Guest Ashlyn Macnamara: Ragoût de boulettes (Meatball stew)

Today, I’m pleased to welcome guest chicklet, Ashlyn Macnmara! Ash, as she’s known by her friends, is here to share a lovely holiday recipe and shares a little French-Canadian Christmas tradition. But…let me get out of the way so Ash can tell you all about it! Take away Ash!

As a child growing up in the eastern US, one of my favorite holiday moments was Christmas morning, when I could rise early—often before the sun—and rip into my presents. So the first Christmas I spent with my French Canadian husband’s family came as quite a shock to me. You see, they didn’t open their presents until after Christmas dinner. Now, I was an adult by then, and I’d learned some patience, but still…

What about the children? How can anyone possibly expect them to wait all day to open their presents? I mean, they’re just there, under the tree, in all that pretty packaging with bright shiny bows, saying, “Open me, open me, open me.” It’s cruel and unusual, I tell you!

Not only did they have to wait until after Christmas dinner, dinner was served late and it took a long time to get through all that food. Bottles of wine had to be finished. Often uncles and aunts who lived nearby would stop in for dessert.

And oh, the dessert. At my mother-in-law’s house, you could gauge the importance of a meal by how may desserts she served. At Christmas you could count on at least five: always the classic Yule log, a fruit salad, some kind of pie or other, a selection of home-made cookies on a fancy plate, her home-made fudge and sucre à la crème on another fancy plate. And that wasn’t counting the inevitable box of chocolates she’d break out at some point during the evening, usually after presents and just before everyone settled in with their favorite drink to play cards until 4 or 5 AM.

This bounty was brought out after we were all groaning from the main courses, mind you. Usually always turkey, but in Quebecois households, Christmas dinner never stops with the turkey. It’s usually one of two main courses. Depending on your household, that second course is either tourtière or ragoût de boulettes.

At my mother-in-law’s, we had tourtière. This is a savory meat pie. Recipes vary by family. It’s one of those things were everyone has their own variation, which, naturally, is better than everyone else’s. Some make it with a combination of ground pork and veal. Others swear by pork alone. And don’t try to argue about whether a proper tourtière contains potatoes or not—a fight might break out. In some regions, the tourtière recipe gets so elaborate, it’s made with layers of meat, including hare or partridge or whatever other game you might have on hand.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you my mother-in-law’s recipe for tourtière. She guards it jealously.

Ragoût de boulettes is a meatball stew. This isn’t fancy eating by any means, but it’s darned good, so people eat it at Christmas anyway. Made of ground pork, the meatballs are spiced with cinnamon and cloves and simmered in gravy. Nice, hearty fare to face the Canadian winter.

I actually made this the other night (minus the turkey and all the trimmings) for a regular supper.

Ragoût de Boulettes (Meatball stew)

This makes a lot, so you’re sure to have leftovers.

2 lbs ground pork
1 C finely chopped onion
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 C plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 C chicken broth
½ C flour
¾ C cold water

Mix pork together with onion, seasonings eggs and breadcrumbs. Form into about 30 meatballs. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and brown the meatballs. You might have to do this in batches. When brown, add the broth and simmer for 30 minutes (or more—the point is to cook the meatballs through, but I don’t think it hurts them to simmer longer if you want). Pour the flour into a skillet (just flour, nothing else) and heat over medium, stirring frequently until the flour is a nice caramel color. This is farine grille and it’s used often in Quebec cuisine as a thickener. Place with the cold water in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well mixed. Pour slowly into simmering stew, stirring constantly, until the gravy thickens. Simmer about 10 minutes more, and you’re done.

Ragoût de Boulettes (Meatball stew)
Recipe Type: Traditional
Cuisine: Main Dish
Author: Ashlyn Macnamara | Chicklets in the Kitchen
This makes a lot, so you’re sure to have leftovers.
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 C finely chopped onion
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 C plain bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 C chicken broth
  • ½ C flour
  • ¾ C cold water
Instructions
  1. Mix pork together with onion, seasonings eggs and breadcrumbs. Form into about 30 meatballs.
  2. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and brown the meatballs. You might have to do this in batches.
  3. When brown, add the broth and simmer for 30 minutes (or more—the point is to cook the meatballs through, but I don’t think it hurts them to simmer longer if you want).
  4. Pour the flour into a skillet (just flour, nothing else) and heat over medium, stirring frequently until the flour is a nice caramel color. This is farine grille and it’s used often in Quebec cuisine as a thickener.
  5. Place with the cold water in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well mixed. Pour slowly into simmering stew, stirring constantly, until the gravy thickens.
  6. Simmer about 10 minutes more, and you’re done.

 

Sucre à la crème is very similar to fudge without the chocolate. When I explained what it was to my very American mom, she said it sounds like something her mother made called brown sugar fudge. Done right, it has a very smooth, creamy texture, but it’s definitely for people who have a sweet tooth.

Sucre à la Crème

1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar, packed
2/3 C light cream (10% fat, or coffee cream)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a small pan with a thick bottom, mix the sugar, brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Boil without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 236°F. Remove from heat. Add  butter and vanilla without stirring and let cool until the candy thermometer reads 110°F (about 45 mins).

