PERFECT THE FORMULA
The cipaille is a rustic dish at heart, developed to serve a large group. But it will still benefit from careful prep and adherence to these tips.
The Crust: Chef Dion-lavallée dispenses with the traditional six layers of interior pastry, instead relying on chopped potato as a starchy, binding element. And while he uses separate doughs for the top and bottom layers, we simplified that by using a flaky pâte brisée, or classic butter pie dough, for both. For ease of rolling and handling, and to minimize shrinkage, make the crust a day ahead and chill it overnight in the fridge. It should then be easy to roll—lightly floured as needed—after about 10 minutes on the counter.
The Meat: The bulk of the labor involved in making a cipaille comes from breaking down the meats. Once that’s done, it’s mostly a matter of piling them all into a pot. If ever you needed another reason to make friends with your local butcher, this is it: You will likely need to be in touch with a good one for a whole marrow bone and other odd cuts, and you might as well have the shop prepare the rest of the meat for you.
The Sauce: Unlike a pot pie’s, the cipaille’s broth contains no added thickeners. The large chunks of braising meat release their juices, and, with the cured pork fat and meat collagen released during baking, there’s no need for a buttery roux or additional starchy binders. If you are using packaged stock, keep in mind that it will concentrate significantly during cooking, so be mindful of the salt level—opt for a low-sodium version and season the meat marinade more sparingly.
The Spices: Although Canadian culinary historian Lenore Newman acknowledges that there “really is no canonical, correct version” of the Quebecois meat pie, the common spice profile is reminiscent of medieval French court cuisine rather than the menus of modern Paris. Intensive use of spices was characteristic of the time, particularly those with origins in the East, such as cinnamon and clove. These flavors remain common in Quebec, and give the cipaille its beguiling aroma.