Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon Part 3: Desserts

You may want to grab some of that leftover Easter chocolate before starting to read this post – or not. Chances are your Cadbury eggs will pale in comparison to this line up of deserts we recently enjoyed at a local sugar shack.

Here are the first two parts of our culinary adventure to bring you up to speed on our outing:

Read Part 1: Appetizers
Read Part 2: Main Courses

Desserts are, as all of you know, my weakness. Desserts featuring maple? Well, let’s just say we get along very well.

A little too well, perhaps, but who’s counting pancakes??

Crêpes Grand-Mère‘, I believed these were called, although I wasn’t paying much attention to our server at that point. I’m somewhat of a pancake aficionado, and these were among the best I’ve had.

Can one really call them pancakes, though? They were deep-fried in duck fat, deliciously hot and crispy and served swimming in maple syrup. Definitely a perfect marriage between pancakes and doughnuts.

Our table polished them off in no time.

I called our server aside to inquire about the house policy on ‘seconds’, to which she promptly informed me that they don’t accommodate. I remained calm, but firm, and managed to convey my deep and utter need for another tray.

Happily, another dish of pancakes arrived shortly in front of me, hot and devastatingly good. (Have I ever called anything ‘devastatingly good’ on this blog??)

OK, I’m going to get flack for this one, but this is my space, so I can say what I like. This banana split was just so-so. Sure it had banana’s (what’s local about those?) maple marshmallows (mine are better – just sayin’), some pretty kicking maple ice cream, and maple-glazed nuts, but I wasn’t as impressed as some of the other eaters. Go ahead, call me spoiled.

The split’s best feature was the maple cotton candy garnish, which was brilliant. I bought some to take home for the boys. Delish!

This was subconsciously what we had all come for: tire à l’érable, or maple taffy. This is a requisite treat for a visit to any sugar shack.

It is rolled up on a popsicle stick from it’s bed of crushed ice (packed snow works better) and enjoyed in all it’s teeth numbing, sticky sweetness.

(at this point, I almost had to hold onto the table when I stood up. Remember this was our third ‘wave’ of food. But there was one more…)

My second favorite dessert (pancakes were number one) was the maple mille-feuille, and easily the best of its kind I’ve ever had. Mille-feuille is a dime a dozen around here, but most of them are disappointing.

Not so here, Au Pied de Cochon’s version leaves nothing to be desired, except, perhaps, the residual longing that all mille-feuilles were maple.

Ah, in a perfect world, perhaps.

~Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon: adult $49 CAD, kids from 3 to 12 yrs old $15

Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon: Part 2

…Continuing from Part 1.

Not everyone understands Martin Picard’s food. It’s bold and brash, gutsy–and sometimes even guts themselves. It’s not for everyone.

Long ago I worked a shift at Au Pied du Cochon, back in my restaurant days and back when Martin called the tickets every night. It was one wild and crazy Saturday night where I was tossed into the pit, literally, to replace a friend who was sick (or something.)

It was brutal, wonderful, sweaty, faster-than-fast paced and completely intoxicating. I’ll have to share the whole story sometime. Especially the part where a bell rang half-way through service and a waitstaff pointed at me and inquired

“What do you want?”

Let’s just say there was no round of drinks mid-service at the place I usually worked.
But that’s Martin Picard for you.

I may not understand his food completely, but I do know that I absolutely love to eat it, and so let’s look at the second round of food we recently enjoyed at the Au Pied de Cochon sugar shack!

Piping hot and fluffy as can be, is an omelet, but not just any omelet. Inside is a layer of maple-smoked sturgeon and it is topped with braised pork shoulder and green onions. As you can imagine, it made for a pungent mouthful when coated with maple syrup and devoured.
I could have done without the fish, however the pork was fantastic.

This masterpiece was easily the most complex dish of the bunch. It is a whole cabbage stuffed with lobster, ground pork and, hidden deep in the center, molten foie gras.

Served on a bed of al dente lentils, this dish had me shaking my head with wonder at each bite. I’ve always loved the earthiness of cabbage, and it was a perfect match for the rich lobster, pork and foie.

