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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The Nest Bistro (Nanaimo, BC)

The Nest BistroCrystal and I spent almost twenty minutes prowling the middle of freaking nowhere Nanaimo looking for The Nest Bistro, a highly recommended chef-owned joint which we had made dinner reservations for. We’d already passed a Phillipino mother smoking and breastfeeding in her doorway, a drunken soon-to-be domestic call two doors down and an elderly man with no shirt and one shoe chasing a cat back and forth across the road. It felt, magically, like we were back in our old neighbourhood in East Van – At first glance kind of ghetto, but the Tibetan prayer flags over everyone’s door made it okay. (more…)

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Tagliatelle with Duck Confit, Toasted Walnuts and Spring Vegetables

Pasta with Duck ConfitThe last damp ghosts of winter have been exorcised by this weekend’s sunshine, and everyone (myself included) have been out in their gardens preparing for a beautiful and bountiful spring. I have dirt under my nails, scratches all over my arms, a slight buzz from sunstroke and a mid-afternoon beer. I could not possibly be happier.

In my enthusiasm to “get ‘er done”, I’ve left dinner far too late. But, never fear! I’ve got all that Duck Confit in the fridge, and plenty of slightly scrumpy vegetables to sing back-up. I’ve got a pasta recipe that I conceived of last year that is so easy to throw together, and so freaking satisfying that I just have to bust it out. It’ll be the cherry on my perfect day parfait. (more…)

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