Flank Steak: Inspiration Strikes!

When we went to visit the newly re-opened Piggy market (see previous post), we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew that the intention was to re-open as a craft butcher, along with  lovely artisan charcuterie and locally sourced foods that we love, but when we spied the quality of the meat on display, we were thrilled.

Upon seeing a gorgeous flank steak, whatever plans we had for dinner flew out the window. I had to get that steak on my grill. When we got home I cut the steaks in half and prepared a beefy marinade I like with olive oil, steak spice, orange and lime juice along with Claude’s Marinade (a great product for grilling beef).  I placed the steak in container along with some onion slices and red pepper strips, added the marinade, and left it in the fridge for a good soak until that evening.

Maureen made a cilantro relish (cilantro, lime, salt, pepper, olive oil, chilies — pulsed in the food processor, recipe’s here) that’s bright with lime and we warmed up some tortillas. After the steak and vegetables were grilled, I let the steak rest and chopped the onion and peppers. The steak was perfectly grilled, a juicy pink on the inside when sliced on the bias, with a nice bark-like coating on the outside.

We assembled the tortillas with a spoonful of the charred, sweet onions and peppers, a couple slices of the steak a dollop of the cilantro relish and a generous shake of Cholula hot sauce. The rich, smoky flavours miked together with the brightness of the relish and hot sauce and made for a perfect Saturday night meal.


Piggy Market 2.0!

The new and even better Piggy Market re-opened November 12th as an artisan delicatessen and craft butcher shop. I dropped in this week for a quick chat with Dave Neil, co-owner of Piggy. He explained that craft butcher is an Irish designation for meat that is hung to age not cryovaced. The new butchery offers custom cutting of local beef (O’Brien Farms) and Ontario pork as well as heritage pork – Large Black, Berkshire, and Tamworth, which they rotate on a weekly basis. This means you can visit Piggy and have your beef ground while you wait (they take orders ahead of time on the phone as well), and have your steaks cut to your desired thickness. If you are interested in stocking your freezer and want a more hands on approach you can order a 1/2 pig, whole lamb or prime cut of beef, and they will butcher it to your specifications after hours while you watch. You also have the option to sign a waiver and do some of the cutting yourself.

Piggy is also committed to featuring the best charcuterie available locally. Currently they are carrying an array of wonderful treats such as lardo, cutatello, rosetta and salame from Dolce Lucano of Woodbridge, Ontario (exclusive) and smoked molasses and cracked black pepper bacon (!) and dried sausage from Seed to Sausage in the Charbot Lake area. This is probably the best charcuterie Rob and I have come across in our travels and Piggy brings it to us right here in Ottawa. Check out Piggy’s website and blog for weekly offerings, or just pop in and be inspired like we do.

For the upcoming holiday season, Piggy Market helps you get into a festive mood with offerings like goose, duck, suckling pig, turkey (local and local organic), tortiere and plum puddings, beef suet for mince meat and for your feathered friends, and high fat butter from Stirling, Ontario for your baking. They also offer prepared charcutierie platters on slate boards for your entertaining needs.

Piggy continues to carry all your favorites: a selection of Ontario and Quebec cheeses, local eggs and dairy, Art-Is-In bread, Jamaican patties, Bryson Farms products, local produce, Pascal’s ice cream, Piggy’s own to die for 4-cheese mac and cheese and more.

On our first visit to the new re-opened Piggy Market, we were inspired by a beautiful flank steak and changed our dinner plans. We marinated it, grilled it, sliced it and served it with grilled red peppers and onions, a cilantro relish and some hot sauce. We’ll cover the meal in more detail for a future posting, but here’s a delicious preview.


Pascale’s Haute Chocolat

By now most of us in Ottawa are familiar with Pascale‘s wonderful ice cream creations. Most of us have had the pleasure of her truly inspired flavours at a local restaurant (Whalesbone, Allium, SmoQue Shack, Arc) or snagged a pint of creamy goodness at the Farmer’s Market at Lansdowne or Piggy Market. This weekend on our weekly trek to Piggy (recently renovated and expanded. – stay tuned for a review update) the lovely Pascale was on hand doling out cupfuls of rich, smooth, decadent, sweet hot chocolate with a hint of vanilla.

She does not stop though with just the best hot chocolate I have tried. She goes on to explain how I can mix it four parts to one part beer (she recommends Beau’s Bog Water) for a nice malty flavour, or pour it on top of a dark, bitter espresso.

The genius of mixing the chocolate with beer came at a chilly Octoberfest event where she had lots of hot chocolate and lots of beer and nobody was buying ice cream. In the interest of research I mixed it with a Belgian Dubbel. O.M.G. I will likely never have hot chocolate any other way.

