Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The key to successful charcuterie is to have a starting point and go from there. I have some friends (you know who you are!!)  who have crazy ideas and jump head first into them with the end result not always being fruitful. I on the other hand like to slowly progress from things i have learned in the past. Call it playing safe if you will, I will be cooking for many years to come so i am in no rush.  I have never been the type to try and come up with the next best thing and you can see that in our food. None of our dishes are "cutting edge", they're not trying to be. They are meant to be kept simple. Obviously we are limited with our kitchen set up, but even if i was given a huge kitchen with all the gadgets, perhaps even a gas stove and a regulation hood, the hoof would still be doing the food we do. Which brings me to my point. The hoof is a breeding ground for knowledge. We come in each morning excited to try something new based on something in the past. 
Here you have the headcheese set with the tongue and pig ear, which if you remember both started out as separate identities. 
And again, here you have the testina and the cottechino both started out solo and have now joined forces. 
I guess this is how the quail got stuffed into the chicken and then eventually into the duck. People get bored, especially chefs. Most of us continually push to learn new things. The art of charcuterie has taught me the art of patience. As quickly as i master something, im right back at the beginning with the next. It's as if im running around in a circle but each time its gets much bigger. Amassing information as i go. 
This blog post is about to get way to heavy for 4 in the morning....
My brain hurts. 
You know where i was going with this...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Raw Horse sammy

The newest hit at the Hoof. 
Raw horse sandwich with a hot sauce made by the hoofs peruvian Sous Chef, G-Mo. We dont ever eat any of the food we make at the hoof for some reason. The first night we sold out but kept one back and shared a 1/2 each. The yolk gives it a beautiful richness. The heat from the hot sauce is just right. Not over the top, but enough heat that lingers on your lips nicely if you like hot sauce. It will be perfect as the whether warms with a nice pint of brew on our patio....Oh you didn't know? The hoof has a patio!! Its gonna be a fun summer!

Lamb Headcheese complete

This turned out really well. We took the lamb stock cut it with gelatinous pork stock and reduced it. We mixed the lamby goodness with fresh mint and pressed it with the braised tongues set in the middle. Unfortunately, you would need 20 lambs heads to make a decent batch. 

A day in the Eastern Townships

It started at 8am. 
After maneuvering through Montreal's rush hour Colin and I were on our way to 
the Abbey of St-benoit du lac to hopefully break bread with the monks who make the famous Benedictine Blue among others.
There is no address, just a town. We had my iphone and that was it. 
We were on our way. Tired and in need of coffee, but we were behind schedule and didn't know what he had in store today. We followed the directions which led us to cottage roads that were in such horrible shape they looked and felt as if they had been through several earthquakes. Several times throughout the drive there was no reception and our little blue blinking light, which was us, disappeared of the map. We were not positive we were on the right route but we both had a funny feeling we were going to turn a corner and see a beautiful monastery sitting a top a hill in the snowy outbacks of Quebec. 
Just when we began to think we were being led on a wild goose chase, we rounded a corner, dipped through a hill and there it was, this big beautiful building just as we had pictured it in our heads. 
We grabbed our cameras and commented on the amount of tourists walking in and out of the building. We knew we were in for a treat and i think we both had thought in minutes we were going to be making cheese with the monks. 

Apparently, even if a couple of cooks from toronto go to all lengths to drive out in the woods to see the fromagerie, it still isn't enough to get you inside. Because of listeria outbreaks a few years ago, the cheese area is under lock and key to outside visitors. We chatted with the director and thoughts of trying to make them feel guilt and pitty for us crossed my mind to perhaps test there religious outlook on life, but these are monks. They have discipline. Actually the director wasn't even a monk. He actuslly informed us that the monks dont even really help in the process anymore. He said they're too old and kind of hinted that they would just get in the way of production. Our dreams of monks in there robes washing cheese in the caves were quickly shattered. We toured the church and bought very well priced cheese and cider from the gift store. Not the glamorous adventure i had thought we were going to have, but wholesale candian cheese is a good second prize. Off we went. 
We had a 130pm appointment with a little goat farm back towards Montreal where we met up with the rest of our group. Marie-france wasn't even open but she allowed us into her house/store to buy some goodies and we toured her farm. 
I bought up several different cheeses, and one of my favorties was a young goat cheddar with rosemary. 
First off, i hate rosemary in cheese. It reminds me of something the condo dwellers on lakeshore would buy at the local Kitchen Table, but this one was subtle and complex. Just the right amount of rosemary so that you know it was there, but it soon fades away and then the secondary hit of goat milk in your mouth. 
We also bought 15 kilo's of baby goat meat to make salami. We didn't know one could make salami out of goat, but a quick google search on the iphone in the car gave us a few hits. 
Game on. No clue what to do but were gonna do it. 

