Friday, August 11, 2017

Backhouse: Integrated Cool Climate Cuisine

Backhouse is a culinary journey that celebrates the imagination and diversity of Niagara through Chef Crawford's continuously evolving tasting menus. Voted as Best New Restaurant by Air Canada enRoute magazine, Backhouse offers an 18-seat chef’s bar where guests can engage with and watch the chefs in action, with an open-fire brick oven and wood-fired grill that provides the setting for the restaurant's continuously evolving tasting menus and what they call integrated "cool climate cuisine", a nod to the regional focus of the menu. They also describe it as integrated sustainable cuisine because the staff farmer grows vegetables and herbs for each dish. The kitchen uses everything, from carrot tops and imperfect seconds that less creative types might toss in a green bin, to create syrups, preserves, mains and sides. An exquisite restaurant built on love by locavores Bev Hotchkiss and her husband chef Ryan Crawford, the couple are totally committed to integrated cool climate cuisine and own a 2-acre farm where they source seasonal and locally sourced ingredients where staff tend to and deliver vegetables still warm from the sun, and preserve the rest for the winter months. 

They also source ethically raised meat, have their own in-house butchery and cook over an open fire. They hand-craft and bake fresh daily our sourdough bread; produce their own cheese and culture their own butter, and source local fruits and nuts for their house-made desserts — all in the hopes of bringing guests the best possible culinary journey. Chef Crawford makes his own prosciutto, and vegetables are roasted in front of the fire and poultry is often smoked or roasted at the back of the massive wood-fired grill.  The chefs even haunt old Niagara orchards, chain-saws in hand, for firewood. The bar and wine program employs a bar chef and lead sommelier, ensuring inspiring craft cocktails and a detailed and heavily-curated international wine list that sources small producers from around the globe. An exquisite restaurant built on love by locavores Bev Hotchkiss and her husband chef Ryan Crawford, their busy celebrated restaurant is named using Bev’s grandmother’s surname, a lady who wanted to be a nurse and wasn’t able to. She inspired them to always follow their dreams and the dynamic husband and wife team haven’t looked back. 

Voted as Best New Restaurant by Air Canada enRoute magazine, Backhouse offers an 18-seat chef’s bar where guests can engage with and watch the chefs in action

Chef Crawford

Pasta Carbonara with Meggs duck egg, duck confit, english peas and pecorino

Saugeen Ojibway First Nation White Fish Crudo with edible nasturtiums

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Cabernet Franc, of which only 192 cases were produced

Rich dark purple in colour, this is a wine of deeply-rooted structure and classical dimension

Bird on a Wire - Wood Fired Heritage Chicken with grilled oyster mushrooms and shishito peppers

St. John Beausoleil Rosé, the private label of Fergus Henderson's restaurant St John in England

Grilled Beverly Creek Lamb with green beans, garlic mousse and basil and feta salsa verde

The Backhouse cheese menu boasts the largest selection in Canada of locally sourced Ontario cheeses

Flight of 5 cheeses:

Stratus Winery Botrytis Semillon, the perfect dessert wine with a luscious honeyed combination of ripe pineapple and guava

Locavores Bev Hotchkiss and her husband chef Ryan Crawford

Pan-Fried Featherstone Duck Breast with Dillon's Vodka Laced Niagara Sour Cherries
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Ryan Crawford, Backhouse, Niagara-on-the-Lake

2 cups Niagara sour cherries, pitted

1 tbsp Featherstone Verjus
3 tbsp Dillon's Method 95 Vodka
2 to 3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp farm fresh butter
4 small duck breasts, individual portion size
1/2 cup Featherstone Cabernet Franc or another dry red wine
2 tbsp farm fresh butter
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Toss the cherries in a saucepan with verjus, vodka and sugar. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes. 

Using a sharp knife score the skin and fat of the duck breasts in a diamond pattern being careful not to cut into the breast meat. Season with salt on both sides. Place all four breasts, skin-side down in a cold, non-stick skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the duck breasts for approximately five minutes, basting with the duck fat that accumulates in the pan, then turn them over and continue to cook for four minutes. 

As the duck fat accumulates in the pan, tilt the pan towards you and spoon out excess liquid not needed for basting. Using tongs, turn the breast on its sides to evenly sear the meat on the side surfaces then remove the breasts from the pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Finish the cooking in the pre-heated oven, about eight minutes. When done, place duck breasts on individual dinner plates and set aside to rest for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, pour off all the duck fat from the hot skillet and add the red wine. Increase the heat to medium high and reduce the wine to half, scrapping the bottom of the skillet to release the brown bits stuck to the bottom. Add the cherry/vodka mixture and heat just to the barely simmering point for five minutes to poach the cherries. If necessary, add a few teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice. 

Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and divide them equally over top and around the duck breasts. Add the butter and boil the sauce rapidly to reduce and thicken slightly, about three minutes. Correct the seasoning. Spoon the sauce over each duck breast.