The French concept of terroir is generally taken to mean a localized combination of weather, soil and other physical attributes that create a unique food product, such as Bordeaux wine. You might plant Bordeaux grapes in the Napa Valley, but the end product wouldn’t really be Bordeaux, since it lacks the specific terroir that differentiates this product from all others.
Not surprisingly, this notion of sense of place informs the philosophy at Longmont’s Terroir. Owned by Melissa Newell and Chef Timothy Payne, this restaurant describes itself as serving “seasonally inspired American fare” with an emphasis on organic ingredients sourced nearby. Entrees highlighting local ingredients include a grilled ribeye from Colorado’s Best Beef, as well as a chile-braised tempeh sided with squash from Hygiene’s Sol Y Sombra Farm. Special events include the monthly community beer social and a spring series of regional French wine dinners.
For the home chef, Payne offers a salad recipe spotlighting Front Range bounty, namely earthy mushrooms balanced by herbaceous arugula and tangy goat cheese. Ingredient choice matters here.
“Hazel Dell Mushrooms are amazing, local and organic,” he explains. “We use them all of the time.”
Ideally, the arugula for this recipe should come from Aspen Moon or Toohey and Sons farms, both Boulder-area operations.
“Aspen Moon farms uses a biodynamic approach to their farming and, like Toohey, their arugula is intense and extremely flavorful,” says Payne.
Another key local component is cheese from Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, which he describes as “a local legend” located only five minutes from Terroir.
For a main course, Terroir’s chef recommends pork provided by John Long.
“He doesn’t get in the way of mother nature when raising his pigs,” Payne says of Long’s husbandry techniques.
But it’s not just farming methods that distinguish this Colorado offering from less-sustainable, big agribusiness product; it’s also a matter of flavor.
“John Long’s pork is great for one reason,” the chef explains. “It tastes like pork.”
Payne finds that pork shoulder or butt possesses a rich taste and enough fat to ensure that the meat remains juicy throughout the cooking process. As to technique, he advises, “The confit method develops amazing flavor and really allows the pork to be seasoned all the way through the meat.”
Warm Hazel Dell Mushroom Salad
4 cups of assorted Hazel Dell mushrooms, favorites are oyster, shitake and portabellas
1 cup of fresh Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy fresh chevre
4 cups of arugula, preferably from Toohey and Sons or Aspen Moon farms
3 Meyer lemons
1 tsp. of mustard powder
¼ cup of white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. of Madhava Honey
¾ cup oil, your choice, but Payne prefers neutral oil such as grape seed or canola oil so that the lemon shows through
½ tsp. of salt and pepper
Carefully stem, if using portabellas or shitake mushrooms, and brush clean mushrooms. Keep in big pieces rather than chop up. You can cut them smaller after cooking if you like.
Toss the mushrooms in oil (a flavorful oil, like extra virgin olive oil, works great here) salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. The mushrooms will soak up the oil, but don’t add more oil. As the mushrooms cook, they will release their juices and rehydrate.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the mushrooms on a cookie sheet evenly, ensuring they are not piled on each other. You don’t want them to steam, but roast.
Place the mushrooms in the oven and roast for 25 minutes, then check to see they are softened and beginning to brown.
While the mushrooms are roasting, wash and stem arugula if you are using more mature greens.
Make sure the goat cheese is out of the refrigerator so that it begins softening.
In a food processor, add mustard powder, honey, vinegar, and the zest and juice from the three lemons into the processor. Turn on the motor and mix for 30 seconds. With the motor still running slowly, drizzle the oil into the lemon mixture until all of the oil is incorporated. If the mixture is too acidic, add more oil. If the mixture is too stiff, thin with a little water.
Toss the arugula with the lemon vinaigrette and divide onto four salad plates.
Divide the mushrooms among the plates and place over the arugula. Crumble the chevre on top, and if you really want that earthy flavor, sprinkle white truffle oil on at the last second.
Luscious Pork Shoulder
1/2 cup of salt
½ cup of sugar
2 tbsp. of fennel seeds
1 tbsp. of chili flakes
2 tbsp. of crushed garlic
2 tbsp. of minced fresh rosemary
1 pork butt (shoulder), boneless, from John Long if possible
3 quarts of water
Place all of the ingredients except the pork in a stock pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let it cook at that level until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
Take off the stove and cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator and cooling for at least two hours.
While the mixture is cooling, place the pork on a cutting board and cut into four equal pieces.
Add the pork to the water mixture (the brining liquid) and return to the fridge and place a small plate on top to keep it submerged. Leave in the brine for 12 hours. Remove from the brine and rinse under cool water and pat dry.
At this point, you have two great options. You can confit the mixture by placing the pieces in a sauce pan big enough to hold all of the pieces. Add enough oil (or lard) to cover the pieces and bring the oil to a simmer, turn on low and cover, cooking at a very gentle simmer until the pork is extremely tender (it will take about two hours or possibly more if your pieces are bigger or less if they are smaller). Turn off the heat and allow the pork to cool in the oil to a room temperature. Remove from the oil and serve immediately or cool until ready to eat. To reheat, place in a 400-degree oven until the exterior begins to brown and get crispy, or cut into thinner slices and reheat on an outdoor grill. The other option is to rub the brined pork with olive oil and roast at 325 degrees until browned and fork-tender.
In both cases, the result will be deeply flavored and luscious.
Lavender Crème Brulee
2 cups heavy whipping cream from Diamond D Dairy
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. of dried lavender flowers or buds
6 large egg yolks, preferably from Wisdom Natural Poultry
Place heavy cream, one half of the sugar and all the lavender in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
Place a lid on the sauce pan and let sit for at least one hour off the heat. Return the pan to the stove top, bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat.
While the mixture is coming to a simmer, add the other half of the sugar to the eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are smooth and creamy. Slowly drizzle in the warm cream mixture into the eggs while continuously whisking.
Once all of the cream mixture is incorporated into the eggs, strain the mixture. Pour the mixture into dry crème brulee dishes. It will make enough to fill four five-ounce dishes.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place the crème brulee dishes in a baking pan. Pour hot water in the baking pan until it reaches half way up the side of dishes.
Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and place in preheated oven.
Check the brulees after 30 minutes. When finished the brulees will be
slightly set — jiggly, but not firm. Once done, remove the pan and let
the brulees cool in the water bath. Once cool enough to handle, place in
the refrigerator to cool and set the custards.
To “brulee” the custards, sprinkle 1 tbsp. of sugar (we’ve found that Sugar in the Raw works best) and evenly over the custard. With a small crème brulee torch or blowtorch slowly melt the sugar until deep brown. Allow to cool until the sugar hardens.
Note: If you do not have a crème brulee torch, they can be purchased at kitchen supply stores or at many hardware stores. Also, you can serve the custards without the sugar topping, chilled.