dimanche 30 mars 2014

Home cooking is back in style this season.

St. Urbain Choucroute Garnie


Authenticity isn't everything. At some point, every dish in the repertoire transcended the authentic nature of its regional history and became something new - perhaps even something classic. Surely mimicry, when it comes to art, should be at first considered a gesture of homage, rather than one of theft. Great art inspires us to make art, the same way money inspires rich people to make more money. Being poor though, brings about its own luxuries, rich in frugality and hopefully comfort food. The Alsatian choucroute garnie is a great example of this. It epitomizes the most comforting of food for the poorest of nights. I imagine the dish in all its rich regional diversity being favoured when the weather is similar to tonight's forecast - windy and cold. I imagine a dark Sunday's walk through town, chin nuzzled deep in scarf, hoping to be greeted at the end of the day by a loving partner in an odorous kitchen. It is good solid comfort food that nourishes with integrity - a fermented vegetable, a preserved meat, a root on the side. It's timeless.



Well, I don't have a ham hock, or any traditional German sausages. I don't have any smoked salt lard, or Alsatian white wine. I have a few of those 'Italian style' sausages you can get just about anywhere in Montreal, some apples, some sauerkraut, one potato, a few leftover mushrooms, an onion, and a little bit of leftover white wine. I can't remember where the wine came from, it must be at least a few month's old, but I think it'll do.

This is a dish best cooked with your shirt off, perhaps a beer in hand (certainly not the vinegar wine you're cooking with). Try not to wince if any frying oil speckles your chest. It will ruin the dish and your integrity.

Get a pan nice and hot, hotter than you usually do, in a little bit of vegetable oil, fry your onion chopped into rustic lengths. Be sure to let it burn just a little bit. You want that exciting moment for an onion to occur, when about half of it seems to be caramelizing and half of it isn't even translucent, when that occurs add your sausages and mushrooms to the pan. I think great big oyster mushrooms - cut once are beautiful for this, but you could use any mushroom.

Mushrooms and apples are not an authentic part of this dish, as you probably know. The thing about mushrooms is that they are the Ultimate 'capital 'U'' comfort food for me. I can't think of many comforting dishes that don't go well with a bit of fried fungi or a last minute glug of truffle oil. Think about all your favourite late night dishes - now think of them on mushrooms- you see?

When parts of your mushrooms are changing colour and your sausages begin to let out some juice, add your apple, roughly chopped. While apples might seem a bit of a sweet twist to a classic dish, I may remind you of today's date. It is March 30th today and so apples as we know them, no longer taste sweet. The chopped apples in this dish, even when caramelized, taste tart and mimic sauerkraut more than fruit.

When you get that sense that it's time to deglaze, do so. Do you know what I mean by that sense? That feeling is so real, isn't it? It's hard to describe. It's almost as though it starts to feel dry in the room. The ingredients in the pan whisper their intention to no longer caramelize and sweat, but burn. They warn you of your contingent failure. That's when you reward them by bathing them in wine.

When everything seems yummy and reduced, add your sauerkraut until it's warm and then season.
I'm a bit of a nerd that way. I really like the idea of eating all that tummy nurturing bacteria raw. I wouldn't cook it. It would be so negligent to throw away all that microscopic prep work. Bacteria is like your home-kitchen commis.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lots of freshly ground pepper and mustard.
You can use expensive mustard that comes with a wax seal or you can go my route, ninety nine cent dep dijon. I dare you to taste the difference.

vendredi 20 décembre 2013

La Carte d'hiver

 Chocolate Odyssey
Aerated Manjari, Jivara foam, caramel truffles, dark chocolate earth, almond white chocolate crumble




 Tiramisu
Coffee siphon sponge cake, mascarpone foam, amaretti and ladyfinger crumble, tiramisu ice cream




 Pouding Chomeur
Baked maple pudding,   vanilla, pecan, and maple butter ice cream




 Dessert aux pommes
Macintosh's sous-vides, 'orange wine' custard, caramelized almonds, sponge toffee, caramel ice cream





