This simple Alsatian dish, abridged from my book “Cooking Meat”, takes some time to make but it is rustic comfort food at its best, and truly celebrates many of the cuts the pig offers us. On the next cold night, invite some friends over and throw this popular French bistro dish in the middle of the table with a baguette, some good mustard, a jar of gherkins, and plenty of Riesling. You’ll be a star.
Serves 8 to 10
2 Tbsp butter (divided)
½ pound sliced bacon, cut in 1-inch dice
3 large onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large smoked ham hock , 1 ¼ lbs, cut in quarters (ask your butcher to cut it on the band saw)
1 small head Savoy cabbage , shredded
1 herb sachet (1 Tbsp juniper berries, 10 thyme sprigs, 6 bay leaves – all tied in a cheesecloth or a tea-ball)
2 cups sauerkraut, drained
2 cups dry white wine
4 smoked pork chops
4 large good-quality smoked pork sausages
4 weisswurst (found at German/Eastern European delis)
4 pork wieners (hot dog–style)
1 pound mini potatoes, washed
1 Tbsp sliced chives
Salt and pepper
- In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt 1 Tbsp of the butter with the bacon. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until translucent.
- Add the pork hock, turn down the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Sweat for 15 minutes, then add the cabbage and herb bundle. Stirring frequently, cook for 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is translucent. Add the sauerkraut and wine, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours.
- Turn the heat off the cabbage and keep warm. Using a pair of tongs, remove the ham hock and cool slightly. When cool to the touch, discard the skin and the bone, and shred the meat. Add the shredded hock meat back to the pot with the smoked pork chops, smoked sausages, weisswurst, and wieners. Cover and steam for 12 to 15 minutes.
- While the meats are steaming, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the mini potatoes and boil until fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot, and toss with the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter and the chives. Season with salt and pepper.
- Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the chops, smoked sausages, weisswurst, and weiners to a cutting board. Slice them into attractive, bite-sized pieces. Taste the cabbage, and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
- To serve, pile the cooked cabbage and hock-meat stew onto a large platter and arrange the smoked meats on top. Serve with the mini potatoes.
At this time of year, when winter’s grip is loosening but still hanging on, I like to make food that will warm my bones and give me the energy to push through to spring. Chicken soup fits the bill, and while I generally make a chicken soup or broth with bones, using chicken legs can increase the flavour and body. Legs have skin and fat, which carry extra flavour, and has a good amount of meat that can be shredded from the bone to add to the soup. I recommend using whole legs in your next soup!
Chicken and Rice Soup with Ginger
4 whole chicken legs
1 large onion, peeled, and cut into quarters
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 knobs ginger, peeled and roughly chopped (each “knob” should be thumb-sized)
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, washed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cups cooked rice (jasmine works well, but you can use any type)
- Place all the ingredients (except for the rice) and a large pot and fill with enough cold water to cover the ingredients by an inch.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 1.5 hours, skimming the surface of the soup often to remove impurities.
- Cool the soup down for 2 hours, or until the chicken is cool enough to handle. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer and reserve the liquid in a clean pot.
- Using your clean fingers, separate the skin and bone from the chicken leg meat. Add the meat to the strained broth. Discard the remaining solids from the strainer.
- Add the cooked rice to the broth and chicken meat and bring back to a simmer. Stir and serve immediately.
Millions of people will be celebrating Lunar New Year tomorrow, and with that celebration comes much feasting. There are the traditional dishes, such as Longevity Noodles, Steamed Whole Fish, and Sweet Rice Balls, but perhaps my personal favourite is Peking Duck. I love ordering this at restaurants because of the multi-course aspect: the crisp skin is commonly eaten first while still hot, followed by the carved meat that one wraps in thin crepes, and sometimes also served with more of the meat chopped and used in a fried rice. The rich flavour of the duck meat and the shattering crispiness of the skin are heavenly. However, true Peking duck is a very challenging dish to make at home. The preparation involves blowing air into the whole duck to separate the skin from the meat, then blanching the whole duck before hanging them to air dry to tighten the skin. The hanging duck gets brushed with honey and spices before left to dry for 24 hours. The final step is roasting in a preferably wood burning oven until the skin is lacquered and the meat to fully cooked.
As much as I like to try to make everything myself, this is one of those dishes that is just so much better at a restaurant that knows what they’re doing. However, there’s nothing holding us back from replicating the flavour of Peking duck at home with some spices and a duck breast. Is it authentic? No, it is not. Is it delicious? Absolutely.
