Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

Brian’s cooking is seasonal, inventive and smart, but in no way unapproachable or fussy. When he is coaxed out of the kitchen and starts talking about food, his passion and knowledge are instantly recognizable.

"Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen". Thanks

Tony Aspler, Wine writer

“Chef Brian Henry puts one hundred percent of his energy into going all the way.”

Birgit Moenke, Editor Stir Media Read More Reviews

Posts Tagged ‘Weddings’

Gastronomically yours,

February 8th, 2017

Getting married? Think twice about throwing rice…

Here Comes the Bride

The ritualistic trading of nuptials throughout society carries many traditions. From the ring to the veil and the colour of the brides dress all of these traditions have a story behind them. All evolved over time depending on many historical influences.
Wheat and grains are considered by some to be symbols of fertility. Often wheat sheaths would find their way into the wedding ceremony or grains were tossed in the air over the newly wedded couple’s heads to promote fertility. Over time as the world evolved we discovered how to use wheat to bake wedding cakes. Some cultures then began to take pieces of the cake and drop crumbs over the bride and groom. As well as tossing grains sometimes well-wishers tossed flower petals.
When the price of grains and flowers began to rise, people switched to throwing confetti and rice at the newlyweds. The novelty of confetti quickly wore off, as it is impossible to clean up the mess. Oh yeah and that guy who got the paper cut on his eye and sued the confetti company for millions is urban legend, but it had an effect on confetti sales.
A handful of rice thrown at point blank range by an overzealous newly met in-law is enough to make one never eat rice again let alone meet the rest of the family. Rice on church steps is the equivalent of marbles on the church steps.
Now here is the all-time urban legend that has affected the wedding rice trade… Don’t throw rice at your wedding because birds will eat it and explode.
I’ve heard this numerous times from all demographics and each time I laugh harder than before. If this were true you would be able to watch wild life shows on migrating birds stopping off for a nosh in patches of wild rice fields and then the poor unsuspecting birds would explode on film. There would be large groups of angry people trying to stop the senseless cruelty of the systematic self-inflicted genocide committed by the noble Chickadee. We would be hanging bird sized rice cookers from trees in an attempt to reverse the damage caused by years of rice emissions around the world.
No wonder we can’t figure out which came first, you know the chicken or the egg problem that has plagued the brilliant minds of time we’ve been trying to feed Alka-Seltzer to seagulls which from my childhood experience I can say is urban legend as well.
Here is an idea of what I like to do with rice

Creole Dirty Rice
Ingredients:
1 lb. chicken livers, chopped fine
4 tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup onion diced
1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
1/2 cup red bell pepper diced
1 tsp. garlic, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. Kick Ass Cajun seasoning, from The Spice Co. naturally
6 cups-cooked long grain or Jasmine rice, HOT
1/4 cup green onions, chopped fine
1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine
Method: Sauté chicken livers, onions, celery, red peppers, and garlic with vegetable oil until lightly browned and add our Kick Ass Cajun. In a large bowl combine liver mixture with the cooked rice. Stir in the chopped green onions and parsley. Serve immediately.

Gastronomically yours,

February 14th, 2015

Bloody Valentine

This annual tradition of sending messages to our loved ones dates back to 269 AD.  It was around this time that Roman Emperor Claudius needed to recruit soldiers for his armies. Enlistment was down, and Claudius; a warring ruler blamed the declining recruitment on the men wanting to stay at home with their wives and families instead of going to war. Claudius’s solution to his dilemma was to ban weddings, hoping that this would cause boredom within in the male population and inspire men to want to go to war thus causing enlistment to go up.

Father Valentine was a member of the clergy who enjoyed performing marriage ceremonies. When Claudius banned marriages Father Valentine continued to conduct them in secrecy. Claudius classified weddings as “pagan rituals” and when he heard that Father Valentine was illegally performing wedding ceremonies Claudius imprisoned Father Valentine lest he denounce his Catholic faith.

Nothing says love like meat and go cook my dinner!

Nothing says love like meat and go cook my dinner!