Mignardises
Pistachio cherry nougat, gingerbread leaves, pets de soeurs (caramel pinwheels), fruitcake, coffee truffles, house crunchie, oatmeal petals, ginger feulleté diamonds

samedi 30 novembre 2013

Last services at L'ITHQ part 2

 Charlotte à l'érable
Maple mousse, strawberry brunoise and purée, almond cake





 pear blueberry and almond cream tart, maple whipped cream and apple chip







Carrot cake, oranges, blood orange fruit jelly, caramelized walnut mousse






 Salade de fruits







La tropique
Passion fruit mousse, lemon mousse, mixed fruits

mercredi 27 novembre 2013

M F K Fisher on Polenta


Polenta costs little to prepare, if there is little to spend, or it can be extravagantly, opulently odorous with wines and such. It can be made doggedly, with one ear cocked for the old wolf's sniffing under the door, or it can be turned out as a well-nourished gesture to other simpler days. But no matter what conceits it my be decked with, its fundamental simplicity survives, to comfort our souls as our bellies, the way a good solid fugue does, or a warm morning in spring.

-M. F. K. Fisher. How to pray for peace

samedi 23 novembre 2013

Winter Catering II











 Butternut squash, sage oil, buttered croutons









 Mushroom tart
lemon pepper pâte brisée, truffled mushrooms, gruyere Mornay







 Warm winter salad
Roast parsnips, wilted spinach, feta, capers, beet foam







 
 Lamb Ragout arancino, ratatouille











Pumpkin cake, caramel mousse, maple whipped cream, gingerbread, sponge toffee

mercredi 20 novembre 2013

Final Services at l'ITHQ part I

 Passion fruit mousse, milk chocolate cream, mixed fruits




 Carrot cake, carrot tuile, spiced whipped cream




 Pear tart, sesame nougatine, strawberries




chocolate covered praline mousse, roasted hazlenuts, iced coffee and whipped cream



dimanche 3 novembre 2013

More Pie



 Brandied Mince meat tart

Brandy, currants, yellow red and Thompson raisins, candied citrus peel, demerara feuilleté and vanilla ice cream






Cranberry Chess pie

sweet butter custard, fresh cranberries, gingerbread feulleté, and pumpkin pie ice cream








dimanche 13 octobre 2013

On the seperation of eggs and state of mind.


Please, bring back Home Economics in our schools!

When you buy a new tool for your kitchen, what kind of questions do you ask yourself?
Do you ask something like, `Will I use this? If so, how often? where will I put it?' Or do you ask, 'will this utensil change my life?'

It is time for change. This isn't just about trimming the fat off your kitchen. It's time to change the way home cooks think about kitchen tools altogether. We must educate ourselves so we can better the culinary market place. We need greater standards for kitchen stores in Canada. Too many gadgets that get thought up these days are silly excuses for innovation. When you buy a tool for your kitchen it ought to do everything and it ought to last.

This would be an easier feat if the capitalist market didn't prey on the very ignorance our changing educational system promotes. We fail to teach basic home cookery to young people which means that ignorant citizens are preyed on by the capitalist agenda. Granite rolling pins, garlic presses, and glass baking pans are all good examples of this phenomenon.

When you go into a kitchen store to buy a soft spatula, there are many to choose from. There are plastic white ones, wooden ones with removable tops, rubber, or silicone, who knows! So many spatulas with varying makes, materials and prices. Why do so many spatulas exist? So that they can charge more for better spatulas. If they only made great spatulas and decided to stop making terrible spatulas, the price of a good spatula would become less, because consumers wouldn't have the price of terrible spatulas to compare them to. The production of spatulas would become more efficient because we would only create one type of spatula and humanity's continued elation would strengthen. Bad spatulas would be left behind, a relic of the early human ages.
The only spatula worth having is the one with a red handle. That type of spatula is a tool that does everything. It scrapes better than other spatulas, it is generally thicker and better made, but more importantly, it can handle extremely high temperatures without difficulty, which makes it the ultimate tool for anything from caramel to chocolate, or scraping the bottom of a pot while you poach a crème anglaise. It is a stick with a paddle on it and yet it is the tool of an elated species.

