garlic

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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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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Quail Confit

Quail, lemon, thyme, garlic, and duck fat

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Oh duck fat… I’ve seen it called liquid gold–it has the magical ability to make pretty much everything a little more delicious than if you used butter or oil. Today, I had the pleasure of filling an entire saucepan with duck fat, cooking a few small birds in it, and subsequently eating them. Suffice to say, I had a pretty good day!

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The recipe started with brining the quails in salt, sugar, peppercorns and basil. We really had fun with this picture–after some trial and error with different containers, we ended up going for a scientific specimen jar look.

Next up, we prepared a mirepoix that contained onion, carrots and leeks.

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With most of the prep done, I turned my attention to the duck fat. The tubs o’ duck fat were slowly melted in a saucepan.

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The mirepoix was added to the saucepan of duck fat (which I found interesting) and the mixture left to simmer on low heat for a while. The vegetables turned a really nice golden brown and added flavour to the duck fat. The addition of the mirepoix also formed a cushion at the base of the saucepan to keep the quails from scorching the bottom.

The quails themselves were taken out of the brining liquid, patted dry, and stuffed with some lemon and thyme before being plunged into a golden bath of duck fat.

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As this cooking process was new to me, it was very fun to experience for the first time. The heat was set at a temperature in order to keep the fat at a low simmer and after the initial (and expected) spatter phase of cooking, the quail simmered gently.

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When cooking was done, the quail were taken out of their bath, and patted dry to remove excess fat. The first thing I noticed was that the skin was completely rendered. My second observation was that the meat was surprisingly dry and stringy. This probably had more to do with the vendor at the farmer’s market having frozen the quail than with the actual cooking method. The meat tasted delicious–the flavour of thyme and lemon really shone through and it was not even remotely too oily or fatty.

All in all, I really enjoyed cooking this dish! It seems like this cooking technique is something that would be worth my time to practice and perfect, because honestly, everything tastes better when submerged in duck fat!

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