While imprisoned Father Valentine befriended Claudius’s daughter and would spend long hours talking to her from his cell. Roman Emperor Claudius also known as Claudius the Cruel had had enough and ordered Father Valentine to be beaten and beheaded. One of Valentine’s final actions was to write a note to his jailer’s daughter. The note was signed “from your Valentine”. Shortly thereafter on February 14, 269 AD Father Valentine was executed. It wasn’t until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius marked February 14 the day to remember St. Valentine the patron saint of lovers and over time the day was marked with sending simple gifts, poems or messages.

During the height of prohibition, it is believed that on February 14, 1929 Chicago gangster Al Capone chose to send a Valentine’s message to George “Bugs” Moran. Capone had given orders for his men to take down the rival gangster by starting at the bottom and working their way up through the ranks until they got to Bugs himself. It is believed that these orders from Capone led to the “Valentine’s Day Massacre”.

Capone went into hiding for a while but when he returned home to Chicago; Capone was welcomed home by his family and friends. In his honor they held a feast. One of the dishes served at this feast was Chilled Pasta in Walnut Sauce, Al “Scarface” Capone’s favorite dish.

 

Al "Scarface" Capone got his scars as a young bartender after complimenting a lady on having a "nice ass". Her brother took a knife to Capone's face

Al “Scarface” Capone got his scars as a young bartender after complimenting a lady on having a “nice ass”. Her brother took a knife to Capone’s face

For the more adventuresome I recommend making your own pasta from scratch. Pasta dough does not traditionally contain eggs, unless you are making egg noodles. The following recipes are simple and produce pasta dough’s that can be rolled by hand or machine. The challenge will be cutting the noodle of your choice!

Chilled Rigatoni with Walnut Sauce

Ingredients

500 gr. Chopped walnuts

15 gr. Fresh oregano

10gr. Minced garlic

2 gr. Crushed chillies

150gr. Sultanas

1 bunch parsley

5gr. Salt

5gr. Pepper

250 gr. Grated Romano cheese

250 ml extra virgin olive oil

Method: In a 350f oven toast the walnut for 5-10 minutes. Allow the walnuts to cool down while gathering the remaining ingredients. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse sand-like texture.  Cover and refrigerate the Walnut Sauce for a day or two to let the flavors mellow. Cook 1kg of pasta, rigatoni is best. Drain the pasta and allow it to cool. Toss the pasta with the Walnut Sauce and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours before serving.

 

Traditional Semolina Pasta Dough

One pound semolina flour

Six ounces water

One ounce olive oil

One half teaspoon salt

Egg Pasta Dough

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons water

 

Method:

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, and add your wet ingredients. Stir your mixture until it is combined into a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for ten minutes. Using a pasta machine or by hand; roll the dough out to desired thinness. Use your pasta machine or a knife to cut into strips of desired width.


 

 Here Comes the Bride 

The exchanging of nuptials throughout society carries many traditions. From the ring to the veil and the colour of the brides dress all of these traditions have a story behind them which evolved over time depending on many historical influences.

Wheat and grains are considered to be symbols of fertility. Wheat sheaths would commonly be used in wedding ceremonies and their grains were tossed in the air over the newly wedded couples heads to promote fertility.  As the world evolved we discovered how to use wheat to bake wedding cakes. Some cultures then began to take pieces of the cake and drop crumbs over the bride and groom.

When the price of grains began to rise, people switched to throwing confetti and rice at the newlyweds.  The novelty of confetti quickly faded as it is impossible to clean up the mess it leaves behind.

Controversially I have heard many people on many occasions claim that you should not to throw rice at your wedding because the birds will eat it and explode. If this urban myth were true we would be able to watch wild life shows on migrating birds stopping off for a nosh in patches of wild rice fields and then the poor unsuspecting birds would explode on film. There would be large groups of angry people trying to stop the senseless cruelty of the systematic self-inflicted genocide committed by birds of the world. We would be hanging bird sized rice cookers from trees in an attempt to reverse the damage caused by years of rice emissions around the world. People have stopped throwing rice at weddings because it hurts and rice on the church steps is the equivalent of marbles on the church steps.