Five-Spice Roasted Duck Breast with Chive Crêpes
4 duck breasts
to taste salt
1 tbsp Chinese Five Spice Powder (approximate amount)
2 tbsp honey, warmed to liquify
2 large eggs
1¼ cups milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for cooking
1 tbsp minced fresh chives
1 cup cucumber, sliced into thick matchsticks
1 cup green onion, thinly sliced
to taste hoisin sauce
- Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the skin of each duck breast in a crosshatch pattern at ¼-inch intervals. Score only the skin so the fat can escape while rendering, not the meat. Season the meat with salt and pepper, then sprinkle lightly all over with the five-spice powder. Set the duck, skin side down, in a large frying pan, place over medium-low heat, and allow the duck to warm and cook slowly for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the crêpes. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until a smooth batter forms. In a small non-stick frying pan, heat a little oil over medium heat, using a paper towel to spread the oil around the base of the pan. When hot, add a stream of the batter until it just coats the bottom of the pan. Allow the batter to set (about a minute), before flipping to finish cooking for another 30 seconds or so. Transfer the crêpe to a plate and cover with a clean towel. Repeat the process until all the batter is used.
- At the 10-minute point, turn the duck breasts over and brush each skin with the honey. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer the duck breasts to a plate and allow them to rest.
- To serve, thinly slice the duck breast and arrange on a platter. Serve with the warm crepes, the vegetables, and the hoisin for dipping/spreading. Enjoy!
Nothing cures the winter blues like a bowl full of chili! Invite your friends and family over to your very own chili cookout! Warm your bellies and your kitchen with this slow cooked pot of simmered spicy beef. Heck, you could even make a bread bowl out of one of Blackbird’s Kensington White Sourdoughs and fill it up with this recipe – you’re the boss!
All Beef Chili
adapted from Cooking Meat
2 pounds ground beef
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (divided)
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 celery stalk, finely diced
½ red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp Spanish paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
⅓ cup tomato paste
⅓ cup water
Salt and pepper
1 (16 ounces) can plum tomatoes|
1 Tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce
1 heaping cup canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup Beef Stock
1 heaping cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp lime juice
- In a large pot over medium heat, brown the beef in 2 Tbsp of the oil. Once brown, drain off the excess oil, transfer the beef to a plate, and set aside.
- Return the pot to the heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the celery and bell peppers and continue cooking and stirring for another few minutes.
- Turn down the heat to low, stir in the chili powder, paprika, coriander, and cumin, and cook for 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Finally, add the tomato paste and water, stir well and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pass the tomatoes and chipotle peppers through a food mill or food ricer. (If you don’t have one, use a food processor—but the seeds may add a bitter taste to your chili.) Add this puréed tomato mixture, the cooked beef, kidney beans, and stock to the pot and stir well to combine. Bring the chili to a simmer over low heat, cover, and simmer for 1¾ hours. Stir occasionally, to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom.
- Add the black beans and cilantro, then stir in the sugar and lime juice. Season to taste: the chili should be tangy and spicy with a hint of sweetness. Cook until the beef is tender, about 15 minutes.
- To serve, pour the chili into a large serving bowl and pass the bowls.
Note: Chili, like people, improves with age. Make this recipe a day or two before serving and refrigerate to allow the flavor to develop.
One of the challenges with making wings at home is how to get them crispy. Air-fryers have certainly made that step easier, but what if you don’t have that appliance? I learned a trick years ago to make super crispy chicken wings in a regular oven, and I’m here to tell you this is a game changer.
The following recipe is adapted from the one in “Cooking Meat”, my cookbook all about meat. If you like this recipe, you should really get yourself a copy of the book, available at all fine booksellers. Crispy wings aren’t the only secrets I divulge in there!
Crispy Baked Chicken Wings
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 pounds chicken wings, split between drumettes and flats
2 Tbsp baking powder (divided)
3 tsp salt (divided)
1½ tsp pepper (divided)
½ cup butter, cold, diced
½ cup Frank’s RedHot sauce
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Set a wire baking rack over a baking tray and rub it with a bit of vegetable oil.
- Divide the wings between two medium bowls. Divide the baking powder, salt, and pepper evenly between each bowl. Toss the wings well to coat them thoroughly.
