathtaking landscapes, farms, and nature. For me it’s like time traveling to a long forgotten past and going to the places that were just called a ‘Bar’ or a ‘Restaurant’, like these ones, so locals or hungry travelers can navigate themselves in with ease.
French workers having casse-croûte lunch via Wikimedia

In case you don’t know what the casse-croûtes is, the word itself in French literally means breaking the crust or (in some dictionaries) a crust-cracker tool used to crush the crust of bread for (here goes an interesting trivia) the old people who would have lost their teeth. Eventually, around the end of the 18th century, the casse-croûte began to signify a quick lunch the workers or travelers had and generally started to represent a simple meal or a sandwich. In Quebec, this French term got used to signify the fast food places around 50-s and coincided with the Poutine creation.

9. Enjoy the Poutine take out from one of the above places in the great outdoors, like on a picnic in the park, fishing or biking trip. 
10. Finally, my all-time favorite – the CAMPSITE POUTINE! What a wonderful experience – nobody can pass on it. After a long day of hiking in a murky deep forest, there is nothing better than sitting around the fire telling stories and making Poutine with friends.
Once you heat those charcoals and put the frying pan on with a bunch of sizzling potatoes, the whole process becomes a life of a party. The wood coal fire infuses the fries with that one of a kind smokiness you can especially appreciate in the fresh and cool forest air. Use the store-bought frozen fries or the above described technique for making fries from scratch.  
Nothing is left in the bowls no matter how hard you try to leave some – the ooey-gooey camping Poutine will conquer your heart fast and easy. For some reason it never gives me the heartburn either, even the one made with store-bought fries and canned gravy (non-perishables are always better for the camping trips). And did I mention to you that it’s gluten free? Awesome…
Wow, that’s a longest post I’ve written so far – thank you for your patience and I hope you will find some of the above useful and practical.
Lots of sunshine and happy long week-end celebration, cooking, hiking, fishing and paddling to all the lucky campers and others!
One year ago: La Vie En Rose Moment;
CAMPSITE POUTINE (which you can also make at home)
For 2 people (for more, increase the amount accordingly)
2 big Idaho or Yukon potatoes cut in rustic chunks, parboiled, or store-bought frozen
½ cup (3.5 oz or 100g) curd (or other cubed) cheese
2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
Pinch of dried rosemary
For Gravy: use the store bought canned Poutine Gravy, or DIY (follows)
1 cup organic beef stock (or re-constituted beef stock from powder for the fast version)
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tbsp flour (or corn meal for gluten free version)
1 tsp Worcester sauce
Parboil the potatoes for 4 minutes uncovered (skip this step if using frozen potatoes). Drain the potatoes, add 2 tablespoons of oil, pinch of dried rosemary and give it a gentle shake to cover the potatoes with oil evenly.
While potatoes are boiling, prepare the gravy by mixing butter and flour (or corn meal) in a hot saucepan and whisking in the stock and Worcester sauce 2 minutes on a low-heat until it thickens.
Keep hot.
Prepare the grill for a high heat or the skillet for the stove high heat.
Prepare the curd or other cheese and set aside.
Heat oil in a large cast iron camping skillet set directly on grate. Add potatoes. Cook turning carefully until browned, for about 7-10 minutes. Carefully remove the skillet from the grill/stove and distribute the potatoes in two plates. Top with cheese and cover with the hot gravy. Serve immediately with or without your favorite topping.