Photo Credit www.quericavida.com

Photo Credit www.quericavida.com

Rice is the seeds harvested from aquatic plants that are members of the grass family. Globally this grain provides the human race with almost 20% of our daily caloric intake.

Manomin is the Ojibway word for wild rice that can be found growing in small lakes and slow-flowing streams of central North America. Wild rice and corn are the only cereal crops native to North America.

Almost always sold as a dried whole grain, Manomin is easily digestible, high in fibre and has double the protein of brown rice and like other rice varieties contains no gluten.

James Whetung owner of Black Duck Wild Rice harvests manomin in and around Curve Lake using canoes or an air boat to lightly glide into the rice stands for harvesting as they do not harm the rice plants or their sensitive surrounding soil.  Black Duck Wild Rice is wind winnowed and gently roasted, giving it a delicate nutty aroma. It tastes even better after meeting James and listening to his stories and the legacy of manomin and his Anishinabek heritage.

This truly local and regionally defined grain is available year round and can be found at The Whetung Center in Curve Lake. I recommend trying it in the following recipe.

 

Black Duck Wild Rice

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup diced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup each of diced carrot and celery

1 cup wild rice

1 2/3 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup dried cranberries

½ cup slivered almonds toasted

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives

 

Preparation:

In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, carrot and celery together until softened. Add rice and cook for about two minutes while continuing to stir the mixture.

Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until most of the rice has split open, about 40 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and almonds and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe can be served hot or cold.  Refrigerated it will last for up to three days.


 

 

You calling me a Wise Guy?

Father Valentine was martyred after being beaten and beheaded by order of Roman Emperor Claudius on February 14, 269 AD. The story kinda goes like this… Claudius the Cruel was a warring ruler who was recruiting soldiers for his armies. Enlistment  was down, and Claudius blamed this on the men wanting to stay at home with their wives and families. So in a moment of Emperor enlightenment Claudius banned weddings, hoping that the men would over time

become bored and want to go to war thus causing enlistment to go up.

Father Valentine enjoyed performing the marriage ceremonies so much that even when Claudius banned marriages Father Valentine conducted them in secrecy. Claudius got word of the newly classified “pagan rituals” taking place, and had the Father imprisoned lest he denounce his Catholic faith.

One of his final acts was to write a note to his jailer’s daughter, who had befriended him. The note was signed “from your Valentine”. It wasn’t until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius marked February 14 the day to remember St. Valentine the patron saint of lovers and over time the day was marked with sending simple gifts, poems or messages.

During the height of prohibition, it is believed that on February 14,1929 Chicago gangster Al Capone sent a Valentine message to George “Bugs” Moran. Capone had given orders for his men to take down the rival gangster by starting at the bottom and working their way up through the ranks until they got to Bugs himself.

It is believed that these orders from Capone led to the “Valentine’s Day Massacre”..  It is also believed that Al Capone was relaxing in his Palm Beach, Florida home at the time of this murder mystery.

So what has all of this got to do with food? Well when Al Capone returned home to Chicago he was welcomed home by his family and friends. In his honor they held a feast. One of the dishes served at this feast was Chilled Pasta in Walnut Sauce, Al “Scarface” Capone’s favorite dish.

No one was ever convicted in the “Valentine’s Day Massacre” however Capone was finally charged with tax evasion and other petty crimes leading to his conviction and serving a seven year sentence on “the Rock”. I wonder what prison food was like back in the dirty thirties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

April 22nd, 2012

Indigenous trumps local food

Without question our unstable weather patterns from winter have carried over into spring and this is challenging for those who like to harvest their own food. It has been hard resisting the temptation to plant my vegetable garden as the weather has often felt like summer on many days since February. Although the risk of frost continues until May 24th weekend it is hard to believe that the first long weekend of summer is still almost five weeks away.

 Switching our attention from the garden to the forest might help feed our instinctive hunter-gatherer needs by allowing us to harvest the many foods that are available in nature such as ramps, morels, fiddle heads, elm seeds, nettles and dandelions to name a few of the many .

