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I have something to tell you. Up to now, this blog has been decidedly positive. We tell you how much we love a food item, give a little run-down on why we like it, maybe give a glowing description and a couple preparation suggestions. Then you get the recipe. This is good. And positive. Everything’s all right here at Supper in Stereo.
But here’s my confession– I’m not generally sunny. I’m a whiner, a complainer, a look-on-the-dark-side kind of person. I complain about my job, curse the cloudy weather, call my cat stupid.
Actually, I only did that last one once. And I felt really bad afterwards.
I’m working on it, I am. But sometimes Carlo’s and my self-imposed exercise of listing three good things that happened every day ends up sounding something like this: Today is over. I survived today. I can go to bed now. This, my friends, is not positive.
Sometimes when you’re busy feeling grey like this, food falls by the wayside. Oh, we still eat, of course. But cookies turn out tough and floury, soup tasteless, meat dry. And we dutifully shovel it in, to get enough energy to slog through another day. January and February are especially bad when you live in a wintry climate. We’re lucky to get one sunny day a week and the rest of the days are plodding and overcast. They’re not even grey, they’re just… nothing.
Have you had enough yet?
Then listen: every once in a while, even I have to poke my head up and say “wait, this is pretty good.” The other night, Carlo and I were contemplating a beautiful pan of chicken parts scattered with chunks of lemon and rosemary that we were about to roast (the recipe was yet another gift from my generous aunt and uncle, and I’ll pass it on to you soon). It was gorgeous, even uncooked, and we could tell just by looking that it was going to be delicious. Carlo said “man, we have it pretty good.” And I agreed.
I had another moment like this the other night, standing in the kitchen, sticking my tongue out while I took a paring knife to the skins of our last Meyer lemons. I was sticking my tongue out because I was concentrating on only getting skin and not pith, so that the mini batch of limoncello that I was preparing wouldn’t come out with any bitterness at all. To be honest, the task of carefully peeling thin-skinned lemons isn’t really all that fun. I was tense and my shoulders were aching. But at the other end of the counter, Carlo was preparing a batch of one of our favorite ice creams. He was talking himself through the steps, pretending to host a cooking show (sample instructions: “…then you take a thing… or a spoon… and you move the stuff in the bowl around with it.” Sample banter: “I’m okay! Do you like me? You’re okay!”). If I wasn’t concentrating so hard, I would have been giggling. Carlo finished preparing his ice cream, and I finished peeling my lemons (it took me 30 minutes for four lemons– that’s dedication). Then Carlo put his ice cream into the ice cream machine and I put my limoncello in the cupboard to steep.
It’s just a little jar, mind you. I only had four lemons left (and incidentally, the more-than-half-empty bottle of vodka on our bar had the exact right amount of alcohol left, which was a nice coincidence). When the limoncello’s finished, it will be enough for a few sips, not much else. But I still like knowing that it’s sitting in the cool darkness of our cupboard, getting more and more delicious, waiting for us. You can steep your limoncello anywhere from two weeks to four months. I’m leaving mine there for all of February. We’ll see how I feel come March.
I’ll let you know how the limoncello turned out in a couple months. And Carlo’s ice cream? It was perfect, perfect. Life is good and we are lucky. I just don’t feeling like talking about it.
BROWN SUGAR SOUR CREAM ICE CREAM
We follow the recipe for brown sugar sour cream ice cream from Mercedes at Desert Candy faithfully. The last few times, we’ve used panela instead of brown sugar, just because I found panela in the store and felt that it needed to come home with me. I highly recommend this variation, as the panela has a great intense smoky, molassesy flavour. However, you MUST try the original recipe as well. It’s great! I love the addition of bourbon to the mix, but you could easily leave it out and still have a great ice cream. Plus there’s no custard to fiddle with (Farhan, I’m thinking of you…).
If you want to make limoncello, here’s the recipe I used. I used vodka, as it’s what we had around, but if you can find a grain alcohol, that would probably be better. The linked recipe makes a huge amount, but I scaled it to the following proportions:
4 lemons, preferably unsprayed and unwaxed
350 mL vodka or grain alcohol
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/3 c. sugar
Wash and dry the lemons, then peel them. Place them in a mason jar with the alcohol. Make sure the lemon is fully covered. Put the mason jar in a cool, dark place, shaking it once a day. Leave this for at least two weeks, but I’ve read you can go up to four months.
When your lemon concoction has steeped to your satisfaction, it’s time to sweeten it. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the mixture is room temperature, put a strainer over the saucepan that’s holding the sugar syrup and strain your steeped lemon mixture into the sugar syrup. Combine the liquids well, then place the mixture back into a mason jar. Put the mason jar back into your cupboard and repeat the first process, shaking twice every day for about three weeks.
