Smoked Quail

Quail, kombu, Eastern Hemlock needles, maple wood chips, Tub o’ Duck Fat, sake and sugar

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We’ve been taking things a little slower nowadays as we’ve completed most of the recipes that involve in-season produce and meat. We are going to start focusing on some of the stranger recipes that require more hard-to-find ingredients. This isn’t really one of those recipes as we knew from previous experience where to find the fir, although this time we opted for the Eastern Hemlock needles as they are easier to source and, in our opinion, equally delicious!

We started this recipe by creating a broth with kombu seaweed, water, sugar, and sake. This was fairly simple–we simmered water, sugar and kombu for approximately 15 minutes to infuse the flavours.

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After the steeping time had elapsed, we removed the kombu. The broth almost tasted very similar to almond extract mixed with simple syrup but had a strong mushroom smell (kombu is high in MSG)–it was unlike anything either of us had ever tasted, that’s for sure! At this point, we added the sake and returned the broth to a low simmer.

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Having already preheated the oven, we briefly bathed the quail in the broth, baked them for a few minutes, and then repeated this procedure a few times. Our best guess is that this broth is meant more to act like a glaze than anything else, and the repeated procedure created a pretty thick sticky glaze surrounding the bird inside and out.

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Next, we used the Eastern Hemlock needles and maple wood smoking chips to smoke the quail. If you remember back to our Mock Smoked Salmon post, we previously took a different (and slightly more dangerous) approach to smoking that may or may not have jeopardized our damage deposit. I recently acquired a Smoking Gun, so this smoking this time around was much less dangerous and way more controlled!

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We cut up the Eastern Hemlock needles and combined them with maple wood chips. Then, with the naked, sticky quail in hand, we loaded the Smoking Gun with the mixture and inserted the nozzle into an upside-down bowl.

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Needless to say, this was so much more convenient and efficient than our previous smoking attempt! It literally took under 30 seconds to fill the bowl with smoke. I think last time we spent about 45 minutes heating up our make-shift stove smoker.

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Finally, I cooked the quail in a Tub o’ Duck Fat until they looked golden and crisp.

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Last time we went on our forage for Balsam Fir, we made something the book refers to as Fir Sugar. It only required blending Balsam Fir with sugar, so we used the excess Balsam Fir needles to make this and have kept this in our fridge up until now. It actually turned out to be an excellent accompaniment to this dish both in terms of flavour and aesthetics!

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The quail was delicate and smoky! It was sticky and sweet, with the now familiar taste of duck fat, but with a background taste of smoke that added a subtle little something that made the flavour really interesting. We ended up pairing this with a sweet potato puree and a sprinkle of balsam fir sugar. The mix of potato and fir-sugar was simply amazing! Fir-sugar will now be a standard on sweet potato, forever.

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This recipe was definitely one of the easier ones and I would consider making this for a dinner party! The only thing I would change is that next time I would smoke the quail a second time (after cooking) to really bring the smoky taste to the forefront of the dish. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the familiarity of the flavours–it reminded me of a sweet Chinese chicken dish, but with a sophistication that forces you to take your time to savor every bite.

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Montreal Sausage à la Brasserie T!

Pork shoulder, pork fat back, duck gizzards, white wine, nitrite salt, black pepper and hog casings

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‘Tis the season for sausage making and since Melissa gave me sausage-making supplies for Christmas, I figured it was time to try this recipe! Having never made sausage before, I had to do a lot of research into the proper methodology and did some trial runs with different sausage recipes. The first (and most frustrating task for this particular recipe) was to find a large quantity of duck gizzard. I had only ever encountered duck gizzard as part of that package of giblets in a frozen duck and had never consumed them! Melissa and I went to a number of likely places to try to find this (a few Asian/international markets), but ultimately we came up empty handed. As a result, we had to use the package of giblets from our Christmas duck (there’s been a slight delay in writing up this post!).

The book mentions that their recipe is based on the classic Toulouse sausage, so we decided it would be fun to make the classic Toulouse sausage in addition to the Toqué version to compare them side by side. The recipe we used for the Toulouse sausage we took from the Fatted Calf’s cookbook, In the Charcuterie. There are quite a few notable differences, so we were excited to see how the Toqué version stacked up against the original!