 These wild and free foods are ahead of schedule and ready to harvest throughout the region. I don’t know of any other way to eat more locally than by eating indigenously.

 I strongly encourage you to know how to correctly identify any foods that you are harvesting from the wild. Always inspect the foods you harvest and discard any diseased or insect infested pieces.

For long term preservation of your forest foraging bounty you can dry the morels, pickle the ramps and blanch/freeze down the extra fiddleheads; there is never a shortage of dandelions so only harvest what you need.

If you are not comfortable with the thought of harvesting these foods on your own then I recommend heading down to the Peterborough Farmers Market on Saturday and forage around the many vendors who are selling these wild ingredients safely in a tame manner.

Where the Wild Things Are Chicken

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 tbsp. canola oil
½ cup morel mushrooms cleaned, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1-2 ramps cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. thyme

¼ cup fiddleheads

¼ cup chopped dandelion greens
1 cup light cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dredging
Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Pre-heat a large sized Dutch oven over med-high heat. Dredge the chicken in flour and shake off excess. Add the canola oil to the Dutch oven and add the chicken to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Allow chicken to lightly brown on each side. Now add the morels and ramps to the pot and continue cooking for few minutes. Stir in the wine, chicken stock and herbs. Secure the lid on your Dutch oven and place it on a lower rack in the oven. Cook or braise chicken mixture for 90 minutes. While waiting for the chicken to cook prepare a few cups of egg noodles.

Once cooked remove chicken from the Dutch oven, and place the thighs over the egg noodles. Skim off any fat from the braising liquid with a large spoon. Stir in the fiddleheads, dandelion greens and the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the braising liquid over the chicken and serve immediately.

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

April 7th, 2012

Rampage!!

The wild leek known as “ramps” is a wild onion native to North America. This  member of the Lily family is one of the very first plants to push its head out of the ground after the snow melts. They usually appear in late April and can be harvested throughout the month of May.

The wild leek can be recognized by its broad, smooth, light green leaves that grow to about  eight inches in height. The leaves are often tinted with burgundy or purple highlights.  First time ramp hunters need not worry so much about their botanical identification skills for when one pulls up  the strongly rooted  Scallion like bulbs from the ground your nose will confirm your find;  by tearing the plants stem and taking a sniff.  If it the strongly distinctive scent of an onion sears your nostrils then you have hit pay dirt.

Later in the season  ramps develop a yellow flower which only develops after the leaves have dried up and fallen away from the plant. Although they are still edible at this time the bulbs become rather swollen and tough with a woody texture.

 Ramps are adaptable to almost any food style and can also be sautéed or used in soups and stir fries. Substitute them in any recipe that calls for onions or garlic. I enjoy eating freshly harvested ramps raw; however their scent seems to linger for a couple of days on your breath.

 Ramps have made the USDA endangered species list as spieces of concern resulting from its commercial exploitation. Ontario does not have any laws in place to protect ramps but I do recommend that you only harvest ramps when they are abundant, and even then only collect scattered patches or individual plants.

The ramp season isn’t very long but you can preserve harvested ramps by freezing or pickling them.

Ramps grow in moist sandy soil often near streams. I usually stumble upon them when foraging for Morel Mushrooms. Try hunting for both this weekend  and cook them in a quiche with this weeks recipe.

 

Wild Leek and Morel Quiche

9-inch pie pastry
Two tblsp canola oil
Five ounces ramps, washed and coarsely diced
Four ounces fresh morels, split and cleaned
Two ounces bacon, diced
One tsp tarragon
5 large eggs
One quarter cup 35-per-cent cream
One quarter cup milk
Two ounces Monteray Jack
Two  ounce Romano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a medium sized sautee pan heat the oil over medium heat. add the bacon and  morels, season with the salt and pepper. Cook mixture until it becomes fragrant and the mushrooms release some moisture. Add the ramps and tarragon.  Continue cooking until leeks are limp and tender. Remove from heat and check seasoning. Spread evenly on pastry shell and sprinkle with grated cheeses. Beat eggs and mix in cream and milk. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake on the middle rack of oven until mixture sets. Around 20-25 minutes.

