Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Playtime!

A few nights ago my to-do list was not ridiculously long so I took some time to play w/ parsnips. Tomorrow night I plan on playing w/ carrots. Am I just trying to relive my childhood, looking for sand boxes & rubber ducks? No! I simply love playing with food! Experiment, step outside the box, get wild & crazy, hop off the fence, take off the blinders! Now that I’ve proven myself to be quite metaphor-friendly, let’s get down to business.
If you are serious about food, about embracing all of it’s gorgeous potential, you must get serious about playing with it. Picture it… you purchase some parsnips (aka ~your seasonal veggie of choice), enter your kitchen, light a candle or two, and put on some funky music. ( for these play-a-thons I love retro disco. Gloria Gaynor or KC & The Sunshine Band –that’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it!) Now, take a deep breath,and attack those veg with vim & vigor. Blanche, braise, dehydrate, roast, saute, puree, sous-vide, poach, smell, taste, adjust seasonings, put a dab on your nose–even behind your ears! Boogie to the music and proclaim, loudly, your love for sexy local food.
Having fun? Next, lets tackle meat. Enough tenderloins! Go to your favourite sustainable butcher and get some oft-forgotten cuts…pork shoulder, lamb shanks, beef cheeks, to name a few. If you give these meats your TLC and lots of time you will be rewarded with flavours you’ve never experienced.
When you have REAL food in your kitchen and the right attitude, there are no limits to what you can do. Put in the time and the fun factor and you will be amazed with the results. Today’s lesson is to explore seasonal foods with a passion, put the verve back in your kitchen, get flour in your hair, dance to Aretha while waiting for dough to rise, explore celeriac and, dammit, have fun! Real food rocks!
Tastefully yours, Luke

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oh You Piddly Thing

I promised to talk about the things I don’t relish doing, but I must come clean and admit that it’s a short list. I honestly can’t think of a food related chore that I find a …well, a chore. I love the process of making my way through the perpetual to- do list, simultaneously crossing things off and adding new ones. For example, here is my current list…
– cornichon chips, parsnip ” gnocchi”, peasant bread, clarify butter, peppermint patties, inventory, beef cheek salsiccia, clean smelts, mustard, develop new carrots, edible wrappers, ginger refreshers, chocolate bordeaux sauce, spinach galettes, rabbit bundles, cherry jelly, braise duck breasts, tobacco ice cream, solid salad & consomme, pork belly pizza, fingerling chips, chevre, olive dust–
Whew, I need a nap! I can’t say there is one thing on that list that I don’t enjoy. Some take minutes, some hours, and some the better part of a day. Some take a fair amount of thought and focus ( another espresso, please), others are simply piddly and allow my mind to wander as far away as it wants. ( Isn’t piddly a great word? So is gobsmacked. Even better–gobsmackingly piddly!)
There are days when I look forward to a long tedious job, ie: making sausages. If I’m mentally working on a new dish, trying to tweak the components, I can always get my answers before the last sausage is stuffed. I just realized that not only is Charcuterie good for the soul, it provides an opportunity to unleash one’s imagination and creativity. I’ve had some of my greatest ideas/inspirations while making rillettes, salamis, confits, etc.
OK, I just realized there is one thing I truly dislike doing… cleaning up after myself. I’m not the type to clean as I go… hmmm, public therapy? After many hours of prep I’ll suddenly look around the kitchen and gasp! What were you doing man, you couldn’t have washed those bowls after you dirtied them? Maybe I’ll add that to my list?
Mean while, back to the list…………..
Tastefully yours,