Toqué Toulouse
Pork shoulder/neck
Pork picnic or shoulder
Pork fat back
White wine
Duck gizzard
Black pepper
Course Salt
Cloves
Nutmeg
Allspice berries
Minced Garlic
Nitrite Salt

I first made a call to my butcher to set aside some pork fat back and pork shoulder, which I cut up into manageable chunks and stored in the fridge.

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Next, for the Toulouse sausage, we ground up some cloves, garlic, allspice berries, nutmeg, and black pepper in a mortar and pestle.

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After portioning the meat and fat into 2 portions, we added white wine to one, and the spice blend to the other.

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The next step was to fully incorporate the spices and wine and then allow for them to sit in the fridge overnight. For the Toqué sausage, we cooked the duck giblets in what the book refers to as “Tub o’ Duck Fat”. This was made back in the Quail Confit recipe and involved cooking duck fat with a mirepoix, which we have since stored in the freezer.

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Finally, we chopped the giblets into uniformly sized cubes and incorporated it with the white wine pork combination.

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After allowing the mixtures a few minutes to cool in the freezer, we started the process of grinding the meat. We tried making sausage earlier and found that this significantly improves the texture of the resulting sausage.

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The ground meat was then mixed with the dough hook attachment for the stand mixer until we observed a homogeneous mixture.

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I think the most difficult part of this process is just feeding the sausage casing onto the nozzle of the stuffing attachment. The actual process of stuffing the sausage was surprisingly quick and painless (I employed Melissa to man the plunger so I could ensure the sausages were stuffed properly). This really is a two-person job!

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After all the stuffing was done for both batches of sausage, I portioned out the sausages using a piece of butcher’s twine as a reference.

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Finally, I made sure to prick each sausage on both sides to allow excess air out. This minimizes the risk of experiencing an “exploding sausage”, something I hear is quite unpleasant!

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When all was said and done, I tried both sausages side by side. To prepare them, I boiled them for approximately 5 minutes, pan-fried them until golden and served them with a wild rice blend with tomatoes and green onions.

I really enjoyed both sausages, but I have to give my vote to the Toqué sausage! Despite its markedly simpler recipe, the salty, iron-y flavors made this an instant favorite of mine. It’s possible that I portioned too much garlic into the Toulouse recipe because I found it to be a little too strong for my taste.

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This experience has taught me a few things:

  1. Put the meat in the fridge/freezer before starting the grinding or stuffing processes! This will ensure the texture is not mealy.
  2. Making sausage is a technique intensive activity and requires a little bit of practice before making large batches.
  3. Apparently there is a “sausage making season”, which falls shortly after Christmas where your general grocery store will sell large quantities of pork shoulder, pork leg, and other favorites! At this time, our store also carried hog casings, beef casings, curing salt, and everything else we could possibly need!

After having made quite a few batches of sausage and stocking my freezer to its capacity, I’ve decided this is something I want to keep making and (once I deplete my current supply) will be trying some recipes for rabbit, duck, and other pork sausages in the near future!

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Girly Cranberries

Cranberries, thyme, kalamata olives, and cream

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We took a fairly lengthy break from the blog for the holidays, but we are finally back and catching up on the writing for our completed recipes! We struggled with this post a little because we were unable to get the plating to look the way we wanted it to, so we tried something a little bit different.

The ironically named (based on our plating style choice) Girly Cranberries recipe consists of 4 parts:

  • Cranberry Sorbet
  • Cranberry Chips
  • Candied and dried kalamata olives
  • Thyme Oil

We started with the candied kalamata olives since it appeared to take some time to make. First, we cut the olives into slivers.

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Next, we soaked the olives in cold water to remove some of the saltiness.

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Finally, we boiled the olive pieces in sugar to make a caramel and then set them on a silpat to harden.

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The resulting candied olives were sweet and salty–definitely a strange start to this recipe! We snacked on them while we made the other components, they were surprisingly delicious!

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In order to have all of the garnishing elements completed before the actual dessert, we made the thyme oil next. We noticed that this is a similar process to the scallion oil we made for the Tomatoes and Burnt Bread recipe, and that we will be making a number of herb-infused oils in the future (something to look forward to, they are amazing!).

