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A Taste of Quebec (January 27, 2003)

 
 
 

We are completely convinced that you cannot eat a bad meal in Quebec. Oh sure, poutine is a bit suspect... but that's only one dish in thousands of other happy choices. It's always been this way; historically, while the rest of Canada mumped along for years on pretty ordinary fare, Quebeckers were munching marvellous French cuisine, and three or more times a day, yet.

The rest of Canada finally caught on, and here and there across the country you can often eat spectacularly well, but what is still a bit unusual elsewhere tends to be the norm in Quebec. It's the French heritage, of course, and the infrastructure with small producers providing remarkable foods and ingredients and glorious regional specialties such as hand-made cheeses, beautiful baby vegetables and fat, fresh foie gras.

You would therefore expect the Food Editor of The Gazette of Montreal to be an expert on Quebec cuisine, and indeed Julian Armstrong is certainly that and more. She's written a wonderful cookbook, A Taste of Quebec, and starts her introduction with a perfect description of the passion the Québecois have about their food. It seems some years ago word went out across Quebec that some of its finest cheeses might be subject to a health safety ban and the delectable soft-ripened, raw-milk cheeses would not be allowed to be served in restaurants or even sold to the public. Armstrong stated that she couldn't go into a cheese shop without being asked to sign a petition protesting federal government interference with Quebec's right to enjoy fine food!

Government microbiologists found that such cheese could, if incorrectly aged, cause illness. Well, so what, screamed the public, for this was Quebec and food lovers simply weren't interested in such nonsense. Gastronomic peace was restored only after scientists were persuaded to re-examine the topic and back off!

A Taste of Quebec is a delightful tour of La Belle Province with great recipes and tips, plus restaurant listings and places to stay. Armstrong covers the very readable culinary history of Quebec from the beginnings to today. Maybe you're not visiting this winter, but A Taste of Quebec will have you booking as soon as the snows melt! Merci, Julian!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (78 KB)


 

Duck Foie Gras with Laurentian Honey Wine Sauce

You know how much we love foie gras, and couldn't wait to try this version. It was created by Chef Anne Desjardins of the celebrated restaurant L'Eau à la Bouche in Sainte-Adèle. Chef obtains her duck foie gras from des Becs-Fins in Saint Canut and her honey products from InterMiel in Saint-Penoit. The two flavours complement each other, she believes. We agree!

Serves 6

  • 1 tsp (5 mL) each:
    • black peppercorns
    • pink peppercorns
    • allspice
    • cardamom
    • star anise
  • ¼ cup honey wine or mead (60 mL)
  • ¼ cup honey vinegar or white wine vinegar (60 mL)
  • ½ cup liquid honey (125 mL)
  • 10 ounces cooked, fresh duck foie gras* (300 g)
  • 3 to 4 cups baby salad greens (750 mL to 1 L)
  • Freshly ground pepper

Using a mortar and pestle or pepper grinder, crush black and pink peppercorns, allspice, cardamom and star anise. Remove ½ tsp (2 mL) of the mixed spices and reserve. In a small stainless steel saucepan, bring honey wine and vinegar to a boil. Remove from heat and add larger amount of ground spice mixture. Let stand at least 10 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve and set liquid aside. In the saucepan, bring honey to a boil over medium heat and cook until caramel coloured. Remove from heat and stir in strained honey wine mixture and remaining ½ tsp (2 mL) ground spices.

Arrange 2 slices (about 2 ounces/50 grams) of foie gras on each of 6 serving plates. Surround with salad greens and drizzle with spiced honey syrup. Season with pepper and serve.

*Ready-made terrine of foie gras may be substituted. One reliable brand is made by the Quebec company Élevages du Périgord. It's sold in jars holding 125 grams (4 ounces), 190 grams (6.7 ounces) and 450 grams (1 pound). Warm jar just slightly in a pan of warm water and terrine will slip out easily.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
A sweet medium-bodied white wine – Sauternes, Barsac or a Select Late Harvest Vidal from Ontario.


 

Aumonières de Homard aux Pistaches et Poivres Verts

Foie gras, followed by lobster? Of course you may, they certainly do in Quebec! Chef François Létourneau of Hôtel La Normandie in Percé considers this recipe created by his sous-chef, Sylvain Leclerc, the hotel's signature dish. The lobster meat is flavoured with a mushroom sauce, enclosed in a small monk's bag of phyllo pastry, baked and served with a red wine and pistachio sauce.