- Arrange the wings on the wire rack, leaving room between them so the hot air can circulate freely. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Turn up the oven to 425°F and cook the wings for another 50 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the hot sauce, stirring until emulsified. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- To serve, place the wings in a large bowl, pour the sauce over top, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
As you all know, we primarily deal with meat. However, one cannot live on meat alone! We need something to so on the side of the meat, after all. And this recipe for Gratin Dauphinois, abridged from my book “Cooking Meat”, is one of the best potato side dishes you’ll ever have. Save this one for the holidays: you will not be disappointed.
Serves 10 to 12
2 Tbsp butter
3 Spanish onions, thinly sliced in half moons
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy (35%) cream
1 tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
10 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
3 cups grated Gruyère cheese
- Melt the butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the onions, cover, and cook gently until translucent. Add the garlic, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown and all the water they have released has evaporated, 2 or more hours. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 13- × 18-inch baking pan or casserole dish with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cream and eggs. Season the mixture with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
- Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes about ¼-inch thick. You can do this by hand but it’s much trickier and your results may be uneven. Add the sliced potatoes to the cream mixture.
- Using a spoon, arrange a quarter of the potato slices in a thin layer over the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle with a handful of cheese, spoon one-third of the caramelized onions over the cheese, and pour one-third of the cream mixture over the onions. Repeat this layering, finishing with a layer of potatoes and a sprinkling of cheese.
- Cover the gratin first with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake until a paring knife easily pierces the center of the potatoes, about 2 hours. Remove the foil and plastic wrap and continue baking until the top of the gratin is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Give the gratin a few minutes to stop bubbling and set before serving hot.
On these cold winter nights, nothing quite warms you up like a bit of slow cooked meat. I came up with this recipe a few years ago when my son was around nine months old. He was just starting to eat whatever his parents ate, and he loved soft stewed meat. In fact, if he approved of a dish, he could eat more of it than either Alia or I could manage. And this one he definitely approved of! Serve this with crusty country bread.
2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
3½ pounds pork shoulder, cut in 1½-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
¾ cup medium-diced onions
¾ cup medium-diced carrots
½ cup medium-diced celery
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups walnuts, shelled
2 cups white wine
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 herb bundle (8 thyme sprigs, 4 parsley sprigs, 3 bay leaves)
1 cup diced butternut squash
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Place the pork in a large bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper, tossing it well. Working in batches, add the pork to the hot oil, stirring often to brown the meat all over. Using a slotted spoon, return the meat to the bowl.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low, stir the vegetables, and cover the pot. Sweat the vegetables, stirring them every few minutes, until soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, arrange the walnuts in a single layer on the baking tray. Roast in the oven until golden, about 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan. Leave the oven on.
- When the vegetables are cooked, remove the lid and add the pork. Turn the heat back up to medium. Add the wine and simmer until it is reduced by half. Add the stock and herb bundle, bring to a simmer, and cover. Place the pot in the oven and braise for 1 hour. Add the squash, stirring gently, cover again, and return the stew to the oven until the meat is soft, 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the herb bundle.
- Set a large fine-mesh sieve over a clean pot. Strain the stew through the sieve to collect the braising liquid. Place the sieve full of pork and vegetables over a bowl and set aside.
- Place the pot of braising liquid over low heat and add three-quarters of the roasted walnuts. Using an immersion blender, purée the walnuts in the pot. (Or purée them with the braising liquid in batches in a blender. You want to thicken the braising liquid with the walnuts to create a smooth, emulsified sauce.)
- Add the pork, vegetables, and the remaining walnuts to the puréed walnuts in the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and season to taste.
- To serve, ladle the pork stew into individual bowls.
By: Peter Sanagan
If I had to choose one dish that reminded me of family meals of my childhood, it could very well be a pot roast. Think of it: a reasonably priced hunk of tough meat that is rendered tender and succulent after a few hours bathing in stock in a hot oven. The house smells lovely and is warm; a sharp contrast to the cracks of branches outside in the February grey sky.
Sometimes, in the dead of winter, nothing warms your bones like a slow-cooked piece of beef. A pot roast is a braise, and it works well with any tough cut of beef. The braising liquid in this recipe can double as a delicious sauce for pasta! In fact, I like to serve this dish with plain buttered noodles. This recipe is taken from Cooking Meat, my cookbook all about…well…you know.
4 lbs blade roast, trimmed of silverskin and excess fat, tied
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 slices bacon, diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 cup rutabaga, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
4 rosemary sprigs
4 thyme sprigs
3 bay leaves
3 cups Beef (or Chicken) Stock
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Have your roasting pan ready. [I like to use a pan with an elevated roasting rack, which allows hot air to circulate around the meat and cook it more evenly.] Cut a length of kitchen twine.
