Soupe aux Petits Pois From St. Lawrence Restaurant

Jean-Christophe (J-C) Poirier drifts through his intimate St. Lawrence bistro, pausing to greet guests before taking up his post at the pass-through window linking the kitchen and dining room. Among diners seated at the long tables, the energy is anticipatory, fuelled by smoked-maple whisky cocktails and maple syrup cans brimming with oreilles de crisse (crispy pork rinds) drizzled with syrup and dusted with Montreal steak spice. “It’s me, right?” Poirier says of the carefully considered cabane à sucre menu. “I’m from that part of the country. It’s about tradition. It’s about memories. It’s about also celebrating what I think is one of the best products that the country has to offer.”

Photo by Jill Von Sprecken.

That product is maple syrup, and the process of making it takes place in cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) in his home province of Quebec. “Basically one of my favourite childhood memories is the maple syrup season,” he says. “Bringing the maple water to my grandfather and watching him reducing that water and transforming it into maple syrup over a wood fire.”

The communal long-table dinners at St. Lawrence, which are available until January 27, create a convivial atmosphere inspired by Poirier’s own large family—at one point, the entire dining room spontaneously claps along to a particularly upbeat tune—but items from the cabane à sucre menu can also be enjoyed on the chef’s tasting menu from January 30 to March 2.

Photo by Jill Von Sprecken.

Poirier sends the traditional sugar shack fare into Michelin-star orbit, all while remaining true to its casual roots. “It’s very brunch friendly, and very friendly to the flavour of maple syrup,” he explains. “So we want to elevate the food a little bit, but still have that vibe… Recreate those flavours that I remember.” His interpretation includes dishes like flan de foie gras, a fois gras custard glazed with a maple aspic. And canard au charbon, where bacon-studded maple beans accompany decadent slices of duck.

Photo by Jill Von Sprecken.

A menu item close to Poirier’s heart is the soupe aux pois (yellow pea soup). It all starts with “tastes and my memories and tradition that comes from my family,” he explains. But as a chef is wont to do, he “decided to add a few things, like beer and so on. Put more maple syrup and cut with bourbon to enhance the flavour and make it a little bit different.”

Soupe aux Petits Pois (Yellow Pea Soup)

A note from J-C: Traditional split pea soup, c’est le top of Quebécois comfort food in my opinion. Popular nationwide but spread via Quebécois cuisine, it’s a must-have at the sugar shack when the maple syrup is running. The authentic version is always made with whole dried yellow peas: you’ll need to soak them if you want to go that route. For the ultimate pro move you could also simmer a ham hock until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender, use the ham stock instead of chicken stock, and chop up the ham meat before adding it to the soup.  It’s time-consuming but totally worth it. Here, however, I propose a simpler and faster version. The finishing drizzle of maple syrup, bourbon, and parsley is the perfect twist, providing a boost of flavour.

Makes 6 portions


2 cups (450 g) dried yellow split peas

2 tablespoons (30 g) duck fat or unsalted butter

6 ounces (175 g) smoked bacon, finely diced

3 shallots, finely diced

2 stalks celery, finely diced

2 small carrots, peeled and finely diced

1 cup (250 mL) of your favourite beer (drink the rest)

6 cups (1.5 L) chicken stock, ham hock stock, or water

1 tablespoon (10 g) kosher salt

½ teaspoon (1 g) freshly cracked black pepper

2 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons (30 mL) maple syrup

2 tablespoons (30 mL) bourbon


Soak the peas in cold water at room temperature for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain just before you’re ready to make the soup.

In a large pot on medium heat, melt the duck fat. Sweat the bacon, stirring often, for 3 minutes, then add the shallots, celery, and carrots. Stir often and pay attention: you want to see light colouration, about 10 minutes. Add the drained peas and stir for 1 minute to heat them up. Have a sip of your beer and deglaze the pot with 1 cup (250 mL) of it. Reduce until there’s almost no liquid left, then stir in the chicken stock, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf.

Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, then lower the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes or until the peas are fully cooked. Discard the thyme and bay leaf.

Transfer one-third of the soup (2 cups/500 mL) to a blender and purée. Stir the purée back into the pot and add water if the soup is too thick. Taste the soup and make sure the seasoning is to your liking.

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, maple syrup, and bourbon. Portion the soup into individual bowls and drizzle some of the parsley magic garnish on top.

Drink more beer.

Variation: You can add diced foie gras and chunks of ham hock to the soup, warmed through with it at the end, for a more decadent version.

The recipe is excerpted from Where the River Narrows: Classic French & Nostalgic Québécois Recipes From St. Lawrence Restaurant by J-C Poirier and Joie Alvaro Kent, ©2022. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Read more stories about food and drink.


Post Date:

January 23, 2024