Now how do you say "bliss" in French?

Serves 4

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted (125 mL)
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly (500 g)
  • 12 sheets phyllo pastry
  • 12 bottled green peppercorns, drained, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp pistachios (15 mL)
  • 4 lobsters, cooked, shelled, meat cut into small cubes (1¼ lbs./625 g each)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Red Butter Sauce with Pistachios (recipe follows)

In a large, heavy frying pan, cook shallots and mushrooms in 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of the butter over medium-high heat, stirring, until mushrooms just start to release their liquid and begin to brown. Place in a strainer set over a bowl to remove excess moisture.

Place one sheet of phyllo pastry on a work surface. Brush lightly with butter. Top with two more sheets, brushing each sheet with butter. Place ¼ mushroom mixture in center and sprinkle with 3 pistachios. Top with ¼ lobster meat and season with salt and pepper. Draw up the corners of the pastry squares over the filling and twist together to close the bundle of pastry firmly. Repeat, making 3 more pastry bundles the same way. Place bundles on a buttered baking sheet. To bake, preheat oven to 300°F (150°C) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until pastry is golden. Pour sauce onto 4 warmed plates, add pastry bundles and serve at once.

Red Butter Sauce with Pistachios

  • 1½ cups red wine (375 mL)
  • 1/3 cup fish stock (75 mL)
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1½ cups whipping cream (375 mL)
  • 10 bottled green peppercorns, rinsed, drained, and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp pistachios (15 mL)
  • ½ cup chilled butter, cut into small cubes (125 mL)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice or to taste (5 mL)

In a medium stainless steel saucepan, combine red wine, fish stock and shallots. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until sauce is reduced to about ¼ cup (60 mL). Add cream, green peppercorns, and pistachios; bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Using a hand blender at medium speed, blend in butter, one piece at a time, until smooth. Season to taste with lemon juice. Strain sauce through a fine sieve into top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering water until ready to serve.

Tip: When pastry bundles of lobster are ready to bake, they may be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before baking. Sauce may also be made up to 4 hours ahead, refrigerated covered, then gently reheated.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
Even though the sauce is made with red wine, I would go with a full-bodied dry white wine – California Chardonnay or a white Burgundy of quality. A full-bodied champagne would also be a treat (Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot).


 

Soupe au Melon

This is a lovely soup to finish off any sinfully delicious, rich meal. Cantaloupes are available year-round these days; give yourself time to let them ripen to perfection. Chef Anne Desjardins contributed her Soupe au Melon recipe to A Taste of Quebec. And merci to you too, Anne!

Serves 4

Strawberry jelly

  • 1½ tsp unflavoured gelatin (7 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp cold water (30 mL)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) fresh strawberries, or 1 package (300 g) unsweetened
  • 3 Tbsp unpasteurized wild flower honey (45 mL)
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh gingerroot (2 mL)

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand to dissolve. In a blender, purée strawberries, honey and ginger. Pour into a medium saucepan and heat to the boiling point. Remove from heat. Stir into gelatin mixture until smooth. Rinse a shallow pan with cold water, then pour in strawberry mixture. Refrigerate until firm.

Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe melon, peeled, cubed
  • 1 cup honey wine (mead) or semi-sweet white wine (250 mL)
  • 1 tsp grated fresh gingerroot (5 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp wild flower honey (30 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (15 mL)

In a blender or food processor, puree melon, honey wine, ginger, honey and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

Trimming

  • 4 fresh strawberries, citronella, mint leaves

To serve, chill 4 serving bowls. Cut strawberry jelly into 1½- inch (4 cm) squares and place in bowls. Pour in cantaloupe mixture. Decorate bowls with strawberries and mint leaves.

Tip: Strawberry jelly may be made the day before, covered and refrigerated. Soup may be prepared up to five hours in advance and refrigerated.


 

We wish to thank Wiley Publishers and Macmillan Canada for permission to publish material and photographs from A Taste of Quebec by Julian Armstrong. ©Julian Armstrong 2001.

Photographs: Duck Foie Gras with Honey Wine Sauce by Tedd Church/The Gazette; Lobster in Pastry Pouches by François Létourneau/The Gazette; Melon Soup by Guillaume Pouliot/L'Eau à la Bouche.

 

Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (78 KB)

 

 

 

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