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Fir Tree-Seasoned Deer Heart with Squid and Smurfs

Charles-Antoine Crête


By Charles-Antoine Crête

This dish looks like a Playmobil box.It’s based on a new dish at the restaurant I call Charcut Schtroumpf (Charcuterie Smurf ).

My friends from Au Pied de Cochon make the most amazing ham on earth, the best I’ve eaten outside of Spain. So I do a version with a plate of real Smurfs hidden under the ham. As you eat you discover the Smurfs. To represent Christmas, Montreal and the countryside, I do it with venison heart and Christmas tree (sapin de Noël) branches. At Christmas, every night at 6 o’clock they play a Garfield or a Snoopy on Télé-Québec and then at 6:30 it’s classic cartoons from when we were young, like Astérix or The Smurfs . The real old-school cartoons, not the new shit we have today. Even at the restaurant I watch it every day. At my parents’ house for Christmas, we’ll sit at the table and eat and talk for 12 or 14 hours and maybe go for a walk in the woods and have an apéro outside. With this dish, you have to put the Smurfs in it not only to make it funny but because, for me, Christmas is cartoons, booze, food and my family. —C.A.C.

From Canada’s 100 Best Cooking Issue 2016

2 as a main or 4 as an appetizer

  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ leek, white only
  • ½ bulb garlic, split crosswise
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) liquid honey
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar

Venison & Squid

  • 50 g (½ cup) balsam fir needles
  • 3 tbsp Maldon (or other flaky, mild) sea salt
  • 1 venison heart
  • 1 l (1 q) duck fat
  • 2 medium squid, cleaned
  • Salt, pepper
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • ½ cup mixed sea buckthorn and lingonberries


  • Fir Branches
  • 6-8 Smurfs

METHODTransfer pepper, onion, leek and garlic to a large saucepan. Add 5 l (5 q) cold water, bring to a boil on high heat, then lower to medium. Reduce by half, then strain through a chinois or other fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan (discard vegetables). Return to the boil, add the honey, and reduce over medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon—about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in soy and vinegar, and set aside.

Transfer fir needles to the bowl of a spice grinder and pulverise to a powder. Add the salt and pulse for 3 seconds. Set aside. Trim fat from the top of the venison heart. Slice heart into 3 or 4 pieces, starting each cut with the one of the natural crevices on the top of the muscle. Clean up the slices by removing as many veins as possible. Season generously with fir-spiked salt, and set aside. Heat duck fat in a medium saucepan on medium to about 175°C (350°F)— below its smoking point. Turn off heat and add duck heart slices. Let cook for 30 minutes.

Preheat a grill (or grill pan) on high.

Remove and reserve squid tentacles, and slice the bodies into rings—about 0.5 cm (¼“). Season with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet on medium-high, add 3 tbsp oil, and sauté squid until tender—about 3 minutes. In a small saucepan heat the remaining tbsp. olive oil, add berries, and warm through, stirring gently. Grill the venison slices just long enough to colour and warm the exterior—no more than 45 seconds, each side.

Arrange fir branches on a warm platter. Add Smurfs. Scatter with the berries, and follow with the squid. Slice the venison, and arrange on top. Drizzle with some PHOTOS of the vegetable glaze, and serve

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