Using a hand mixer, beat for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken and lost its shine. Don’t skimp on this step. It’s the key to your candy’s smooth, creamy texture. At this point, you can add chopped nuts if you like, but I’ve mostly had this candy without nuts. Spread mixture into a buttered 8 X 4-inch bread pan. Using the point of a knife, trace the outlines to make 32 squares. Refrigerate for an hour or until firm. Cut into squares using a sharp knife.

Yum! It’ll keep for about 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature (if it lasts that long) or 2 weeks in the fridge (yeah, like it won’t be gone way before then) or 2 months in the freezer (as long as you forget it’s there).

P.S. By the time my husband and I got around to having kids, we let ours open their presents from us on Christmas morning. And then when they got to grandmaman’s, she let them open theirs early. Not so cruel and unusual, after all.

Joyeux Noël! What are some of the Christmas traditions in your household?

 

Ashlyn Macnamara writes Regency romances with a dash of wit and a hint of wicked. Despite her insistence on looking toward the past, she can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Her debut A Most Scandalous Proposal will be available at your favorite bookstore February 26, 2013.
Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Guest Ashlyn Macnamara: Ragoût de boulettes (Meatball stew)

  1. Ooh, I want some Ragoût de boulettes even though I have no idea how to pronounce it! And I love that you compromised on when to open the Christmas presents. In my household growing up, we pretended to be asleep when Santa came and rushed down and opened them on Christmas Eve around 8 or 9pm. Talk about impatient!

    • It’s “rah-GOO de boo-LET” more or less, and it’s yummy winter comfort food, and easy to make, at that.

      By the time I was 12 or so, I lobbied my parents to let us open presents on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t wait, either!

  2. Ash,

    What a great story. In our house, we open one present each on Christmas Eve. (After we’ve spent the entire day baking cookies and desserts.)

    Christmas morning, the boys rush to wake us. With hot chocolate and coffee (for DH) on hand, the kids start opening their gifts.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe and holiday tradition with us!

  3. Ashlyn,

    I love the recipes. DH will be back down here in another week and it’s cool enough to try both of them (I’ll find one for the tourtière). My husband’s family opened all their presents on Christmas Eve, then Santa brought the presents for the children to be opened on Christmas Day. We went to church on Christmas Eve and opened presents on Christmas Day. I tried it his way once and was so distraught on Christmas Day I cried and never did it again. So we open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas Day. The rule for children is they are allowed to have their stockings before Mom and Dad get up, but no other presents are opened until Mom has her tea.

    • That sounds like a great compromise. You never stop and think about differing traditions, but families blend and then have to blend their ways of doing things. I hope you find a good recipe. I love tourtière, but I’m not big on making pie crust, so I don’t make it myself.

    • Mmmm, I love me some Chinese food. I assume you mean the candy recipe here, but you never know. My brother was married to a Jewish lady for a while. We realized she wasn’t exactly strict in her observance the first time she invited us to dinner and served ham. And she used to bring shrimp cocktail at Christmas.

      • *laugh* I meant the meatballs. I don’t keep kosher either. 🙂 Though I was thinking about using ground beef instead of pork. but that might taste weird with the cinnamon.

      • If you’ve got no moral objections to veal, it might be good with ground veal–or ground turkey. I do make a spaghetti sauce with ground beef that has both cinnamon and cloves in it. It comes from my MIL, but she got it from a Syrian lady. I think the spices give it a middle-eastern flavor.

  4. Yum! I’m copying all these recipes. My grandmother used to make sucre a la creme, so I’ve got fond memories of gorging myself with it during the holidays. My in-laws have a Christmas Eve celebration that sounds very similar to the Quebecois. We have a big meal then desserts before presents are opened and the board games come out. The kids begin herding the adults away from the food and desserts, all worried that we’ll join my father-in-law in his after dinner nap and make them wait even longer to open their gifts 😉

    Thanks for sharing your traditions.

    • My in-laws have never done this in the time I’ve been part of the family, but traditionally, you’re supposed to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, come home and have a Réveillon, which is pretty much a buffet. Maybe that’s why they opened their Christmas presents so late. They were just getting out of bed around supper time.

  5. I’m for trying both savory recipes! It’s below zero here in Budapest so any warm comfort food sounds great. We used to get to open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning. Then when I married my German husband we went German – Christmas presents opened on Christmas Eve. As for the Eve dinner, that was a bit of a disappointment. German sausages, bread and big bowls of fresh horseradish. Yup. That was it, for the savory. I don’t even rememeber what we had Christmas day I was so disappointed. In Hungary, There is lots of food, starting with a traditional fish soup that is delicious.

  6. Hi, Ash! Both those recipes look delicious.

    When I was growing up, we opened presents first thing Christmas morning. The rule was, my brother and I could go through our stockings (quietly) to see what Santa brought. Then, when our parents got up, we opened presents while we drank Hot Dr Pepper.

    On Christmas Eve, we had a light dinner (cold cuts, summer sausage, cheeseball and crackers). Christmas morning breakfast usually involved coffee cake/cinnamon rolls and, of course, my mom’s butter cookies. The big meal included turkey (or ham, depending on the year), green bean casserole, brown n serve rolls and red velvet cake with mock whipped cream icing.

  7. Pingback: Ashlyn Macnamara » Holiday Must-Haves

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s