Hat’s off to the chef, for the cabbage was tender and yet the lobster was not over-cooked. That accomplishment alone left me scratching my head.

It’s a bit ghastly to look at, save for the precarious lobster garnish, but the ‘choux farci‘ was my favorite part of the meal.

Forgive me, but I didn’t even taste the next dish: beef tongue with a celeric remoulade.
At this point I was staring down the lobster dish above, and marveling over it’s complexities. The beef tongue was way down at the other end of the table–and who in their right mind is going to abandon a dish of lobster and foie gras for tongue??

This maple-glazed chicken received plenty of abuse from our food bloggers for being boring; however, I think that simplicity was part of it’s charm. I quite enjoyed it, and found the delicious beans cooked with maple syrup and garnished with fresh parsley far outshone the bird.

Two thoughts on that one:
1.Yeah, it’s chicken, surely a nice pintade or a couple of game hens would have been more fun.
2.I need to eat more beans.

Yours truly carving up the chicken for the table (and taking it very seriously, apparently).

The last element of our main course cause quite the frenzy in our food paparazzi when it was brought to the table:

This traditional Quebec toutiere was photographed from all angles for a good five minutes before getting sliced up and served with it’s homemade tomato ketchup.

I have to draw on Mary Poppins for the praise of this dish, for it was indeed ‘Practically perfect in every way’.

It will be difficult to enjoy another meat pie after having experienced this version; it a good thing I purchased one upon our departure and it’s now stashed in my freezer.

I doubt it will last there very long.

Stay tuned for desserts! They are coming up next to conclude this series…

Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon: Part 1

I’d love to start this post with a brief introduction to who exactly Martin Picard is and why some 20 local food bloggers were freaking out over scoring a coveted reservation at his sugar shack, but I’m going to skip it and short track straight to the food.

Anyway, many of you have probably already heard of this Montreal chef and the restaurant where he hangs his apron, Au Pied de Cochon; although, come to think of it, I’ve never seen him in an apron.

It’s not really Martin’s style. This is more his thing:

Rustic entrance to the Cabane a Sucre

For reasons that will soon become apparent, my account of our outing to the sugar bush will be presented in three parts: appetizers, main course, and dessert, naturally.

The eating was seemingly endless….the photography documentation exceedingly extensive…all which makes the report expansive. Three posts it will be.

So let’s get to it!

Au Pied de Cochon’s Cabane a Sucre
Part 1: Appetizers

First up was a salad of fresh greens, walnuts, aged cheddar, and ham, topped with an mound of airy ‘Oreilles de crisse’ (deep-fried pork rinds). One could hardly call the rinds a garnish, as they equaled the greens in volume, but when all the elements were assembled, the salad made for a very tasty and well-balanced mouthful.

The salmon gravlax was well executed, but a tad boring–and I was wishing for some crostini to drape the silky fish over.

Toast or bread of any sort would have also been welcomed to accompany the following dish: ‘Cretons’.

A spiced ground pork spread, this traditional French-Canadian breakfast staple may look like cat food, but I can assure you it is delicious when it is prepared properly.

I thoroughly enjoyed APDC’s version, toast or no toast.

Which brings us to the first item I did not enjoy: barbecued chicken feet.
I attacked the spindly claws before any other dish, as I couldn’t imagine trying them cold, but even piping hot, crispy and lacquered with a succulent maple glaze, I could not, WOULD not, eat more than one bite.

Non merci.

A quick word on service: excellent.

As I’ve experienced long waits at the mothership APDC, I didn’t have high hopes for the sugar shack. I was pleasantly surprised by the prompt service, smart servers and general attention we received.
Granted, we were a group of 25 foodies/food bloggers. Perhaps that helped. We made quite a scene with our cameras. Good grief. The Cameras.

I was all over this split pea soup with it’s earthy chucks of ham and nuggets of foie gras. I doused mine in maple syrup and was completely happy.

