I was so busy kvetching about my CSA last week that I forgot to tell you about our summer vacation. We drove to Montreal. To eat. The trip was inspired by Save the Deli, by David Sax. It’s a book about the slow death of the Jewish deli, and Sax devotes an entire chapter on eating in Montreal. I was sold. So when Lilli’s caretaker had her vacation, we took ours up north.
It wasn’t the first time we’d been to Canada – Rich and I actually spent our honeymoon in Halifax. This time we stayed in a lovely AirBnB in Le Petite Laurier, a neighborhood most easily described as Park Slope-esque. I had actually done a bit of research before our trip – more than just reading Eater – and it turns out Montreal is very child-friendly. There’s the Biodome, and there are lots of playgrounds and splash parks, although they could use a little help in the stroller accessibility department. I’m now very impressed with the People with Disabilities Act in our country. Rich was impressed with the hundreds of cyclists that rolled by us every day on cycle tracks and bike boulevards.
And we ate. We ate everything: St. Viateur bagels, smoked meat at Schwartz’s (do the takeout window), poutine at La Banquise. Our first night in town we had an extraordinary meal at small, hip neighborhood place. Even Lilli enjoyed the tomato leaf papardelle with veal ragu. It turned out the place, Maison Publique, is one of the best new restaurants in all of Montreal – the chef was trained by Jamie Oliver. I went back on my own the last night we were in town to try a few other things on the menu, like green beans with anchovies and chile, and the sockeye salmon with peas and chanterelles.
Like we do on all my vacations, we visited the public markets. Our first official day there we met up with friends in Little Italy, and they took us over to Jean-Talon, one of the largest outdoor covered markets in all of North America. I bought a basket of ground cherries as I roamed the stalls, snapping photos of the mushrooms and berries for sale. I enjoyed a balsamic macaron as I drooled over the hundreds of unpasteurized cheeses available, contraband back home. We walked about 10 miles that first day, down from Little Italy into the Mile End and Le Plateau.
Following our trip up North we drove down to Western Mass for a family bar mitzvah. That Saturday night my parents were kind enough to watch Lilli while Rich and I had a date in Northampton. We went to a new favorite of ours, The Dirty Truth, and ended the night at The Haymarket Café. Haymarket was founded when I was in high school in the 1990s as a bit of an anarchist’s bookstore and coffee shop. You had to go through the back parking lot, behind Main Street. Today Haymarket has a front door, as well as a second floor, and it serves dinner and dessert as well. I distracted myself from feeling very, very old by sharing a piece of lavender blueberry pie and this salted chocolate rye cookie.
I recognized the cookie as soon as I read the sign. It’s from Tartine Book No. 3, a cookbook which came out last year. (It was actually delayed three times; I know this because Sara is a Tartine junkie and was beside herself with every delay.) I had a version of it from Tasting Table in my recipe folder in my email. The cookie is extraordinary, definitely worth going out and buying rye flour at Whole Foods for it. Rich thinks they have a bit of spice to them, like a rye ale, while Mike said they were veering into brownie territory. I’ll tell you that they are a baked cookie with a center that remains soft on the inside. I brought some of these cookies along when Lilli, Rich and I joined Cara, Rosie and Ben for berry picking. Of course, I failed at packing an actual lunch for Lilli, but we did have these amazing cookies.
The recipe calls for 1 pound chopped bittersweet chocolate (70%), preferably Valrhona, making it both a chocolatey and expensive dessert. Given the amount of chocolate I needed, I went to Target and bought several bags of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. They worked fine. The four eggs need to be at room temperature, but if you can’t wait, set them in a bowl of warm water. The dough does need some chilling to make it firm enough to scoop. I set the dough back in the fridge in between batches.
The one real change I made to the recipe was changing the muscavado sugar into dark brown sugar, making it a bit more affordable. The recipe says to bake them for between 8 and 10 minutes; in my oven it took 10 minutes to 13 minutes. This is a very good cookie. Please go make it. You’ll thank me.
Salted Chocolate-Rye Cookies Adapted from Tartine Book No. 3: A Modern Ancient Classic Whole
2 2/3 cups (1 pound) chopped bittersweet chocolate or (good quality chocolate chips)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup whole-grain dark rye flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Good quality flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel, for topping
Place a saucepan filled with 1 inch of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl over the simmering water, taking care that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water, and melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally. Once melted remove from heat and let cool slightly.
In a small bowl, whisk together the rye flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed, adding the sugar a little bit at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and whip until the eggs have nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate-butter mixture and the vanilla. Mix to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, then add in the flour mixture just until combined. At this point the dough will be very soft and loose, which is normal; it will firm up as it chills.
Refrigerate the dough until it is just firm to the touch, about 30 minutes, (The longer you chill the dough it’s harder to scoop.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and scoop with a rounded tablespoon onto the baking sheets, shaping the balls of dough into rounds and spacing them 2 inches apart. Top each mound of dough with a few flakes of sea salt, pressing gently so it adheres.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies have completely puffed up and have a smooth bottom and rounded top. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let cool slightly (the cookies may flatten a bit), then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. The cookies will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container, although we moved ours into the fridge at that point and enjoyed them over a week.
Oh! What a cute kid..
Can I add in some raisins?
Hi Ema: I don’t think raisins would work in this cookie, but feel free to give it a shot. And please report back to me how it turned out!
Yeah lemme give it a shot and then we’ll see to it 🙂
I have never been to Montreal but it is high on my list! Sounds like a delicious adventure.
The next time you visit the Marché Jean Talon, walk a block to visit the Quincaillerie Danton – a former hardware store that sells upscale cooking equipment (e.g. standing mixers) and… shotguns. Evidently shotguns are a hardware store staple in Quebec. When the paint and nuts and bolts were supplanted by kitchen equipment the owner saw no need to dispense with the guns. Pretty amusing place to visit. Ken