- Season the beef well with salt and pepper, then rub it with the olive oil. Place the beef on a roasting rack, set the roasting pan in the oven, and roast for 30 minutes, until the beef is golden brown all over.
- While the beef is browning, place the onions and bacon in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat, stir well, then cover the pot for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and rutabaga, stir, and cover again, sweating all of the vegetables until fragrant and softened—about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir well, then deglaze the pot with the red wine.
- Tie the herbs together with the twine, then drop them in the pot. Season the contents of the pot with salt and pepper. Add the browned beef to the pot and turn down the oven to 300°F.
- Add the stock to the pot and bring it to a simmer over medium heat, ladling off and discarding any scum as it rises to the surface of the stock. When it is simmering, cover the pot and place in the oven for 1 hour.
- Lift the lid, turn the beef over in the pot, and return to the oven for another 1½ hours, or until fork-tender. Carefully transfer the meat to cutting board and tent it loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Discard the bundle of herbs.
- Bring the braising liquid back to a simmer over medium heat. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to purée the contents of the saucepan (if you don’t have an immersion blender, use a countertop blender, working in batches, strain the contents of the pot through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing the solids through with the back of a ladle). Return the sauce to medium heat and simmer until reduced to a sauce consistency.
- To serve, slice the beef and arrange it on a serving platter. Drizzle with some of the sauce and pour the rest into a sauceboat to serve alongside.
Sanagan’s currently carries pork from three Southern Ontario family farms. Like all Sanagan’s suppliers, our pork farmers value small scale, humane animal husbandry. The pigs are processed at low volume facilities located near the farms. By contrast the abattoirs that inspired the name Hogtown were anything but small scale. So, while Sanagan’s embraces a different approach to the life and death of the pig, we’re proud to be selling great pork in Hogtown and thought you might be interested to know how the name came to be.
Sanagan’s heritage pork raised on Murray’s Farm
If the name Hogtown can be attributed to one person, it would be William Davies whose ascent from a single St. Lawrence Market stall in the 1850’s to the establishment of Canada Packers (now Maple Leaf Foods) firmly implanted the pig’s footprint on Toronto’s identity. Along the way the William Davies Corporation became the largest supplier of bacon to England, shipping out of North America’s second largest pork processing plant, located in the Don Valley at Front Street. Davies is credited with popularizing peameal bacon, making him the Godfather of Toronto’s signature sandwich. Eventually the animal world tired of Mr. Davies attentions. He died as a result of injuries suffered after being butted by a goat.
It’s not difficult to witness a herd mentality at Keele and St. Clair as shoppers descend upon Home Depot and Canadian Tire, but this area used to support actual herds of cattle, pork, and horses. The Stockyards, a 300-acre network of rail sidings, loading platforms, stock pens, and processors, including Maple Leaf and Swifts, was once North America’s largest livestock facility. The fortunes of the Stockyards rose and fell with the railroad. By the time trucking eclipsed rail as the most efficient form of livestock transport, and combined with the pressures of Toronto’s ravenous real estate market, the demise of the Stockyards was inevitable. The majority of processors moved from Toronto to Cookstown in 1994 but not after doing its share to consolidate our nickname as Hogtown.
Up until its closure in 2014, for many Torontonians the name Hogtown was embodied by Quality Meat Packers on Tecumseth Street near Fort York. Even if you never saw the abattoir there’s a good chance you saw the trucks, loaded with pigs, driving towards it. I remember working at Fort York in my early 20’s. You either got the industrial beer smell of the Molson’s brewery or the raunchy not quite bacon smell of Quality Meats. Grimly, it felt historically accurate. There had been a packing plant on the site since 1914 in the form of the Toronto Municipal Slaughterhouse. This facility was bought in 1960 by Quality Meats. At its height, Quality processed one third of Ontario’s pork. While it defied animal rights protests and condo-mania it was eventually brought down by the cruel variables of the free market. The last straw was the piglet-killing virus of 2014. Thankfully for Sanagan’s, and the pigs, our small-scale pork farmers were unaffected by the outbreak.
The original site of Quality Meat Packers
Things change. The hogs have left Hogtown. Toronto’s de-industrialization has been rapid. But high quality, locally raised, family-farmed pork will never leave Sanagan’s and Sanagan’s, finger’s crossed, will never leave The Six.
Photos: Graham Duncan and Toronto Archives