Meditations

A Québécoise Cochon Feast


I recently asked Mark to recommend a cookbook and without hesitation, he gave me the name of Martin Picard’s Au Pied de Cochon – The Album. When I poured over it with as much enthusiasm as he hit me with, it seemed only right for us to cook something from it together.

Tourtière is a traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Quebec and a somewhat simple recipe, so it seemed like a good place to start. Then we proceeded to fancy it up with chicken hearts and duck gizzard and, in the spirit of the Au Pied de Cochon restaurant, fat slices of foie gras added to the ground pork, pork shank and pig’s feet that the recipe called for.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I even got to Mark’s, he had had the shank and trotters simmering away on the stove for a couple of hours. We then proceeded to take the pot off the stove and over to our host kitchen, Ben and Andrea’s, where Andrea had kindly prepped the pie dough ahead of time.

We cooked the pork for a while longer and when it was tender enough, shredded and chopped it and put it on the stove to simmer with the chopped chicken hearts and duck gizzard, onion, garlic, and mushrooms. The gravy also went back on the stove to be added to the tourtière later and when all the pig parts were off the cutting board, the Menora was lit for the last day of Hanukkah.

Because Au Pied du Cochon is known for their use of foie gras, there needed to be some in the meal somewhere (in addition to the tin that was already put out with the cheese plate) and Mark made sure we had plenty by bringing an entire, enormous foie. We laid thick slices on each pie and Andrea tucked them in with pie dough and put them in the oven. 

It’s hard to concentrate on vegetables while the smell of meat is permeating the kitchen, but while the pies were in the oven we cooked up some creamed peas and mashed rutabaga and put out some traditional accompaniments; pickled beets and corn relish. Mark had mentioned to a French Canadian friend earlier in the day that we were going to be making tourtière and she provided the tip that made the meal; hot ketchup, so he cooked that up as well, with some salt and pepper and a little bit of brandy.

The two tourtières were colossal and with all the colours on the plate, the final product looked like a resplendent Thanksgiving feast with pork as the shining star instead of turkey. The crust was perfectly golden and the slabs of foie had melted down into the meat for an incomparable richness. It was delicious. We all sat back completely sated.

Then we got up to make dessert. I’m not sure how there was even room for dessert after gorging ourselves on all that tourtière, but on the DVD that comes with the cookbook, there is a traditional sugaring day dessert that’s made in sugar shacks after the maple syrup collection and we wanted to try it. Basically, it involves boiling maple syrup (slowly so it doesn’t boil over!) and soaking white bread in it, then putting the bread outside in the snow to cool. This preserves the bread in sugar and apparently it can be eaten up to a year later. Ours lasted only long enough to get the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer and then we served it with more of the caramelized maple syrup. Delicious.

I can’t wait to try the next recipe…maybe the Stuffed Pied de Cochon with Foie Gras.

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