Well not moose exactly, more like deer. Venison to be specific.
Last Christmas I was back home in Toronto for the holidays. I spent a delightfully fun and delicious evening with my dear friend Elspeth and her family. Their Christmas eve tradition is to make tourtière. I never really understood the attraction to this "meat pie" having had several sad interpretations of the traditional Quebecois dish. But after tasting one life-altering bite at Pâtisserie de Gascogne in Montréal with a dollop of "ketchup", I was forevermore converted. Tourtière is magnifique! And at Elspeth's last Christmas, it was the best I've ever had.
We gathered mid-afternoon and plied with free-flowing champagne, we rolled out pastry upon pastry, while cooking up the filling with a little secret ingredient. Traditionally tourtière is made with pork or a combination of pork/veal/beef. But we were in for an amazing treat as Elspeth's husband Cam hunts, and were lucky enough to add a little venison to the filling. It was miraculous.
Wanting to recreate this magical evening, I decided to make tourtière this year for Christmas eve. I was lamenting to a friend of mine about how it will be lovely, but just not the same. No venison… boohoo. Alas, the gods smiled upon me, and Liz said "Remy hunts, we've got a pile of venison. If I give you some, will you make me a couple tourtière?" Hello? Say no to beautiful wild game? I think not…
However I wasn't quite prepared. Liz brought me some gorgeous steaks, along with two enormous hearts. Hmmm, this meat doesn't appear to be ground, what shall I do? Take it to a butcher? No such luck, very few are willing to grind up meat they don't know the origin of. So off I went to purchase an antique hand grinder from a lovely lady for 20 bucks. And it worked like a charm. Just a side note: organ meat is not traditionally used in tourtière, but I know just how rich and amazing it can be, so I was pretty excited about including it.
Cranking out four pies, making pastry, butchering, grinding and cooking fresh meat and making the ketchup turned out to be a serious labour of love. A full day affair, along with a bit of tendinitis to round out the effort. And now comes the reward. Tonight all I have to do it pop this baby in the oven, make a little salad, open a gorgeous Châteauneuf-du-Pape I picked out for the occasion, et voilà, dinner is served. Phew.
But before we dig in this evening I will give thanks, not only to Liz for kindly donating this beautiful meat, but for the animals themselves. When I held their hearts in my hands, it was an emotional moment. I needed to take pause to honour these majestic beasts. Holding another creature's heart in your hands reminds you how fragile life is. And how lucky we can be along the way. These animals are generously nourishing us now, and my gratitude is immense.
So on this Christmas eve, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a New Year ahead filled with joy, love, surprises and never-ending gratitude. Bon appétit!