We visited the farm animals and i must say i was quite jealous of the infatuation the lama was showing to my girlfriend. We assumed he thought she was a young Alpaca with her furry coat as he followed her around the fence.  
Next up was the higlight of our trip and a great way to end it before we left for the drive back to toronto. I called my local foie gras supplier and he made a call to Aux Champs D'Elise who is a family run foie gras producer in quebec. You see, D'Elise was the first in the game in Canada 20 years ago. He has kept his production small compared to the two european french producers located in quebec. 
It was a very intimate experience. They gave us there time and there knowledge and didn't ask for anything in return. We began our "lecture" as his wife brought out three plates of h'ordeuvres all containing foie gras ofcourse! What a treat!
Francois who is the owner, is still very much in touch with his business.  He took us through his kitchen to sit at there family dining room table that can easily sit 25-30. He talked to us about his product for 45 minutes and answered any questions we had. He informed us that his ducks are only actually force fed for 2 minutes of there whole life. For 12 days before slaughter, twice a day for 6 seconds. Each duck done by hand. He explained the process of foie gras from start to finish. He explained the importance of good feed, good handling, and that there is no room for cutting corners when producing foie. 

Like most places in the eastern townships there store is there house. 

We bought a bunch of duck products and off we went to the duck farm. 
I dont think many people in the industry can say they've ever been to a foie gras farm. 
All 10 of us were lucky enough to have this experience. 
Off we went, following Francois along dirt roads till we pulled up to his farm. 
Unfortunately, we wern't allowed camera's in there due to an infiltration of peta a few years back. There we were in a room with 1500 ducks all lined up as the feeding process began. 
Francois grabbed something that looked like a silicone gun, held the head of the duck, slid the rod down its throat and pressed lightly for 6 seconds. That was that. No noise from the duck, it looked content and happy. I should have asked him if i could feed one, because...well... i really wanted to! but i didn't.... he was already being too generous. An amazing experience for myself and our staff. If customers ever have doubts on the quality of our duck products i am content knowing my staff can give them a sincere and knowledgeable answer. 

Off we were for a grueling 5 hour drive home to the Hoof. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Great Sushi

Even though this is a charcuterie blog i thought i'd post a bit about our monday night dinner at Ginger in Montreal. Ginger does sushi, but its not your typical sushi restaurant. Well... the menu reads like it but the plates come out like none other i've ever seen. 
I'm not talking about Sushi Kaji style sushi, im talking about 3 cooks, 2 of them women, sweating it out in a tiny kitchen, hustling & sweating, banging out tasty, supersized concoctions. 

First up is there sushi pizza. This wasn't a few slim slices of salmon on crispy rice thats typical to most restaurants, there was salmon, scallop and lobster amount other things. it was about 3-4 inches tall and TASTY!!
Next up was the spicy eggplant. Eggplant on top and bottom with raw fish inside, apparently dipped in tempura batter and fried as a whole for 5 minutes till the eggplant is fully cooked. This was so good we were forced to order two more. Again, really huge!
Next up tuna tartar with apple. Simple, fresh and tasty
and another favorite...Spicy lobster roll. 3 times the size of your typical maki. 
Eventually the red wine and hot sake got to G-mo and Colin and they were off to battle wasabi. 
Two large piles left on the plate. G-mo took it down first before any wager was discussed. Colin followed. Neither of them won or lost but both of them were feeling it at different times. G-mo's eye's watered up and never spoke of it again (peruvian pride). Colin on the other hand was feeling ill for most of the next day and popping advils. 
So if your ever in Montreal and looking for somewhere to eat on a monday when most places are closed, check out Ginger. You won't be disappointed. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogging from the hotel room

So its monday in montreal and apparently not much is open on mondays. Yesterday we ate at PDC. We arrived by 930. waited for our table for 1/2 an hour, waited for another 45 minutes for a drink to arrive... i guess you can guess where im going with this....the service was shit. The food however was fantastic, albeit we did order too much. I cant remember everything but heres a list of most of it. 

