Welcome to Da Local

4 kids. 3 dogs. 1 amazing wife. 1 great job. And a huge passion for food. Cooking it, tasting it, growing it. An abiding love and respect for the farmers, artisans and other individuals committed to bringing the best to your table and mine.

Come along for the ride. You can never be quite sure of where we're going, but it will almost always be delicious.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From Market Trip to Dinner

As the trees turn to shades of red and gold, the local farmer's markets are beginning to close. With only a few market days left, and a Saturday off from work, I headed out with the boys to the Newmarket Farmer's Market in search of fresh vegetables and inspiration.

The produce at the market was absolutely spectacular!! This truly is the greatest time of the year for a lover of local vegetables.

So, when I arrived home, and took a look at my purchases, as well as what I had in the fridge, there was one dish that seemed like the perfect choice for a cool harvest weekend.....Chicken and Dumplings!!

Here is the step by step path, from my farmer's market harvest to my dinner plate.

1. In order to avoid any chance of cross -contamination, I do all my work with the chicken first. I break the chickens down into 8 pieces each. (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 pieces from each breast) I take the rest of the carcass (wings, back) and chop it up. After browning it in a pot, I add some vegetables and homemade chicken stock. This strengthens the broth and makes it much more flavourful.

2. Next, I season the chicken pieces well and then toss them in a seasoned flour. I brown them in oil over medium-high heat until golden brown. Afterwards, I set them aside and discard any of the cooking oil that remains.

3. Now that the chicken is finished and my board has been cleaned and sanitized, I can turn my attention to the vegetables. Mushrooms...quartered. Leeks...quartered lengthwise, then cross-cut, and then washed very well. Parsnip and heirloom  carrots...peeled and cut in rough but uniformly sized chunks. Corn...simply cut from the cob. Kale...stripped from the stems, then cut in thin strips and then washed in 2 changes of water to get rid of an remaining grit.

4. A quick saute of the vegetables and then the chicken pieces are laid on top. The enhanced chicken stock is poured over top until all the solids are covered by at least 1" of liquid. Salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme go in, as well as a fresh bay leaf. At this point, I bring the mixture up to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven (325 degrees) to cook until the chicken becomes almost fall-off-the-bone tender.

5. After about 1 1/2 hours in the oven, the dish is almost complete. I shake flour together with water to form what is known as a slurry. I then stir this into the stew while it simmers in order to thicken it. Some people prefer a more brothy stew while others tend towards a thick and hearty ragout. I tend to land somewhere in the middle of these 2 camps. 

6. Now that the stew is thickened, I taste and adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Then comes the kale, which rapidly wilts into the stew.

7. It is now time for the dumplings. A simple batter of flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and milk along with some dried and fresh herbs comes together in seconds. With the soup simmering on the stove, I carefully scrape tablespoons of batter on to the surface. The lid goes back on and the stew goes into the oven for 15 more minutes.

8. With the wonderful aromas filling the house, it is difficult to wait for those last few minutes. As the pot comes from the oven, everyone gathers around to smell the delicious aroma as the lid is lifted. All that is needed is a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a generous dollop of mashed potatoes alongside to make this fall harvest specialty complete.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Soupfest in the Holland Marsh

Sorry it took so long to get around to posting this, but it's been a bit of a crazy week!

So, last Saturday, I headed up to the Holland Marsh Soupfest along with my co-worker Stephanie Dadd. We were representing the Omni King Edward Hotel (aka The King Eddie), where we both work.

The night before had been a lot of work. Peter Gaziano, our saucier, had made an amazing lamb broth from the bones we recieved and Stephanie spent hours hand-pulling sheets of Armenian crisp bread and dusting them with z'atar. For my part, I was cooking Israeli cous cous, cutting a mountain of beautiful Holland Marsh vegetables, and grinding lamb to turn into kofta meatballs. 800 meatballs!! Though my co-worker Mario did help with a few.

We arrived at the site in Ansnorveldt and quickly got set up. It's a good thing we did. It seemed that as soon as the soup was hot, the lineups were already starting.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get many pictures. However, I can tell you that it was an amazing day in the marsh. The comradery of so many chefs and cooks gathered together was great to see. I'm looking forward to coming back next year.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Heading to Soupfest!!

As you follow the wandering ribbon of asphalt that is Highway 400 north from Toronto, you'll notice an exit for Davis Drive/Newmarket/Bradford. Passing under that bridge, you are greeted with one of my favourite vistas in all of Southern Ontario.

Spread out before you is the Holland Marsh; one of the finest growing areas in the province. From celery to carrots, onions to lettuce, tomatoes to cucumbers and so much more, this region grows it all.

With its rich black soil, this 21,000 acre region is home to many dedicated farmers, growing the vegetables that you and I eat every day. However, so many people aren't even aware it exists and how close to home it is.

Everyone is talking about the need to better understand our food, to get closer to it. This weekend, there is an opportunity to do just that. This Saturday, October 4th, the Holland Marsh Growers Association is hosting their annual Soupfest.( hollandmarshsoupfest.ca/ ) Chefs from across the region are gathering to serve soups made from the goodness of the Holland Marsh in the spirit of friendly competition and out of  a desire to show off this beautiful and vital region.

This is the perfect chance to get in touch with where our food comes from and the people who grow it. And you get to eat some pretty incredible soups as well.

Ontario, this is your garden. Come and check it out. 

I'll be at Soupfest this Saturday with my fellow chefs from the Omni King Edward Hotel. Be sure to come by and say hello!