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We blanched the thyme in boiling water for around 30 seconds, then blended the thyme with a neutral oil until it was smooth.

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We placed the blended thyme in the fridge to sit overnight and then turned our attention to the cranberry purée, which is used as a base for both the sorbet and chips. The cranberries were heated with a little bit of water and sugar. The goal of this exercise was to ensure that all of the berries burst, a process reminiscent to making popcorn! This was the first time we had worked with fresh cranberries, and we were surprised how loud they actually sound when they rupture!

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As the berries cooked, we noticed that the berries started to foam considerably.

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By the end of the cooking process, all of the berries appeared to have burst, and the the foam subsided. Really, it just look like we had made a traditional cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving meal!

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The similarities to the Thanksgiving side dish stopped there, though. We strained the pulp from the liquid and set aside the liquid for later.

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Finally, we ran the pulp through a food processor and then through our ice cream machine to make the sorbet.

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After placing the sorbet in the freezer, we started what is by far the hardest component of this dish–the cranberry chips. This wasn’t the hardest component in theory, but we found the execution to be challenging and tried making these twice!

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We started by separating the whites from some eggs and beating them into a stiff-peaked meringue.

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Next, we gently folded in some of the cranberry purée we made earlier to make a light pink mixture.

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If you’ve ever worked with meringue before, you’ll know that time is of the essence in order to preserve the delicate air bubbles. The first time we did the cranberry chips, we rushed to get the mixture onto parchment paper and ended up spreading the mixture too thick. The result was that we had a thick, not-so-crispy chip that was inedible. The second time around, we took our time to spread smaller batches of meringue on the parchment paper with a cake knife to get a thinner, crispier chip.

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It took some time, but we were able to dehydrate these in the oven at a low heat to get the chips we were hoping for!

The following day, we passed the blended thyme and oil through a coffee filter.

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This oil is amazing on it’s own, but definitely a strange addition to a dessert! We noted that there was a heavier precipitate at the bottom after filtering, so we tried to use just the clear green part of the oil using a dropper.

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Finally, we whipped some cream with a little bit of sugar to put with this dessert. Our final challenge was to plate this masterpiece of components… a challenge we tried again and again to succeed at. The main problem we encountered is that Melissa’s plating style (neat, tidy and aligned) wouldn’t work with this recipe as it ended up looking too staged, so David took the reigns on this one! We’ve seen a number of disorganized plating styles and thought we’d give that a try!

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We ultimately ended up dropping the components on the plate from a distance of about 1 meter after carefully standing up the cranberry chips.

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We found that the sorbet had a very low melting point and really didn’t make it to the plating stage well, so we dropped that too!

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This was definitely one of the stranger desserts we’ve endeavoured to make, but each of the flavours brought something special to the plate. The saltiness of the olives contrasted really well with sweetness from the whipped cream and the tang of the cranberries. We found that the thyme oil was a great accent to the flavours without being overpowering, and that the differences in texture left nothing to be desired. This dessert really does have everything you could want and we loved it!

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Cinderella Pumpkin Ice Cream with (Caramelized) Roasted Seeds

Pumpkin, cream, egg yolks, sugar, pumpkin seeds, and caramel

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One thing we are trying to ensure we do is to complete recipes when their ingredients are seasonally available. We’ve missed the boat on some of the berry and recipes, so we will try to catch those next season. For this season, we are trying to complete all of the gourd, potato and pear recipes. Since pumpkins are openly available, we jumped at the opportunity to make this recipe!

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Before we get into describing the procedure of the recipe, we wanted to note a very important deviation from the initial recipe and our rationale for doing so. We used a New England Pie pumpkin variety in place of a Cinderella pumpkin. In terms of the rationale, have you ever seen a Cinderella pumpkin? Their size would have yielded more pumpkin ice cream than the two of us could consume. Our research into the Cinderella pumpkin variety uncovered that it has a creamy consistency and sweet flavour that is sought after for use in pies. As the New England Pie pumpkin had a similar flavour profile but was 1/8 of the size, we opted for this.

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We cut the pumpkin in two, removed the seeds (and some pulp) and placed them in a bowl of water.

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The halved pumpkin was placed onto a baking sheet (skin side up) and baked until tender. Next, we removed the flesh from the pumpkin and blended it with honey until we were left with a smooth purée.