10 liquid foie gras
2 tarragon bison tongue
2 crispy pdc salads
2 bison tar tar
4 duck carpaccio 
2 piglet roast
3 foie gras poutine
3 foie gras and pancakes
2 foie gras and boudin tarts
2 tripe stews
2 duck in a cans
1 trotter stuffed w/ foie

i know we got a few other specials of the night... needless to say it was a large amout of food. 
Along the way some people began tapping out... or eating just tid bits and letting the rest pick up there slack... my girlfriend being one of them. Most dishes were good (foie and boudin tart) with the mains not so good. The duck in a can was probably the worst of the bunch. A cool idea, but cool ideas dont make up for overcooked, under rested protein, foie gras that tasted like dry chicken livers and the fat was  inedible.  By the main courses we knew we had over ordered. 
The thought of putting the duck back in the can and taking both of them home in a bag crossed our minds because we didn't want the PDC staff to think we were pussies... At one point we all held hands and prayed for god to give us the strength to continue on with the feast. Perhaps he was busy. The stuffed trotter.... that looked like roadkill on mash potatoes whipped with xanthan gum was tasty, but at that point in the meal, really tasted like everything we had ate throughout the meal on one plate. 
In most restaurants when sharing food your fighting to get a taste of the foie gras. There at PDC i noticed big chunks of foie gras on my plate i didn't even know i had. 
It was fun. 
But i dont see myself going back soon as the menu doesn't seem to change much. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boning Prosciutto's

So today we started our day off early again. Alfredo, an artisanal prosciutto maker north of the city invited us up to show us how to debone a prosciutto. He starts his day at 7am. We made it up there by 11 30 :) It was one of the funnest experiences i've had not to mention uber informative. We walked around his curing room as he talked about prosciutto's, how to tell when to cover them in paste, how to spot one starting to rot ( and how to save it, but thats a secret i can not pass on i was told) He also showed us how to deal with prosciutto's when they begin to bloat and how to rest them to release any air that might be locked in. We walked, we smelled, we squeezed and most importantly, we listened. I have a how to video we filmed but I am having problems uploading to my mac. If and when i figure out why its not uploading, i will be sure to post it. 
Here's Colin (current stage, soon to be payed employee) rockin the metal vest. Alfredo said we had to wear them so we dont stab our stomachs. I dont remember a time where i thought the knife would have slipped and stabbed me, perhaps it was a joke, but i enjoyed the feeling of heavy metal plates on me. It fit right in with the medieval theme.
Alfredo cleaning off the flour/water paste
All chained up and removing the H-bone

And the press
Prosciutto's salting. Real Italians use Table salt.... Table salt??? what's that?
Alfredo's private stock. He makes these for himself. Lucky guy!
Curing room
The smell was so good in here. 

Off to Montreal

The hoof staff and there significant others are off to Montreal. 
We decided a few days ago to close down for a couple days next week. Sunday the 15th and monday the 16th to be exact. We will reopen thursday. We decided that we need to take a little culinary trip for a few days. I can be fairly particular about leaving times and like to stick to a schedule. I like structure. i dont like winers. Were leaving 5 hours after saturday night service. That gives everyone 3 1/2 to 4 hours sleep. No more no less. we must arrive on time!! If you sleep in you get left behind. Everyone will receive a wake up call. We have a late reservation at Au Pied de Cochon on sunday night. We plan to show them how the hoof can eat. Infact, we plan to close the place down and with any luck the hoof and the cochon staff will go out and party!! Last time i was there it was impossible to try the whole menu because i was only with another friend. This time there is 10 of us. Assuming everyone eats three dishes, that makes thirty, surely thats most of the menu. I am excited. Were planning on checking out all the markets and im trying to find information on all the small illegal cheese makers in the eastern townships that a friend told me about. There will be lots to blog about next week!

Lamb Head Cheese

We decided to make head cheese with the lamb heads. We've never made it with lamb before and after cooking the heads we realized we should have bought a dozen of them to get a decent quantity of meat worth making. But then again, this is all experimental so if its crap it will have only cost us 10  bucks.
We brined the heads and tongues and purged the brains. 
We know brains have a short life span but we want to try them out in the cheese and will use them up within a day. 
We cooked the brains shortly, then breaded and fried them for some flavor. 
unfortunately we ran out of time tonight to pick the heads and press em, but hopefully tomorrow we will have it complete and ready to serve friday.  We plan to use pork stock as the gelatinous binder but will add some of the lamb bouillon for flavor. 
Other then salt, pepper and some fresh mint we plan to keep it quite simple. 
Ideally, we would like to try to set a whole lambs tongue in the middle for esthetics. We shall see!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A typical day off

