Duchess at Home: Giselle Courteau's new cookbook shares recipes and reminiscence

Giselle Courteau's new cookbook, Duchess at Home

Duchess Bake Shop chef Giselle Courteau's new cookbook Duchess at Home offers recipes and stories from her life. Larry Wong / Postmedia

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In Giselle Courteau’s family they call it “the beast.”

Big enough to feed 15 people, stuffed with meat, potatoes, onions, and that oh-so-important splash of soy sauce, the tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean is indeed a beast of a meal. Especially when paired with fresh brioche, coleslaw, and a small dish of fruit ketchup, traditional sides for this French-Canadian classic.

“About four or five years ago I was at my son’s daycare for a potluck,” Courteau recalls while bustling around her kitchen, preparing not just the meal described above but also a delicious pear blueberry cheesecake galette for dessert as well, recipes taken from her latest cookbook, Duchess at Home, which hit bookstores on Oct. 15. “We’re all Francophones, so four of us brought tourtières. I put mine on the table, and while we were waiting in line to serve ourselves I saw another one, took a scoop, and was like, ‘oh, what is this?’ I asked the lady who made it and she was absolutely horrified by the question. She said ‘oh! that’s tourtière!’”

It was unlike any tourtière that Courteau (co-owner of the Duchess Bake Shop) had ever eaten, but she was entranced. This sent her on a bit of a research jag, tracking down the many variations to be found of the ubiquitous meat pie. Courteau also extended an invitation to her new friend to have her come over and show her how to make the dish that she found to be “the most magical thing I’ve ever eaten.”

“They’re not that hard to make, but they take a long time to bake. It’s about six to eight hours in the oven, so if you want it for lunch you have to get up quite early to put it in the oven.”

Giselle Courteau’s new cookbook Duchess at Home. Larry Wong / Postmedia

Most of the recipes in Courteau’s second cookbook fall into the category of not hard to make. Unlike her first effort, the Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook, which focused on popular pastries from her business, most of the entries in Duchess at Home are representative of what Courteau would make at home on a weekly basis. It’s also set up in a way that reflects her passions, from her garden to her Franco-Albertan heritage.

“In my daily life I’m more relaxed and easy-going, and the cookbook shows that,” she says while digging into a small slice of galette, while across the room the family cat Madeleine dozes away on the back of a favoured armchair. “I have a chapter called In My Garden, because I have a huge one in the backyard that I plant every year. I also have one called Je Me Souviens which is about some of my favourite French-Canadian recipes. Sunday Afternoon is about family time, because that’s one of the few days where I get to spend time with the kids. It’s such an important thing to me, and it feels so personal. I’m a little scared to show people the book, but at the same time I’m so excited.”

After personally publishing the first edition of the Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook (Penguin Random House picked up the second edition after eyeballing the high sales, and also opted to publish Duchess at Home) Courteau kept with the same crew that did her proud five years ago. Her sister Mona-Lynn Courteau acted as editor, while Sarah Hervieux once again took the reins as designer and photographer. They’re a well-oiled machine at this point, and the results are stunning; Duchess at Home is a beautifully made cookbook full of delicious recipes and wonderful reminiscence from Courteau’s life.

“It was a ton of work,” she admits with a wry smile, even as she discusses a potential third cookbook. “It takes about nine or 10 months, and we were definitely scrambling at the end. People think it’s easy to write a recipe, but before I even show it to anyone they needed to be tested 12 to 16 times. We put more blurbs in this time because that was some of the feedback we got about the first book, that people loved reading the stories. In the end I hope that they try the recipes, but if they just enjoy reading it, or getting to know me a bit more, I’ll be happy.”