These nondescript buckwheat pancakes were alone worth the trek up north, but then I’m a bit of a pancake fiend, as we all know.

Although they were wrapped inconspicuously in a warm towel, they didn’t last long around me. Each one was dipped in pure maple syrup and eaten in two bites. Delish.

To be continued…

Glazed Maple-Pecan Cookies

This could very well be the unofficial start to my holiday baking. Although all future baking is at the mercy of our move and me getting my kitchen set up before Christmas Eve, at least I have a solid cookie recipe to fall back on and a back-up plan for my contribution to that upcoming cookie swap.

We’re moving in two weeks! Everything is half-packed, boxes line the hallways and fill the corners and the walls are bare. It’s an exciting time, despite the stress, and we can’t wait to get settled in our little house in the woods.
I haven’t spilled much about our new place, but I’ll informally introduce you once all the craziness of the move is over with. I will say that we feel extremely fortunate to have found a home where we can enjoy the serene country life that we love so much, yet still be relatively close to the perks of the city with it’s markets and gourmet shops. We have a little piece of land that we intend to utilize to the maximum, and that may mean tapping those giant maples in the back and getting a few chickens in the spring. Everything in it’s season.

OK, obviously, I’m excited. This post was supposed to be about cookies, perfect little maple-pecan cookies with just the right amount of crunch and a decadent maple glaze to dress them up. Pardon me for getting sidetracked; these stellar cookies deserve better.

We made these and delivered several dozen to the nurses that took such good care of Mateo when he was in the hospital. I didn’t stick around to see if they were a hit, but with so much pure maple syrup inside and on top, what’s not to love?

Believe it or not, this was my first time to make a slice and bake cookie. I certainly loved the ‘make ahead’ aspect. My freezer is going to feel naked without a few logs of this Maple-Pecan cookie dough stashed for hard times. I’m going to have to remedy that soon – as soon as I unpack my measuring spoons and cups, that is.

Glazed Maple-Pecan Cookies

From Fine Cooking
Yields about 6 dozen 2-inch cookies.

11-1/4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. table salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup very firmly packed, very fresh dark brown sugar

1-1/2 tsp. maple flavouring (available in supermarkets)

6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

8 oz. (2 cups) toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

For the glaze:
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup, warmed

Hot water as needed for thinning

Mix the dough:
Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a food processor, pulse the granulated and brown sugars to blend and then add the maple flavouring. Pulse five or six times and then process for 15 seconds. Scrape the bowl to be sure all of the flavouring has been incorporated.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-low speed until very smooth, about 2 min. Add the sugar mixture in three additions. Mix until lightened in colour, about another 3 min. Add the egg and then the maple syrup and vanilla, mixing just until blended. Scrape the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low.

Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, and then add the pecans and mix just until blended.

Shape the dough: Have ready three 15-inch sheets of plastic wrap. Portion the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece back and forth until it forms a log about 10 inches long. (You needn’t flour the rolling surface.) Position each log on a sheet of plastic wrap, centreing it at the edge closest to you. Roll tightly, twisting the ends firmly to seal. With your hands on either end, push the log firmly toward the centre to compact the dough. The finished log should measure about 9 inches long and about 1-1/2 inches thick. Refrigerate the logs until firm enough to slice, 2 to 3 hours, or freeze for up to three months.

Bake the cookies:

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
Working with one log at a time, use a tomato knife or other small serrated knife to cut the dough into 1/4-inch rounds using a gentle sawing motion. Set the rounds 1 inch apart on the prepared pans and bake until the cookies are lightly browned, about 18 minutes, rotating the pans as needed for even browning.

Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup until smooth and pourable. Remove the sheets from the oven and let rest on the baking sheets for 2 min. While the cookies are still hot, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the glaze on top of each cookie. (If the glaze becomes too thick as it stands, thin it with a few drops of hot water.) Transfer the cookies to a rack; the glaze will become firm within minutes.

Store the cookies, layered between sheets of waxed paper, in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for up to three months.