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Next, we combined the pumpkin purée with cream and set it aside.

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In another bowl, we whisked egg yolks and sugar until they turned a creamy white colour. Below is a picture of the mixture before and after whisking.

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In yet another vessel (this recipe resulted in a lot of dirty dishes!), we heated some milk and cream over low heat. We tempered the egg mixture with a little warm milk and combined it with the warmed milk. This was cooked until the custard coated the back of a spoon and then passed through a conical strainer. Finally, we combined the custard with the pumpkin puree and allowed for it to cool.

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Next, we washed the pumpkin seeds, coated them with olive oil and roasted them in the oven until they were golden brown.

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While these were cooling, we prepared a caramel by combining 1 cup of sugar with approximately 1/4 cup of water and heating the mixture until it was a golden brown (this wasn’t part of the recipe, this was something we decided to do to make the plating look more unique).

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We then combined the caramel with the roasted seeds and poured it over a silicone mat to cool.

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Turns out, coating pumpkin seeds in oil makes them harder to coat in caramel! So this process required pushing the seeds down with tweezers until the caramel was cool enough to keep the seeds suspended.

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In an effort to ensure that our pictures don’t all look the same, we deviated again from the recipe (only slightly!). We’ve read online that another option for creating a creamy ice cream is to freeze the mixture and then run it through a food processor (instead of running the mixture through an ice cream machine). We liked the idea of having something that looked visually very different than our other ice cream posts though, so we plated the ice cream straight out of the freezer (after freezing the mixture in an ice cube tray).

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The resulting “ice cream” had larger ice crystals than typically expected for an ice cream, but it was visually stunning when paired with a roasted pumpkin seed caramel shard.

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We blended some of the ice cream cubes in our food processor to try as well, and this yielded the expected ice cream texture. We didn’t bother to try placing the resulting ice cream into the ice cube tray though, because it would have been very difficult to remove them from the tray.

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The ice cream tasted like a sweet pumpkin soup and paired really well with the bitterness of the caramel. We poured the caramel a little thick, so if we were to try this again, we would aim for a thinner caramel. All in all, this was a delectable autumn treat that we thoroughly enjoyed!

Fir Mousse and Sea Buckthorn Cocktail

Sea buckthorn, fir needles, vodka, sugar and gelatin

We aren’t completing these recipes in any particular order, so we have finally gotten around to making the very first recipe of the book! This recipe was a challenge for us as we had no idea where to find sea buckthorn berries. Since a number of ingredients in the book are foraged, we put off doing this recipe until we could find a reliable source (or at least until we knew where to forage!). We were lucky to learn that some friends of ours knew where to find a sea buckthorn shrub, and were kind enough to able to nab us a branch of the berries before the birds and the cold got to them.

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With the most difficult ingredient of the recipe sourced, we took the dog out for a long walk to forage for fir needles. It’s nearly impossible to estimate how many needles is equivalent to any particular weight, so we brought quite a lot home.

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We measured out a comparatively small amount of fir needles than we had on hand and added sugar and water.

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The mixture was brought to a boil in a pot and then steeped for 15 minutes to incorporate as much of the flavour as possible. While the needles were steeping, we bloomed gelatin in cold water.

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Next, we strained the needles from the liquid and combined the conifer tea with the bloomed gelatin.

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After the mixture cooled to room temperature, we poured it into a siphon, charged it with N2O and put it in the fridge overnight.

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Next, we prepared the base of the cocktail–a sea buckthorn syrup which was prepared by boiling the berries in a simple syrup until they started to pop. We crushed the berries in the pot to release all of their flavours, a step which was not mentioned in the procedure for this recipe. The resulting syrup tasted super-sea buckthorny, so we were happy with that!

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Finally, the sea buckthorn syrup was strained using a coffee filter and cooled in the fridge. The following day, we prepared the flavourful cocktail by combining the syrup with vodka and siphoning the fir mousse on top of the beverage.

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We finished the cocktail with a singular sea buckthorn berry (which surprisingly didn’t sink in the foam) and some of our many leftover fir needles.

