Reading & Recipes

Farm to Table: Celebrating Stratford Chefs School Alumni, Recipes & Perth County Producers

Tracy Turlin
Written by Tracy Turlin

My approach to life and work could be kindly described as scattered so I’ve always been a touch envious of people who are truly passionate about one thing. When that focus is aimed at celebrating and promoting their community, it’s a beautiful thing. When they’re in the food industry, it’s also delicious.

This fall, that delicious thing is Farm to Table: Celebrating Stratford Chefs School Alumni, Recipes & Perth County Producers (Andrew Coppolino, Blue Moon Publishers).

Andrew Coppolino

This fall, that delicious thing is Farm to Table: Celebrating Stratford Chefs School Alumni, Recipes & Perth County Producers (Andrew Coppolino, Blue Moon Publishers). 

Andrew Coppolino is the editor of Waterloo Region Eats, a food blog that I spent way too much time reading while I should have been writing this review. He’s also a food columnist for CBC Radio Waterloo, has written for a host of other respected food publications, and makes regular contributions to Eatdrink’s Waterloo Region & Wellington County editions. As far as I can tell, he only takes time out from writing about food long enough to eat food. 

Coppolino is a champion for innovative cooking done by knowledgeable chefs using the best local products available. In Farm to Table he brings together a number of people who love this idea as much as he does. He introduces the reader to the Stratford Chefs School and the Perth County producers who are affiliated with it.

Joe Mandel of The Church, Jim Morris of Rundles, and Eleanor Kane of The Old Prune began the school in 1983. They knew they needed good local talent and saw an opportunity to retain the chefs that worked during the November to March off-season in Stratford. Instead of being laid off or moving on, these chefs were now able to teach, giving local budding chefs the opportunity to train with the best. Students were able to gain valuable experience in the kitchens of the three founding restaurants.

SCS has always focused on the relationship between the farm and the kitchen, recognizing the importance of local, seasonal ingredients that allow chefs to express the nature of the region in their dishes. It’s about more than food; it’s about respect for the work involved in producing high quality products.

SCS is a not-for-profit organization that offers well-rounded programs to prepare students for many aspects of the food industry. I love that it also offers recreational workshops for adventurous home cooks and a one-week exploratory course for those who want to find out what the industry demands and offers. The school produces chefs, food entrepreneurs, writers and photographers.

Terry Manzo is one of Stratford Chefs School’s first graduates and has been a professional freelance photographer for 30 years. The book is full of her vibrant, energetic photos. Many of the shots look deceptively casual until you notice the brilliant use of light and shadow that makes subjects seem to glow.

Each recipe in Farm to Table is the result of the pairing of a chef with one of his or her favourite producers and includes a profile of both.

Author Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh owns Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro in Bayfield. With SCS graduate Nathaniel Beattie as executive chef, Black Dog works to expand the farm-to-table concept in Huron County. Gerhard Metzger has run Metzger’s Meat Products Inc. in Hensall since 1990. He works with local farmers to provide specialty cuts for restaurant and retail sales. Sloan-McIntosh uses Metzger’s pork to create Char Siu Pork Shoulder. It’s simply tender bits of pork shoulder slow cooked in a sweet, spicy, Chinese BBQ sauce and garnished with green onion and sesame seeds. The dish can be served as a main course or in lettuce cups as a fun appetizer.

Sean Collins is the executive Chef at The Red Rabbit, a worker-owned restaurant in downtown Stratford where they strive to do everything as well as possible and seem to have a blast doing it. Max Lass of Church Hill Farm aims to provide “high quality, humanely raised pork, lamb, beef and fowl”. This family-owned farm completes the farm-to-table loop by collecting vegetable trimmings from restaurants and mash from craft breweries to feed to the animals. Collins gives us Charcoal-Grilled Church Hill Farm Lamb with Herbs and Freekeh. Freekeh, the grain of young durum wheat, roasted and cracked, makes the stuffing for a butterflied leg of lamb that is then grilled to perfection.

SCS is a national success because it is a local champion. It teaches professionals and amateurs alike that the heart of any good dish, fruitful business or successful restaurant is the relationship between people and place. It’s the magic that happens when all these good things come together to be greater than the sum of their parts.   

Recipes excerpted from Farm to Table: Celebrating Stratford Chefs School Alumni, Recipes & Perth County Producers  reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Char Sui Pork Shoulder

Collaborators:
Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh, Black Dog Village Pub and Bistro
Gerhard Metzger, Metzger’s Meat Products Inc.  