These are a Few of my Favourite Things

I always have my to-do lists in the kitchen. These tasks are tackled after prep each night and on Mondays & Tuesdays, the two days we’re closed. Big jobs, little jobs, and lots of in-between stuff. They conveniently fall equally into 2 camps… Things I love doing and Things I don’t.
Making Ice Cream— oh, how I love making ice-cream. I’ve probably made 1000 batches and yet never tire of the process! I scream, you scream……..but I digress. Who doesn’t love the rich seductive allure of hand-crafted ice-cream? If you are not a fan I will understand if you skip over this paragraph. And the flavour possibilities… I’ve made ice cream w/ smoked bananas, black olives, lemon confit, tarragon & lovage, to name a few. On our current menu we have romaine ice-cream as part of our Caesar salad, and a smoky vanilla tobacco ice -cream as a component in the Testosterone dessert.
Making Bread— I remember my first attempts @ breadmaking; I think I was 12 years old. I was a tad impatient then, didn’t yet appreciate the importance of time when embarking on time-honoured traditions. I was kneading the dough for 15 min. or so, and while the flavour was outstanding the loaves were a little… well, flat. What was I doing wrong? I did research, experimented like a mad scientist, and made more loaves than I could possibly eat! One day, while kneading yet another batch of dough, my mum came in the kitchen. After watching me for a few minutes she offered these words of advice… “that dough is a living thing, maybe it just kneads (sorry, I couldn’t resist) more time to wake up. Try kneading it longer.” Well, I kept going for 45 minutes and couldn’t believe the transformation…the dough was like elastic silk and the powerful aroma of yeast almost knocked me over! When I took the loaves out of the oven that day I was stunned. They were perfect! Since that day I have probably baked more than 5000 loaves of artisan bread w/ kneading time always exceeding 45 minutes. Hey, it’s also a great workout!
Charcuterie/Butchery— I butchered my first animal when I was 12, a grass-fed heirloom pig from a local farmer. I will admit to feeling a little intimidated, but once I had begun it seemed to come naturally. From that pig I crafted guanciale, wild fennel salami, procsiutto, pancetta, pork tuna, rillettes, crackling, and tete du cochon. I just love the whole process. I always feel like I’m entering a time warp, performing tasks as they were done so many years ago. I feel that I am showing respect to both the animal and the farmer who raised it properly. It also provides another lesson in patience as curing meats need time, no rushing allowed. The prosciutto that now graces the Charcuterie plate hung for just over 2 years. Gimme, gimme never gets!
Next post will be devoted to the things I don’t love to do.
Tastefully Yours,

Autumn's Audacity

Oh Autumn, or Fall as you also like to be called, you are such a cruel season. Oh please, you do protest too loudly! I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought, have done my research, and have formed a solid argument that would stand up in any seasonal courtroom.
First, you shorten our days and make us toss aside the carefree attire we donned all summer. Ok, ok, that could be considered 2 points, but I’m a busy guy and would like to sprint to the finish line. Seriously, what were you thinking? It should NOT be dark @ 4:30 in the afternoon! I am not a morning person; just as I’m getting into the rhythm of the day you turn out the lights. And did it ever occur to you that some of us aren’t ready for heavy jackets and umbrellas every day? Oh sure, you claim it makes us appreciate the other seasons that much more. Sorry buddy, but that’s Winter’s argument for his nasty behavior and he used it first.
Then there’s this business of changing the colours of the leaves, creating what you like to call The Beauty of Fall. (Hmm…no ego there…) What on earth led you to believe that we mortals would enjoy, for a couple of months each year, being subjected to such beauty that even the grumpiest amongst us will stop and marvel @ the exquisite explosion of colour surrounding us……. damn, I seem to have lost my train of thought.
Lastly, my final argument proving that you are nothing more than a mean-spirited season-wannabe. As a proponent of local eating I don’t see the humour in forcing us to consume root vegetables for months on end. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, rutabegas, celeriac!! Where are the tender asparagus, the fragrant peas, the bountiful broccoli, the sun-kissed tomatoes? You say that you do this to bring attention to the under-appreciated , the often maligned, of the vegetable kingdom? Hmmm… I will admit that, as a Chef, I love the challenge I’m faced with @ this time each year. The darlings of the summer garden are just so sexy they nead very little help from me to make them shine. Have you looked @ a turnip lately? Not the cutest puppy in the litter! But with lots of TLC and respect, oh they can shine as brightly as a disco ball!
Ok Autumn, maybe you’re not as bad as I thought. Here’s a thought, let’s get together one of these days, maybe over a Scotch, and have a chat. I’ll even make you a deal… if you agree to let the sun shine until 8 pm I’ll …..well, I’ll … well, we’ll talk. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.