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The resulting cocktail tasted very strongly of the berry, which we loved! If you’ve never tried these berries before (like us prior to trying this recipe) they have a tangy, citrus-like flavour. The fir mousse was a big surprise for us because it complimented the flavour of the berries really well! This is a flavour combination we’ve noticed is used quite a bit in this book (we paired citrus with fir needles in the Chicken Casserole and Jar of Pigeon recipes) and so far it has yet to disappoint! We can’t wait to see what else this book has in store for us!

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Berry Vinegar and Vinegared Pulp

Strawberry pulp and red wine vinegar

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These are the last two recipes in our strawberry series—at least until we make more strawberry sorbet! We had planned to do two more recipes using the same by-products, but the volume of pulp we were left with did not allow for us to do this (we had also planned to make Fruit Water and Fruit Oil). Luckily, we did have enough to make this strawberry vinegar and vinegared pulp.

We started by mixing red wine vinegar into the leftover strawberry pulp from the Fruit Paste and Fruit Sorbet recipes.

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The pulpy vinegar was then funnelled into a jar and left to sit in the fridge for two weeks.

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After two weeks in the fridge, the vinegar looked about the same, but wow did the taste change!

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The original red wine vinegar tasted quite fresh for vinegar with a crisp, sharp acid taste. After a month in the fridge it took on a more fermented taste with some added strawberry sweetness.

The next part was easy; we just kept the vinegar and vinegared pulp aside for plating!

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After some thought, we decided to integrate the vinegar component into a salad in the form of a strawberry dressing. It also just so happened that I had planned chicken for dinner that night, so we were able to incorporate both elements into our dinner.

We chose finely diced strawberries and spinach to complement the strawberry vinegar in the salad.

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We then added some olive oil and salt to the strawberry vinegar to make a simple dressing.

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The final dish turned out great! The pulp was the most impressive component, however. It had a strong flavor that probably would have been better suited to a stronger flavored game meat, but the interesting crunchy texture and strong vinegar punch made for a really delicious dinner!

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Fruit Paste and Fruit Sorbet

Strawberries, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice

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Being someone that really loves food, I can’t really think of any foods that I don’t like or least nothing that I would not try at least once (not speaking for Melissa, of course!). Well, that’s not entirely true, there is one exception–strawberries! I grew up with a severe allergy to strawberries until around the age of 18, and therefore formed quite an aversion to the seedy red fruit. The reason we are focusing so much on strawberries is because it made logical sense to use all of the strawberries in their entirety after making the Strawberry Stem Water (the recipes do give you the option to use quite a few other fruits).

These recipes are the second stage of the Strawberry’s destruction and uses the whole strawberries after their hull removal in the previous post.

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First, the whole strawberries were blended into a smooth purée.

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The purée was then passed through our very fine meshed conical strainer to remove the “pulp”. The resulting purée was silky and smooth. The pulp was set aside for a future recipe (stay tuned for that!).

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In the picture below, you can see approximately how much pulp (on the left) we got out of our two pounds of strawberries. There’s an interesting differentiation in colour between the two. We separated the blended strawberries into two portions to use in these two recipes.

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The next step is where things got a little complicated for us. The recipe calls for yellow peach, which didn’t make sense to us, so we contacted the restaurant for clarification. It turns out, the recipe should call for yellow pectin. If anyone reading this is going to try this recipe, note this substitution!

Without thinking too much about it, we picked up some pectin in the canning section of the grocery store. Getting back home and ready to add it to the purée, we noticed something disconcerting. The regular “pectin crystals” package sold for making jams and jellies is not a pure form of pectin; it’s a combination of sugar, funicular acid and pectin, in that order. After doing some research online, it was really interesting to learn that pectin is a naturally occurring bio-polymer the walls of cells. To be used as a gelling agent, it requires sugar and acid.

Warning: Science! Low pH environments cause pectin molecules to bind together through hydrogen bonding. Sugar binds with the water in the solution and forces pectin to bind together to form the matrix needed to form a gel. The NH pectin that we need in this recipe, has added calcium bonds, which helps the gel become thermally reversible (and thus melts in your mouth).

Anyways, needless to say, we were lucky to be able to find the right pectin! We just adjusted the recipe accordingly to account for the added sugar and acid in the pectin we purchased.

The purée was brought to a simmer and mixed with water, sugar, glucose, lemon juice and citric acid. The mixture was then transferred to a parchment paper-lined dish and put into the fridge to cool and (hopefully) set.

