Category Archives: Quebec

Sweet Meets Heat: How to Make Chilies Infused Honey


Homemade chili-infused honey DIY © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Contrary to what I used to think about the process of making spice infused honey (special room, special temperature, special honey, number of days), it takes only a few minutes to infuse the honey of your choice with chilies, leaving you with a wonderful jar of gold you can drizzle on pizzas, cakes, cheeses or add to salads, soups and stews or your next mojito for a touch of character.  It is not overly spicy (with the amount of chilies used in the recipe below): the chilies infused honey will still keep all the flavor nuances of the terroir the honey came from (if it wasn’t pasteurized) with just a bit of warming lingering spice finish. It totally satisfies my latest indie-influenced take on all things organic.
Honey: from bumblebee to the toast © http://www.letsheatit.com/
While honey continues ‘hitting its sweet spot’ as a flavor of the year 2015 (according to the Swiss company Firmenich specialized in flavors and fragrances), the interest in it expands beyond the tea-time companionship worldwide. Honey is surely set to add some extra charm and wit to the menus helping chefs to bliss out the clientele with all kinds of innovative dressings, glaze, BBQ sauces and marinade combinations. Honey is being added to the ‘glass with class’ by mixologists (from Mead cocktails to Honey vodka and Honey Bee-jito (mojito drink where honey replaces sugar) to Honey Lemonade and Kombucha Smoothies, etc. The honey producers are coming up with numerous amazing products, such as these incredible creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly we found at Miel pur delice inc. during our last trip to Coaticook, QC.
Miel pur delice inc. creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I might be a fickle friend with ice cream and milk chocolate, but when it comes to the real honey (raw, naturally,) I’m Ted 1, Ted 2 and whatever other Teds you can imagine. I eat honey every day, all my life and, practically, I can‘t imagine living without it… which is probably normal since I am of the Ukrainian origin. In short: we are planning to raise honeybees when retired and I hope nothing will change this agenda.
Ukrainian postal stamps © via Wikimedia
See the typical Ukrainian honey layered cake below made by one of my best friends recently (don’t ask for the recipe though – it takes a whole day to make it – no one can do that bravery anymore). 
Nata’s Honey Layered Cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
In the meantime, here are the three places in Quebec we‘ve visited recently that are not to miss:
1. Miels d’Anicet  Api Culture Hautes-Laurentides inc.111, Rand 2 Gravel, Ferme-Neuve, Quebec
Canada, J0W 1C0 (one of the top-rated and the most popular honey used by Quebec chefs; read more about it here). Tel: (819) 587-4825

2. Miel des Ruisseaux 2 924, Route du Lac Ouest, Alma (Québec)
G8B 5V2 Tel: (418) 668-7734 (famous blueberry honey producer: read more about here and here).

Miel des Ruisseaux Blueberry Honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/

3. Miel pur delice inc. 815 route 141, Coaticook (Québec) J1A 2S5, Tel:(819) 849-9994 (see some of their products featured above)

Many others are on our bucket list and will show up in this space eventually.

For my own experiment, I used the honey coming from the land of blueberries: Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean wild blueberry blossom honey from Miel des ruisseaux (fyi: the blueberries are being harvested there as I write this post), which recently became the proud member of ÉCONOMUSÉE network.
Wild blueberries in Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Infusing the honey with chilis in a hot water bath (bain marie) doesn’t alter the taste of the honey: it just warms up and accentuates the blueberry notes (or any other notes of the honey you choose to make spicy) and the heat is very subtle.
DIY steps to make chili infused honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
The chilies infused honey make an excellent alternative to some expensive commercial chilies infused honeys as well as the welcome condiment in the fridge to help you build some extraordinary flavors.
For some extremely haute cuisine take, lace it over fine brie or blue cheese finish on top of the raspberry almond tea cake – OUCH! Sooo decadent!
Spiced honey drizzled brie on top of the raspberry tea cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Or, have on a flaky breakfast pan-fried blistered breakfast bread – simply out of this world!
Flaky pan fried breakfast bread drizzled with spiced honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I hope you will enjoy this simple alchemy trick.
Chilies infused blueberry honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
All the best dear readers.
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ADOBE CHILIES INFUSED HONEY*
Ingredients:
1 cup honey
Two medium-size dried adobe chili peppers, cut in pieces, OR 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili flakes
1 sterilized jar + lid
1 cheese cloth or fine mesh, to strain
Instructions:
Pour the honey into a ceramic heat proof bowl and stir the chili peppers in. Place the bowl into the hot water bath, bring the water to simmer and heat from 3-5 minutes (for less spicy honey) to 15 minutes (for the spicier version). Remove from heat and cool to the room temperature. Strain the honey through the cheese cloth or the fine mesh into the sterilized jar. Refrigerate overnight and store in the fridge for up to a month. Bring the spiced honey to the room temperature before serving or using in dessings, glaze or sauce.
*Feel free to experiment with any other dried or fresh spicy capsicums, including: jalapeno, scotch bonnet peppers, etc.