Humans have an amazing capacity for imagining up tools. With the creation of the vaccuum packer, chefs created an entirely new mode of cookery. From compressed fruits, to flavoured salts, super slow poached meats, and gelatinous eggs. One discovery led to another, coupled with enhanced freshness and convenience, the tool itself became a staple and in some aspects the saviour of fine dining restaurants. Vaccuum packers also unfortunately come in varying qualities and prices. Like the spatula market, the sous-vide marketplace is a dangerous one. It seems to me that offering a cheap and poor alternative to the real thing is a sort of trickery. Companies try to get consumers to buy cheap tools when they can't afford better ones, but they usually work poorly and break easily.

I think that we can relate this whole phenomenon to the very idea of the tool itself. If you ask any chef what the most important tool is in a kitchen, they will tell you that it's a knife. A common chef's knife or a paring knife, depending on personal preference. No professional chef will tell you that it's their bread knife, their boning knife, their filleting knife or their cleaver, and yet, when we are faced with buying knives for a home, kitchen shops push knife sets and blocks. Who the hell wants a knife set and a block to dull their edges? As if home knives weren't blunt enough - lets rub the edge against a piece of wood daily, to really make it impossible to cut a tomato without it bursting to a pulp.
One knife - one good knife, that's all that is needed. You can do anything with that guy. If it's sharp and you know how to use it, it will cut. If you are concerned with seeming professional, consider the Chinese method of cookery. Consider the cleaver. One knife.
When partnered with that single piece of information, the task of stocking a kitchen is less daunting. The budget you have for your kitchen knives becomes the amount you can spend on one great knife - one single piece of metal all the way through the tool, nice and sharp, no block necessary - the humble beginnings of a perfect kitchen.

When you seperate an egg, do you use the shell? That shell is an important tool. It encapsulates every tiny egg and protects it. It can also be a cooking vessel, but it can also help you separate two bodies with differing properties.
Sure you can buy an egg seperator, but don't. It's a tool that is destined for the bargain bin at that grotty store on the corner. If you think you're Jaques Pepin and are truly concerned with the amount of egg white that escapes you into those buttery yellows, then be a romantic. Use a metal bowl and a clean hand. Every egg should be cracked into the bowl delicately to not disrupt the yolks, and delicately they should be taken out one by one, hand gently plunging into the slime you've gotten yourself into.
For me, the shell will do just fine.

Every tool should at least be as useful as that basic tool, that fundamental aspect of human brilliance, when knowledge and material create an advantage, an innovation. Why do we not want to teach our children the disadvantages and advantages of such equipment anymore? Surely something as ubiquitous as food preparation should be important to everyone.

I like to think that if we had a culinary-educated consumer body, we would have better kitchens period. I feel the same way about music. If young people learned about Stravinsky and Mahler in schools, would they still listen to Miley Cyrus? Perhaps for a lark. Perhaps everything from N' Sync to Robin thicke would wind up in Museums as well - distant memories of Humanity's early mistakes.

Please, bring back Home Economics in our schools!



dimanche 29 septembre 2013

Mulling over pumpkin


mull /mʌl/ vb
  1. (transitive) to heat (wine, ale, etc) with sugar and spices to make a hot drink


This Autumn was going to be the season of the Pie. 'Ne'er a day shall pass without pie on sill', thought I with the first maple leaf's fall. Clafoutis, apple pies, tartes aux pets de soeur, tarte au sucre, and pecan pie: I was going to do it all! If thanksgiving arrives and I don't have a perscription for insulin injections, I will have failed.

I became stuck on pumpkin. What of the pumpkin I thought? There are so many questions! So few answers!
Do I use fresh pumpkin? Most people think of canned pumpkin when they imagine their favourite pumpkin pie. Dark and dehydrated, made from the condensed flesh of the sweetest sugar pumpkin at their ripest moment. 'My mom's pie,' people think. Surely for the most concentrated flavour of pumpkin this is one's best choice, I thought. Then again, all that fresh and light subtlety that comes from fresh pumpkin would be lost. Symbolically too, that feeling of being one with the changing of the seasons, of marveling in the edible natural world that is closest to us, would be lost.

