Dried shiitake mushrooms are loaded with guanylate, which teams up with the glutamate in nutritional yeast and nori to produce an over-the-top umami seasoning that is ready to elevate popcorn for movie night at home, which we’re doing a lot more of these days. Once you taste it, you’re going to want to sprinkle (or perhaps pour) this magic mushroom powder on everything, including roasted or steamed vegetables, baked potato, grilled fish, soups, pasta, and avocado toast. Luckily, it keeps well. You can also make it with dried porcini mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms deliver polysaccharide compounds that may have anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting powers. Nutritional yeast offers up a huge dose of essential B vitamins including thiamine and vitamin B12.
To deepen the umami flavour of nori, you can toast the sheets first. To do so, heat heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium and dry toast nori sheets one at a time until darkened, about 2 minutes per side. Alternatively, place nori sheets on baking sheet in one layer. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 5 to 7 minutes, flipping halfway during baking time, until roasted and crispy. Let sheets cool down to room temperature before pulsing them into seasoning.
Crumble nori sheets into spice grinder, food processor, or blender and then add mushrooms, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, thyme, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Process until mixture has turned into a powder. Transfer to bowl and stir in sesame seeds.
In large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium, heat 1 Tbsp (15 mL) oil. Put 4 popcorn kernels in pan and cover pan. When kernels pop, pour in remaining kernels in an even layer. Cover pan, lift it off the heat, and count 30 seconds. Return pan to heat, with lid slightly ajar to release some steam, and once popping is rapid, gently shake pan back and forth on the burner. Once popping slows to a crawl, remove pan from heat and pour popcorn into large bowl. Immediately toss with 1 Tbsp (15 mL) oil and then season with 1/4 cup (60 mL) mushroom powder mix.
Tourtière is, for me, the dish that best represents Québec. It can be traced back to the 1600s, and there’s no master recipe; every family has their own twist. Originally, it was made with game birds or game meat, like rabbit, pheasant, or moose; that’s one of the reasons why I prefer it with venison instead of beef or pork. Variation: If you prefer to make single servings, follow our lead at the restaurant, where we make individual tourtières in the form of a dome (pithivier) and fill them with 5 ounces (160 g) of the ground venison mixture. Variation: You can also use a food processor to make the dough. Place the flour, salt, and butter in the food processor and pulse about ten times, until the butter is incorporated—don’t overmix. It should look like wet sand, and a few little pieces of butter here and there is okay. With the motor running, through the feed tube, slowly add ice water until the dough forms a ball—again don’t overmix. Wrap, chill, and roll out as directed above.
My love of artichokes continues with this classic recipe, one of the best ways to eat this interesting, underrated, and strange vegetable. Frozen artichoke hearts are a time-saving substitute, though the flavour and texture of fresh artichokes are, by far, much superior and definitely preferred.
Cervelle de canut is basically the Boursin of France, an herbed fresh farmer’s cheese spread that’s a speciality of Lyon. The name is kind of weird, as it literally means “silk worker’s brain,” named after nineteenth-century Lyonnaise silk workers, who were called canuts. Sadly, the name reflects the low opinion of the people towards these workers. Happily for us, though, it’s delicious—creamy, fragrant, and fresh at the same time. Cervelle de canut is one of my family’s favourite dishes. It’s a great make-ahead appetizer that you can pop out of the fridge once your guests arrive. Use a full-fat cream cheese for the dish, or it will be too runny and less delicious.