In February, our wine blogger Claire arranged a trip down to what locals lovingly call the “County”, Prince Edward County (PEC) in Picton, Ontario. The enchanting visit was originated by John Squair (@JohnatSandbanks) of Sandbanks Estate Winery, something he broached with Ottawa food bloggers during the Red and White Event, a fundraiser for local women’s shelter Harmony House. Sandbanks was a generous wine sponsor of that event.
Weeks of planning thereafter resulted in a partnership with Ontario Tourism, bed and breakfast reservations, and a jam packed tour of some amazing PEC producers, including Barley Days brewery, County Cider cidery, Fifthtown Cheese Artisan Cheese Co., and, of course, Sandbanks winery. It was a revelation PEC, with its small town feel and pastoral skyline, had so many artisan producers.
Loyal readers will realize this tour of the culinary sites is why a number of recent dishes shared through the foodiePrints’ social media footprint employ PEC-sourced products. This includes pairing dishes with Sandbanks wine. My attempt at Celebrity Chefs of Canada Event 2011’s bison hash dish is a good example. The cauliflower ravioli component employs Fifthtown Cheese. The hollandaise employs Vicki’s Veggies’ amazing barrel-aged hot sauce.
During our tour, I was particularly taken by Fifthtown Cheese (4309 County Road 8, Picton). The worlds’ first Platinum LEED certified dairy, founders simply wanted to make the world a better place. Fifthtown is, in its own words, an environmentally and socially responsible niche producer of raw and pasteurized artisan cheeses from locally sourced goat, cow, and sheep’s milk. They hope to revitalize PEC’s heritage as a renowned cheese-making region. Their wares can already be found in cities and towns from Toronto to Ottawa.
Most Fifthtown products are hand made, including fresh, soft ripened, and hard, cave-aged goat, sheep, and cow milk cheeses. All, inspired by worldly cheese styles from chevre, to feta, crottin, ossau-iraty, idiazbal, and tomme de savoie.
To earn its LEED certification, Fifthtown features a number of sustainable innovations, including employing recycled wood chip blocks filled with green concrete for construction, relying on a geothermal system to heat and cool the building, digging and constructing subterranean cheese-aging caves, constructing a “bio wetland” to process and purify waste water and whey on-site, and installing a 10 000 L rain cistern. What hydro power is not generated by Fifthtown’s solar panels or wind mill is purchased from Bullfrog Power, a Canadian green energy producer. Even Fifthtown’s cheese tubs are made with recyclable and bio-degradable bioplastic.
Smitten with both Fifthtown’ cheese and how the fromagerie handles itself in the heavily regulated dairy product industry, I vowed my purchased stash of sheep and goat’s milk cheeses would be well enjoyed. I purchased portions of goat milk Cape Vessey, goat cheddar, and sheep milk Lemon Fetish.
There’s something about tasting a morsel of cheese, knowing the care that went into making it. There is an art to cheese-making. Canada’s cheese-makers are seen as a young industry. While one year’s batch of blue stands out and wins awards, the next year’s may not be so exceptional. In Europe, celebrated cheese-makers have been making cheese with techniques that have been refined over generations. Most techniques are closely guarded secrets. Ever wonder why Quebec’s famed Oka cheese was originally made by Trappist monks? Who else would be willing to expend the time and attention required to keep and carry the cheese-making tradition?
Left to my devices for two weeks for dinner, I realized there was a tray of skin on chicken thighs in the fridge. There was no way I could cook and eat the chicken portions fast enough. They would spoil beforehand. So, I borrowed an idea I have been encountering frequently, eating out, confit chicken.
Then, I employed the confit chicken with something I often use with leftovers, puff pastry. Just about anything tastes better as pie. Besides, with a bottle of Sandbanks Dunes on the counter, I decided to make food to match characteristic Sandbanks orange.
The thighs were cured with a dried herb rub, spiked with some extra kosher salt, overnight. I brushed off the extra cure, arranged them in an oven safe baking dish containing liquified duck fat, and placed the dish in an oven preheated to 350 F. Remember, the process of confit, involves slow braising meat or vegetable, completely submerged in fat at a low temperature. To confit the chicken, I oven braised them for 3 hours. Afterward, I turned off the heat and left them in the oven for another 3 hours. When cool, I moved everything to the fridge to age.
The next day, I gently heated the container to soften the fat and carefully removed the confit chicken. I placed the chicken onto a cast iron pan and roasted them at 400 F until they coloured. These, I let cool. I, then brought some cream up to simmer in a pot, set to medium heat, seasoned the cream, and used it to poach waxy potatoes until fork tender. I took frozen sheets of butter puff pastry from the freezer to thaw. I sauteed some sliced white button mushrooms in butter. I chopped some green onions. I crumbled some Fifthtown Lemon Fetish (first batch) and shredded some Fifthtown goat cheddar (second batch). And, I beat one egg with 1 tsp of water to create an egg wash.
Why are there no measurements? This isn’t really a recipe. It is a way to use up leftovers. Depending on how much protein you have, adjust everything to match. Leftover roast chicken dinner with stuffing? Great! Shred the chicken and swap the potato for the stuffing. No mushrooms? Go with sauteed onions. Everything goes!
Me, I had seven pieces of chicken, three white skinned potatoes, leftover mushrooms, and some cheese to feature. Because I wanted bite-sized, I cut the thawed puff pastry into 4″ squares, using a pizza cutter. I wanted to make party food, pairing savoury chicken with the green of the onion, earthiness of the mushroom, and sharpness of the cheese. The potato was meant to add body.
I preheated an oven to 400F. I floured a work surface and placed a square of pastry on top of that. Atop the pastry went potato, pulled chicken, shredded cheese, mushroom, and green onion. The edges were painted with egg wash and corners pulled together. Then I sealed the seams. When I finished a tray’s worth, nine in this case, I placed them in the fridge for 15 minutes for the fat in the pastry to re-harden. Then, I brushed the pastries with egg wash, sprinkled them with cheese, and baked them for 25 minutes in the preheated oven until puffed and golden.
For the carrot accompaniment, I was aiming for a pickle flavour and texture without having to pickle the carrots. So, I simmered sliced carrots in PEC Waupoos apple cider until they brightened and softened slightly. While hot, I drizzled the carrots with miso butterscotch to add savoriness and dark sugars. The butterscotch glazed the carrots.
To make miso butterscotch, I followed a recipe by Danielle Sucher of the Gothomist. I placed 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 cup amber Quebec maple syrup, 2 tbsp unsalted butter, 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar into a small sauce pan and heated it to 240F. Then, I immediately added a 1/2 cup of 35% cream and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Finally, I mixed in 1/2 a cup of red miso.
The resulting pies were a delight. Now, the golden crust and miso butterscotch carrot side were made to match the label on a bottle of Sandbanks Dunes. How did they work together?
You’d best ask our wine blogger, Claire:
Don paired his chicken puffs with Sandbanks Dune, and I must say he was brilliant to do so! And, he claims to know nothing about wine.
Dune is a blend of Riesling and Vidal Blanc. As such, it’s a lightly floral wine (with notes of sweet summer fruit such as peach or pear) but with some acidity (slight lemony flavours). In other words, the buttery pastry, rich chicken and tang of the cheese work really well with the wine: the lemon of the wine balancing the rich flavours and the fruit notes contrasting nicely with the cheese. Loved it!