Friday, May 29, 2009

Kurobuta Jowls

Also known as Berkshire Pork, but this stuff is the real deal. No cross breeds or 90 % berk, and 10% something else, this is the kobe beef of pork meat. Pigs cheeks are generally all fat with a few nasty glands in them, but these have some serious marbling of meat throughout. They run about 15 dollars a lb, not cheap by any means. I have them brining and will confit them tomorrow. I'm thinking of pairing them with some kimchee'd spanish onion, fava's, and perhaps some morels if the price comes down next week. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Decided to try something a little different this time around. i like guanciale, but slicing the skinny pressed piece of fat can get annoying. This time i decided to roll it like pancetta and press it. Hopefully it stays nice and tight. 

Curing Room Update

Although i only get to spend a very minimal amount of time in this room, it is my favorite part of the week. The smell, the look, the constant squeezing of cured meats to access whats ready or soon to be cherry picked. 
Most animals in the animal kingdom are represented in these pictures... i'm sure you can guess which one is the N'duja. 
I harvested some really nice horse with clove and chili yesterday so look for it on your board this week. Our prosciutto's are still a ways away but hopefully they will be tasty. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Calf's Brain Tortelli

After a slow unproductive sunday we decided to use our minimal prep day to make some pasta. Colin made the dough, Guy made the brain filling, and i made the pork belly pastrami filling. Its been a while since i've touched some good home made pasta and it reminded me how much i miss it. Because of the beautiful weather, we decided to do it outside. Here's Colin rolling out the first piece on a mini pasta roller i dug out from the bottom drawer of my home kitchen. I bought it for 10 bucks years ago and its still gets the job done. 
Here's Guy and Colin making tortelli with the brain mixture which consists of ricotta and lemon zest. We served some up last night with a bit of brown butter, lemon and cracked black pepper and it was tasty. 
Fortunately, there's a ton of filling left, so me and colin will be finishing up the rest today. Look for it on the menu next week. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stupid things one does when its slow

On a slow night most cooks would catch up on prep or clean areas of the kitchen that dont get regular attention, but some days, for no apparent reason, we go straight to option 3....playing with the deep fryer. 
The deep fryer is the most entertaining piece of equipment in a kitchen. Not many tools can compete with a container of consistently hot oil with baskets ready to fry anything that comes its way. But the beauty of the deep fryer is in the differing outcomes depending on what you put in there. 
It started with an egg. None of us in the kitchen that night had deep fried a whole egg in its shell. We didn't know what to expect, but obviously, we figured it would blow up. We bounced around our theories and argued about the outcome. Some of us took cover, and others, meaning myself, stayed close by to keep watch on the fryer. All three of us stood there, trying not to look too suspicious in front of the surrounding customers. 
We waited....and waited... until clearly this egg was not going to blow up. 
So much for that one.
On to the next. 
I whipped up a quick tempura batter and we began frying every little tid bit in the kitchen. Chorizo, salami's, gherkins, and even sour keys (our go-to protein when were hungry). None of the outcomes warranted new menu changes, but its times like these where new ideas and new techniques are created. I bet you many things you might eat at El Bulli are created by days like these. 
Next stupid thing on the list was the veal brains. We were soaking the brains last night for the ravioli's we are making today. I decided to cut a small piece off and offer it to my dishwasher, labelled veal brain sashimi. It was meant as a joke, i wasn't sure i was going to let him eat it, but i definately wanted to see if he'd do it. He passed on the raw state, so i offered him ceviche. A little marinate of lemon juice and brunoise. I gave it to him and told him to give it about 5 minutes before eating. Tom's a special boy, he'll pretty much do anything you tell him. The ceviche looked appetizing to him, i knew he was going to eat it. 
I've never heard of eating raw or quickly marinated brains before, especially not calf's. I quickly thought of the possible outcomes and decided as a responsible restaurant owner, i wasn't being too responsible. When he wasn't looking, i grabbed the little bowl of marinating brains and walked back to the kitchen. 
Confronted with my two cooks who were hoping for a much more entertaining outcome, i only had one choice and that was to eat it myself. I split it in 1/2 and scooped the first bit in a spoon and i downed it without chewing with the assumption, that if i dont chew it i will have a better chance of not getting sick. Realizing my silly assumption and the fact that whatever would happen was going to happen, i was ready to really taste the raw brains. I took the second 1/2 and placed it on my tongue, i squished and chewed and swallowed. It had a very delicate texture, almost like a scallop but with less bite and chew. When i think about it now, it was a delicacy to my senses. 
Its the next morning and despite a little hang over, i feel fine. 
Not sure brain ceviche would sell nor that i would even put it on the menu, but it was nice to try and another stupid night in the books.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Put a little bit of tripe in something and you'll make most peruvians smile. In this case it's chef G-Mo. He is holding a bung cap filled with N'duja, a Calabrian salami that is the italian version of the french andouille only much hotter due to the 1.5 kg of hot chili pepper that went into this recipe. The thing that makes this salami unique from most others is that it is spreadable rather then your typical sliced cured meat. This would kick off the beginning to an italian meal with some toasted bread and cheese to wake up the senses. 
We used honey comb tripe for this recipe. We brought it up in hot water, then changed the water and brought it up to a simmer for another hour or so till it was par cooked.
We let it cool down before we diced it up  and froze it for grinding and the smell of poached tripe was making the whole kitchen wheezy, even the peruvian. 

