WHERE THE RIVER NARROWS is a loving homage to Chef Jean-Christophe (J-C) Poirier’s home province, Québec—the phrase is a direct translation of the Algonquin word “kebec,” describing the area around Québec City where the St. Lawrence River is hemmed in by towering cliffs. Québec is where J-C’s love for the nostalgic beauty of French cooking began. In his debut cookbook, he shares recipes from both cultures, Québécois and French, and the intersections between them—whether from the menu of his Michelin-starred Vancouver restaurant, St. Lawrence, or his kitchen at home.
With over 125 beautifully photographed recipes, J-C provides a full look at French and Québécois cooking with classic dishes like Tourtière, Pot-au-Feu, Tarte au Sucre, and Tarte Tatin, along with bistro favourites like Steak with Peppercorn Cream Sauce and Chocolate Mousse that your friends and family are sure to love.
For those who are devoted fans of St. Lawrence, where J-C showcases time-honoured traditions in a transportive dining experience, readers will find his signature dishes, like the famous Pâté en Croûte, Coquilles St-Jacques à la Parisienne, and Tarte au Citron Flambée au Pastis. Readers seeking reliable recipes for the basics and mother sauces of French cuisine can earmark the Chef’s Essentials chapter as their go-to resource. And to finish it off, a Menus section with suggestions for pairing dishes, selecting wine, and other tips and tricks, will help you pull off the feast of your dreams. Interspersed throughout are essays where J-C shares the full breadth of his culinary experience, his life as a chef and restaurateur, and how he cooks for his family at the end of a long day.
With his magnetic yet dry sense of humour, you’ll hear J-C’s voice as you recreate his most beloved dishes. Whether you’re an adventurous home cook or an armchair traveller, this enchanting book is just as much a pleasure to read as it is to cook from.
Venison Meat Pie
Yield: one 9-inch (23 Cm) pie, 8 portions
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1¼ hours
Tourtière is, for me, the dish that best represents Québec. It can be traced back to the 1600s, and there’s no master recipe; every family has their own twist. The style of this traditional meat pie changes from region to region as well. Originally, it was made with game birds or game meat, like rabbit, pheasant, or moose; that’s one of the reasons why I prefer it with venison instead of beef or pork. Tourtière remains a staple in Québécois households, both during Réveillon and throughout the year. It’s part of our heritage, it’s close to my heart, and it’s important for me to keep it alive. Serve the tourtière along with pickled beets, gherkins, and ketchup.
What you’ll need:
9-inch (23 cm) pie plate
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter 1 small yellow onion, finely minced
1½ tablespoons (15 g) chopped garlic
½ cup (125 g) finely chopped button mushrooms
½ cup (125 mL) red wine (plus a glass for yourself )
1.3 pounds (600 g) ground venison
2½ teaspoons (8 g) kosher salt
1 teaspoon (3 g) Tourtière Spice Mix (recipe below)
1 cup (225 g) grated potato (about 1 large)
5 ounces (150 g) back fat or pork belly, ground
1 batch Pâte Brisée (page 299)
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon (15 mL) homogenized milk (3.25% milk fat), lightly beaten for egg wash
Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C), with the rack in the centre position.
In a large pot on medium heat, melt the butter. Sauté the onion and garlic, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the red wine and drink your glass while letting it cook off completely, about 10 minutes. Add the venison, salt, and épices à tourtière, and cook for 5 minutes, stir- ring to break up the chunks of meat.
Using your hands, squeeze all the water out of the grated potato. Stir it into the pot, along with the back fat, and cook for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Remove from the heat and let cool at room temperature.
Divide the pâte brisée in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each half into a 1/16-inch thick (2 mm) circle that fits into the pie plate. Lay one circle in the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Fill it with the venison mixture. Cover with the other dough circle. Trim off the excess dough and pinch or decoratively flute the edges with your fingers to seal. Brush the top with the egg wash. Using a paring knife, poke a few holes in the top crust in a design that pleases you—you’re the artist.
Bake the tourtière for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375°F (190°C) and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.
VARIATION If you prefer to make single servings, follow our lead at the restaurant, where we make individual tourtières in the form of a dome (pithivier) and fill them with 5 ounces (160 g) of the ground venison mixture.
Tourtière Spice Mix
Yield: ABout ⅓ Cup (75 ml)
Preparation time: 2 minutes
5 teaspoons (10 g) freshly grated nutmeg
4½ teaspoons (10 g) ground cloves
4 teaspoons (30 g) freshly cracked black pepper
3½ teaspoons (10 g) ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons (7 g) ground ginger
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months; after that, the spices will start to lose their potency.
Excerpted from Where the River Narrows: Classic French & Nostalgic Québécois Recipes From St. Lawrence Restaurant by Jean-Christophe Poirier. Written with Joie Alvaro Kent. Copyright © 2022 Jean- Christophe Poirier. Cover and book design by Jennifer Griffiths. Photography by Brit Gill, except page 148. Photo on page 8 by Amy Ho. Photos on pages 2, 5, and 6 courtesy of the author. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.