There are so many advantages to canned pumpkin. It's so robust in flavour that one can mull the mix with much more spice than with fresh pumpkin. The filling is far more likely to set after cooking too. Whether or not the gelification of a pumpkin pie should be a gamble, it can sometimes feel that way as it leaves the oven. There is something so coquettish about the jiggle of that pie!
To be frank, processing a fresh pumpkin can feel like a lot of hard work too! Cleaver it into pieces, roast it, de-flesh it, purée it, pass it through a sieve and reserve it. It sounds like too much work for a quick bit of pie.

The trick I think, is to make a lot of it. Make a lot of it at once and freeze it. Yes pumpkin keeps brilliantly on your kitchen table, but when you're going to make pumpkin pie, do a lot at once and forget about the centre piece. Reap the benefit of your labour through season-wide pie. Because after all the work is done, I honestly believe it makes better pie. Used properly, fresh pumpkin purée makes five star pie. If you catch that perfect balance in freshness, richness, spice, aroma, gourdiness, custardiness and umami, you've transcended your mom's pie, and the world will now remember your pie as the classic.

If you've never tried making fresh pumpkin pie, and think it might be too much work, YOLO.

Pie crust: thick or thin?
Make your crust really thin, but then pinch lots of dough around the edges, this way the top of the crust will take as long as the pie will to cook and it won't burn. Also, everyone loves pie crust.


Here are some tips for processing great pumpkin:

Cleave the pumpkin in two equal parts so that it has a hat, scoop out the seeds and plant them in your garden (just don't tell Monsanto). Put it in the oven, flesh side down on a tray with a piece of parchment. This way, the skin side will roast and the inside will steam itself, Once the pumpkin is cooked, turn it over and continue to roast it until the water has evaporated and the pumpkin is roasted (quite brown).
Roast the pumpkin A LOT! Al dente is not the idea here. We're trying to create something that will set in a custard with other wet ingredients so water is your enemy.
Purée the pumpkin hot! The fibres will break down more easily if they are hot and unstable.
Before you try and pass the pumpkin purée through a sieve, let it sit in a super fine sieve first and let it drip out all its water. This water can be discarded, or you can drink it (It's delicious). I've never tried chilling it, but I imagine it would be really refreshing.
If you have a food mill, that will be much faster and less annoying than passing the pumpkin through a normal sieve. You can put it back in the super fine sieve afterwards, to drip out more water. You don't have to but I do because I'm a maniac.
Finally, cool completely.

Eggs or egg yolks?
Eggs and egg yolks. Go on, throw an egg yolk in there! It's the Holidays!

I feel like mulling spices make up the most complex of my flavour memories. Those two words take me to so many places in my mind: that old fashioned donut I ate in the north-end of Edmonton. Mulled wine at Kate and Brett's in the winter. Thanksgiving dinner always included a pumpkin pie in my household growing up. Chai lattés steaming the all-too donutty air of Chez Boris. What would park-ex be without garam masala?

It is delicate and daunting, but the balance between a slew of spices cannot be overlooked when making your pie. Too much cinnamon overpowers everything and turns the mind to apple pie, which is surely not your intention. Too much clove and you burn people's nostrils till they pass out. They'll wake up 30 seconds later in a stupor wondering when they sucked on that active fuse. Too much allspice or star anise, and your pumpkin pie tastes like licorice. Omit dried ginger and people become confused. I've heard of people staying true to their morals and using fresh ginger in their pie. This seems a bit overzealous, besides which, ground ginger is also the flavour that rounds it all out in my mind. The flavour that most intrigues next to pumpkin.

There should be lots of nutmeg. I don't have a good reason for that one, it's just an obsession.

Even with the addition of aromatics such as cardamom, allspice, or anise, I still think that a touch of vanilla is necessary. It just uplifts the flavour profile from this resiny, brooding place, to something exciting that pops in your mouth while it soothes. It just works. It connects the world of custard to the spicy world of the trees. It is the emulsifier of heaven and pie.

Finally, you have to taste the pumpkin! The amount of all of these spices should be so slight. For this reason, it works best to prepare your mulling mix in advance and only use a small portion of it at a time. Don't worry, it won't go to waste (see above: garam masala, etc.) All of the flavours have to tease your palette. No one flavour should pop more than the others, they should be caressing your tongue so lightly you forget they're there and just relax. Pumpkin pie is about relaxation. Pumpkin pie is about pumpkin.