This salami also contained about 5 jowls, 1/2 a pigs belly, and some nice berkshire shoulder meat. The presence of fatty goodness is a must if you want it to spread nicely. The mound of red stuff is the hot chili pepper. I was very weary about the amount that went into it. Just a bit on the tip of my finger sent me running for water. It was the toughest salami i've mixed by hand due to the amount of dry ingredients. 
After stuffing it, we dried it for a day to form a pellicle on the casing, which will help the salami take on smoke in the smoker. It's a first for the BH kitchen, were excited as much as we are scared to taste it. 

The 12 O'clock Crouch

If your ever at the Hoof and its 12 o'clock and you dont see anyone in the kitchen, chances are we're doin' the 12 o'clock crouch, which consists of suckin' back some 50's and eating cheap, cold chinese food.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Demo Across the Street

Demolition has begun. Put some guys together with some heavy duty smashing utensils and an empty room and we'll go nuts. The demolition started with 5 people, we were so excited we began bringing down the ceiling without eye goggles or face masks. This lasted about 3 minutes before we couldn't see and could feel the dry wall dust filling our lungs. Off Jen went to ML lumber to get us our gear.  I wont waste much time bitching about the design of the goggles, but they have so many holes in them (apparently so they dont fog up) but it didn't help much with the debris, it merely was much more selective about the size of particles that got in your eye. 
For about 20 minutes we were busting stuff up with blurry vision, eventually someone realized there was a layer of plastic to peel off. Sweet, we can see now!
Id love to say i did the a lot of the destruction, but i'm sure i would get called out by one of my staff. Colin, our "Tower of Power" at the hoof basically did about 3/4 of the whole ceiling while the other 4 of us handled the rest. He was taking down pieces of ceiling 4 feet long while i was more or less just chipping away.  Some tapped out along the way while the rest of us picked up the slack.
Despite my blurry vision and the dust that filled my nose, my ears were still working fine. I heard the chimes of the ice cream truck but couldn't see it. It took me a second to figure out where it was coming from, and then i began running before it was too late. I signaled to Tom our busboy to take orders and follow me. 
Here we are, patiently waiting for 6 large twists dipped in chocolate and peanuts. 
This man was well dressed for an ice cream guy so he obviously takes his job seriously. 

G-mo showed up very late and despite being dressed in a nice shirt and jeans, he helped break some stuff. Drinking brew and eating ice cream after a long days work. My arms felt like rubber. 
Cooks like anything in a squeeze bottle. If you watch us during service, you can often see us eating bread with something out of a squeeze bottle. It might be hot sauce, ramp pesto, pesto and hot sauce, mayo, purple mustard, or caramel. Anythings fair game when were hungry. So this ice cream was lacking something. I ran across the street and was soon giving everyone a dose of caramel. I have a very funny picture of Jen with ice cream covering her face but im sure she'd kill me if i posted it. All in all it was a great day and we are ready to start paying some professionals to do the rest. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Veal Brains

After an inspiring dinner at Splendido last week where i was served brains, i decided to see if i could get some in from my suppliers. Talks of them being illegal from one supplier made me want them even more. My supplier was on a mission to find them though and one day 10 lbs of brains were at my door. I havn't quite figured out what to do with them, i was thinking a sandwich, because it is quite popular in the south, but im not sure toronto is ready for a brain sandwich. I'm not sure people will even order brains and its not something that can just sit around in the fridge for a few days. I'm thinking of pairing it with truffle, perhaps it will help it sell. 
But come to think about it, i didn't think the stuffed snout would sell, and it sold out every night. 
So perhaps i am underestimating Toronto and not giving the people of this city the props that they deserve. We shall see....

