With more than a few restaurants doing “feast of the seven fishes” dinners (in addition to the one at Má Pêche; you can call the Oyster Bar, Patsy’s, and Saul about theirs), it’s refreshing to see Long Island City nouveau diner M. Wells doing something a little different — but then, that’s exactly what we’d expect from chef Hugue Dufour. This Sunday he’ll celebrate that Quebecois holiday meat pie, the tourtière, with a “Feast of the Decade” in which he’ll serve them stuffed with bone marrow, pork, pheasant, grouse, red-tailed deer, and wood pigeon. The 7 p.m. seating’s $110 price tag also includes frog-legs Provençal, a winter stew, and beverages. You can reserve by phone at 718-425-6917, but first, for a bit of historical-mythical context, check out Dufour’s “MythStory” about the tourtière, via the M. Wells newsletter.
The following combines a bit of history and myth told by our chef Hugue Dufour, a native of Québec. It goes that several centuries ago the Lac Saint-Jean region blew up in flames and burnt to the ground. As the embers still glowed, wood pigeons (called tourtes) flew frantically above with nowhere to land. Just as people feared starvation, they found fields of potatoes saved from devastation and, miraculously, a mill still standing and intact with wheat stored inside. The villagers hunted the tourtes and combined them with the ingredients left by the fire to create the beloved Lac St-Jean tourtière. Far away in the seafaring region of Gaspésie, another kind of tourtière developed. The ci-paille as it was called, meaning “six layers” or maybe simply “sea pie,” was made when folks were sick of fish and stopped at the docks for wild game including: moose, goose, hare and partridge. In Montreal, the tourtière is named after the mold they use for a basic meat pie. What an identity crisis the
coveted dish has.