Summertime Raspberry-Almond-Lime Tea Cake Recipe


Summertime Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake
Summertime… and the living would be as easy as in Heyward’s lyrics except Canadian summer is so short and demanding, it’s always a good idea to have a piece of a fragrant fresh berry cake next to you to stop running and start pondering.    
In the ideal life the summertime should be like this:
Summertime fun
In reality, it’s always full of surprises: good and bad. Our month of June has been full of projects, inspirations and disappointments, travels, and cooking experiments.  I’ll begin with the end to make it easier for me to catch up with the steady food-blogging pace, which is not always possible after a break. I needed something that was relatively easy, utterly beautiful and ultimately delicious to get myself inspired to translate the inspiration into a small bow of culinary art.
Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Our yesterday’s cheerful party and this cake baked on a whim gave me that kick. It has everything in it to celebrate summer: the freshness of berries (raspberries), the sugary crunch of nuts (almonds), the vigor of lime, the boldness of spiced honey (marked as optional)… and, naturally, the tender moist sponginess of the pound cake. Wait, shouldn’t I mention first that it’s one of the easiest, and the most luscious cakes we’ve ever made?
Raspberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
This cake is an example of a simple, no fuss dessert you would want to bake again and again. We had it with tea watching Paddington last night (to the dying sounds of the fireworks fury banging outside the window).  The raspberry cake felt as heartwarming and rewarding as the movie itself although there was no marmalade around (which actually would be a good idea to have along). I served it with humble vanilla ice cream, some fresh raspberries and/or fresh raspberry coulis: the honest and ever-delightful classics. 
For the high-end restaurant style serving, dare for a slice of a room-temperature brie or a goat cheese (i.e. Lavallois from Chevriere de Monnoir would be a good idea) and some drizzle of adobe chili – spiced honey (recipe to be posted soon).
We based the recipe on a winning formula (tested and approved previously) of the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake from Gourmet Magazine of June 2009 (recipe also follows at the very end of this post), tweaking it with the addition of:
NUTS – chopped slivered almonds were used, although pistachios (other nuts if you wish) would be my first choice if I had them in my pantry.
LIME – optional lemon zest was replaced with lime zest and lime juice to make the taste more present.
SPICED HONEY – a very small (and optional) amount of my most recently discovered fav ingredient to accent the fruit.
Adobe Chili Spiced Honey
EGGS – using extra ingredients called for one extra egg.
BAKING TIME – ten extra minutes were added to the baking time accordingly.
BERRIES – we increased the amount of raspberries to much more fruits following the summer feeling. I assume the recipe works with all kind of fresh berries (or frozen, for that matter) and intend to make the next one with gooseberries from our garden (HA!)
Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake
INVERTING OR NOT – the initial recipe is for the inverted cake, which I noticed from previous experiments not always works well, so this recipe doesn’t encourage the inverting step, although I would live it to you to experiment with. Please note the berries tend to sink to the bottom, which might make the bottom look messy if you decide to invert it.
Raspberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
We absolutely loved the result and encourage you to try it by all means. Please let us know how it went, if you liked it or not by writing your comments and suggestions.
Monarda ‘Garden View Scarlet’: wonderful addition to the garden which attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Happy summertime to ALL!
***
One year ago: French Toast Strawberry Rhubard Bake
Two years ago: Bread Crusted Salmon Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

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RASPBERRY ALMOND LIME BUTTERMILK TEA CAKE
Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 juice of small lime
1/2 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili-spiced honey (optional)
1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon powder sugar for dusting
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and lime zest. Add egg/s and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.  Add lime juice, almonds and honey (if using) and mix again. Spoon the batter into the pan. Smooth the top roughly with spatula. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Dust with sugar powder. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Transfer carefully to a rack to cool completely. Transfer to the platter and slice. Serve with tea and optional additions of your favorite ice cream, raspberry coulis or brie.

