Category Archives: veal

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.

Cuban Ropa Veija: Shredded Veal or Beef Recipe

One of the interesting ways to give your braised veal (beef) leftovers a new life is to turn it into another great dish, Ropa Vieja. It is a traditional Cuban beef stew, which look resembles a pile of old clothes (hence, the name Ropa Vieja). The initial version of ropa vieja contained leftovers of meat and originated from Canary Islands, Spain, like many other Caribbean dishes at the times of colonialization.

The legend goes: there was once an old man who was so poor he could not buy enough food to make a family dinner, so he decided to collect the old clothes (ropa vieja), fill them with his love and cook. When he cooked the clothes, his love has turned them into a wonderful stew.

During one of our trips to Cuba, we decided to try the authentic dish in one of the picturesque colonial houses of the old town of San Juan de losRemedios. It was so tasty, I had to take notes of the recipe from the chef (see the end of this post), however this twist on the leftovers of the braised veal shoulder blade will give you an idea why is it worth trying.
Not only the dish is savory and memorable, it’s a great way to feed a big party on a budget. This traditional Cuban dish will be especially tasty if you allow the seasonings to blend for a day after making. Plus, it is a very economical way to approach your protein consumption: you get just enough of it with the meal without adding any extra to your belly fat (sorry, I have been following the course on Nutrition and Prevention of Diseases lately, so I have a re-current nightmare of visceral fat slapping my face). The following are steps on how to turn your meat leftovers into Ropa Vieja. Shred the cooked meat with two forks; sautee one chopped green pepper, with onions and garlic; add the meat, tomato coulis, wine, dash of cumin and freshly ground pepper. 
Just simmer on the low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring often and serve with rice and black beans. 
I will definitely return to our adventures in Cuba in some other post, but, for now, here is the recipe from chef Lupe, who served us an unforgettable Ropa Vieja in Remedios.
2 ½ lbs flank or swiss steak, cut in strips
5 tablespoons cooking oil (olive or other)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 cups tomato sauce (or coulis)
1 cup water
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat 3 tablespoon of oil in the Dutch oven on medium and brown the meat on all sides. Remove the meat and put aside. Add the remaining oil, stir in onion, garlic and green pepper and cook until translucent. Return the meat to the Dutch oven, add tomato sauce, water, wine, cumin, pepper and salt. Bring to boil and simmer on a slow heat until meat is tender and shreds easily, for about 2 1/2 hours. Serve with rice and black beans, or in tortillas. Add some sour cream, cheese and fresh cilantro on the side.

Milk-Fed Veal Canapés

Here is what you can do with the cold veal blade roast you made yesterday: an intricate appetizer. The veal is tender and accentuated; you can pair it with multiple toppings, and, there are lot of things you can do with the leftovers of this roast and its braising sauce. Enjoy it as a meal on its own (like we did during our recent fishing trip) or as an hors d’oeuvre for your next cocktail party with white, rosé or any of your favorite aperitifs. This recipe yields up to 40 canapés(of course you can make less and keep the rest of the roast for your next recipe) and the execution is super-easy.)
Once the veal blade roast (please see the previous post) is cooked, cool it uncovered for one hour. Discard bones, refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated for one day. When ready to make the veal appetizers, slice the veal and prepare your own assortment of toppings to add a touch of style and taste to your canapés. Or just layer: raclette or camembert cheese, dash of pesto, onion confit and/or porcini from the roast. Enjoy!

Cheeses like camembert and raclette make a good pick for these canapés, but fresh white stilton with apricots can add an interesting twist, especially with some Dijon. If you decide to use bruschetta in your appetizers, drain it well to ensure the base of canapés will not get soggy. The Stoneleigh sauvignon blanc, Marlborough from New Zealand (or similar) pairs really well with seafood, sushi and fish, but in this case it brings the best out of the cold veal mixed with some tangy dashes!

And, if you have any roast leftover (which you probably will in the form of meat fibers, and an awesome braising sauce), use it for some delicious pulled veal sandwiches, or even better, make something that will instantly transport you away from cold to the Caribbean! Stay tuned for our next post where we will use our veal roast leftovers in a very special traditional way.
– milk-fed veal (or beef)
shoulder blade roast carved into thin slices
– canapés bases of your choice: croutons, crackers, pastry shells, mini-pitas, sliced bread
– camembert, or raclette, or white stilton or other cheese of your choice
– pesto
– onion/porcini confit from the roast braising sauce (optional)
fresh parsley or basil leaves
Assembling the canapés:
Select your preferred base from crackers, croutons, small puff-pastry shells, mini-pitas, etc.
Remove the veal shoulder blade roast from the fridge: scrape off and discard fat from the surface. Take the veal from out of the braising liquid, scraping any sauce back into pot (keep it for the next dish along with any leftovers). Pat dry the meat with a paper towel and slice it thinly against the grain.
Spread out the bases and begin to assemble the canapés in the following order:
– cracker, raclette or camembert cheese, dash of pesto, veal roast, onion confit with or without porcini (see the image). Decorate with parsley. Once all canapés have been assembled, cover and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Bon Appétit!
Adapted from Milk Fed Veal Quebec Canapés.

Veal Shoulder Blade Roast with Porcini

One of the specialties we brought from the Miboulay farm, was the veal shoulder blade, so I started looking  for the recipe. Unable to find any that would please me to 100%, I decided to apply the one I have been using for the beef shoulder blade for years. This one never fails to surprise. Its festive and decadent, and you can cook the roast up to two days in advance and then just put it back in the oven to heat. 