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This resulting mixture was a glossy and viscous strawberry syrup, which tasted like the smoothest strawberry jam we had ever tasted!

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To our delight, the mixture set beautifully and we were left with a very firm gel. This is where we had some fun cutting up the gel into shapes and trying different approaches to plating.

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Here you can see the consistency of the gel:

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The final product was coated in some sugar to make it a little less sticky and easier to pick up and eat.

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We really enjoyed making this recipe. It played to our nerdy side to learn the science behind pectin and its role in making this sweet candy. I would really love to try this recipe with some blueberries or raspberries when they are in season again!

While snacking on the fruit paste candies, we added some sugar to what was left of the strawberry purée and some lemon juice to adjust the acidity. The mixture was then churned in our ice cream maker until it became a smooth sorbet. This was then placed into the freezer overnight.

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The following day, we were excited to plate up this dessert! The sorbet was a little hard, but we let it sit out for a few minutes to soften it slightly. Remember the Rhubarb Cannoli we made? Fortunately, we kept the leftover strawberry powder–it was a perfect accompaniment to this sorbet (hooray for hoarding powders)! We also still have our Elderberry, Blood Orange, and Grapefruit powders, maybe one day these will come in handy as well!

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All that was left to do was to pour some strawberry powder on a plate, quenelle the sorbet, and eat!

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This was simply wonderful! The acidity of the sorbet worked perfectly with the sweet and crunchy texture of the powdered sugar. We literally ate all of the sorbet we made in a matter of minutes, it was delicious (apologies to the friends we could have shared this with!).

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Strawberry Hull Martinis

Strawberry hulls, water, vodka, lemon juice

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One thing that’s impressive about Toque! is how they aim to waste as little as possible. This cocktail actually consists of two recipes from the book. Strawberry Stem Water is a component featured as it’s own recipe later in the book, so we’ve combined the two here. This recipe is the first in a set of strawberry recipes–in the book, each recipe uses the waste product from a previous recipe, so there was practically no waste at all!

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We started with the Strawberry Stem Water. This was a fairly simple process that involved slicing the tops off of the strawberries and setting the strawberries aside for use in another recipe.

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Next, we sprinkled the the strawberry hulls with sugar and covered them with water.

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The resulting mixture was placed in the fridge to rest for 24 hours. Upon removal from the fridge, the strawberries had very nicely infused the water and the hulls looked a little tired.

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We then passed the mixture through a conical strainer and threw away the hulls (okay, maybe there is a little bit of waste, but it served a purpose prior to being disposed of!).

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Next we started on the Strawberry Hull Martinis as they required the strawberry water component we just made. We sliced some lemon rind to garnish the beverage and squeezed some lemon juice.

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Finally, we added the strawberry water, lemon juice, vodka (no, we didn’t make that!) and some ice to a shaker.

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After 30 seconds of vigorous exercise, the cocktail was complete! It’s pretty incredible how strongly the flavour of strawberry came through! It was a cool and delicious treat, not to mention an amazing way to use kitchen trimmings!

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Stay tuned for more strawberry recipes!

Tomatoes and Burnt Bread

Brioche bread, tomatoes, green onion and fire

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Both Melissa and I appreciate any opportunity to set fire to things… maybe a little too much! This recipe looked deceivingly simple, but alas, it took us a few days to get through. The idea behind the recipe is simple… burn some bread, slice some tomatoes, and make some scallion oil and mayonnaise to dress the plate with. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that:

  • You are burning brioche that you make from scratch (which takes ~24 hours)
  • Making scallion oil takes 24 hours (including resting time in the fridge)

Perhaps with some better planning, we could have gotten through these recipes in a couple of days… Next time!

We started by combining the ingredients for the brioche (flour, eggs, salt, yeast) in a stand mixer as it seemed like the most time-intensive activity.

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After dough had some time to combine, we added butter and beat the dough with the dough hook attachment to the stand mixer until it was silky and smooth.

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At this point, the dough rested in the fridge overnight. The following day, we separated the dough into sections and rolled them into balls.

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We then placed the dough in a preheated oven to proof for 3 hours.

