My native province of Quebec has long been known for its gastronomy which was prized by Canadians if for no other reason than the food in the neighboring provinces was so… pedestrian, to put it kindly. Chock that up to having the French do the cooking in Quebec while leaving it up to the English in the other provinces. Ontario, right next to Quebec, was held in particular disdain. Food in Toronto was considered virtually inedible by any reasonable Quebecois. This was sometimes tied to Ontario’s Blue laws which outlawed Sunday drinking. When those draconian rules were finally overturned it was only on condition that alcohol could only be consumed along with a meal of some type. This drew great guffaws from Quebecers who could not imagine any amount of alcohol improving Ontario’s gastronomic foibles.
Time and immigration have changed all that. Today coast to coast in Canada you can find great food of every ethnic imagination. And from Halifax to Vancouver Island, Canada is now a wonderful place to eat. And yet, the allure of Quebec cuisine is still well known and well-loved and as good a reason to visit the province as the skiing, the scenery and a certain joie de vivre that is distinctly Quebec’s.
When it comes right down to it, Quebec cuisine, both at home and in restaurants, is hearty fare, a match for the provinces’ extraordinary winters. These snow-filled, freezing cold months go on for what seems like forever. I distinctly remember one of my childhood birthdays where the drifts had yet to completely melt on our front lawn. It was May 22nd. There’s a certain peasant quality to the food. Quebecers immigrated long before Escoffier took his first breath. From Normandy and Brittany, their food was robust and a great help in getting one through the winter.
Montreal cuisine made a notable impression on New Yorkers when a chef named Hugues Dufour manned the stove at M. Wells, a restaurant cum diner in then out-of-the-way Long Island City. Long Island City was then best known for being on the way the airports and little else, but astonishingly, the place flourished. I was driven there because M. Wells served “Poutine”, another distinctly Quebecois dish consisting of Frites, Cheese Curds and Gravy. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. In Montreal there’s a virtual community dedicated to nothing but Poutine. And at one of Montreal’s most celebrated restaurants “Au Pied du Cochon”, Andrew and I sampled a version that was not only topped with curds and gravy but with no less than foie gras.
I have no idea whether Chef Dufour’s meatloaf owes anything to Au Pied du Cochon but the meatloaf served at M. Wells had a stroganoff gravy that was poured over his mushroom and onion and foie gras-laden meatloaf. Today’s recipe is from Sam Sifton who is a huge contributor to the New York Times Cooking Session. His daily “What to Cook…this week…this weekend” are well worth signing up for. I followed Mr. Sifton’s recipe up to a point—specifically up to the point where he cooked his meatloaf for 60 minutes which far exceeded the time I needed for a juicy meatloaf. I would recommend 40 – 45 minutes. I also decided to cube Chicken Liver Mousse–but you can happily substitute the far-more-expensive Foie Gras mousse– scattering it over the meatloaf before pouring on the gravy. I kept the mousse in the refrigerator until the last minute so that it would be easy to slice. The dish was truly delicious, rich, creamy, and the stroganoff gravy really kicked it up a notch. It put it right into the category of a dinner party dish where everyone would leave saying ‘they served meatloaf and it was delicious’ with a slight incredulity in their voices. What they missed was how very good it was cold and perfect for making sandwiches the next day. Here is the recipe adapted from Sam Sifton.
Montreal Meatloaf Stroganoff
A marvellously rich take on Meatloaf with a wonderfully creamy sauce studded with Chicken Liver or Foie Gras Mousse.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1 pound cultivated mushrooms, like button or cremini, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef, the higher the quality the better
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ cups sour cream
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces chicken-liver mousse
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- Step 1 Heat oven to 350. Melt the butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, and when it foams, add the onion and mushrooms. Stir to coat the vegetables with fat, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have started to brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer half the mushroom mixture to a large bowl, and set the skillet aside.
- Step 2 Make the meatloaf: Mix the panko into the mushroom mixture in the bowl, then add the meat, and mix again, making sure not to overhandle the meat. Add the egg and mix again.
- Step 3 Transfer to a sheet pan and shape the mixture into a rectangle. Bake until firm and nicely browned, approximately 40 to 45 minutes
- Step 4 Meanwhile, make the gravy: Return the skillet with the remaining mushroom mixture to the stove, and heat over a medium flame. When the mixture is hot and glistening, stir in the tomato paste and paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato paste just begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir in the stock and Worcestershire and cook until it begins to simmer.
- Step 5 Put the sour cream into a medium bowl and add to it 1/4 cup of the hot liquid from the mushroom mixture in the skillet. Stir until combined and warmed. Stir the tempered sour cream and the heavy cream into the mushroom mixture, then heat until warmed, about 5 minutes. Taste, and add salt if needed.
- Step 6 When the meatloaf is done, remove it from the oven, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice the meatloaf into ½” slices. Cube the Chicken liver mousse into 3/8 inch dice and scatter it over the individual slices of meatloaf. Pour the Stroganoff mixture over the meatloaf and shower it with parsley. Serve immediately, perhaps with buttered egg noodles.