***
RASPBERRY BUTTERMILK TEA CAKE (original recipe from Gourmet Magazine)

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

The latter recipe is adapted from:  Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Gourmet Magazine, 06/2009.

Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder with Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

What we have in our house of cards for the main today is a new kid on the block: braised goat shoulder. Please don’t run away, it’s actually better than anything you can imagine braised in red wine, especially if you buy it fresh from the farm where they treat their goats with love and respect. Once you try it, you will know why the goat meat is the most widely consumed around the globe. Heavenly tasty! Paired with roasted sweet potatoes spiked with caraway seeds on a side it’s a pure delight. FYI, this recipe also works very well with goat/lamb shanks as well as the goat/lamb leg or shoulder. PS: this post is also written to encourage you to leave the metropolis from time to time to enjoy the incredible farm scenery in Quebec.

View of Montreal City Downtown from the Farm Road. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm, Quebec. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Contrary to the widely popular goat cheese, goat meat is not exactly a food staple in North America. For those of you who never tried the goat before and believe that it can be a challenging experience, here is an advice about eating some exotic foods for the first time from Jay Rayner,  The Man Who Ate The World: ‘…(Chef) Marcus made a very good point in last night’s show: that the odd is only odd the first time you eat it. After that it just becomes dinner. How right he is. A similar point could be made about the use of the word “exotic” when attached to certain food stuffs. What may be exotic to us, is part of the staple diet to others. For example, both Jody and Tony cooked with goat, which happens to be the most commonly consumed red meat in the world. It’s just not the U.S. and Europe that’s doing all the consuming. Goats are sturdy animals which can survive in arid conditions and that’s why they are so popular in Africa and the Middle East. Jody might not have much call for it in her corner of New England, but that doesn’t make it particularly outré. The same is true of black chickens, monkfish livers, and the rest.’

Goat accounts for 70+% of all red meat consumed world-wide. That said goat meat considered to be highly exotic in North America. However, as much as goat is not in the mainstream of our diets, things are gradually changing as the goat raising segment of industry is becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the livestock production in the US and Canada. People, especially those supporting wholly integrated farms and humanely raised food production, recognize the benefits of goat farming. 

Goat meat is not just about its unique taste quality, check this comparative table of meats and you will quickly notice that goat (chevon) is much lower in calories, minimal in fat and strikingly low in saturated fat while higher in protein than beef or lamb.

There are many other advantages of procuring goat meat: when you buy the locally produced goat meat (which didn’t take off yet in the big groceries) you know exactly where this meat came from (outdoor-bred, pasture-fed and organic), you don’t have to doubt its quality or identity; you support local producers and farming.The freshness and quality of meat factor in hugely in the final result of the dish.

This brings us straight to the Chevriere de Monnoir goat farm and its boutique we came to stock on cheeses to a few weeks ago.  This time I also noticed the new boutique had an amazing assortment of fresh meat cuts, immense variety of sausages, pattys, saucisson, tornedos, rolls, etc. – all made of goat meat from the farm. Seeing all this goodness, I felt like a pirate of Caribbean! 

Boutique at Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm, Quebec. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
New ingredient (with the short list of exceptions including some offal and fugu) puts me in a special excited spirit of adventure – I become fearless and energetic driven by the ambition to come up with the great new dish…

Fresh Goat Curd Cheese from Chevriere de Monnoir Farm, QC. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Don’t expect to just get away with $10.00 – there are so many choices, you can get lost. Their goat milk is pristine and their cheeses are to die for! The daily fresh curd cheese is my absolute favorite (the bag usually never reaches our house – I empty the whole bag while driving) and feta cheese is hard to beat.

1191 Rang de l’Église, Marieville, QC J3M 1N9
Tel: (450) 460-2221
Hours: Wed.-Sat. 10:00 to 18:00; Sun. 11:00 to 17:00

A short trip to this farm is also a nice opportunity to dive into the spring countryside and then may be continue down the Circuit du Paysan and explore the breath-taking lanscape with its vast sky,
beautiful little villages, churches, farms, vineyards and orchards.

Quebec Countryside. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Because it is very low in fat, the goat meat requires a slow cooking with some additional fat: I used bacon strips. The bacon adds a nice touch of smokiness and brings richness and the crunchy indulgence to this slow-cooked dish that along with herbs and spices lift it far beyond a mere meat roast. I also layered the botton of the pan with carrots to place the meat over to prevent burning: you can choose to eat them or discard after. The taste of meat is rich, mineral and distinctly sweet (perhaps because of the way goats graze: unlike the sheep goats never eat roots of the grass).