Kimchi Ramps

We've already had about 100 lbs of ramps come our way. This 168 liter container was full and we decided to kimchi them. I dont have the recipe infront of me but i will try and post it soon. Normally, the addition of water isn't part of the recipe, but id like to be able to can these ones up and thought using a brine would help with keeping the ramps nice and and tasty in there jars. Lots of garlic, ginger, salt,sugar and korean chili flakes. They are currently fermenting in the cave. These ramps are big and they should take a while for the brine to penetrate there core. Although i am dreading  the actual part of canning this season because of memories of 5 in the morning last year waiting for water to boil, doing small batches at a time, especially on an electric stove, it beats trying to store a million vac pac bags of pickles in our small walk in. 


Jen and I started this restaurant with all the money we had. We were forced to clean out our own kitchens of anything that could be useful to the restaurant, which is ok, because neither of us have had time to cook at home. Business has been good and we can now afford to spend money on certain luxuries for the restaurant. I've worked in some fancy kitchens and i think this last investment has put us in the same category as the big boys like Canoe, etc.
Its not a massive steam kettle nor is it a fancy sous vide machine. No folks, Its a "Safety Saran Wrap Station" , not just any safety wrap station, its the delux version, with all the fancy attachments. I was trying to figure out why it called itself a "station", then before service we tried to find a spot to store it, and alas i figured out why it was called a station. This thing, is so BIG and clunky, handles protruding out the side giving it an extra foot in length, it looks swollen as if its filled with too much water, almost as long as our 4 foot garde manger surely.... one can not store it. It demands a station of its own, perhaps its own room. 4 empty walls, a stainless table, with its suction cups clinging to the surface, ready to wrap anything that comes its way. 

The Patio

This is a shot from last week and despite the odd day of our contractor not showing up or the odd day of him showing up and not doing much and then disappearing, it has come much further then what you see here. I have an updated picture, but Jen has big plans for pimping out our patio so you will have to come and sip strawberry/rhubarb mojitos to see it for yourself. We had no choice but to build a roof. Unexpected rain would surely put us in the shits if we had an extra twenty people to seat inside. Only thing left is to wait for our tables to get delivered. Exciting times at the hoof. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Wedding

Yesterday i catered a wedding. It wasn;t just any was my girlfriends parents wedding. I was also informed (by my girlfriend) that i was catering the wedding only 7 days prior. Cooks like me always get signed up for these family events, so im not surprised i found myself catering to 130 people, outside in a backyard, in the dark. 

Any cook knows, hell, anyone who's thrown a dinner party knows that no matter how many lists you make, you are always going to forget something. I began the day with one large list, which quickly multiplied into 5 pages, front and back, scribbles everywhere, titles, headings, check marks, id put some in one pocket, some in others, lost a few down by the peddles of the car as i did my day-of errands like picking up coffee, getting flowers or should i say trees that filled the car like a scene in jumanji, balancing trays of duck confit puffs on the dash board with the air conditioning on high trying to offset the heat from the sun projecting through the cars window as i battle my way through traffic up to yonge and finch. 

I reached my destination. The rain had stopped (thank god) but the winds were still fierce. I was standing under a 130 foot tent that looked like it was ready to set sail. First things first, unload the cars and see whats missing. Garbage bins, bags, containers, soap, scrubbies, knifes, made more lists and back downtown i went. Eventually i got back. Looking at my prep list which was in good shape i had three hours, i felt good, things were looking up. 
I began drinking a beer i was offered by my girlfriends father who was trying to get my operation powered up with enough extention cords. We blew some fuses, had cords everywhere, power bars, lights, induction burners, slicers but eventually got it figured out. 
I was starving, so were the two cooks helping me. I decided to get food for everyone. i drove to the corner of finch and yonge to find myself surrounded by korean restaurants. I like korean but i wasn't sure if they can do hot pot and korean bbq to go. So i settle on the only sushi joint arount. I returned with 80 bucks of sushi only to be told i had 5 minutes before we had to go to the wedding ceremony. 
One thing i forgot to write on my list was that i had to go to the wedding. 
There i was, in the shits, although my girlfriend was in it worse. We delegated everything we didn't have done to my two cooks who when we left, were filling balloons with helium. 
Off we went. 
Sitting in the front row, i managed to sneak a few text messages to the cooks during prayers and hymns giving orders, reminding them of things to get done. The plan was to grab the trees from the church and rush back as soon as possible to finish setting up before the people arrived. We were in the front row. We wanted to wait till the people began following out the groom and bride before we yanked the trees. But everyone was waiting for us to follow first. i stepped back, hoping that people would catch my drift, they waited..... i stepped back again...this time yanking my girlfriend back.... they waited. 
Realizing this wasn't going anywhere, i grabbed my girlfriend and then the trees and ran out the side door. 
Racing back, i through on some chef whites and got down to business. The boys had eveything together, i began slicing. Induction burner was searing pork belly, oysters were being shucked. 
The people began arriving. My girlfriend was in a hectic state. 