My recipe for mulling spices (pumpkin pie spice) is as follows.

8.5 ml cinnamon (not fresh, nor freshly ground)
7.5 ml ground ginger (not fresh, nor freshly ground)
3/4 whole nutmeg (grated)
2.5 ml clove (fresh)
2.5 ml allspice (fresh)
1 to 2 ml peppercorn (fresh)

I use about a half a tea of this mix for a big pie alongside 1/8 tea pure vanilla extract. If you don't follow the indications for freshly ground or powder, the recipe would be completely different.
Cream or Evap?
Cream. Evaporated milk is great and all, but again, five star pie or your mom's pie?

Then what of consistency? Do I want a pumpkin custard, a pumpkin cream? perhaps a pumpkin curd? Do I precook the shell, or cook it with the pie? All of these questions are great, but they cause one to loose track of what's important. Pumpkin pie is a ritual. If you want to fold pumpkin purée into whipped cream and dress a precooked pie shell with it, go ahead. It will be delicious, but is it really pumpkin pie? What makes pumpkin pie unique is the resistance pumpkin gives to an oven custard. The addition of pumpkin makes it possible to cook a custard for a long time in a shell of flaky pâte brisée! It's an incredible thing. It makes for a rich flavourful custard with a unique texture that is really hard to mess up. It's how millions of Americans like their pie and it's ten million times better than flan.














vendredi 27 septembre 2013

PIE ON SLATE

 


 Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon curd, burnt Italian meringue, basil sorbet





Blueberry Pie
 Blueberry curd, blueberry jelly, fresh blueberries, vanilla icecream 






 

 Gateau Jaunemont
Peaches, vanilla, caramel







Raspberry pile pie
Almond cream, fresh raspberries, raspberry jelly







Tarte Tropézienne à la gadelle
Crème diplomate, pâte briochée, gelée de gadelle, crumble







Rhubarb feulleté
Rhubarb compote, fresh puff pastry, burnt lemon marshmallows, strawberry sorbet








Pause café
chocolate bitter almond cake, coffee cream, chocolate pearls








Midnight Clafouti
Concord grapes, blueberries, custard




samedi 16 mars 2013

Sugar me off.



Crêpes soufflées
 Sarrasin, sirop d'érable






 Tartelettes au sucre
Pâte sucrée à l'érable, lait évaporé, Sortilège, sirop d'érable






Truffes 'Sortilège'
 Chocolat 'Force Noir', Sortilège, sirop d'érable


 


Beignes à l'érable
 Beignes d'érable frit au gras de canard, imbibés de sirop d'érable


 


Pets de sœurs
Pâte brisée à l'érable, sortilège, cannelle, caramel

lundi 11 mars 2013

Late winter catering







 Vichyssoise
Potatoes, Leeks





Spiced Roast Chicken Legs






 Mushroom Barley Risotto





Winter
Potatoes, Parsnips, Carrots, Turnips, Onions




Gâteau Baryton
Sacher cookie, raspberry bavaroise, cointreau chocolate mousse, preserved sour cherries



dimanche 3 février 2013

What kind of donut... are you?





Carrot Cake Donuts



Recently, my professor decided to play a game with us. She read a list of desserts aloud and asked each of us which we would pick if the list was a menu we were offered at a restaurant. The idea was that a dessert we enjoy may say something about our psyche.  I picked chocolate vanilla cream cake, which apparently means I am ambiguous and undecided, but I usually maintain friendships in a long term capacity. Others picked such things as double chocolate brownies which meant that they were sexy and adventurous but moreover indulgent. At first I thought the whole exercise was silly, except that I felt like I had been made. I am indeed ambiguous. I choose vanilla cream with chocolate because I want both worlds. I don't want to choose between fresh/creamy or rich/chocolaty. I want it all. To that same extent, I can't let go of either one the same way I can't seem to let go of an old friend. It made me wonder about the whole ambiguity of expression through food. Surely we cook as a means of expression but the medium is not one so straight forward. Obviously, choosing chocolate vanilla cream cake doesn't mean you can't let go of the past. It got me thinking, What kind of donut... are you?