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

March 23rd, 2012

Something to Birch About

 

This winter or more specifically a lack of it has made for easier heating bills and a lot less shoveling but I can’t help but wonder what will happen to this year’s maple sap harvest. For those of you who weren’t aware Ontario maple syrup producers started harvesting this year’s crop three weeks ago.

 Making birch syrup is similar to making maple syrup but you need to be aware of some critical differences in the saps to be able to have a successful harvest. Birch sap harvesting begins right after the maple harvest ends as it requires warmer weather than the maple sap to flow. The birch sugaring season is shorter than maple and only lasts for about two weeks.

 Birch sap contains less than half the sugar found in maple sap. This translates to approximately 100 liters of birch sap being required to produce 1 liter of birch syrup opposed to the 40 liters of maple sap required to produce 1 liter of maple syrup. Also the sugars present in birch sap are fructose and glucose instead of sucrose found in maple sap. Fructose and glucose burn very easily which necessitates birch sap being processed below its boiling point so that its sugars do not burn. Comparatively birch sap is far more expensive to produce as it requires almost 4 times the amount of energy to render it into syrup. This explains why birch syrup costs $275.00 a gallon.

 Birch syrup is easier to digest than maple syrup and has significantly higher amounts of nutrients than maple syrup which is why it has been considered somewhat of an elixir or tonic throughout many cultures living in the extreme northerly regions of the northern hemisphere.

 If are thinking about harvesting birch sap for sugaring you will also need to consider that birch sap is notably more acidic than maple sap. For this reason you should only use plastic or stainless steel equipment to process birch syrup as aluminum and galvanized steel can be dissolved by the sap giving the finished syrup a metallic taste. Also look for Paper birch trees as they have the highest concentration of sugar than other species of birch trees.

  Before setting out in the woods or off to a specialty food store to get some birch syrup you need to be aware that even though birch syrup is used just like maple syrup to coat meats, vegetable and stacks of flapjacks; it’s taste is quite different as it’s sugars give it a roasted caramel flavor with somewhat spicy tones to it. Locally you can find birch trees almost anywhere to tap to make your own birch syrup and try it in the following recipe. Remember that 1 cup birch syrup reads: 100 cups birch sap,

 

 

Birch Syrup Pie

 

1 cup Birch Syrup

1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 egg yolks, beaten lightly
2 tbsp. butter
1 8 inch pie shell- made and baked ahead of time

Method:

Gently heat the birch syrup over a low flame in a medium sized, stainless steel sauce pot. Separately whisk together the corn-starch and water until smooth, then whisk the cornstarch slurry into the syrup. Next whisk the egg yolks into the syrup. Continue stirring the syrup mixture while cooking it over low heat until it has thickened and the corn-starch is cooked out.

Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter.  Pour the syrup mixture into the pre-cooked pie shell and allow it to cool down to room temperature. Serve warm with ice cream.

 

Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival

March 4th, 2012
 
 
Sunday, April 15, 2012
At The Venue, 286 George Street North,
Peterborough, Ontario

Noon until 8:00 p.m.
$12.00 per person (HST included)
Included 1 Food and Wine Pairing Wine Wheel (retail value $10.)
 
The Venue is proud to be hosting the first annual Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival… Sunday April 15th! Produced by Shari Darling and the Kawartha Entertainment Group, the festival promises to be a one of a kind event that will draw global wine, artisan local beer, spirit and food lovers from all over the Kawarthas and beyond.
 
The Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival’s goal is to put superb wines from around the globe alongside some of Peterborough’s finest fare…Global wine, local food is our mantra! While strolling around the Venue sampling from our incredible list of vendors, you’ll be able to stop and listen in on one of our product seminars which will run throughout the day. Or you may like to book yourself into one of our global cooking demos from local culinary masters Chef Brian Henry and Chef Brian Forsythe. Perhaps a trip up to our artisan micro brew and spirit section may be of interest? We’ll have it all under one roof! Each vendor will charge for samples.
 
This is a truly unique event for Peterborough and the surrounding area. No other event in the Kawarthas will bring such an amazing array or food and wine vendors together to tantalize your palette like the Kawartha International Wine & Food Festival.
 