Maple Walnut Cookie Dough Ice Cream

I love May for so many reasons; watching the tulips waving from their beds, receiving Mother’s Day construction paper cards, celebrating seven years of married bliss, being excused from housework to garden, attending weddings…Oh, that reminds me, I have a wedding coming up and a cake to make.

It always seems like such a fun idea when I agree to make a cake; it is usually on a dismal January day, when the month of May and its weddings seems like a distant fantasy and I have no recollection of those panicky days leading up to ‘cake day’. Heck, why not, I tell the client, it will be fun! I wish this time was different, but as I stockpile butter and eggs and sketch the anatomy of the four-tiered beauty, I’m feeling the familiar butterflies and am wishing it was over already! Oh well, don’t worry about me. I’ll find a way to channel my stress! At least the client is a friend, and a polar opposite to a Bridezilla–she a sweetheart.

Enough about Project Wedding Cake–I also love May because it ice cream time!
OK, so this bonjour!-to-summer ice cream is amazing. Is actually Maple Ice Cream with Maple-Walnut and White Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Enough of a mouthful?

When Julie professed her love of these Maple Walnut White Chocolate Cookies and sang the praises of the dough itself, I knew I wouldn’t be waiting long to try them. A bottle of homegrown maple syrup from our families sugar shack outing was calling from the fridge and fortunately I had just stocked up on white chocolate chips from Bulk Barn. (A first in Quebec, Bulk Barn is my latest and greatest culinary discovery. Think Costco meets Ares meets Anatol.)

I don’t think it was coincidence that I also had a half a batch of Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream ice cream base in the fridge. The other half had already been made into strawberry ice cream and consumed entirely, but the rest was awaiting a destiny of cookie dough ice cream.
So I chunked up some cookie dough with a knife, spread it out on a tray, and threw it in the freezer to freeze solid. Then I added 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup to the ice cream base, churned it ’til it was hard and folded in the cookie dough right at the end. A few hours in the freezer and it was ready!

It was way better than the B& J original cookie dough ice cream–and I am a huge fan. I love nuts in ice cream so the walnuts made me happy. It was just nice to have a maple ice cream that didn’t taste artificial.
You could leave out the white chocolate chips as maple cookie dough ice cream is pretty spectacular as it is.

And if you don’t have an ice cream maker, or *gasp* ice cream just isn’t your thing, try a batch of Julie’s cookies. They will rock your world! Recipe at the bottom of the post.

Maple Walnut Cookie Dough Ice Cream with White Chocolate Chips

1/2 recipe raw Maple Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookie dough (recipe below)
1 recipe Maple Ice Cream Base (recipe below)
White Chocolate chips to taste

Have a 1 quart sized Tupperware container chilling in the freezer, ready to receive the ice cream.
Chop the cookie dough into bite-sized pieces, place on a tray, cover and freeze.
Prepare the ice cream maker and add Maple Ice Cream Base. Freeze following the manufacturers instructions until quite stiff.
Add the chopped cookie dough and a few handfuls of white chocolate chips. Continue freezing until the ice cream is ready. Scoop into your chilled container and place in freezer to freeze further. Enjoy licking the dasher of the ice cream maker–this is one of the fine things in life.
Enjoy your ice cream!

Maple Ice Cream Base
adapted from Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream & Dessert Book

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Using a hand held blender, whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Finally, add the maple syrup and whisk thoroughly.
Chill completely before churning.

Go ahead and bake off some to eat, too.

Maple Walnut White Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Dinner with Julie

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (not flavoured pancake syrup)

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla or maple extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup each white chocolate chips/chunks and chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup until well combined — the mixture will have the consistency of wet sand. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda and salt (stir them together first only if you want to) to the butter-sugar mixture and stir by hand until almost combined; add white chocolate and walnuts and stir just until blended. It may seem dry at this point – I always find it easiest to get in there with my hands toward the end. Drop spoonfuls of dough (or roll rough walnut-sized balls) about 2” apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Flatten each a little with your hand, just to give them a head start. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until pale golden and set around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes 20 cookies.