There’s no Canada like French Canada.

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While in university studying “communications”, a wonderful degree for people who weren’t sure if they wanted to study philosophy, art, psychology, or business, a degree that promised reasonable marks for just showing up, I constantly worried over my country’s cultural existence.

A good part of my cultural exposure during my formative years were veiled by the elephant in the bed (the United States), if not because most of the products and entertainment was American, but by what the Americans had that Canadians didn’t weighed heavily on us, hence the excitement for a good exchange rate and a race across the border to buy groceries.

Growing up with regular trips to Kelsey’s and Harvey’s (albeit a Canadian hamburg chain) left me feeling like Canada was without a national anything aside from a flag that was difficult to recreate freehand, politeness, and Nanaimo bars. Uni profs were faced with multiple ranting essays about how the best way to define Canadianism would be a list of things we are not.

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And though I work in a fusion restaurant, I am still in Canada and occasionally am faced with the urge to produce something that feels like Canada in your mouth. And aside from sprinkling butter tarts on everything, the only way I can do this is with maple syrup.

Considering Quebec is the main producer of maple syrup, and I’ve recently started replacing butter with duck fat (our confit duck main leaves us with a good deal of beautiful, underused fat) in many recipes. The first was madeleines. In London we made mads with olive oil instead of butter, which left them with a more tender crumb that held up over service, whereas butter mads must be eaten as soon as they are cool enough to not scald the tongue. Since I love substitution experiments, I finally decided to try duck fat.  I glazed them in brandy as soon as the came out of the oven. They were delicious.

Since then I’ve been serving duck fat and orange financiers on the occasion when I don’t have the time/energy/creativity/patience for macarons, and a lack of brandy had me turn to Calvados for the glaze. This was a most excellent discovery.

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The weather has made this week a dull one, and I couldn’t stop staring with some despair at the mounting pile of beautiful baguettes leftover from evening services. Every time this happens I have a fleeting thoughts of “bread” and “pudding” but it tends to be a nicer thought than practice so instead I force loafs into hands as staff shuffle out for the night.

This time, I thought, “fuck it”, so I made an apple, cheddar, and duck fat bread pudding sweetened with maple syrup.

I’ll note I consider this to be somewhat of French Canadian influence because it was common in Quebec for less affluent families to use rendered fats (drippings saved from cooking) in place of expensive butter on toast. The point of this dish is to keep costs low and use up leftovers, so old bread and duck fat are ideal for this exercise.

Apple & Duck Fat Bread Pudding 

750ml Milk*

3 Eggs

150ml Maple Syrup

70g Brown Sugar

125g Browned Butter

75g Clarified Duck Fat, with extra for greasing

2tsp salt

1 Diced Apple, tart variety

80g Smoked Cheddar, Shredded

500g old bread

Smoked Cheddar Crumble

140g Whole Wheat Flour

140g Butter

100g Brown Sugar

50g White Sugar

60g Smoked Cheddar, shredded

1tsp Cinnamon

Freshly grated Nutmeg

Salt to taste

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Grease a 9×12 pan with duck fat. Slice your old baguette or cube old bread and set aside. If it is still soft,  you can slice it and leave it for min of 4 hours before soaking. Line your pan with bread, then sprinkle liberally with apples and shredded cheddar, then finish with another layer of bread.

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Brown your butter by heating it in a small pan on the stove past the boil. It will foam a good deal. Pull it off when the centre begins to brown. Add your duck fat to liquify, whisk in the sugar and set aside. Whisk the eggs and maple syrup into the milk, then slowly whisk in the fat. Pour the liquid over the bread and let stand for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 340F.

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To make the crumble, place all ingredients into the bowl of a strand mixer and combine on med-low with the paddle until crumbly. Finish your pudding with a good layer of crumble, adding an even sprinkle of sugar if you’re feeling frivolous.

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Bake for 50-65 minutes. The pudding with puff up a bit and pull away from the sides of the pan when it’s finished. It will also smell of duck fat awesome.

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I served this with lightly pan seared apples finished with Calvados and Orient Apple Absolute and a local vanilla gelato.

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Fitterhappiermoreproductive

It has been my intention every day for the last two months to write a new post. I’ve cut my hours down from 80 to 60, but I’ve turned most of my out-of-work attention towards regaining my physical strength and endurance from the years before culinary school.

Apparently, twenty fewer hours of work but an additional 6 or 7 at the gym is more exhausting. Good to know.

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The Chinooks have been few and far between since xmas, as though they were all used up in November and December, so winter of recent months have been more in line with what the rest of the country endures. Despite trying to hibernate, the Canadian and I drove up to Jasper at the end of February.

I was under the impression that Jasper was like Banff.

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Banff is small but bustling, bursting with tourists and outdoor adventurers. The buildings are terribly Western Canada (like the YYC airport), cutesy but I like it.

I knew it was small, but so is Canmore. Canmore is quite nice too.

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I hadn’t realized it would take 7 hours to drive to Jasper.

3.5 hours on ice roads.

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What.

Good thing our tires are all season?

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Looking through my photos I realize I only took one in Jasper, the tanker train, probably because it was just so exciting I forgot to keep a digital record.

The journey took up much of our two days, so Jasper was a mediocre meal and watching a Jonestown documentary fireside.

Work has been same-old, in the way restaurants are generally exciting for some reason or another. Every day brings the unexpected.

Recently, I’ve fielded several special requests. I don’t mind doing special things given advance warning. It isn’t my style to make requests to restaurants but I understand why people do it and considering the reason why I do what I do is to give people a memorable experience, I am genuinely delighted to do it.

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This is a princess cake. I made it for a woman who had wanted her friend to have a… girlie dessert for his birthday. I filled the almond cake with strawberry cream and black tea posset. They cancelled. Well that’s okay, I’d always wanted to make a princess cake.

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The request “draw a funny cat picture” was easy to fulfill. I didn’t know I could still draw so well.

This week I was asked to make a “Bolero Tres Leche Cake”

Silly me, I thought this was a cake from a place. Like a Tarta de Santiago (which I really wish I could serve but I don’t think anyone would order it).

No. It’s a mexican cake. From a restaurant. Like in the south-east. WTF.

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Here’s a photo from Yelp. I did not ask permission.

You probably understand why at this point I’m… Hesitant.

I like challenges. So I make the cake.

Tres Leche means three milks. It’s a sponge cake, I used Alton Brown’s, and pour evaporated milk, condensed milk, and half&half over it and leave it to soak overnight. It is usually finished with whipped cream or meringue.

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This… This is not my kind of thing. Monochromatic with lots of sugar and milk. I’m not a big fan of milk myself, so I really didn’t understand this dessert at all.

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At the last minute I bruleed the top, I was willing to try the monochromatic look, but I just needed some contrast. I served it with white balsamic ice cream, malted milk meringue, tonka bean cream, and crispy milk bubbles.

I heard they liked it, but it won’t be going on the menu anytime soon.