Grandma’s Whole Pea Soup on Cold Wintry Night

It’s been cold, really cold in the last few days. A sudden strike of an obsession with grandma’s soup is not unusual during such times. Along with a distant memory of a grand granny cooking a pea soup in a giant cauldron for the family of 60+… so warm and comforting.
What else can be on your mind while driving home with a growling belly in this biting frost and with more than 50 shades of gray around? Perhaps a stew or a bowl of steamy mashed potatoes? Chances are though this rustic soup is not only among my infinite ramblings this evening…
I bought a $1.50 pack (1lb or 454 gr) of organic whole peas on our last visit to the farm because I knew the time for this soup was coming.  There was a recipe of Soupe aux pois de grand-mère labeled to it, which I am presenting to you, although, hugely modified. The recipe asks to add 341 grams of canned corn at the end, which I’m not so sure about, but it might be an idea to thicken some liquid vegetarian version.  For the vegetarian version I suggest you use a good vegetarian stock and give the chopped veggies a quick fry-stir with a tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil before adding them to the pot. You can find the whole peas in most of the supermarkets in Quebec, or order them on-line. The farm-bought, of course would always be cheaper and fool-proof organic.
NOTE: Just like beans, whole peas require soaking in the water for 8 hours or overnight before cooking. But if you are not very legume-sensitive (or, in other word, reactive), feel free to use a rapid method of boiling peas for 2 minutes, letting them sit for an hour and then cook as instructed … which still requires a bit of time, so I suggest you do your math when ready to cook this soup.
Peas are usually coming into the recipes in a split form, but this French Canadian classic is made with whole peas and is traditionally a part of Cabaneà sucre (sugar shack) menu Québecois are so famous for.  Which brings me to the question of the non-vegetarian version based on beef or veal stock, with the addition of some ham or pork sausage and, of course, the salted pork lard (LOTS OF IT)… The recipe stipulated ½ pound of lard, but I did not use any because I had something better – a home-smoked and braised hock… 
So if you will excuse me, my dear fellow-vegetarians, I have to include this part to keep the lyrics. I really wanted to step my game up in the carnivore version of this soup, so what was supposed to be a simple salted lard and/or ham in an old-fashioned version (don’t worry, I keep the classics in the recipe below) of the whole pea soup, became a real German-style state of the art smoked pig knuckle slowly braised in the oven. The richness of it combined with slow-cooked peas is truly a heavenly combination.

Using braised knuckle requires some extra prep. Last week-end we had a bit of sun, which felt almost like an approaching Cabane à sucre time (or perhaps the Imbolc celebration would be closer). We made a fire outside for a little alfresco break from our 6-months long winter strong conditions. I decided to use this occasion to smoke whatever I could for the future culinary applications, including a few pork knuckles. It’s really no-brainer: you just smoke the knuckle over the fire on all sides (torch is OK in your own kitchen on a day like today). Then cool it and clean it with the brush under the cold running water and it’s ready to be braised for 2 hours with a few cloves of garlic, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and a bit of liquid (such as water, broth, wine, or, my favorite, mix of water and apple cider vinegar).

Ta-dah, few hours later you have a great addition to a soup or stew, or can start eating it as schweinshaxe Bavarian style. Add sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and beer and you will be in a German heaven. In my case though it makes a great addition to the rustic pea soup when de-boned and minced. Please do not discard the skin from the cooked hock, because it actually is a great swap for salted lard and a major flavor booster. Add it to the soup 15 minutes into the end of cooking.

You can prepare the whole pea soup up to three days ahead and might notice that it will taste better with time. Next day it will be much thicker and velvety: the flavours will be married, the smokiness will shine through more prominently.  Serve it with baguette crostini, garlic croutons and aged cheese on a side garnished with a bit of fresh parsley if you wish.

It’s not for no reason that this soup is one of the homiest and most comforting dishes in the French Canadian menu: it’s a humble delight to come home to on an Arctic winter night.


One year ago: Perfect Green Salad Vinaigrette


Yields 6-8 servings
1 lb or 454 gr dried yellow whole peas
½ lb salted lard (optional)
1 ham hock (or 1 smoked and braised pig knuckle)
9 cups of water (or 10 cups of vegetarian broth for vegetarian version)
3 cups of veal or beef brown stock (or 2 cups cream of corn for vegetarian version)
1 large onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried savory
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
* 1 can (341 gr) cream of corn (optional for vegetarian version)
Cover the peas with water and soak overnight or for 8 hours. Drain. Alternatively, you can skip soaking by rinsing whole peas in cold water, then placing them with the rest of the ingredients (except for the cream of corn in the vegetarian version) in a pot, bringing to boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 1 hour.
Bring the soup back to the boiling point, lower the heat and let it simmer covered for 1 hour or until the peas become tender.  Remove the hock, let it cool, then de-bone, mince the meat and return into the pot for the final 15 minutes of simmering. For vegetarian version, add cream of corn 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
Check the seasoning. Remove the pot from heat. Discard the bay leaves. Optionally, you can now puree the soup in a blender to the consistency you like. Taste again for salt and pepper and serve garnished with fresh parsley, chives, or garlic croutons.