Theres two types of Hors d'oeuvres parties. Those where people eat, and those where people dont. 
30 minutes into it and no one had touched a thing, they oouuud and ahhhd but no eating. 
All this work for nothing. 
Then i heard a gentleman say the word "plate"
There were no plates! IDIOT!
I ran inside, got a stack of paper plates and the line ups began. 
oysters were moving, lobster, bacon and brioche sandwiches were flying off the shelf, pork belly was searing, duck puffs were in the oven, people were filling there plates up with meat and antipasto, things were looking up. Two hours later, the crowd had subsided, the food was all gone, and it was time to clean up. 
First wedding catering behind me. Over before i knew it. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pickling Season Begins

So, every year the ramps are pretty much the first sign of "get ur pickle on". 
I'm still waiting for one of my foragers to show up at my door with 400lbs worth. 
Its a task for anyone to get that amount, i think you would probably need 10 people to do it in one sitting. The other day i managed to pickle 10lbs. Ramps are delicate, especially early in the season. I prefer to ferment then pour a hot pickle over, only it takes time. 
For this one, i did a very simple pickle, water, a bit of salt, fresh dill, lots of mustard seed, and chili. No need to add garlic or onion when doing ramps for obvious reasons. 
A little trick when fermenting. Add some base brine to a bag, so that when you skin the skum that rises, you can refill out of the bag and it also acts as a weight to keep things submerged.
Dont forget to rinse the bag on the outside each time you skim.
A new pickle ive never tried. This is a indian spiced broccoli. Lots of white wine vinegar, fresh grated garlic, ginger, dill seed, purple mustard seed, cumin. I always like to try using the whole vegetable when trying something new, so i cut the stalks into baton's and through them in the pickle. 
Also new for me. Pickled grapes. Strictly white wine vinegar, lots of tarragon, celery leaves, and spices like cinnamon, all spice, and bay. They should be ready in a month or so. 

Friday, May 1, 2009


So a few things to update. 
Lets start with the loser. Remember the pork loins i stuffed with noisette salami? 
Well, great idea, bad execution. It didn't cure great and it only kinda stuck to one side. 
Im sure i'll try it again sometime, only this time around i will probably press it as it ages to see if that helps. I plan to do the reverse idea now that i have the saran wrap casing :)
Another salami i made was a spicy clove and horse one. It turned out great. only i didn't make alot. So i made a big batch this past week. 
There is something about the pairing of horse and clove that goes so well together. 
Also, The Baby Goat salami is finished and i must say its a winner. 
Its got a perfect level of salt, nice whole black peppercorns and a bottle of cava. 
Im not sure if i can taste the cava or not, perhaps its all in my head, but you can definitely taste the goat meat. 
Its not overly goaty. but definitely apparent.  
Now all i need to do is find some more baby goat trim. 
Ps. if you want some goat, please ask to have it on your board when you order. IF i have some on hand, you shall receive. 


The other day i made Sobresada. Its the spanish version of the italian sopressata, except for that its a ground salami, which then gets pulsed in the food processor and then cures. The end result is more like a pate one can spread, then a salami you can slice. The meat to fat ratio is 1:1 , so its very creamy. I decided not to pulse it for several reasons, the main one being i didn't have enough time to do such a large batch in my dinky food processor. While grinding it, it already looked pretty smooth and mushy so hopefully i get a good product. Like most spanish salami's there is a lot of smoked paprika involved. Infact this salami takes a shitload. 
I used beef middles as my casings but my last few casing purchases have really been a disappointment. They seem to break every few inches which is INCREDIBLY annoying. So i stopped 1/2 way through and began using the saran wrap casing above. I'm not sure what its actually called, so i call it saran wrap casing. It looks like a roll of seran wrap, only 20 times more expensive. I just recently got it but i have already planned out my next twelve things id like to experiment with. 
Basically, in a nut shell, you lay your meat down, wet the wrap, and roll like you would a roulade of sorts. Tie it up, poke your holes and hang. I'm in the beginning stages of experimenting with it, im sure i will come across some obstacles and i wont get it perfect for another few tries. But anything that doesn't take up valuable fridge space like natural casings is worth a try ...or even two...