Finally, after all that time, it’s ready to taste! The Washington Post recommends storing your limoncello in the freezer, where it will turn a milky yellow.
By the way, I juiced the lemons after I peeled them and boiled the juice with sugar in a 1:1 ratio to make lemon syrup. You could use this syrup to make lemonade, or you could pop in a vanilla bean and do a bit more fiddling to make something like this (which looks super-lovely).
You know what sucks about being married? Sharing my poutine. That’s about it, but still.
Kris at To Be Mrs. Marv asked SiS for tips on how to make poutine, so Hanne and I have begun our investigation. We ate two halves of two poutines each before we left for Christmas. More accurately, I greedily ate about 2/3rds of both while Hanne tried to snap a good shot. I darted my fork in after each camera click, making off with great gooey gobs before she started eating. She either didn’t notice or didn’t complain, which is why I married her.
What is poutine, you ask? Poutine is, like, the greatest. It’s comfort food that will make your arms feel weak and your heart thump lugubriously. Glump glump. It’s a clusterfuck of fries, gravy and cheese. But no ordinary cheese. We grew up in Alberta where so-called poutine is mangled by a mess of cheap melted mozzarella cheese. You can’t do that. You just can’t.
A real poutine needs fresh cheese curds. Finding them fresh is likely the biggest challenge in making a good homemade poutine. The fresher the better as curds lose their springiness quick. Poutine is all about textures: crispy fries and teeth squeaking curds swallowed in a salty goopy gravy.
My favourite Montreal poutines can be found at the 24hr La Banquise (they have two dozen variations, but I’ve only tried the original pictured above) and at La Belle Province on St-Laurent Boulevard just above Prince Arthur. La Belle Province is a mediocre chain, but by some miracle combo of fries, curds, good gravy and typical Montreal inconsistencies, this particular location nails it. I’ve stolen into many a winter night out of that joint with a piping hot tin plate balanced on my hand (see the spoils in the picture below).
The best poutine in the world can be had at Au Pied de Cochon. I had hoped that their cookbook would hold the secret to their silky gravy, but unfortunately their poutine recipe tells me to pick up a can of PdC gravy from the restaurant. Secretive protectionist bastards! I’ve heard they emulse foie gras into their gravy. They also serve a poutine with a slab of foie gras on top for twenty bucks a plate. That plate alone is enough to convince me what side of the foie gras debate I’m on.
So Hanne and I will continue our investigation. We’ll eat more of this heavenly sludge and then test some recipes. When we come up with the right concoction, we will share it with you here. Kris has a head-start on us–check out her perfect fries here.
Montreal’s best and biggest market, open year round, is Marché Jean-Talon.
Locally grown garlic. This stall ruined cheap supermarket garlic for us.
Great big batches of leek + The Silver Spoon = perfect leek soup.
Artichokes. Tomatoes. Word.
Produce galore: Cabbage, Bell Peppers, Parsnips
Quebec grown apples and cranberries.
The farm eggs we should be buying more often.
Marche Jean-Talon is Montreal’s mothership market. For food tourists, it is a destination not to be missed. Like I said, it’s open year round but with the first bit of snow that just hit, it will go into semi-hibernation. Most of the good local stalls will take the winter off, but there’s still some great food to be had indoors. Not only does Montreal have a few year round markets, but there is also a mini-market open 24-hours during the summer at Metro-Montreal.
There are, count them below, 13 markets in Montreal.
Ah Creton! I snapped the above with the work camera during lunch and saved it as a backup post in case we got ourselves into a jam in our quest to keep up with NaBloPoMo. Well, we’re one day past the halfway mark and I’ve tapped our reserve. Hanne’s post yesterday probably disqualifies us* anyway, although being at the top of Booze Stereo on Google ought to make our blog totally famous.
That this is a reserve post is not to say that creton doesn’t deserve SiS’s attention. Creton is one of many reasons that Quebec doesn’t need to worry about losing its identity to the rest of Canada. The day Quebec smartens up and starts protecting its food with the same fervency they protect their language is the day I find a marker, an old Bloc Quebecois campaign sign, some duct tape and a hockey stick and take to the streets. I had never heard of this delicacy before moving here and I suspect it can’t be found anywhere else.
So what is it? Well I don’t know exactly. Let’s just say it’s a good thing the camera at work is not so hot, because this food is none too pretty. In fact, the less you look at the grey matter mush (not to say it’s brain… although…) the better. This is a case you best not “eat with your eyes.” Man, I hope it’s not made out of eyes.
All I know is that creton is meat. Pig, particularly. And it’s fatty. Which is the part that makes it great, of course. The meat paste is best served on a round of baguette. Although at work I further alienated myself (as if eating this stuff at lunch wasn’t bad enough and, uh… “why is Carlo taking a picture of it his lunch???”) by running my finger around the inside of the container.
