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Smoking my way to a unique charcuterie plate

The cold weather makes for good smoking, so I’ve been in the farm’s smokehouse a lot lately with duck breasts and suckling pork bellies from Cumbrae’s. I’ve been experimenting with Union’s future charcuterie plate: curing the duck breast overnight with a mix of coriander seeds from the garden, brown sugar, salt and some chili flakes, then smoking them with plum wood the next day and slowly roasting them afterward with maple syrup. Sliced thinly, it’s a beautiful mix of sweet, spiced fat and subtle smoked breast that is going to be a great addition to the menu. As for the pork bellies, I am still working on them. I was a little overzealous the first time around, and I gave them an unsavoury “campfire” finish. I think the smokehouse will give the meat the uniqueness I am looking for in the charcuterie plate, so I scrapped the efforts to get it from Spain. It doesn’t feel right anymore for Union to search for stuff beyond what is right here. Keep it local and do great things with it—that’s the idea.

I want Union to have purpose and meaning and conviction. For me, that means creating a place that is not just a restaurant, but also a refuge for people and a beacon for small, good suppliers who are doing things the way they should be done. I am going to keep the food at my restaurant homegrown, rustic, affordable and real. I am heading to the farm this weekend to cook a dinner for some of the local farmers. It will be a five-course country dinner using each of the farmers’ specialties (elk, lamb, chicken, apples and some root vegetables). The way I see it, this is a chance for everybody to sit together and taste what I will be doing with what they’ve raised. I hope it is the first of many farmers’ dinners to come.