 
 
Contact Shari Darling for details: shariLdarling@aol.com , (705) 957-0324
 
 

Gastronomically yours,

March 3rd, 2012

Bovine Milk

 

Humans began consuming the milk of other mammals around 9000 BC. It was at this time that we began domesticating animals which led to the agriculture revolution. Farming practices began in Southwest Asia and grew in commonality through nomadic cultures as it permitted people to move about the land taking their food sources with them instead of the more firmly rooted practice of crop farming.

 These nomadic people`s became wandering yet self-sustained micro-economies, who sold dairy and meat derived foods as well as livestock throughout the regions they traversed. At this time global diversity and trade progressed at a nomad’s pace taking almost 4000 years for the practice of dairy farming to reach Europe. After which globalization saw another 1500 years pass before milk harvesting reached the Americas.

 At first humans raised sheep and goats for milk production as these smaller creatures were easily cultivated in comparison to the domestication of bovine species as this required the taming of the now extinct auroch which would have been a dangerous feat as these mammals measured 5ft across at their withers which shouldered horns up to three feet in length each.  

 Although milk is most commonly collected from cows, sheep and goats there are cultures and economies that rely on milk harvested from camels, horses, reindeer, water buffalo, bison and yak.

 Today our planet produces in excess of 700 million tons of milk annually to supply the demands of our planets ever growing population. The bulk of this milk is derived from bovine sources of which India is the world’s largest producer of milk. The ever increasing demand for our global consumption of milk products has seen the growth has seen the advancement in automated milking equipment and investment by large conglomerate dairy companies around the world.

 Locally we can still savour the taste of smaller scale milk producers like The Kawartha Dairy Company who works cooperatively with smaller farms creating a diverse local economy and is celebrating its 75th year as a Canadian-family owned and operated business. I encourage you to buy some locally produced milk to add to this weeks following recipe.

 

Chunky Potato Soup

Ingredients

½ pound bacon, chopped

¼ cup celery, diced

1 cup cooking onion, diced

1 tsp. garlic, minced

4 cups of potatoes, cut into ½ inch and cubes

3 cups chicken stock

½ cup milk or heavy cream

½ tsp of dried thyme or tarragon

1 tbsp. parsley chopped fine

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a heavy bottomed soup pot cook the bacon over medium heat until desired doneness. Remove the bacon from the pot and set aside. Sauté the celery and onions in the remaining bacon grease until they are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and potatoes to the pot and continue cooking for another 5 minutes while continuously stirring the mixture. Pour in the stock and simmer over medium-low heat until the potatoes are tender. Add the milk, and herbs to the soup. Puree half the soup to let the potato starch act as a natural thickening agent while the remaining potato pieces will allow for the soup to be chunky. Stir the cooked bacon into the soup. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. Serves 4.

 

Gastronomically yours,

March 2nd, 2012

 

Where the buffalo roam

 

We use the words buffalo and bison interchangeably as if they were describing the same animal but the two are actually distant relatives which are more closely related to the domesticated bovine than each other.

 Buffalo are related to the Asian water buffalo. Bison are the almost mythical creature that roamed North America with a population in excess of 50 million. Today those herds have dwindled down to around 13 000 animals that areconsidered to be truly genetic- wild-bison living in protected game preserves and park land.

 Commercially we can find half a million bison being raised for its meat and hides throughout North America. Annually we see about 10% of these animals being culled for human consumption. These cultivated animals are crossbreeds that contain bovine or beef cattle DNA and are referred to as beefalo by some.

 Wild bison have a lifespan of 15 years and may weigh up to 1,000 kg compared to commercially raised bison that may exceed 25 years of age and weigh in around 1600kg.

 At first glance bison meat is quite similar to beef. Nutritionally bison contains less than half the fats and cholesterol found in beef. Due to the healthier qualities associated with this densely flavored protein we have to make some adjustments in the kitchen when we prepare it. Bison is naturally tender however it is often misjudged as being tough this misconception is largely due to it being improperly cooked. The main thing to consider when cooking bison is that it is extremely lean and will cook very quickly compared to other meats. It responds best to being cooked slowly using lower temperatures. It is critical that buffalo meat does not get over cooked; simply this meat should not be cooked beyond medium rare. 

