Sunday, April 11, 2010
Once again over the Holidays I used every chance that I could to take pictures with the new camera that Ian bought me. Unfortunately this season I couldn't make it home until Christmas Eve and had a horrible time waiting in endless line-ups at the airport. So when I entered through the door of my childhood home I was ecstatic to see that my brother (with the never wavering aide of my mother, the sous chef) had decided to create the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner called the Feast of the Seven Fishes (festa dei sette pesci).
There were Salted Cod cakes, shrimp, pasta with anchovies, salmon, mussels in broth, a whole salt crusted fish, and finally this Sea Bass al Cartoccio. The dinner was fabulous, even my grandma loved it, where as other years she has promptly asked for a hamburger instead. (I still think those years were great mom!)
I learned quite a few things about Cartoccio from my brother, who in turn learned this recipe from the four star Italian restaurant that he works at in Toronto. Al Cartoccio basically means the same as En Papiotte, the fish is folded neatly in parchment paper and steams within the package for a short while. The result is a very soft, flavourful fish that melts in your mouth. This Cartoccio was such a hit my brother had me and my father, who was out in Victoria visiting family, calling him to beg for the recipe within a week!
Fennel and Citrus Sea Bass al Cartoccio
1lb Branzino, 2lb Orata, or other European Sea Bass. Ask for it scaled and gutted.
1/2 fennel bulb
1 garlic clove, sliced thin
1 orange, half juiced, the other half sliced thinly across into rounds
1 lemon, half juiced, the other half sliced thinly across into rounds
1 handful of fresh mint
1/2 cup white wine
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
2 pinches of salt
3 foot long piece of parchment paper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the fennel thin and create a mixture of fennel, garlic, and mint. Place mixture in the center of the parchment paper. Lay down half of the lemons and orange slices. Stuff the fish with the rest of the oranges and lemons. Lay fish over the mixture, in the center of the parchment paper. Sprinkle salt onto fish. In a measuring cup combine the juice of one half orange, half a lemon, white wine, and olive oil.
To fold the parchment paper, pull together the center of each short end of the parchment paper. This should create a triangular tent over the fish lengthwise. Fold over the paper ½ an inch, then again, till the paper is flush with the fish and there is no room left. Place your hand down on one end of the fish and twist the parchment till tight. Tilt up the open end then pour the liquid into the opening. Twist tight to seal off the packet. Bake for 15-20 minutes for a 1lb fish, or 20-25 for a 2lb Orata.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Last weekend Ian and I had the quintessential Quebecer outing... we went to the Caban au Sucre, or Sugar Shack. Growing up in Toronto, I had never heard of these magical places filled with maple syrup and childhood memories, but Ian was all too familiar with the mounds of food and sticky tire d'erable (frozen maple syrup on a stick).
Last year we went to an extremely large Cabane with my family because we didn’t really know what to expect from the experience. But of course this year we had to go all out, and with the help of the Montreal Food Bloggers, we enjoyed the true Quebecois brunch in style!
We all decided on Martin Picard’s Au Pied De Cochon Cabane a Sucre in the early summer of 2009, but even that early the sugar shack was sold out. Luckily the clouds parted and we were able to secure 25 highly coveted seats at the sugar shack, and boy it didn’t disappoint!
Pea soup usually starts off a sugar shack meal, but of course it wouldn’t be Martin Picard’s without large cubes of foie gras in the traditional winter soup! Then came the creton, a traditional slow cooked ground pork butt terrine. Then foie gras pancakes, gravlax, Oreilles de Christ salad, and maple syrup chickens feet.
For the second course a traditional puffy omelette was served but of course, it had the wild chef’s flair! Baked into the omelette was smoked sturgeon and slow roasted pork. It was an incredible addition. For the third course we had a pork and lobster stuffed cabbage dish with lentils that Ian just called a "freak of delicious", because really, there isn’t any other way to describe it. Also accompanying the "freak" was cow tongue and a wonderful maple syrup roasted chicken with baked beans. And finally, of course we had to order the famous Québec Tortiere that bore the most delicious crust I have ever had.
And then... then there was dessert. It started off with pancakes fried in duck fat, Ian couldn’t get enough of them, then tire d'erable, the crispiest and creamiest maple milles foulle, and finally maple ice-cream topped with homemade maple marshmallows, cashew brittle, chocolate, bananas, and maple sugar cotton candy!
This was truly an experience that I will never forget, especially sharing it with people as passionate about food and photography as Ian and I are. Remind me to call tomorrow for 2011 reservations!