Fairly easy to catch and blessed with great texture and delicious flavour, lake perch has long been a cherished ice fishing prize. It cooks in a flash under the oven broiler, and when stuffed into tortillas along with punchy pickled vegetables and creamy avocado sauce, you have the makings of a tasty taco night as a fitting reward for a long day on the ice.
Pickerel is a good alternative catch of the day here, but you can also source out halibut or ocean perch from the fishmonger for these tacos.
Warming tortillas makes them more flexible and prevents them from cracking and breaking. Using your stovetop, turn a gas or electric burner on high. Using tongs, glide one tortilla at a time over the burner for a few seconds, alternating sides, until it’s softened and beginning to darken in spots. Cover tortillas to keep warm. Or wrap a stack of tortillas in a slightly damp kitchen towel (or paper towel) and microwave on high for about 30 seconds.
Place vinegar, sugar, salt, and mustard seeds, if using, in heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup (250 mL) water to a boil in saucepan or kettle. Add boiled water to bowl with vinegar and stir until sugar has dissolved. Stir in cabbage and red onion; cover and let stand for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in refrigerator.
Preheat oven broiler and set oven rack about 6 in (15 cm) from heating element. Grease heavy baking sheet and place perch on greased pan. Season perch with lime zest, salt, and black pepper, to taste. Broil fish until just cooked through in the middle, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove perch from oven and gently break apart flesh.
Place sour cream, avocado, lime juice, cumin, cayenne, and pinch of salt in blender or food processor container and blend until smooth.
To serve, divide fish, pickled vegetables, and avocado cream among tortillas. Garnish with cilantro.
This recipe is part of the Go (Ice) Fish collection.
Tourtière is, for me, the dish that best represents Québec. It can be traced back to the 1600s, and there’s no master recipe; every family has their own twist. Originally, it was made with game birds or game meat, like rabbit, pheasant, or moose; that’s one of the reasons why I prefer it with venison instead of beef or pork. Variation: If you prefer to make single servings, follow our lead at the restaurant, where we make individual tourtières in the form of a dome (pithivier) and fill them with 5 ounces (160 g) of the ground venison mixture. Variation: You can also use a food processor to make the dough. Place the flour, salt, and butter in the food processor and pulse about ten times, until the butter is incorporated—don’t overmix. It should look like wet sand, and a few little pieces of butter here and there is okay. With the motor running, through the feed tube, slowly add ice water until the dough forms a ball—again don’t overmix. Wrap, chill, and roll out as directed above.
My love of artichokes continues with this classic recipe, one of the best ways to eat this interesting, underrated, and strange vegetable. Frozen artichoke hearts are a time-saving substitute, though the flavour and texture of fresh artichokes are, by far, much superior and definitely preferred.
Cervelle de canut is basically the Boursin of France, an herbed fresh farmer’s cheese spread that’s a speciality of Lyon. The name is kind of weird, as it literally means “silk worker’s brain,” named after nineteenth-century Lyonnaise silk workers, who were called canuts. Sadly, the name reflects the low opinion of the people towards these workers. Happily for us, though, it’s delicious—creamy, fragrant, and fresh at the same time. Cervelle de canut is one of my family’s favourite dishes. It’s a great make-ahead appetizer that you can pop out of the fridge once your guests arrive. Use a full-fat cream cheese for the dish, or it will be too runny and less delicious.