And it tastes like….
I just went to consult Hanne and our friends on that one. “Fatty, salty, porky,” is all they had. Thank a lot guys.
Each creton producer puts their own spin on the spread, each using a unique blend of spices. The one above had nutmeg and cloves.
The best creton I’ve had in town was served by the best restaurant in town, Au Pied Du Cochon. Actually, their creton is tied for first with the stuff you can get at La Queue de Cochon. The tie is probably because it’s the same creton. I was just told that QdC supplies PdC some of their prepared meats. QdC can be found on Laurier Ave. just east of where Hanne and I are now, which is our friends’ place, which I know doesn’t help you much. But too bad. You’re on your own. Blogging from your friends place is not only extremely unsociable but is also costing me my fair share of cheese. Damn you NaBloPoMo! 16 days down.
Link to Creton on Wikipedia, included so you don’t ruin my mystery meat in the comments section.
*Hanne’s Edit: Yesterday’s post was TOTALLY valid. Jerk.
Our fridge has been saddled with a bumper crop of fall ingredients the past week. We’ve spent the last few days eating nothing but vegetables. This weekend we did our best to polish off a stubborn batch of cabbage and leek soup that had been holed up in our fridge, refusing to disappear. Too much veg!
This morning I decided we needed a meal we could sink our teeth into. Something our guts could grab hold of and mull over. So this morning Hanne and I dragged our veg laden stomachs around the corner to Reservoir, our neighbourhood microbrewery and bistro that puts on a wicked brunch every Saturday and Sunday.
Reservoir serves no ordinary brunch. It’s both fancy and casual, a mashup of French bistro food and British pub grub, complete with mystery meat. It’s the kind of food that goes well with either a glass of wine or a house brewed stout.
On a Sunday morning Reservoir is packed with Franco and Anglo post bohemian hipsters, creative types with real jobs and accessory-babies that are as meticulously put together as they are. I think some of them even do their kids’ hair. Turnover is fast and you can get a seat fairly quickly, especially if you grab a couple stools at the bar like we did this morning.
We started off sharing a cream of mushroom soup topped with truffle oil. This guy says that restaurants use truffle oil only to charge more for their dishes, but at five bucks a dish I suspect Reservoir used truffle oil on this soup only because it tastes so good. The soup had a smooth creamy texture and the nutty aroma of butter browned in a pan. Most of the mushroom was pureed, but the morsels left behind were tightly packed flavour bombs. This, my friends, is the right way to start your Sunday:
It took Hanne and me a while to figure out what to order next. If there’s something weird like cow’s tongue or pig’s feet on the menu, it’s Hanne’s dish. Me? I tend to order food that makes a mockery of my choking arteries while on its way down to my gut. The problem today was that the weirdest dish up for grabs was also the biggest and fattiest piece of meat. We both spotted it as the waiter scooped one from the kitchen behind the bar and walked past us. Hanne called dibs and stole the beef cheek right out of my mouth. Because Hanne and I are plate swappers, we’re unable to select the same dish, so I tried to do Hanne one better. I ordered the blood sausage, which I knew had the potential to out-weird her order. Take that, beef cheeks!
The beef cheek was topped with a poached egg and came on a bed of pureed squash. The meat was braised, and the juice and fat had massaged the meat to perfect tenderness. I didn’t notice the poached egg, but Hanne let me clean the remaining squash and meat juice off her plate with the crisp, buttery bread that accompanied our meal. Hanne admitted the dish wasn’t all that weird, but she was happy nonetheless.
The blood sausage, on the other hand, was very weird. It was the first time I tried the dish and I’m happy I took the risk. It had a similar thick texture to liver, without the dry pastiness. The flavour reminded me of red wine. I’m not sure if it was flavoured with wine or not, but I can’t imagine anything else that would make blood taste so good. Its maroon colour reminded me more of a cooked beet than the gushy redness of blood I’m more familiar with. The flavour of the sausage was rich and heavy on the tongue, well complimented by the sweet carrots and snappy white radishes. The sausage casing was crispy and blackened, its charred flavour so good that I continued enjoying it even after considering that I might be chomping on the equivalent of scab. Delicious! No, seriously!
Don’t be turned off by Reservoir if blood sausage and beef cheek are too unusual for you. The menu changes every week, but there are always plenty of dishes with more everyday ingredients. On previous visits, I’ve enjoyed the two-egg dish, served with lard fumé, which is kind of like bacon but thicker, better-tasting and likely worse for you. You can also order the tomato and three cheese omelette or an apple and endive salad. The dish in the thumbnail at the top of this post is wild mushrooms with onion tempura and fresh mozzarella. I hope it’s still being served next time I visit Reservoir.
Check out the full menu below: