Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quebec Cheese and Cured Meat

From the country...

It seems like forever ago, but back sometime in January I went on a trip to Montreal. It was one of those impromptu trips that just kind of happened and seemed to fall nicely into the category of the least inexpensive trip I have ever been on (which is nice because who has money in January?)

I went with my good friend Steph and we stayed at her Aunt Elaine's swanky place,we were chauffeured around by her aunt’s boyfriend Chrystian, and used my sister’s Christmas present from two years ago (a VIA Rail gift card worth $210 dollars- thanks Amy!) to get us there.

We went out for dinner to a pleasant Lebanese place, explored the Jean Talon Market, went to the Museum and basically pretended that we didn’t have any kids (between the two of us we have 5 boys- seriously…). I slept in, finished a book, and cooked with goodies from the market.

On the train I brought a cooler with a chicken (frozen- not live!), some squash, and a dozen eggs. I thought I was so clever bringing a cooler so that I could bring some foodstuff home with me to share with the fam. I figured with the food I brought, I could make a meal representative of where I come from, as a sign of my gratitude for letting me rest my head on her white linen bed (a far cry from the mismatched sheets and ripped duvet I am used to sleeping in) and soaking in her claw foot tub.

At the market we picked up some local root vegetables, garlic, shallots, brussel sprouts, mushrooms and flour (for bread making). I also picked up some charcuterie (cured meat) and cheese. Specifically I purchased a Westphalia cured ham and some pancetta. Outside the Market, I met a farmer hocking straight- from- the- farm wheels of goat milk chevre out of the back of his pickup. The cheese was a thing of beauty, I bought about $7 worth and am still kickin’ myself for not getting a whole wheel. Being a farmer myself I love the chance to support other farmers and this of course is significantly easier if their product is good. And it was good; it was as good as gold.

Cured meat and cheese is probably my favourite of all the weaknesses that I have. I love a good pate or prosciutto and cheese well it is just a culinary gift wrapped in a rind. On every street corner in Montreal you can buy a fresh loaf of artisanal bread, charcuterie, and cheese. There are over 300 cheeses from Quebec and I only wish I had sampled them all. I was inspired by the little shops with meats and cheese and I felt as though I had captured a glimpse of Europe (I have never been of course..).

Cooking in another person kitchen is always weird for me because I happen to possess a lot of kitchen gadgets and am hardly ever nil equipped for cooking. I made out just fine though and christened the dusty roasting pan tucked away in the drawer.

For breakfast I made scrambled eggs with Westphalia ham, oyster mushrooms and goat chevre. Served up with a side of fresh bread. For dinner we ate roast chicken with root vegetables (potatoes, rutabaga, celery root, and carrots), roast oyster mushrooms and shallots, and steamed brussel sprouts. For starters we had pancetta, ham and of course cheese.

Before leaving Montreal, I planned on making one last trip to the fromagerie to fill up my little blue cooler with gifts to bring home. I picked up Alfred le fermier (a pressed, cooked firm cheese made from raw cows milk and aged 6 to 8 months on wood boards from Compton in Estrie), Chevre Noir (an award wining, 1year minimum aged goat milk cheddar from Chesterville, Quebec), and a Bleu d’Elizabeth (a beautiful creamy blue cheese from Fromagerie Presbytere). There were other cheeses in the take home cooler, although these choices were my favourite and there was the odd wrapped package of cured meat.

I enjoyed whipping through the streets of Montreal, with a personal chauffeur, an excellent translator and experiencing this all with a really special friend. The idea of being away from my family was scary at first but was refreshing in the end and of course all was well when I returned to the farm.

Next time I do get a chance to travel to Montreal, I will make sure to sample the famous Montreal bagel and continue to sample all the beautiful cheeses that Quebec has to offer!
the diggs where we stayed ,
the bathtub I soaked my bones in,
our breakfast, Steph and me

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