Step by Step Braised Goat Shoulder Preparation. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

If you have time, marinating the meat overnight (rub it with ¼ cup of olive oil, mixed with three cloves of crushed garlic, 1-2 tablespoon of dried thyme, coarse sea salt and pepper) would be a good idea – the meat will turn out to be more tender and juicier. Although this recipe calls for the red wine, feel free to opt for half a bottle of beer, ½ cup of brandy or 2 cups of dry apple cider. I garnish the cooked meat with minced crisp bacon I used to cover the meat, fresh lemon zest and minced parsley for an extra punch of the flavor – worked well, adding notes of crisp, smoke, tang and freshness.  

Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

The pan-roasted sweet potatoes with caraway seeds perfectly complements the dish and is fast and easy to make.

Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Caraway Seeds. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

If you happen to have the leftovers, just warm up the meat in the skillet along with some other root veggies cooked in the braised sauce – mouthwatering!

Goat Shoulder with Roasted Root Vegetables. Photo © www.letsheatit.com


Here’s my other secret agenda about the goat: it might be that secret dream worker I’ve been looking for years to take over our tractor-cutting-the-grass summer labour (we have a big land – cutting the grass is a bummer). If they do it in France and California, we can do that too, right? Imagine how much time it would save, not to mention the eco-benefits!

Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm Trademark. Photo © www.letsheatit.com

Carefully, I approach the issue with the farm owner, Marie-France Marchand: ‘Have you ever thought about renting one of your goats for summer?’ She grins and just nods and nods. ‘One day may be,’she chimes in as she catches my eye. This gives me hope. I love her goats. And her products. We will be back.

Interview with Marie-France Marchand at Chevriere de Monnoir Goat Farm. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
Red Wine Braised Goat Shoulder. Photo © www.letsheatit.com
Happy Braising!
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One Year Ago: 
***
RED WINE BRAISED GOAT SHOULDER
Yields: 4-6 portions
Ingredients:
2-3 pounds goat shoulder (to marinate rub it with 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1-2 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon olive oil, coarse sea salt and pepper)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup dry red wine
1-2 onions
5 medium carrots: 3 cut in half lengthwise, 2 chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 leek, chopped (optional)
1 garlic head, halved
3-4 stripes of bacon
2 spring rosemary
2 bay leaves
5-8 Kalamata olives (optional)
2-3 cups chicken/beef broth or water
Salt & pepper
Instructions:
Marinate the goat shoulder from a few hours to overnight with garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line the Dutch oven with the carrots halved lengthwise. Heat the oil in the skillet to the medium high. Brown the meat on all sides. Deglaze with half of the wine. Place the meat on top of the carrots in the Dutch oven.
Add onions, garlic, celery, leek and the rest of carrots to the skillet. Add the rest of wine and stir to deglaze. Salt, pepper and transfer to the Dutch oven and distribute around the goat meat.
Cover the meat with bacon stripes and fix them with the toothpicks. Top with rosemary springs and bay leaf. Add olives, if using. Add the stock. Cover and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 325F and continue baking for an hour and a half to two hours until the meat is tender. Remove from the oven, open the cover and let the meat rest for 10 minutes for the juices to set before slicing. Serve with the side of pan roasted sweet potatoes.
***

SPEEDY PAN ROASTED SWEET POTATOES WITH CARAWAY SEEDS

Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
4 medium size sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons cooking oil, OR mix of cooking oil and clarified butter, OR coconut oil
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Sea salt
Instructions:
Peel potatoes and slice lenthwise. Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan, bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the skillet to medium-high, add oil and caraway seeds and roast them for 1 minute to release the flavor. Drain the potatoes and add them carefully to the hot frying pan with caraway seeds. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon. Increase the heat to high and roast potatoes for 7-10 minutes (depending on the skillet) until crisp on the outside and cooked through.

Why Don’t You Go to St. Paddy’s Parade with Us?