Banana chocolate chip fritters




Mom got to be thirty-eight when I was twenty-five. She would never have more than four candles on her birthday cake. So she was only thirty-eight when she died. I’m going to do the same thing. I’m staying thirty-eight myself, maybe forty tops. She never cared what the calendars said, and neither do I. Sometimes I feel twenty and sometimes I feel two hundred, and when you do, no arithmetic can pep you up or slow you down.
- Billie Holliday









Ice cider donuts


“Pain, ice, Mona—everything.  And then ‘Papa’ said, ’Now I will destroy the whole world.’ ”

“What did he mean by that?”

“It’s what Bokononists always say when they are about to commit suicide.:


- Kurt Vonnegut











Corn bread donuts




I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.
- Faulkner














Raspberry jelly stuffed donuts



If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange
And be all to me? Shall I never miss
Home-talk and blessing and the common kiss
That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange,
When I look up, to drop on a new range
Of walls and floors ... another home than this?
Nay, wilt thou fill that place by me which is
Filled by dead eyes too tender to know change?
That's hardest. If to conquer love, has tried,
To conquer grief, tries more ... as all things prove;
For grief indeed is love and grief beside.
Alas, I have grieved so I am hard to love.
Yet love me—wilt thou? Open thine heart wide,
And fold within, the wet wings of thy dove.

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning











Lemon curd poppy seed donuts



There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.  
-Henry James











Egg nog custard donut

Courtesy of Katherine Romanow

There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life.
-Federico Fellini













Beet cinnamon vanilla rose donut




'One has to learn to see, one has to learn to think, one has to learn to speak and write: the end in all three is a noble culture. - Learning to see - habituating the eye to repose, to patience, to letting things come to it; learning to defer judgment, to investigate and comprehend the individual case in all its aspects. This is the first preliminary schooling in spirituality: not to react immediately to a stimulus, but to have the restraining, stock-taking instincts in one's control. Learning to see, as I understand it, is almost what is called in unphilosophical language 'strong will-power': the essence of it is precisely not to 'will', the ability to defer decision. All unspirituality, all vulgarity, is due to the incapacity to resist a stimulus - one  has to react, one obeys every impulse. In many instances, such a compulsion is already morbidity, decline, a symptom of exhaustion - almost everything which unphilosophical crudity designates by the name 'vice' is merely this physiological incapacity not to react - a practical application of having learned to see: one will have become slow, mistrustful, resistant as a learner in general. In an attitude of hostile calm one will allow the strange, the novel of every kind to approach one first - one will draw one's hand back from it.'
 - Nietzsche








Poutine aux beignes


Courtesy of Boris Volfson


Là, là, j'travaille comme une enragée, jusqu'à midi. J'lave. Les robes, les jupes, les bas, les pantalons, les canneçons, les brassières, tout y passe ! Pis frotte, pis tord, pis refrotte, pis rince... C't'écoeurant, j'ai les mains rouges, j't'écoeurée. J'sacre. À midi, les enfants reviennent. Ça mange comme des cochons, ça revire la maison à l'envers, pis ça repart ! L'après-midi, j'étends. Ça, c'est mortel ! J'hais ça comme une bonne ! Après, j'prépare le souper. Le monde reviennent, y'ont l'air bête, on se chicane ! Pis le soir, on regarde la télévision ! Mardi !
-Michel Tremblay









À l'ancienne

Courtesy of Grant Rummel


En me voyant si peu redoutable aux enfants,
Et si rêveur devant les marmots triomphants,
Les hommes sérieux froncent leurs sourcils mornes.
Un grand-père échappé passant toutes les bornes,
C'est moi. Triste, infini dans la paternité,
Je ne suis rien qu'un bon vieux sourire entêté.
Ces chers petits! Je suis grand-père sans mesure;
Je suis l'ancêtre aimant ces nains que l'aube azure,
Et regardant parfois la lune avec ennui,
Et la voulant pour eux, et même un peu pour lui;
-Victor Hugo