 Locally Tim Belch operates a bison farm that supplies restaurants throughout Ontario and is sold to the public from their farm and at Peterborough’s Saturday Farmers Market. At one time Belch’s Bison farm was the largest producer of bison in Canada.

 I recommend trying some of Belch’s Bison as a healthy alternative to other proteins you may currently use in your diet keeping in mind the preparation tips previously suggested or simply try this week’s recipe for a southwestern flavored roast.

 

Southwest style Bison Tenderloin

1 center cut bison tenderloin approximately 2 lbs.

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 ½ tsp. ancho chile powder  

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. brown sugar

 

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic minced

2 cloves garlic minced

1/4 tsp. celery seeds

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

 

Method:  In a medium size bowl whisk together the oil, herbs, spices and lime juice. Completely coat the bison loin with the oil mixture and let it stand at room temperature for 45 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425°f and then cook your tenderloin on a wire rack in a roasting pan for 25-30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature 130°f. Remove the roast from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes prior to slicing and serving it. Serves 4 people.

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

March 2nd, 2012

Something to Birch About

 

This winter or more specifically a lack of it has made for easier heating bills and a lot less shoveling but I can’t help but wonder what will happen to this year’s maple sap harvest. For those of you who weren’t aware Ontario maple syrup producers started harvesting this year’s crop three weeks ago.

 Making birch syrup is similar to making maple syrup but you need to be aware of some critical differences in the saps to be able to have a successful harvest. Birch sap harvesting begins right after the maple harvest ends as it requires warmer weather than the maple sap to flow. The birch sugaring season is shorter than maple and only lasts for about two weeks.

 Birch sap contains less than half the sugar found in maple sap. This translates to approximately 100 liters of birch sap being required to produce 1 liter of birch syrup opposed to the 40 liters of maple sap required to produce 1 liter of maple syrup. Also the sugars present in birch sap are fructose and glucose instead of sucrose found in maple sap. Fructose and glucose burn very easily which necessitates birch sap being processed below its boiling point so that its sugars do not burn. Comparatively birch sap is far more expensive to produce as it requires almost 4 times the amount of energy to render it into syrup. This explains why birch syrup costs $275.00 a gallon.

 Birch syrup is easier to digest than maple syrup and has significantly higher amounts of nutrients than maple syrup which is why it has been considered somewhat of an elixir or tonic throughout many cultures living in the extreme northerly regions of the northern hemisphere.

 If are thinking about harvesting birch sap for sugaring you will also need to consider that birch sap is notably more acidic than maple sap. For this reason you should only use plastic or stainless steel equipment to process birch syrup as aluminum and galvanized steel can be dissolved by the sap giving the finished syrup a metallic taste. Also look for Paper birch trees as they have the highest concentration of sugar than other species of birch trees.

  Before setting out in the woods or off to a specialty food store to get some birch syrup you need to be aware that even though birch syrup is used just like maple syrup to coat meats, vegetable and stacks of flapjacks; it’s taste is quite different as it’s sugars give it a roasted caramel flavor with somewhat spicy tones to it. Locally you can find birch trees almost anywhere to tap to make your own birch syrup and try it in the following recipe. Remember that 1 cup birch syrup reads: 100 cups birch sap,

 

 

Birch Syrup Pie

 

1 cup Birch Syrup

1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 egg yolks, beaten lightly
2 tbsp. butter
1 8 inch pie shell- made and baked ahead of time

Method:

Gently heat the birch syrup over a low flame in a medium sized, stainless steel sauce pot. Separately whisk together the corn-starch and water until smooth, then whisk the cornstarch slurry into the syrup. Next whisk the egg yolks into the syrup. Continue stirring the syrup mixture while cooking it over low heat until it has thickened and the corn-starch is cooked out.

Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter.  Pour the syrup mixture into the pre-cooked pie shell and allow it to cool down to room temperature. Serve warm with ice cream.