For those of you uninitiated, this is what a typical sugar shack meal (heavy on starches, protein, and maple syrup, the rationale being that farm workers tapping maple trees need hearty sustenance) looks like:
There are several varieties of meat (often pig - in this case, smoked ham, pork rinds, and a tourtiere, or meat pie, filled with the leftover pig parts), baked beans, a puffy omelet, a token vegetable or two (beets and roasted potatoes), and a maple-based dessert (potato donut with maple cream here). Yes, vegans will recoil in horror at the sight of such a plate.
This year, Chef Picard was inspired by a recent visit to Morocco to craft a sugar shack menu with Mediterranean and North African influences.
The Cabane a Sucre for Au Pied de Cochon is located about 45 minutes outside Montreal in the rolling countryside of southern Quebec. Apple orchards and vineyards dot the landscape. When we arrived for our 5:30pm reservation, the place had just opened and was relatively sedate. By the time we left around 8pm, people were everywhere and the muddy parking lot was overflowing.
The vibe is raucous and the cabin is crowded with communal tables (not much room to spread out) and diners ready to strap on the proverbial feedbag. Chef Picard is well-known (as are many French-Canadian restaurateurs) for a philosophy of, shall we say, dining excess, and the courses that followed did not disappoint. Our little group of 4 had much difficulty consuming all that was brought to our table; fortunately, servers brought a tall stack of to-go containers before any food arrived and we were happy to enjoy the leftovers for several days (even going so far as to bring some of them back across the border - I think that's legal, non?).
Joconde (Almond Sponge) Cake with Maple Butter Frosting and Filled with Layers of Chicken Liver/Foie Gras Mousse, Walnuts, Marzipan, and Citrus Jelly, Topped with a White Chocolate and Gelatin "Orange"
Inside of Cake
Puffy Omelet with Squid Ink Puff Pastry, Potatoes, Eggplants, and Braised Bacon
Maple Smoked Salmon "Keftas" (Moroccan Meatballs) with a Pork Glaze Stew of Mushrooms, Peas, and Maple Caramelized Onion
Pork-Stuffed Calamari with Maple Sweet and Sour Sauce and Calamari Heads Chermoula
Milk-Fed Piglet Stuffed with Pate and Cranberries, Walnut, and Pistachios, Doused with Maple/White Wine Jelly and a Maple/Dijon Mustard Sauce
Beef Shank Tanjia (Similar to a Tagine) with Sweet Ras El Hanout, Maple Syrup, Dates, Pineapple Ham, and Maraschino Cherries
Maple Loubia Stew with Beans, Cumin, Cilantro, Tomatoes, and Cumin-Glazed Carrots
Salted Pork Tanjia with Salted Candied Lemon, Saffron, Cumin, Coriander, and Olive Oil
Maple Taffy with Mint "Snow" Granita, Fried Briouates (Puff Pasty) Filled with Marzipan, Orange Blossom Water, and Maple Cream Fudge, Soft Date Ice Cream on Maple Yogurt, Queen Elizabeth (Date Nut) Cake, and Date-Tiles, and Caramelized Milk Pastry Sheets with Apricot Jelly, Dried Apricots, Mint Cream, and Maple Cream
Baghir Pancakes with Orange Bavaroise, Candied Oranges, and Suzette Sauce