Chef Derek Dammann and writer Chris Johns hope their new book “True North” will convince Canadians to explore the unique offerings of the small towns and rural areas across the country.
“There’s great stories and lots of information about the country in there that I think people would find very, very interesting as a coffee table book,” says Dammann.
“From a cookbook side there’s a lot of tricks and techniques … (for) how to make things properly and do things the right way through a little bit of smoking or curing, brining, just ways to elevate a simple dish you’re doing at home.”
The pair say Canada is in the midst of a culinary revolution—and not just in urban centres.
“I think people are taking a real interest in restaurants that are serving the food from that area and wanting to go to the farmers market and wanting to cook tomatoes when they’re in season or whatever’s happening,” says Johns.
Dammann says “people are going on these little trips, like mini road trips, without any agenda, stopping at a farm, at a cheese maker, a bakery, a little pastry shop along the way. It’s refreshing to see people taking an interest in what’s here.”
Here are some recipes from “True North” to try at home:
Bagna cauda with winter vegetables
This traditional dish is simple, yet when it hits the table it’s a real show stopper.
Dammann offers a guideline as to the vegetables you can use but says ultimately it’s your choice.
Cook each vegetable separately to make sure it’s done properly. It’s also nice to cut each type of vegetable a bit differently so the finished dish has a mix of textures and shapes. And do not refrigerate the cooked vegetables—they should be at room temperature.
40 anchovy fillets in oil
250 g (1/2 lb) unsalted butter
12 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fresh red chili pepper, split in half lengthwise, seeds intact
1 generous sprig fresh rosemary
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) white wine
1 l (4 cups) whipping cream
Black pepper, to taste
30 ml (2 tbsp) finely chopped Italian parsley
2 fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise and steamed (save fronds for garnish if you like)
8 parsnips, peeled, cut into 8-cm (3-inch) lengths and boiled with a bit of lemon
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed
4 carrots, peeled, steamed whole, then cut into quarters
1 bunch Swiss chard, steamed until tender
1/2 endive, cut into lengths and soaked in ice water for 1 hour
4 beets, peeled, boiled with a splash of cider vinegar, then sliced
Dressing: Drain anchovies, reserving oil. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with anchovy oil. Add garlic and let sizzle for about 30 seconds without taking on any colour. Add anchovies, chili and rosemary sprig and stir with a wooden spoon until anchovies have broken up and completely melted into butter and oil.
Add wine and increase heat to cook off most of the alcohol. Add cream, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat, discard rosemary and chili and season with a couple of healthy turns of a pepper mill. Stir in chopped parsley just before serving.
Vegetables: Arrange vegetables in separate piles on a platter. You can pour warm dressing over top or pour it into a warmed jug and pass it around at the table.
Makes enough to serve 6.
Foie gras parfait
This is the recipe for the foie gras toast that Derek Dammann serves at his Montreal restaurant Maison Publique. It is great with pickles on the side.
250 g (8 oz) shallots, sliced
Sprigs from 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) Madeira
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) ruby port
150 ml (2/3 cup) white port
105 ml (7 tbsp) brandy
400 g (14 oz) trimmed chicken livers, room temperature
400 g (14 oz) trimmed duck, goose or chicken foie gras, room temperature
35 g (1 1/4 oz) sel rose (not pink curing salt)
8 eggs, room temperature
790 g (1 3/4 lb) unsalted butter, melted, room temperature
Preheat oven to 100 C (200 F).
In a saucepan, combine shallots, thyme, garlic, Madeira, ports and brandy. Reduce over medium-lowish heat until liquid is almost all evaporated. Remove from heat.
Cut livers and foie gras into pieces the same size. In a large bowl, mix them with sel rose and set aside in a warm place that will bring them to above room temperature.
In a high-powered blender, combine eggs, liver-foie gras mixture and reduction; puree until very smooth. With motor running, slowly add butter to emulsify. Force mixture 3 times through a tamis or fine-mesh sieve, pressing with back of a ladle.
Scrape mixture into a terrine mould and cover with lid. Place in a baking pan, add hot water to come halfway up sides of mould and transfer to oven. Cook until internal temperature is between 62 and 65 C (143 and 145 F) and mixture is slightly wobbly but not fully set, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature in water bath.
Remove terrine from water and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. (Terrine keeps well, refrigerated, for up to 1 week or vacuum-sealed and refrigerated for up to 1 month.)
Makes 1 kg (2 lb), serving 12 to 14.
Sucre a la creme pot de creme
Dammann says this recipe was inspired by the butterscotch pudding he used to have in his school lunches. Serve with a bowl of lightly whipped cream and a plate of cookies.
125 ml (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
250 ml (1 cup) brown sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) whipping cream
250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
8 egg yolks
Flaky sea salt, to finish
Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). Have ready a bowl of ice water with another bowl set inside it.
In a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in sugar and kosher salt. When sugar has dissolved and mixture is bubbling away, add cream and milk. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
Whisk egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly add a bit of the hot cream mixture to temper yolks. Keep adding hot cream a little at a time, whisking constantly, until yolks have come up to temperature and won’t scramble when you add them to the pot.
Pour mixture back into pot. Cook custard over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula (making sure to get in the corners, as they scald first), for about 7 minutes, until mixture thickens enough to coat back of spatula. Immediately pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into cold bowl to stop cooking. Stir custard every couple of minutes to aid in cooling. (Cooling custard before baking it prevents overcooking.)
Pour cooled custard into six 150-ml (5-oz) ramekins and place in a roasting pan. Add enough warm water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover pan with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until custard is just set and still has a slight wobble in centre.
Remove foil and let ramekins cool in water until tepid. Remove ramekins from water and refrigerate, uncovered, until set.
Top each pot de creme with a light sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
Makes 6 servings.
Source: “True North: Canadian Cooking From Coast to Coast” by Derek Dammann and Chris Johns (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2015).