Like just about everyone who grew up in Ontario, I have fond memories of being marched from my regular classroom to the “French” room for lessons in Parisian French. I remember singing songs, conjugating verbs, and learning phrases like “J’aimerais acheter des fraises.” Well, food and the French language clashed this week in Quebec, the controversy exploding with surprising intensity on social networks. Traditional media reported the story thereafter, inciting further discussion and attracting even more attention to language issues in la belle provence.
Thankfully, media is now reporting the Office Quebecoise de la langue francaise (OQLF) has backtracked on its pursing language complaints at two Montreal restaurants. The first, a British chippy in Côte-des-Neiges was originally told to change the signage for its flagship product to “poisson frit et frites.” Brit & Chips’ owners feared they would no longer shift any plates as few know fish and chips by the somewhat literal translation. While “steak et frites” and “moules et frites” are familiar in popular culture, “poisson frit et frites” is not, regardless if you are francophone or anglophone. The second, a popular Italian restaurant that has a sister location in Toronto, was taken to task for its menu. Among other “infractions,” owner Massimo Lecas was told to change the word “pasta.” This lead to much consternation under the #pastagate hashtag on Twitter.
Me, I am astounded at the situation. While I sympathize with Quebec trying to protect its distinctive culture, why force restaurants that serve ethnic fare, to use French words for “calamari” or “botiglia”? Imagine how the OQLF and corresponding provincial government under Pauline Marois look in international news.
I’ve an idea. Put some effort into teaching Quebec culture in school curricula or other community programs. Teach the symbolic dishes in Quebecois cuisine: tourtiere, pea soup, baked beans, and cretons. Pouding chômeur is a perfect example.
Food is about people. It can tell stories.
Pudding chômeur is a Depression-era “poor man’s” cake-based dessert. Created by female Quebecois factory workers, it employs cheap and commonly available ingredients of the period: flour, brown sugar, and water. Modern takes are richer, employing butter and maple syrup.
During a previous Christmas, we attempted another take on an iconic Quebecois dish I am utterly fascinated with: Ragoût de Pattes de Cochons. It is a rich gravy-based dish with chopped pork hock, so more shins than feet.
This past year, Christmas was a multi-course feast. However, the dishes served weren’t quite Christmas-appropriate. So, during the new year, I decided to make things right.
Not only did I make ragoût de pattes de cochons, but I served it as the gravy for poutine.
We followed the technique from our previous attempt with one exception. I looked to British chef Heston Blumenthal’s brown chicken stock for inspiration. I wanted to make an extremely savoury stock with which to braise the pork hocks, but without employing soy or other standard umami-agents like marmite or anchovies.
So, employing a slow cooker, I started a stock with ice water and three chicken legs. While the stock was very lightly simmering, I roasted three more chicken legs on racks at 400 F, each leg coated in skim milk powder. These, I rotated every 20 minutes for an hour. Milk powder being purely protein, the legs coloured heavily.
After 3 hours, I strained the stock, discarding the unroasted chicken legs and added the roasted chicken legs. This, I again simmered for 3 hours and strained.
Given the pork hocks I purchased from Barbar Shaefer of Upper Canada Heritage Meats were rindless, they were easy to sear on all sides.
Seasoned and de-fatted, the post hock braising liquid was incredibly rich and savoury. It made quite the gravy.
The poutine went extremely well with a vinegary arugula and parsley salad.
Furnished with leftover hocks and a stock that reminded me of something neither shio nor tonkotsu from a ramen noodle house, I made noodle soup.
A weekday meal, I didn’t quite have time to make my own ramen noodles. Still, a double stock, employed as a braising liquid and then clarified, makes great soup for noodles.
This bowl was topped with a pair of soft boiled eggs, gently wilted pea shoots, corn niblets, green onions, and sliced braised pork hock. While not a traditional preparation, the bowl worked.
Want to protect a culture? There is much you can learn through food. Better yet, have some fun with it.
Friday Appendix: #GoodEatsBlogs
As per last week’s round up, here are recipes from some local food bloggers.
Candace Derickx of Life in Pleasantville shared a thoughtful contribution this week for the recipe box (yes, some of us still have one…). Only, she suggests reserving her lobster and clam chowder for “need to impress” entertaining situations when one is short on prep time. A fan of chowder, both clam and corn, when I make this, I’m not sharing!
Now, I grew up with vermicelli and recently found a new respect for it at a local Chinese restaurant. Sea King (1558 Merivale Road) served the translucent rice noodles with freshly steamed scallops. Andrea Tomkins of A Peek Inside the Fish Bowl tried to introduce vermicelli with a Thai-inspired peanut butter-glazed chicken to her children. Her dish met with mixed reviews. It sounds perfectly tasty. Though, I’d be replacing the peanut butter with cashew butter on account of an allergy.
Ever wonder what is in the ranch dressing, a ubiquitous condiment in tex-mex cuisine? No? Bare with me. Sometimes you needs a cooling sauce that is fatty enough to carry flavours on a plate. This is especially true when serving dishes with strong flavours. Ranch dressing often fits the bill. And, Rebecca Stanisic of A Bit of Momsense explains how to make it at home.
Tags: #GoodEatsBlogs, featured, offal, pork hock, poutine, ragout de pattes de cochons, ramen, slow cooked