Wednesday, November 10, 2010

yes, the pumpkin ravioli is back, but come try the choucroute garnis

Okay, so this is how it played out. I kept the pumpkin ravioli. I am making and serving it exactly the same way I have made and sold it for the last few years. People are loving it, and we are selling lots of it.

Also, I brought the cassoulet back, the rainbow trout with fennel, the duck confit with cherries, the warm fennel salad and the gnudi with butternut squash, sage and brown butter. We also brought back the big double cut berkshire pork chop with spaetzle, braised red cabbage and caramelized apples.

For new things, I am doing foie gras with apples and toasted almonds. We have a tasty baked polenta dish (see my blog about San Francisco) and a dessert with apples, bourbon ice cream and bacon brittle. (Ditto) I also added a whole new sections called bouchées (ripped that name of from Frances in San Fran). Here you can get a little bowl of olives, some pickled eggs or some crispy fried white beans. Or, my favourite, a spiced pickled egg. We take Herman's Natures farm eggs and pickle them in a brine with cumin, coriander, fennel and hot chilies. Yum. It's like the big jar of pickled eggs you see at the garrick hotel or the woodbine, but we have 'kicked it up a notch'.

My favourite new dish is the Choucroute Garnis, which translates to big pile of pork with saurkraut. This is a classic bistro dish which originates in Alsace. "Why do you see this Alsatian dish on the menus of Paris Bistros?" I hear you asking. Well, let me tell you. A large number of the cooks at Paris restaurants orignally come for Alsace. Many left Alsace during the franco-prussian war and subsequent conflicts along that border. While learning the traditional paris dishes, they brought in some of their favourites from home. Choucroute Garnis is one of these dishes. I have wanted to put choucroute on the menu for as long as the bistro has been open. But I thought maybe it was too weird. I have run it for specials, but it never really did well. Maybe it was just too rustic to be considered a "special". So, this time round, while writing the menu, I decided I would try it out and see how it went. So far, it has been well recieved and I am serving lots of it. The idea, is that it is saurkraut cooked with "garnishes" which tend to be sausages and other pork products. Some versions might even have seven different sausages is it. We use knackwurst, which is basically a smoked bratwurst, smoked pork chops, fresh pork belly and smoky bacon. We serve this dish with mustard, bread and cornichons.

Other dishes from last year didn't make it back on the list. The one we get the most requests for is the bouef bourguignon. It's a great dish, but to be honest, I really only put it on the menu to capitalize on all the free publicity it got for Julie and Julia. But it is a dish I will use for dinner specials this season. In fact, I had a customer ask about it just yesterday. They have a reservation for Nov. 20th and were wondering if it was back on the menu. I told them no, but that I would run it for my dinner feature that night. Did you know that you can put in requests for dinner features? I have one good customer who always request veal chops when they come.

So anyway, the fall menu is written. It is tasty. And now, we right the fall/winter wine list. Any requests? I'll definitely put an Alsatian white on to go with the choucroute.

Choucroute Garnis

Step 1.
1 jar/can saurkraut. (If you know any hutterites ask them for some, they make the best)
1 medium onion, julienned
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 lb bacon cut into lardons (you can substitute the bacon for a smoked pork hock, or diced ham)
4 bay leaves
4 juniper berries
6-8 peppercorns
1-2 whole cloves
1 tsp mustard seed.
2 cups dry white wine. (riesling is the classic)

combine all the ingredients in a heavy pot or dutch oven. Simmer on a low burner or in a 300F oven for an hour. You can use this right away, or refrigerate to use later. We also use this on a a sandwich and in our new mussels with saurkraut, knackwurst and mustard. It's great on hot dogs, a little more interesting and less acidic than your standard jarred saurkraut.

Step 2.

choucroute from step 1
4 smoked (or fresh) pork chops
4 cubes of slow roasted pork belly
4 sausages.
16 potatoes
2 cups chicken stock
this is just a guideline. use as many different sausages and as much smoked or fresh pork products as you like. avoid overly lean cuts, they go against the spirit of the dish, and will get stringy from long cooking.

1. combine all ingredients in a heavy dutch oven or casserole.
2. bake at 300F for an hour.
3. serve with mustards, pickles and good hearty bread.
Pair this with a good german or alsace riesling or a tasty lager style beer.

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