‘Tis the Season for Good Eating

In my last post, I presented all the sweets I baked in December, most of which were mailed to relatives. Now here’s the savory food I made and enjoyed on Christmas. Since we didn’t travel to Virginia for the holidays, we invited friends over for Christmas dinner. I wanted to come up with something traditional to make but decided to stick to my Quebec traditions rather than the American way. My menu was meat-packed: meat pie, meatballs in gravy and meat-filled dumplings.


I have made the meat pie many times before (check out this post for the recipe) but the other two dishes were a first. I woke up one day and remembered loving the dumpling and meatball combo during the holidays, when I was growing up. I called my mom and got the super easy meatball recipe. Unfortunately, the dumplings were more difficult to figure out as my mom always bought them at the market and didn’t actually make them from scratch. After much online research, I learned that the dumpling recipe was very typical to Mauricie (my region in Quebec) but barely known anywhere else. It is also known under different names (the one my family always used was an obscene slang word, also used for lady-parts…but apparently there were a few more PC ones).

Baking a meat pie always makes me happy.
Baking a meat pie always makes me happy.

Meatballs in Gravy (Ragoût de boulettes)


  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra liquid from meat pie filling or homemade chicken broth (Approximately 2 cups)
  • Toasted flour (Approximately 2-4 tablespoons)

What’s Next?

  1. Mix together the pork, onions, salt and pepper. Shape into 1-2 inch balls.
  2. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake at 350F until the pork is fully cooked. (the time will vary based on the size of the meatballs so just keep an eye on it)
  3. In a saucepan, mix the toasted flour with the broth. Cook on medium heat and whisk frequently, until the mixture thickens into a somewhat-thin gravy consistency.
  4. But the meatballs in the gravy and mix together.

It’s a pretty straight forward recipe and keeps really well. Since I made it in advance, I left the meatballs and gravy separate until Christmas day but I should have mixed them right away as it would have helped enhanced the flavor. This dish freezes really well.

The baked meatballs (yes, I slightly burned the bottoms…)
The meatballs in gravy

Meat-filled Dumplings (Pelottes à la viande)


  • About 1 lb of the same meat filling as used in the meat pie (I used the recipe to make one pie and one batch of dumplings instead of the two pies the recipe calls for…you could also just make a small batch of meat by itself but most people do both around the same time for convenience)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of Crisco shortening
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 8 cups of turkey or chicken broth (homemade is preferred but store-bought works just as well)
  • 1 cooked turkey breast, pulled apart into pieces (chicken breasts would work too)

What’s Next?

  1. Mix the flour, shortening, baking powder, salt and water until you get a dough consistency.
  2. Separate the dough into two balls. But one of the balls on a floured surface and roll until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares.
  3. Put the dough square in the palm of your hand and place about 1 teaspoon of meat filling in the middle. Close the dumpling as tightly as possible. I used milk to help “glue” the dough together. Gently roll the dumpling in your hands to make it as round as possible.
  4. Place all the dumplings on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. It is primordial for the dumplings to be frozen when cooked or they will fall apart. If you don’t plan to cook them right away, the frozen dumplings can be placed in a freezer bag.
  5. Before cooking the dumplings, add a little flour (this step is easier if the dumplings are in a freezer bag) and shake until all the dumplings are lightly coated.
  6. But the turkey and broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. When boiling, add the dumplings and cooked, covered, for 20 minutes, bringing the heat down to medium. Do not remove the lid during the 20-minute period or the dumplings might not cook properly.

The dumplings can be served with or without the cooking liquid. On Christmas day, with a plate full of other meat goodness, I didn’t use the liquid but I very much enjoyed it with the leftovers the next again. Again, this dish freezes really well. Just freeze the uncooked dumplings in a freezer bag or you can freeze containers filled with cooked dumplings, broth and turkey breast, altogether.

The dumplings, ready to be placed in the freezer.
Cooked dumplings in broth, with turkey breast pieces.
Leftover dumplings

So as you can see, our Christmas eve wasn’t the healthiest…but then again, Christmas time isn’t known for its healthy traditions. I did bake a side of sweet potatoes to pretend we were eating well.


On this meaty note, I wish you all a wonderful new year! I look forward to see what the new year will bring!

3 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season for Good Eating”

  1. Thank you for posting these! I am an American married to a Québécoise and I’m trying to keep her family’s cooking traditions alive. I have my late mother-in-law’s transcription of her mother-in-law’s recipes for ragout de boulettes et de pattes de cochon and the poutines just like you described it. Your pictures and English descriptions help fill in the (considerable) gaps. Bonne année à vous!

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