Last weekend Michael and I visited Montreal. If you haven’t been to Southwest Quebec in late-Fall, it’s really lovely what with temperatures reaching as high as 36° Fahrenheit.
We were lucky enough to reserve a table at Au Pied de Cochon Thursday evening. Located in the Plateau-neighborhood, Au Pied de Cochon or “the foot of the pig” has so much street credit it doesn’t even have a sign on the door. We actually walked two blocks past the restaurant before realizing we’d gone too far. The decor was simple and completely unpretentious, but eclectic. The entry-way was crammed with several 20-gallon tanks filled with live eels. Maple roasted Eel was on the list of specials. We opted for Marinated Herring instead (which was incredible).
As we sipped our drinks and took in the bustling precision of the open kitchen, in walked Martin Picard.
Martin Picard actually walked by our table and greeted us with a friendly, ‘Bon soir!’ I was grinning like a fool! Imagine the thrill!
We I began snapping pictures and texting our friends.
Suddenly, a sobering awareness was served alongside my Foie Gras Hamburger and Duck Fat Fries. As it turns out, no one we know has actually heard of Martin Picard.
Well, Martin Picard is a renown French-Canadian chef who has owned Au Pied de Cochon for over a decade. We first learned of him in a hilarious episode of The Layover where he swilled sake and Chinese whisky with Anthony Bourdain and ardently declared Celine Dion a national (Canadian) treasure. Martin also owns a cabane à sucre (sugar shack) in St Benoit de Mirabel, about 45 minutes outside of Montreal. At the end if the meal we purchased a copy of his cookbook Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack Maple Syrup, which the chef signed upon our request. I’m still absorbing the compilation of maple mayhem:
Maple Pig’s Head and Lobster
Back home in my own kitchen, I opted for a more conventional maple recipe – Maple Cheesecake with Roasted Pears. If you’re mulling-over desserts in preparation for Thanksgiving, this is perfect as it requires virtually no oven time. The vanilla wafer crust bakes in 12 minutes and the paper thin pears can be roasted long after the turkey has been carved.
Maple Cheesecake with Roasted Pears
Adapted from Martha Stewart
For the crust
6 oz vanilla wafers (approximately 46 cookies)
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling
2 bars (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
2 medium pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, sliced lengthwise with a mandolin, 1/8 inch thick
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse cookies until finely ground (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). Add sugar, salt, and butter and pulse until combined.
Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Press crumbs halfway up sides. Bake until crust is dry and set, approximately 12 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack before filling.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on high until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup maple syrup; beat until smooth.
In a medium bowl, beat cream and sugar on high until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. With a rubber spatula, stir one-third of the whipped cream into cream cheese mixture, then fold in remainder. Transfer to crust and refrigerate until firm, 3 hours (or up to 1 day).
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Coat a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange pear slices in a single layer on sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Roast until pears are soft, 8 – 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and heat broiler. Brush pears with 2 tablespoons maple syrup and broil until browned in spots, about 4 minutes, rotating sheet frequently. Keep a very close eye on these as they can burn quickly. Let cool.
To serve, arrange pear slices, overlapping slightly, on cheesecake.