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
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
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.

Ice Fishing in Quebec

Every winter, somewhere on the historic King’s road (route 138) to Quebec city, a colorful fishing village of over 500 cabins appears right on the river ice.

Known as Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, the place takes its name after the monumental Catholic church located at the mouth of the Sainte-Anne river. The mega church itself is already a first puzzle for the visitors, as its hard to understand its size vs under two thousand population ratio.

But the real reason behind the popularity of this place is a little fish called ”poulamon” (‘poolamon’), (or tomcod in English) which comes in zillions to Sainte Anne river each winter to reproduce. This is when the ice fishing village construction takes place and thousands of anglers arrive to fish tomcod in those cabins through the holes in the ice.

The tomcod (which is also called in French: ”petit poisson des chenaux”) is a fish from the cod family, which lives from 3 to 8 years and produces about 8600 eggs per lay in average. It roams the west coast of Atlantic, and comes to Saint-Anne river via St. Laurence to lay eggs.

The name ”poulamon” was borrowed into early North American French in Maritimes where it was the word for tomcod fish in the language of the Micmac First Nations people.

via Wikimedia Commons

We have been postponing our ”pêche blanche” trip to La Perade for weeks and finally took our time to start the ice fishing season last Sunday. I packed us a perfect picnic basket with assorted sandwiches, veal canapes, meatloaf leftovers from the other night, few bottles of our favorite red and white, a huge thermos of coffee and many other things. In other words: everything to make our trip a success in case we don’t catch the fish.

As you can see from the images, this place is not only for anglers and snow mobilers. Many people come here with kids and pets making it a family outing and what a great idea it is! There is so much fun for anyone in a place like that: fishing, sliding, skiing, hockey playing, snowman making, eating, dancing, taking a cart or even a helicopter tour over the frozen river for that special scenic drive!

No need to bring your rod or even fishing license to this place! Once you reserve your cabin everything is included: fishing lines with hooks, pork liver bait, wood and parking. The cabin was warm and super-comfy with wooden stove and electricity, so we could even plug in our stereo! We parked the car right outside the door of our cabin.

The cabin owner gave us some tips on fishing the tomcod. There is a wooden pole in the cabin with bunch of fishing lines attached to it right over the fishing hole. Each line is anchored with a weight and two hooks. The proper fishing technique is to attach the bait to hide the hook and let your weight fall to the bottom. You then raise the fishing line about half an inch from the bottom and wait until the fish bites.

Since the fish is biting fast, you have to repeat these moves quite often. This fish baits and bites like crazy, you get so much adrenaline! This is the view from the bottom of the river:

We caught a few dozen of tomcod within two hours. Once caught, the fish is thrown outside the cabin in the snow to freeze. That way the flavor is preserved and the fish is easy to clean.

The wooden stove was working non-stop in our cabin, so later in the evening, after all our snacks were gone, we even had time to eat some of our catch: clean, roll the fish in flour and fry it. It was quite delicious, although the fish cleaning part was not my favorite.

 The night is young, the folk fiddle and accordion music is still playing all over the place, people are just getting ready for the next contest…

Sadly for us, its time to leave as it takes few hours to go back to Montreal. Lit up at night, the cabins’ windows give wintery twinkling to the frozen river which seems suspended in light between white snow and dark star-flecked sky. A real Winter Wonderland! Can’t wait to return…
 À bientôt La Perade!!!
This is the address for this ”only in Quebec” location and their link:
8, rue Marcotte, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade
Québec, Canada, G0X 2J0