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Upon removal from the oven, we applied a glaze of egg yolk to each bun and cut an X mark on the top. This process was a little stressful because we noticed the buns collapsing–as a result, not all the buns got a perfect X mark.

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When we removed them from the oven, the buns were golden and had a beautiful glossy finish.

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With the brioche completed, we chopped up the green part of some scallions as the first step in preparing the scallion oil.

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After a quick blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water, the scallions were combined with oil and the mixture pulsed until there weren’t many large pieces left.

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The resulting mixture was placed in the fridge to infuse overnight. The following day, we ran the mixture through a conical strainer and set the bowl aside to start plating.

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I think the fiery part of any recipe is our favourite… there’s a little (I really mean a lot) of danger involved in letting either one of us hold a torch. We may have burned some holes in the foil we were using to line the baking pan, but the silver lining here is that we used a baking pan under the foil.

We tried to burn each of the brioche pieces as lightly as possible . After a certain amount of time though, Melissa threw caution to the wind and really burned some bread with a truly pyromaniacal look in her eyes.

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We cut the brioche into several shapes with the intention of trying different plating techniques. This later turned into a plating competition, so feel free to vote for your favourite at the end of this post!

Plating Style #1

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Plating Style #2

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This deceivingly simple combination of flavours was amazing. The burnt flavour of the bread combined with a hint of tang from the scallion oil and green tomatoes created a very complex and appealing flavor. We added some Maldon salt which added another dimension to the dish. There’s no question that we would make this again, but maybe next time we will plan a little better and combine the preparation of elements that require similar time frames. The complexity of the elements means that this recipe probably isn’t going to be something you’d prepare for a dinner party, but maybe for a small gathering of friends or family.

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Calamari, Squid Ink and Tomatoes

Calamari, squid ink, basil and tomatoes

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It’s unreasonably hard to locate squid ink in the Greater Toronto Area. We spent a few days calling a few dozen specialty and gourmet food stores trying to locate some squid ink for this recipe. After this frustration, we decided to go the route of harvesting the ink ourselves from the fresh squids we ended up finding at the our local Asian foods market. The recipe began with some beautiful fresh local tomatoes, basil and garlic from our farmers market.

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Don’t worry, the tomatoes didn’t grow multicolored on one vine, we just put them together to make the image look less busy! The tomatoes were quickly blanched in boiling water for a few seconds then plunged into an ice bath and peeled.

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These were then diced, and placed in a saucepan to simmer with basil, garlic and olive oil until slightly reduced. We then turned our attention to the fun ingredient of this recipe–the squid. This process was not very complicated, and I had fun taking it apart. Melissa, on the other hand, had a hard time staying in the room to take pictures. The process was as follows:

I rinsed the squid under running water for a few minutes until clean.

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The tentacles and head were removed from the body, while being careful not to rupture the ink sac and placed in a bowl of cold water.

The spine was pulled out from the body (this looks surprisingly like plastic, I was shocked!).

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I then peeled the reddish/purple skin from the squid to reveal the nice glossy white meat underneath.

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(This is where things get a little messy!)

The tentacles were separated from the head right under the eyes, while being careful to not puncture one of the small ink sacs located behind the eyes.

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At this point we couldn’t avoid it any longer, it was time to extract some squid ink. The ink sac was actually larger than we thought it would be for this size of the squid. It had a shiny blue exterior, and felt hard and filled with ink of a play-dough like consistency.

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After some research online, we decided it was best to harvest the ink into a half and half mixture of white vinegar and water as the help dissolve the crystalline ink.

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After this was finished, I sliced up the bodies and tentacles and lightly fried them in a pan. In hindsight, I think I cut the calamari rings a little thick–noted for next time!

I then added some of the harvested squid ink to the cooked calamari and mixed it to coat the white meat in a bowl.

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Plating this recipe was quick and simple. We placed some of the “tomato stew” into a shallow dish and topped it with the cooked and coated calamari.

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The resulting dish was visually stunning! I definitely overcooked the calamari, but otherwise the combination of flavours was nice. The tomato component was delicious, I would eat this part on its own or make it as a side dish with dinner.

After we finished the recipe, we did some research online and learned that the squid ink had the strange consistency it did because of the age of the squid. If I were to try this again, I would use a younger and fresher squid!

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