Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: A taste of Christmas in Quebec

Tourtiere is the shining star for a French-Canadian Christmas Eve celebration

Not to forget the other half of our bilingual nation, I want to touch a little on the French traditions at Christmas.

Christmas Eve is a time for the réveillon when  Québécois traditionally hold a dinner and dancing party that lasts all night. People sleep during the day to be fresh and ready to feast and frolic on Christmas Eve.

For many families, the réveillon usually is the biggest feast of the year: a large banquet where traditional dishes abound, such as tourtière (a special French-Canadian meat pie), ragoût de patte (pig’s feet stew), turkey with all the trimmings, vegetables, ham, pea soup, maple syrup and so much more.

Depending on the guests and hosts, the réveillon could be held before, instead of, or after the traditional midnight mass. The feast is usually followed by dancing and  the exchange of gifts, when Père Noël (Santa Claus) makes an appearance to hand out the gifts.

It would be wonderful to experience this tradition or parts of it. Perhaps a start could be to make a traditional tourtiere for Christmas Eve dinner or to add the cake dessert below which will engage more than the taste buds.

French-Canadian Tourtiere

1 pound lean ground pork

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed

1/4 tsp. ground sage

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).  In a saucepan, combine pork, beef, onion, garlic, water, salt, thyme, sage, black pepper and cloves. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils; stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is cooked, about 5 minutes.

Spoon the meat mixture into the pie crust. Place top crust on top of pie and pinch edges to seal. Cut slits in top crust so steam can escape. Cover edges of pie with strips of aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, remove foil and return to oven. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Mieux que

le Gateau

de Sexe

10-1/4 ounces  German chocolate cake mix

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup thickened maple syrup (or use caramel or butterscotch topping)

8 ounces Cool Whip (I use real whipping cream)

1 (8 ounce) bag toffee pieces (or bits)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Make and bake cake as directed on package, in a 9 x 13 pan.  Poke top of warm cake every 1/2” with handle of wooden spoon. Drizzle sweetened condensed milk evenly over cake and let stand until milk has absorbed into cake.

Drizzle with maple (caramel or butterscotch) topping. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen cake. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until cake has chilled.

Spread Cool Whip over top of cake. Sprinkle with toffee chips.

Store cake, covered, in the refrigerator.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.