Today, after a busy monday, i woke up early. It was tuesday... a day i look forward too, not because its a day off from the kitchen, but more so a day in the kitchen without service.  My day got started at 10:30. I got picked up by colin (current stage, next week payed employee)  and we hit up kensington market. We met thoshon, who is the sous at Niagara on the lake, but has been staging at the hoof for the past few weeks while they relocate the restaurant. I'll just add that thoshon is hardcore, he drives in every morning from niagara for a 6 hour prep shift and then back again. I dont know many cooks with that kind of discipline. i respect that. 
We started by grabbing dried blueberries from my favorite dry goods shop on baldwin for a smoked buffalo salami. I dont know the name of the old women who runs the shop, but she calls me mami, mommi, or mommy, so i call her that back. She always gives me a taste of salted pistachios or chocolate covered coffee beans while i wait as she gets my order ready. Next we went to get some oxtail from european meats for a new spring dish im planning to play around with. After that we headed south on kensington to that little butcher shop that generally has some sort of animal head hanging in the window. I really wanted to show thoshon it because she usually has some interesting innards stocked. Today she had nothing except for 3 lamb heads and some tripe. We bought up all the lambs heads and left the tripe. 
On our way back to the car i stopped at a fish store to show thoshon. I warned him of the large amount of jamaicans buying kingfish at any given time of day. We perused a bit and ended walking out of there with some nice fresh herring for 5 bucks.
We dropped off our buys in the car and on we went to augusta fruit market. 
I dont know why people shop at all these overly priced stores in kensington when they could go to Augusta FM and get everything pretty much wholesale. They gave us a tour of there downstairs refrigeration, which is a maze and massive. 
We got ourselves a case of baby topper carrots to pickle and on we went. 
Next up was jumbo empanada. 
Thoshon hadn't had an empanada before, so we all got the typical beef and a little cheese one on the side. Ofcourse we ordered extra salsa and the chilean lady made a crack about how we should use our hands to eat as she brought us cutlery. So i made a joke, and asked if she had any chopsticks. Somewhere along the line, this got lost in translation and both she and her coworkers didn't get my joke as they looked at eachother confused. Then a chilean customer began translating what i said and by the time they got the joke (which wasn't funny anymore) we were done our empanada's and out the door. 
Off i went to tap phong to return a 320 dollar blender that over heated the first time i used it for cabbage soup. Luckily they didn't give me any trouble. Most likely because they knew it was crap before i bought it. I bought a cleaver with my new found wealth because i knew we had lambs heads to deal with. We bought coffee and back to the restaurant we went. 
As we arrived, Thoshon began piping out soprasatta's  which will most likely be our charcuterie contribution for the slow food movement dinner on may 2nd in Toronto. 
Then Colin began busting through the lambs heads. We needed a saw, so i sent him to ML lumber and he came back with a fine toothed saw. We had three heads. His first one was rough. lots of sawing, hacking with the clever, and chipping away at the bone. The second one got better. By the third one he got the brain out perfectly which is not an easy task. Well done!
I did my usual thing. Organized the fridge, cleaned out dry storage. Delt with some stuff that needed to be tended too. Glamourous life i live indeed. 
Throughout the day was battle pickle. 
We pickled the toppers with a sweet ginger pickle. Some cauliflower with tumeric. And our white pearl onions in spiced cider vinegar. 
During battle pickle, i browned some onions a little too much in a pot. The aroma was charred (some may say burnt) but not enough to throw out. 
I enjoyed the smell of onions on the verge of going into the garbage. 
So then i got to thinking about the pearls that were sitting over in a pickling container (garbage can from walmart)
I thought to myself what if we were to char ,almost burn/blister the onions and then put them back into there pickle. 
I mentioned the idea to the stages, neither of them objected.
So there we were burning pearl onions in dry cast irons, the sugars from the brine blackening in the pan. The whole restaurant was filling up with the smell of burnt caramel and smoke. It was a beautiful thing. When they were all done, back into the brine they went and off to the cave where they will ferment for atleast a month until they will end up on our pickle plate. 
Earlier in the day we had put on pork bellies to smoke for our pastrami. We had also cleaned, fillet, and salted the herring. When the herring had tensed up a bit from the salt/sugar mixture, we finished them in the smoker that had now been turned off and only the residual smoke was left. We then began the Dutch rollmops. I'm dutch, but never have i made rollmops. Infact none of us had. But thats the best thing about being in on our day off. Nothing is written in stone and we can do/try/screw up as much as we want, and for as long as we want. Thoshon made up a pickling spice, along with a brine and we layered the fish with spices, onions, herring, and built it up in a jar, layer by layer. We poured the cold brine over and we shall see if its like the ones you buy in a jar in the stores. 
Next up was my girlfriend Rita. Apparently, she needs to come to the restaurant and clean and do chores because we consider it quality time together now that im never home (and when im home, im sleeping). So she organized the spice jars, amalgamated, labeled, etc... We drank some vino and beer, listened to music and for a brief second it really felt like quality time. She's a keeper. 
10pm and we were out the door. 
Tomorrow, up at 9am to go to an artisanal prosciutto makers facility. He's going to show me how to debone a prosciutto leg the old school way. 
Cant wait!! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Less writing, More pictures

Heres a few quick snaps of the hoof a friend took.

Some dudes in a very intense conversation
Me in the juice