FOR THE CHAR SIU

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
3/4 cup liquid honey
1/2  cup soy sauce
1/4 cup shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine)
2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
2 tbsp fresh gingerroot, grated
8 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2  tsp red chili flakes (optional)

FOR THE PORK

4 lb (1.8 kg) boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1/2  tsp salt
1/2  tsp freshly ground black pepper

TO FINISH THE DISH

Sesame seeds
Finely chopped green onion
Butter lettuce

Method: 

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Choose a large, oven-proof baking dish for the pork. Add the pork chunks to the dish along with the olive oil and sliced onion. Add salt and pepper and toss together thoroughly. Use heavyweight aluminium foil to cover the dish snugly. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour. After an hour, pull the dish from the oven, remove the foil and add the prepared sauce to the pork. Stir this mixture well into the pork and the liquid that has accumulated: it is important not to drain this liquid.

Return the dish to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Then, give the mixture another stir and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. At this point, test a piece of the pork to see if it is done to your liking – it should be tender but not falling apart. If it is as you like it, remove from the oven, sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onion and serve with butter lettuce. If you continue baking, be careful not to overbake, otherwise the pork will become too dry.

Charcoal-Grilled Church Hill Farm Lamb with Herbs and Freekeh

Collaborators:
Sean Collins, The Red Rabbit
Max Lass, Church Hill Farm

Ingredients:

1 fresh boneless free-range lamb leg, butterflied
1/4 cup pepper, fresh ground
1/4 cup cumin, toasted and ground
3 tbsp butter
6 oz (170g) pancetta or cured pork, small dice
1 large onion, minced
8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Freekeh* (or farro), cooked like pasta in boiling     salted water until tender, cooled
kosher salt
1 lemon (for juice and zest)
2 eggs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2  cup fresh chopped herbs
(use whatever herbs you like!)
olive oil to rub meat

*freekeh is harvested grains from green durum wheat that is roasted and dried to create its unique smoky flavour.

TO FINISH THE DISH 

Sugar snap peas
Butter
Mustard
Feta, crumbled

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

Charcoal grill, fire pit, or propane barbecue
Good quality charcoal
Butcher twine
Probe thermometer

Method: 

The night before prepare the lamb: spread lamb out on a cutting board or sheet pan and season generously with pepper and cumin on all sides. Return the seasoned lamb to the fridge and let it sit for 2-12 hours (roll it up to save space).

To make the stuffing, add the butter to a large skillet and cook over medium heat until just bubbling. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly crisp. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the cooked freekeh, salt and pepper and lemon. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in the eggs, panko and fresh herbs and taste to adjust seasoning as needed. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, light the charcoal and let it burn until it has created a nice bed of coals in a charcoal barbecue or fire-pit with a rack. Have a second pile of burning charcoal ready to replenish the fire, if needed. If using propane, preheat the grill to medium heat. In the meantime, finish the lamb. Remove meat and stuffing from the fridge and spread the lamb onto a metal tray or in a roasting pan. Season generously with salt. Spoon the stuffing in a row slightly off the centre of the meat to form a cylinder, almost from end to end. Roll the meat over and shape it into a cylinder with the seam on the bottom. Tie the cylinder tightly with 4 or 5 pieces of butcher twine, tucking any stuffing back into the cylinder. Season the outside of the meat with salt, rub lightly with olive oil and set aside.

When your grill is hot enough that you can’t hold your hand over for 5 seconds, carefully place lamb roast on the grill. Grill on all sides until golden brown and slightly charred (about 2-4 minutes per side). With a probe thermometer, check internal temperature every 10-15 minutes. Roast until the thermometer reaches 135-145F (57-63C). If internal temperature is not reached and the surface of the meat is getting too dark, simply push coals to one side and continue cooking over indirect heat until finished. If using a propane barbecue, turn burners off on one side and move lamb to that side and close the lid. Remove the roast to a platter, cover with foil and let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes (or longer).

Remove the string and carve the lamb with your sharpest knife. Serve with fresh sugar snap peas sautéed in butter, your favourite mustard and crumbled local feta.

About the author

Tracy Turlin

Tracy Turlin

Tracy Turlin is a freelance writer and dog groomer in London.
Reach her at tracyturlin@gmail.com.