St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com

I asked my daughter the other day and she said: ‘Thanks Mom, but NO – it’s too cold outside to be able to enjoy things.’ Fair enough. In more ways than I care to admit, I absolutely loathe humid cold and ice wind.  Imagine facing a combination of both standing at the corner of Saint Catherine and University (OOPs, I think it was renamed recently into Robert Bourassa Boulevard, so tourists have less hard times to read French maps of the downtown Montreal), underdressed for an hour – you get the picture. The nose and ears take some good few hours to defrost after. 
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC, 2015 © letsheatit.com
And yet, we did go to the parade.  How can we miss all that buzz and honking of ceilidh ceremony? It’s festive, it’s fun, it’s traditional and there’s always something new to discover.  Like, when else can you see an openly drinking, pot-smoking crowd in front of the tons of police without being disturbed? Now, that’s the power of Saint Patrick who drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Bagpipe Musicians at St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The bagpipe musicians, leprechauns, princesses, munchkins and all other fairy tale characters from  the Emerald Island were there facing the severe cold with us.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
After, we were planning to join Freeway and Natasha from Virgin radio at the Irish pub for brunch, but the freezing cold and wind completely coiled us so we went home instead. It felt like the only person who was dressed properly for the weather at the parade was this highly respected Irish participant in the traditional Canadian beaver coat.
Man in the Beaver Coat, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The cold reminded us of how good a bowl of hot soup with dumplings can be. No beer would taste as good as this soup to bring us back to life from the mess of the freezing torture. In my head I was already half-way to this bowl. The soup had to be green in honor of the shamrock and all things Irish. And it was. Stay tuned for the must-try vivid green Spinach Herb & Egg Drop soup which will follow shortly.
Spinach Herb & Egg Drop Soup © letsheatit.com
Irish Flag, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
Cheers to St. Paddy!