The chocolate, is a divine mix of Cochrane’s all natural milk, milk chocolate and bittersweet 58% cocoa, bourbon vanilla pods and sea salt to finish, prepared and ready to heat and drink. Pascale notes that the milk chocolate contains malt and therefore is not gluten free.  The sublime mix is sold in mason jars and needs to be refrigerated. Should last a month in there…technically, but it won’t. You will be lucky if it’s still there when you go to make a little demi tasse for yourself. This is not a drink for children. This is way to good for anyone who will be happy with a grainy cup of Nestle Quick. Pascale’s Hot chocolate is available only at Landsdowne Farmers market and will be available at Locavore, where you can also pick up Pascale’s ice cream in half pints, festive ice cream sandwiches and yule logs. Half pints of ice cream are also available at Piggy Market, Red Apron, Life of Pie and Serious Cheese in Kanata, year round.

Pascale’s French Canadian roots, the upcoming festive season, and a love of playing with flavour combinations all inspire her. She is thinking not about sugar plum fairies but sugar pie ice cream and real butterscotch made with Johnny Walkers right now. Check out Pascale’s website for other products and look for her December 10th 2011 at Locavore Artisan Food Fare.

Retro Fave: Pork in Mushroom Soup

I have no idea where this recipe originated, likely though off of a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. The gravy, pork and rice are a match made in heaven. This was a favorite meal in our house growing up in the 1970’s. I remember loving the slightly browned half inch of pork fat being my favorite part. I do recommend that you trim the fat away and use the more flavorful bone in chops. I have added Madeira wine for deglazing and fresh sliced mushrooms for more mushroom flavour and texture. We served this with a brussel sprout hash that Rob thought up.

Click HERE for these recipes in a printable form.

Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy with Rice

4 thick bone in chops
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can of chicken stock or water (add more or less depending on how thick you want the gravy)
1-2 tbsp chopped parsley
fresh ground pepper to taste
splash of Madeira, white wine, brandy or cognac for deglazing…whatever you have on hand.

Melt butter and oil in a medium skillet. Brown chops on both sides and remove to a plate. Turn heat to medium low. Empty can of soup into pan and stir until heated. Add a little water or chicken stock to thin. Add sliced mushrooms and bring to a simmer.Add pork back and cook, covered until done, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with plain rice or rice pilaf.

Brussel Sprout Hash
This was a “make it up as you go along” dish, but here’s an attempt at formalizing a recipe:
2-3 cups of brussel sprouts, rinsed and sliced thinly
One medium onion
4 slices of thick, smoky bacon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
sale and pepper to taste

In a large pan, render bacon and cook onions  over medium high heat until starting to brown
deglaze with apple cider vinegar
add sliced brussel sprouts and stir until coated by bacon fat and liquid, cook for 1 minute
add broth and lower heat to simmer, simmer for 5 minutes
add cranberries
Turn up heat to boil off remaining liquid. Mixture should be moist, not soggy. Stir often.

Dish: Jam Session

I’m a jam guy. I really like good jam. By good jam, I mean the kind where the fruit flavour (and content) is prevalent and it’s not overly gummy with pectin and other thickeners. As well, most commercial jams are just too damn sweet and frankly, it’s unnecessary.

I’ve come across some tremendous jams in our travels, and I always pick up a couple to bring home and have no issue with buying really, really good jams through mail order. As well, there are some lovely boutique jam makers close to home. I thought I’d highlight a couple that have really impressed me.

First up is Michael’s Dolce, a local jam maker who is delivering delicious and unique flavour combinations that you don’t see anywhere else, such as Rhubarb/Black pepper, Pear/Vanilla, or Fig/Blood Orange. You can check their website for where to buy them, but they are available at many of the better food shops in the city as well as in Toronto and now making inroads into Montreal. We’ve bought their jams at Piggy Market and the Ottawa Bagel Shop.

My favorite is Kiwi/Lime: It has an intense citrus punch that’s fresh and tart and softened just a bit by the melony sweetness of the kiwi. Peach/Cardamom is another fave – a fresh farmer’s market staple, mixed with an exotic spice.

…and then there’s the Loveless Cafe’s Peach Preserves.

On one of our road trips, we found ourselves at the Loveless Cafe on the outskirts of Nashville, TN. It’s a local landmark where it’s famous for making the best biscuits in the USA. Of course this would be a hotly contested claim, but they are highly regarded, and we have to say that their biscuits were unique, fluffy, rich and delicious. They serve them with preserves, like a Mexican restaurant gives you tortilla chips and salsa as you sit down and peruse the menu. They chose to serve us a raspberry jam (which was good, but not mind-altering) and their peach preserves which surprised us with their colour, texture and flavour.

The jam is brown, not the light, peachy colour we’ve come to expect. That’s because Loveless Cafe chooses to caramelize the peaches, which accounts for the rich, darkness and flavour.

These are available by mail order throughout the US and Canada, but from Canada, you’d have to call them to order, as like many US-based business, their on-line ordering systems just doesn’t recognize the existence of other countries. We only had a quarter-jar left from our last order of 4 jars, forcing us to make do for these photos. Now we have to order more. Give them a call, you’ll be happy you did.