Top-Notch Pig-Out

28 Jul

Today’s guest blog is by food writer, bestselling cookbook author and recipe developer Alison Kent, who wrote a fantastic story for the August issue of Reader’s Digest about a pig roast hosted by chefs Connie deSousa (remember Connie from the Top Chef Canada finale?) and John Jackson at their Calgary restaurant Charcut. Here’s a little extra, with previously unpublished pictures to get our mouths watering. Over to Alison!

Herb-rubbed and stuffed porchetta turns slowly on CHARCUT's custom-built rotisserie.

Connie DeSousa and John Jackson are all about serving urban rustic cuisine made with the best local ingredients. The CHAR in their restaurant’s name, CHARCUT, refers to Connie and John’s custom-built rotisserie and charbroiler, and the CUT, to their vintage-style slicer. Lovers of patés, sausages and the like will also recognize the play on the word ‘charcuterie’–the craft of preparing such foods.

Chef Connie DeSousa sets up plates during dinner service.

Connie and John handcraft much of their own charcuterie, including the not-to-be-missed pistachio-stuffed and truffle-studded pig head mortadella.

Mortadella doesn't get any better than this.

When I join them for their pot-luck pig roast, we tuck into slow-cooked pork with Brassica mustard from Connie and John, B.C. spot prawns and grits from chef Justin Leboe of Model Milk, sourdough bread made by Aviv Fried of Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and foie-gras bread pudding from Rouge restaurant chef-owner Paul Rogalski.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery's Aviv Fried, CHARCUT Chef John Jackson, Rouge Chef Paul Rogalski, Chef Justin Leboe of Model Milk and pig farmer Bonnie Spragg

Joining us at the table are Greg and Bonnie Spragg, pig farmers and pork suppliers to CHARCUT since the restaurant first opened last year.

John and Connie really did their homework to find great suppliers, visiting 40 farms in 40 days before hitting it off with the Spraggs over a picnic on their farm in Rosemary, Alberta.

Justin Leboe deftly tackles porchetta carving duties. On his left: Bonnie Spragg.

The Spraggs raise their pigs humanely on a plant-based diet, with no growth hormones or antibiotics in their feed.

“You want to know [the pigs] have travelled minimal miles and have been raised in a great environment by people that understand the process,” says John. “If you purchase pork based on quality, you will notice a great difference in the flavour, texture, colour and quality of the meat.”

Paying a little more for a naturally raised animal products allows the farmer to make a living and cover the costs of raising animals humanely on pastures.

“It’s really important to me how animals are treated while they are alive,” chimes in Paul. I know this sounds funny but you can taste the difference if an animal was happy.”

If you’re less than thrilled with the selection or information provided, you can let your local store manager know or find a trustworthy butcher shop in your area instead and make friends with your butcher.

“Ask your butcher who has raised the animal, where and with what feed,” suggests Paul. “Key words for me are natural, local and respected.”





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