As you all know (I think?) I am a proud Québécoise and, as most people from my amazing province, one of my favorite days of the year is coming up: la fête de la St-Jean-Baptiste (Quebec National Day) on June 24!! When I was growing up, this day meant a giant bonfire in my hometown, awesome fireworks, gigantic flags everywhere (even people making clothes and capes out of them, which was SO awesome as a kid!), lots of Quebec music, and (let’s be honest) drunk happy people all around. Once I got older, I got the chance to go to the big shows in Montreal and Quebec City and that just rocked my world. All my favorite artists, playing songs that everyone knew, to a sea of Fleurdelisés (our flag).
When I moved to Virginia, it definitely became one of the saddest days of the year to be away from home. But a few years ago, my husband and I started hosting Quebec National Day get-togethers. It obviously isn’t like being home but it’s a good chance for me to share our traditional dishes, listen to *my* music all day, and decorate the house with blue and white. Although this year’s event won’t be quite as big (I only realized last weekend that it was coming up!), I will still be making tons of food as it is my yearly excuse to pig out on dishes I love but that are not healthy, in any possible way. Unfortunately, I won’t have quite as much maple syrup as usual so I needed to improvise and try out a new dishes that I’ve never made but that I know, are part of the Quebec culinary culture.
I started cooking on Thursday for Sunday’s event. So far, I’ve made my grandma’s carrés aux dattes (date squares) and 2 delicious looking tartes au sucre (sugar pies). So I figured I should share some of my culture with you all and give you the recipes for two of my favorites (among many many others) desserts.
CARRÉS AUX DATTES (DATE SQUARES)
– 2 cups of oatmeal
– 2 cups of flour
– 1 cup of brown sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt
– 1 cup of butter or margarine, melted
– 1 cup of brown sugar
– 1 lb of dates, pitted
– 1 cup of warm water
1. Mix #1: In a large bowl, mix the oatmeal, flour and brown sugar. Add the butter and stir.
2. Mix #2: Put the brown sugar, dates and water, in a small pot and cook on the stove top. You want the dates to start looking mushy. Stir frequently.
3. Put half of mix #1 in a 8X12 baking dish, put mix #2 on top, and then cover it with the other half of mix #1.
4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, at 350F.
5. Let it cool (I prefer waiting overnight to make sure it won’t fall apart), and cut into squares.
As you can tell on this last picture, some of it didn’t last long. I didn’t have any 8X12 baking dish so I used an 8X8 and another one that was a tad too big. I knew this second one wouldn’t end up as nice and thick so I told my husband he was only allowed to eat out of the “ugly one”. Less than a day later (admittedly with my help as well), the 8X6 container is almost empty! Date squares definitely taste better than they look! 🙂
TARTES AU SUCRE (SUGAR PIES)
(makes 2 pies, and they freeze very well!)
– 2 tablespoons of butter
– 2 tablespoons of flour
– 4 cups of brown sugar
– 1 can of evaporated milk
– Pinch of salt
– 2 pie crusts (I used THIS CRUST RECIPE and loved it! So easy too!)
1. Whisk all the ingredients together until you get a smooth consistency.
2. Pour half of the mixture into each crust.
3. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes at 350F. (I didn’t do a very equal pour so my smaller pie was ready after 40 minutes and the other one stayed in the oven for 50 minutes…you want the mixture to still be soft but not liquid)
4. Let cool for several hours, or overnight.
The good news about many Quebec recipes is that they originated when people were fairly poor so a lot of the ingredients are very basic and pretty cheap. The bad news is that the very cold wintry climate of Quebec means that the food is very high in fat! It’s not healthy but it’s a delicious, once-in-a-while, treat. And as you can see, both recipes are super simple.
Now, I’ll leave you all with a few of my favorite Quebec songs:
“Les Ailes d’un Ange” by Robert Charlebois
Everyone in Quebec knows this song. If you say: “1,2,3,4,5,6,7” (in French), the obvious answer is definitely “Québec!”. 🙂
“Un peu plus haut un peu plus loin” by Ginette Reno
This is an old song from that is reinterpreted by Jean-Pierre Ferland (the man at the beginning), Celine Dion & Ginette Reno (the lady that arrives in the middle of the video, she’s the original singer of the song). I was at that show and I have to admit that I still get teary eyes every time I watch it.
“Dégénérations” by Mes Aïeux
This band is known to give a modern twist to Quebec traditional music.
“Le temps passe” by Vincent Vallières
This is the last Quebec National Day show I got to attend before moving to the US. One of my favorite artist (singing with the band featured in the previous video (Mes Aïeux).