Culinary Accomplishment – Paté de Campagne

KevinCharcuterieLeave a Comment

I am preparing for a very posh, French Bistro-themed dinner party to celebrate M&D’s engagement. Included on the starter menu: Paté de Campagne. Luckily, my charcuterie mentor had a great recipe for me to run with – and this baby is gonna be good. Some flavour components to get one excited: pork liver, brandy, nutmeg, clove, and heavy cream. I haven’t tasted it yet, but this thing smells amazing.

This is a really common item to see on french bistro menus, as well as in charcuterie shops across France. I will soon attempt more posh versions that include wrapping it in cured meat, studding it with pistachios or sour cherries, or wrapping the forcemeat around a center of duck confit or foie gras.
I’m a geek.

Culinary Accomplishment – Ice Cream

KevinSweet StuffLeave a Comment

Since our recent visit to Paris, I’ve wanted to make my own ice cream. At my now-favorite restaurant-of-all-time, I was served a rich vanilla bean ice cream with a vanilla bean creme anglaise on a chocolate dessert that I was inspired to try at home. Thanks to a birthday gift from my lovely wife, I’m now capable of this achievement. After some prelimnary testing [seen in picture], I’m ready to tackle the posh version I had in Paris.

The chocolate ice cream in the picture has chunks of crispy crunch – my favorite chocolate bar. To soon be attempted: peach, pear, raspberry, chocolate mint.

Culinary Accomplishment

KevinCharcuterie, From the Cellar, From The Wild, Game Birds, Sausage, WaterfowlLeave a Comment

My brother in law and I just wrapped up a goose sausage making session. We made roughly 20lbs, about 5 lbs of each of the following:

Garlic Sausage with Sage
Lots of garlic, and dried sage from my garden, with my red wine.

Dried tomatoes from my garden, herbes de provence I brought back from Ile de La Sorgue in Provence, and some pepperoncini I bought in Lucignano d’Asso in Tuscany.

Apple Beer
Apple sauce my mom, David, Pam, and I made from apples Pam and I picked at my dad’s place, Ephémère Apple Beer by Unibroue from Chambly, Quebec.

Foie et Cèpes
Goose liver, goose heart, and dried porcini mushroom.

Fun project. The sounds and vocabulary associated with sausage-making makes for lots of laughs and an all around good time. Will be doing this again, and refining our favorite recipes.

Do you know that steak’s mom?

KevinHunting, PhilosoFoodLeave a Comment

Forgive me for having given hunting a lot of thought lately. Killing things isn’t exactly the most socially acceptable activity nowadays, and I get that. It’s macho, ‘old-boys-clubish’, senseless, and so on. And it can be.

But it can also be one of the most intense connections with the food you eat. A steak of beef didn’t grow organically on a plant. Someone shot a cow in the head, slit its throat, gutted it, butchered it, and you’re eating that animal’s back muscle, more than likely – the one that runs down the sides of your spine. We have the same one. That’s the reality, and everyone knows that intellectually, but I don’t think you truly understand it until you either witness it or do it yourself.

I’m likely going to shoot a calf moose this fall. Now I’m guessing that’s going to be pretty tough to do, morally. The calf will likely be with it’s mom, and the mom will mourn the loss, and it’s all one shitty mess as far as that goes. But the way I see it, going to the store and buying veal is no different. That was a cow’s calf. Thinking there’s no emotional attachment between the two is crap. Even geese – if you shoot one out of a pair, the other will circle, honking, looking down for his buddy for a good while before getting the hell out of danger. It’s sad. It is. But it’s one of the crappy parts of being an omnivore with compassion. One of the many curses of being a human.

So I’ll feel like hell when I shoot a calf, but at least I’ll understand the importance of the meat. Buying a veal chop is as easy as buying a head of lettuce. No bad feelings there. I’m not suggesting that everyone should hunt – not even close. I’m just suggesting you consider that killing the animals you eat is actually normal, and in ways, more respectful to the animal, than being disconnected from the harsh realities of what needs to happen for humans to eat meat.

Blind Tasting, and BAD butchering

KevinBig Game, Butchering Game Meats, From The Wild, Game Birds, Waterfowl, Wild BoarLeave a Comment

I just had dinner guests do a blind tasting of two different species of geese to tell me which they preferred. Both were rotisseried, basted in garlic butter with fine rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley. The final concensus: both were extremely close in flavour and nearly impossible to distinguish one for the other. And both tasted so much like roast beef, that it was agreed either could be passed off for roast beef.

And all agreed that the rather expensive bottle of 2003 Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir was really damn good.

The main course was a sauté of wild boar with a Madeira jus and lardons of bacon I made, served with roasted garden potato, carrot, and rutabata, and sautéed chard greens with nutmeg and lemon.
Which leads me to a rare event. I was mad today. Doesn’t happen often. I had a 5 lb bone-in leg of wild boar that a friend gave me, butchered by a local butcher. I had been anticipating enjoying it for weeks. I opened the package, it looked poorly trimmed, so I cut into the roast.

This is the absolute worst piece of butchered meat I’ve ever seen in my life. That is blod clot, running the entire length of the inside of the roast. It was disgusting. After trimming, I was only left with just under 2 lbs of edible meat. That’s just wrong. Whoever let this leave their shop, should be ashamed.

Wild Geese

KevinFrom The Wild, Hunting, Waterfowl2 Comments

I gave up hunting altogether for quite a few years. Lots of reasons why, and beyond the scope of today’s blog. I gave it another shot in the last couple years, and have been really enjoying it. It’s fun to be outdoors with the guys, and culinarily it’s a tremendous opportunity for me.