Catch of the Day: Trout in Ham Recipe


I don’t know what pushed us to go ice fishing few week-ends ago, but it wasn’t a common sense. But it made a good story, so I guess it was worth it anyways. Although very cold, the morning was bright and shiny and promised all kind of fun nature adventures. Doggy, the house astrologer was giving us her blessings…
When we arrived at Phillipsburg, it was minus thirty in Celsius, windy (which translates into minus forty five with the wind chill factor) and unbelievably humid because the day before was much warmer. The man on duty at Activités Plein Air with lobster-red face and neck briefly explained the rules of serious ice fishing and handed us a can of worms (greeting bonus for the ice fishing newcomers). ‘Go check your place and tell me when you’re ready,’ he said chewing cigarette roach and waving to the few cabins (cabane à pêche) available, so we could take a pic before parting with Canadian $75.00. ‘Is it biting well?’ – we inquired. ‘Keeps us pas mal busy, he replied. Perhaps he was talking about his liver, I don’t know. He had a breath of the United Distillery although it was just little past the afternoon. I realized we didn’t bring any alcohol, just a six-pack of Blanche de Chambly, which sounded more like a joke in this weather condition. What were we thinking? This kind of adventure calls for some hard alcohol, like the 120-proof Jamaican rum that can curl your nose hair just by looking at it. I also realized I should have put three pairs of pants instead of two, brought snow goggles, covered the rest of my face with Vaseline and wrapped the rest of my body in extra wool and feathers…
It was around half-mile to get to the nearest free cabin walking over the frozen lake. By the time we did with our back packs and fishing gear, I couldn’t take pictures anymore because my fingers went numb. So felt my camera – the buttons froze and were not working. The shack was empty, dark and cold: we had to go back to buy and bring some fire wood to start warming it up. The neighbor within few meters flung his cabin door open to take a loud steamy piss disregarding us as if we were some kind of uninvolved bystanders stoned as much as him by that point of the day. He then gulped some moonshine from a plastic water bottle and vanished back into his cabin. Although many shacks have been already rented, we’ve seen no fish caught around and heard no screams of excitement. Everything was dead silent, steamy cold and wild.
In less than 15 minutes I felt like I’ve been ice fishing for a century. I might even have taken this image a hundred years ago in Gilford, Ontario, except I absolutely wouldn’t want to be that person…
The landscape reminded me of ‘The Red Tent’ vintage movie my parents used to make me watch as a toddler for like thousand times because they liked it and thought it was a ‘masterpiece tragedy’. Sean Connery played Roald Amundsen, Claudia Cardinale was a hot nurse Valeria. Most of the time (script) all was lost; the characters would suffer from the situation, relationships and excruciating cold. Everyone’s face was covered with icicles. Everything went epic bad to the score of eternal Enio Morricone…
‘I think we have just screwed our day. The fish is not biting. Most of my blood circulation has shut down… And our phone is dead…. What other signs do we need to stop before it’s too late? It feels to me like this kind of adventure can only give pneumonia or a prostate whatever… What if we freeze to death, or worse, drift into the ocean on break-away sea ice floes like those 220 Latvian anglers? I should have SKYPEd with my Mom this morning.’
‘Just for today, I wish I had a giant beard like Hans Langseth to keep me warm. I could wrap it around my neck and shoulders and protect myself better from the Arctic cold and hard-blowing flurries’, the idea crossed my mind while we soldiered back to the station at the sunset empty-handed. The landscape was breathtaking though…
‘I thought the catch would happen fast and easy like that Finnish angler promised in his blog. ‘Next time may be you should check the real Canadian website for more information on local conditions,’ suggested honey-bunny. Oh well. That was our tribute to cold.We did catch one fish – a small pregnant perch, which we released:
I enlarged it on purpose (like they do with many things) to compare with the Finnish angler (bottom right image is a Finnish pike):
I was happy to be back to Montreal safe and sound. We passed by Costco and I bought a pack of freshly caught trout with one single wish in my head: ‘Summer, come back to me!’.
The wish manifested later in the form of Trucha Con Jamón dish – my favorite Spanish way (originating from Navarra region) to cook trout wrapped in cured ham. Crisp ham and fish skin, juicy tender fish fillet inside, contrasting exotic flavors. It guarantees to bring the sunshine back to your plate rain or shine! Next time in February, Costco will be as far as I can go for my winter catch of the day adventure, I swear.
Naturally, this recipe can be done with other wrap-able fresh fish, or even better, fish fillet. Pickerel, cod, haddock, rockfish or bass fillets would be my best bets; lean salmon would be OK  (as long as the piece is not too greasy).
Equally, some versions of Trucha Con Jamón are done with the ham going inside the cavity of the fish instead of the outside. The most known is the one called Truca a la Riohana. Still heavenly tasty!
Quick note: TOTALLY OPTIONAL – often I de-bone the fish (which is easy in case of the fresh trout) for the comfort of consumption, but it’s really not necessary if you’re OK with fish bones (although it does give you a hint that you can do the same with any pair of fish fillets – sounds to me like a great idea for a restaurant menu):
Another quick note/disclaimer: although it makes quite a stretch from the classic recipe, thinly sliced fresh pork belly makes a great riff on this dish for both, to stuff or to wrap it in:
Some words on side courses:
– Excellent with simple green peas and some other steamed or sautéed veggies extra, like zucchini, broccoli, sprouts, etc.;
– Out of this world with the side course of warm sautéed leeks and carrots  and/or olive salad; 
– Festive with Waldorf;
– Light and easy with simple green watercress salad;
– Groovie with classic potato salad,
and many more…
Enjoy!
***
TROUT WRAPPED IN CURED HAM (Trucha Con Jamón)
Yields: 1 to 2 portions depending on the trout size or your appetite. Multiply the ingredients accordingly.
Ingredients:
1 small to medium size fresh trout, gutted and cleaned (deboned if necessary)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 wedge of lemon to sprinkle (optional)
1 slice of bacon/lard, cut in cubes (optional)
1 small red bell pepper, diced (optional)
2-3 pieces of cured ham (Serrano, Proscuitto, etc.) thinly sliced
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients:
Season the trout with salt and pepper, sprinkle with lemon inside out and set aside.
Heat the skillet to medium high, add bacon and fry it for 2-3 minutes. Add red bell pepper to the skillet and continue frying for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the plate and let cool. Keep the liquid bacon fat leftover in the skillet for the next step.
Pat-dry trout with paper towels and stuff the cavity with bacon-red pepper mix.  Wrap the trout with cured ham making sure the cavity with the stuffing is well closed.
Re-heat the same skillet to medium high. Add olive oil and warm it through. Place the trout wrapped in ham carefully into the skillet. Cook on each side for 5-7 minutes, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to make sure the fish is cooked through. Enjoy with some light vegetable side dish!
TROUT STUFFED WITH HAM (Trucha a la Riohana)
Yields: 1 to 2 portions depending on the trout size or your appetite. Multiply the ingredients accordingly.
Ingredients:
1 small to medium size fresh trout, gutted and cleaned (deboned if wish be)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2-3 pieces of cured ham (Serrano, Proscuitto, etc.) thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions:
Season the trout with salt and pepper. Pat dry the trout with paper towel. Stuff the cavity with ham.  Heat the same skillet to medium high. Add olive oil and warm it through. Place the trout carefully into the skillet. Cook on each side for 5+ minutes, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to make sure the fish is cooked through. Enjoy with some light vegetable side dish!