This roast is definitely a part of the cooking tradition known as la cuisine ”grand-mère” (grandmother’s cooking) for its simple ingredients and long cooking to ensure tender and flavorful meat. Today I am featuring it with polenta (the recipe will follow) turning it Italian way. However, mashed/new potatoes, cauliflower or just sautéed greens make excellent side dishes to this roast as well.

You can use a boneless chuck roast bringing the recipe very close to the first part of an Italian staple of ”vitello tonnato”, which I will surely post one day. But that is for the summer. In minus 25 degrees C we want this roast hot and steamy. I prefer the shoulder blade for the bones and that collagen that makes the cooked meat so much tastier. During the slow cooking process it melts and turns into gelatine, the umami factor of the dish. The bones give lots of gelatine too as well as a strong meaty taste to the broth.

Browning the roast before you braise it is important to seal the juices in the meat and thus add more flavor to the dish. Even though that means another dirty pan the difference in taste is well worth the cleanup. The slow cooking part should not discourage you from making this dish, as the steps are easy and ingredients are no-brainer for even a beginner cook. Not only you will enjoy it, but will have plenty of time to make a great side course or salad and do many other little chores while your place will be filled with the divine smell of roasting veal and porcini.

When served hot with polenta, this veal roast pairs beautifully with a glass of Blaye (Côtes de Bordeaux), such as reasonably priced 2009 Château des Tourtes Rouge.


1 handful of dried porcini
2 cups of boiled water (to soak porcini)
1 milk-fed veal (or beef) shoulder blade (1.5 to 4 lbs)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 table spoon olive oil
1 garlic bulb sliced in half
2 yellow onions thinly sliced
1 bouquet garni (parsley (6), bay leaf (1) and thyme (3) tied with kitchen twine)
1 cup dry white wine (or  1 cup apple cider vinegar mixed with water 50/50)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Boil 2 cups of water and soak the dried porcini in it for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, rub the milk-fed veal roast with the salt and pepper.
In a Dutch oven (or heavy pan) warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the roast and sear on both sides turning once for about 6 minutes in total. Add the garlic bulb to the pan roasting pan for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the roast and garlic bulb to a platter.
Add the onions to the pot and cook stirring for 1 minute. Gradually pour in the wine and deglaze the pot scraping the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the strained soaking liquid from porcini and bouquet garni, return meat and garlic to the pot and scatter reconstituted porcini over the roast. Cover with aluminum foil and lid and put in the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 325°Fafter first 30 minutes of cooking. Cook for about 3 hours in total or until the meat is tender.
Let the veal roast stand for 10 minutes, then discard bones, garlic and bouquet garni and carve crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Serve hot with pasta or polenta, top with porcini and spoon with the braising sauce.
OR , cool down the roast and keep it in the fridge until next day to assemble the cold veal canapés as an appetizer and to use the leftovers for yet another dish (see the next post).

In the Mood for Italian Wedding Soup

Last night we watched Woody Allen’s delightful new movie “To Rome With Love” and, somehow it put me in the mood for “Minestra Maritata”, an Italian Wedding Soup. No, the movie does not feature any particular Italian recipe or food and, no, I am not always thinking about food when I watch movies. Well, once in a while maybe. Perhaps it was a combination of a cold November night, the burst of “Volare!”(“Oh!Oh!”) and one of the short stories featuring a young couple on their honeymoon all of which prompted me to cook some Italian comfort food next day. Whatever it was, I woke up this morning determined to cook this dish for supper.

For years I have been cooking different variations of this soup (which I used to call “Soup With Meatballs”) using my grandma`s notes without actually knowing it was “Minestra Maritata”. Until a trip to an Italian wedding has opened my eyes to the official name of this soup, which translates to “married soup” so many assume this is a traditional Italian dish for weddings. In reality, the name of this soup stems from an excellent marriage of its ingredients: a mixture of meat, heavy broth, green vegetables, and pasta. This soup is hearty and filling and with this added protein it becomes a complete and balanced one-course meal.

This is my personal twist on a classic dish, which takes around 45 minutes to cook, however, you can speed it up to 30-minutes simple “student version”, when you poach meatballs and pasta directly in the boiling stock, then add spinach (or kale, swiss chard or arugula) skipping other steps or ingredients. I prefer baking the meatballs rather than poaching them because it gives additional layer of flavour to the soup even if it takes more time to prepare. Also, the wine/apple cider vinegar part is essential as it gives this soup a very special flavour.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground veal (or chicken, or turkey, or sausage meat without casings)
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder (or two minced garlic cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk (or water)
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

For the soup

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup minced yellow onion
    • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots)
    • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
    • 10 cups homemade chicken stock (or commercial)
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or 3 table spoons of apple cider vinegar)
    • 1 cup small pasta such as orzo or stars
    • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed, trimmed and chopped (or 1 small pack of frozen spinach wilted)
    • pinch of chilli flakes, oregano and thyme (to your taste)


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    For the meatballs, mix the ground veal, bread crumbs, garlic & onion powder, parsley, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
    In the meantime, heat the olive oil over low heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine (or apple cider vinegar) and bring to a boil. Add meatballs and pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted.
    Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with Parmesan if desired.

    Buon Appetito!