I just got back from goose hunting down in southern Alberta where my family on my dad’s side has been doing it for over 30 years. Every year, this time of year. I’m appreciating the tradition in it as I get older. There were thousands of geese close to the house down there, and we did well.

A few firsts. I shot my first snow geese. They’re beautiful birds, far smaller than Canada geese, and the flesh is far whiter, and likely more delicate in flavour and texture. I’m eager to try different things with them in the kitchen. Oddly, they’re overpopulated and destroying their habitat in the arctic. And no, that’s not a hunter justifying killing things. The limit on them is ridiculously high – our possession limit as hunting party of this species alone was 200. We only took a half-dozen.

Another first was shooting once, and seeing two white-fronted geese [speckle-bellied] fall. That doesn’t happen often. Happened to me yesterday. This was the most abundant species of goose down there – usually is. They are also smaller than a Canada goose by a fair margin, and have a bizarre squealing sound rather than a honk. Many argue these are the best tasting goose. I look forward to being the judge of that. We ended up with 30+ of these.

We also got a few Canada geese. The big ones we were shooting around Edmonton last year were 14 lbs, but down south they’re a fair bit smaller.

I have a Snow, a White-Fronted, and a Canada skinned whole, trussed with some of my home-cured and smoked bacon, and ready for a side by side rotisserie or roast comparison. And I’m eager to make sausage from each of the species. For those that haven’t tried, goose has a definite poultry flavour, but because they’re migrating – as opposed to being in a feed lot – their meat is a lot tougher than domestic poultry. These geese were feeding in a wheat field for a couple weeks – which is awesome. Animals that are grain fed before slaughter taste better – domestic or wild. So this year’s brain wave is using most of the meat in sausage as it will have a nice poultry flavour, and the grinder will take care of the toughness issue.

I am sore. Pushing round bales is hard [for cover]. So is squatting for hours [hiding in cover]. And I’m tired – up at 4:45am for the past couple days. Looking forward to going again next year.

Steak Sandwich

KevinRecipesLeave a Comment

I cook a lot. It’s a noteable occasion when I’m amazed by a particular dish. And I just was. By a steak sandwich.

Okay, so it was a prime piece of Bison loin, but I don’t think it matters.

Basic premise:
– a good chunk of steak + a lot of kosher salt and coarse pepper
– A mediocre hunk of baguette/italian/french bread, sliced lenghtwise
– garlic butter [2 tbsp butter, 1 sm clove garlic minced, pinch salt, bit of minced parsley] cooked gently just to cook the garlic a bit.
– a glass of decent red wine

Grill on a very hot grill. While you’re at it, toast the bread. When bread’s ready, brush the bread with the garlic butter. When you flip the steak, brush done side with a bit of garlic butter. If you get the doneness right on both – you’re in for a treat.

I had mine with some onion confit with a french ‘quatre épices’ spice blend. I also tried it with horseradish, and beet relish my mom made. All excellent. But it will be a fine treat on its own. My cabernet sauvignon heavy 05 blend paired ridiculously well – which is promising for me with the upcoming bounty of hunting season.

Basic premise: good steak + garlic toast + red wine = holy crap it’s good.

Eating in Restaurants

KevinPhilosoFood, TravelLeave a Comment

I used to really enjoy eating out in restaurants. That’s where good food was, afterall.

Then I developed a passion for cooking. Travel fueled it. So did gardening, Food TV, and exposing myself to a lot of culinary education. As time went on, I got more and more disappointed with the quality of food at restaurants. It’s to a point when my wife and I choose to eat out, it’s neary always a cheap asian place [good value]. That and fine dining once a year for our ‘staff xmas party’. Much beyond that, and I’d rather cook it myself, thanks. That must sound snobby.

For example. I used to call Boston Pizza my ‘favorite restaurant’. Don’t ask me why – this was back in university. Now, I’d far rather make my own pizza at home from scratch [dough, sauce, and all] than set foot in BP’s. Not only is it going to taste better, but I know what’s in it, and it costs $3 rather than $23. And value matters a lot to me when it comes to food.

On our recent trip to France, I was eager to eat some ‘real’ restaurant food. After much research, a plane ticket, and a few euros, some of my faith was restored as I ate foie gras, tete de veau, and vanilla bean custard on vanilla bean ice cream. Accordingly, my ‘new’ favorite restaurant is the Perraudin in Paris. [Oooh – sounding snobby again]. But as a whole, crossing border after border, I encountered few things I couldn’t pull off respectably on my own for far cheaper. Even in Italy. The best food by far I ate in Italy was in someone’s home [more on that another day]. What a piss off this was.

And it wasn’t a passing observation – it will influence how we travel from now on. ‘Never again without having my own kitchen’ – I resolved. It seems ridiculous to me to walk through cheese shops, wine shops, meat shops, bakeries, patisseries, and local markets bursting with seasonal vegetables, fruits, and local products – and not be smart and take advantage. You could collect a wicked AND economical meal in these places. I’m not knocking the restaurant industry here – they have overhead, staffing, and profitability to worry about. What I am saying is that, short of a few exceptions, eating in restaurants is no longer for me.

Cooking, Art, and Music

KevinPhilosoFoodLeave a Comment

One of my favorite authors, Michael Ruhlman, takes a moment in one of his books to wittily criticize those that think that cooking is an art. He believes that it is a craft, not an art. Trivial? Not in my little world, I guess. This got me thinking.

Art defined: the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

I’ve spent a lot of years believing that art involved something else – integrity. You can write a song, paint a painting, or prepare a dish without any intention of artistic endeavour. I could write a silly song for fun, but I wouldn’t call it art. I could paint a stripe and it’s technically a painting, but would express jack squat.

I think art requires you create something leaving nothing on the table. You have to put everything you have into it. It has to be genuine. I think many chefs would believe they’d accomplished that a time or two.