Beautiful Things : Notes From the NVICA Charcuterie Workshop

My father told me once that there are three things in life that we must do: Work hard, be honest and make beautiful things” With these words John Van Der Lieck plunged his hands into a dark, shimmering paste of pork liver to the reverent, nodding ascent of a roomful of chefs.

We were in the spacious commercial kitchen of North Island College’s Culinary Arts department for the NVICA Charcuterie Workshop; a two-day journey through the world of salting, curing, pressing and preserving meats. There were twenty or so of us foodservice pros gathered around John as he guided us from whole hog (literally!) to finished product and every critical step in between. (more…)

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Duck Prosciutto

My two greatest culinary passions are a) methods of preserving food- the simpler and more flavourful the better – and b) duck! The former being a tether to the distant past when salting and fermenting meant survival for crafty cooks and the latter being the tastiest damn animal know to man.

Now I know I’ve already done a ton of duck recipes, including the great-granddaddy of all preserved duck dishes: confit du canard, but bear with me one more time ‘cause this one’s a keeper. It’s a technique for preserving breasts that results in a semi-cured, dense and beautifully salty-sweet taste reminiscent of prosciutto de parma.  It’s dead-easy and a great entry-level way to get into more serious charcuterie. (more…)

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Veneto (Victoria, BC)

Veneto 1It’s 6 ‘o clock on a smoldering afternoon in Victoria and my wife and I are hiking down the main drag, one blistering cobblestone at a time. We’re desperate to get back to our hotel room out of this ocean of people and car exhaust. Sure, we could hang out downtown but our dinner reservation isn’t for another couple hours and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sweat in this hipster inferno any longer, especially with all these MEC bags full of biking gear and cookbooks weighing me down.

I’m ready to start shoving tourists and crusty punks out of my way when I see the Rialto Hotel off in the distance; its grand double doors wide open, inviting me to drop everything and sit at the long marble bar where an angel with wings of cascading vintage glassware is pouring two fingers of Victoria Gin into an icy shaker with a wry grin.

I grab my wife’s hands and drag her inside, bags discarded along the way. We collapse into the tall chairs lining the bar and breathe in the stillness, seemingly miles away from the heat and crowd. The marble is cool to the touch and I can smell mint and lavender bitters on the air… We’ve arrived at Veneto, Victoria’s premier craft cocktail oasis… Thank the Gods! (more…)

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Duck Confit

Duck ConfitDuck is, by far, my favourite thing to cook and eat. Tender, juicy, deep ‘n woodsy, fat and formerly feathery. Fantastic in every way!

I always buy whole ducks, either from the store (usually frozen) or from a local farm (like Christine’s Quackery in Comox) and process ‘em myself. The breasts get sautéed, stuffed, roasted or whatever, the bones get cleaned up and go into a stockpot, the excess fat is carefully removed from all over the bird, chopped finely and rendered, and the legs… Ahh, the legs. They get some extra special treatment. The whole thing is like an event. Duck Day! Hurray! (more…)

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