Local butchers can be invaluable allies as you strive to serve delicious fare that will impress your guests. Ottawa At Home spoke to some of our city’s most respected butchers to get the goods on their holiday favourites.
Mark Cantor, The Butchery
At The Butchery in Bells Corners, Mark Cantor says they have been using the same suppliers for 36 years so the quality of the product on offer is extremely consistent. “I like to say that it’s truly the finest meat that money can buy. We know that people want the good stuff so at The Butchery there are no compromises ever, including over the holidays.”
At The Butchery, you can also find cooking tips and a great selection of prepared foods including grilled vegetables, roasted or Monte Carlo (twice- baked) potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and more. In addition to classic festive fare, Mark says that his holiday favourites include venison and other special items such as special pâtés, ostrich, alligator and wild boar.
“People are looking for exotic foods to wow their guests.” Another feature is meat cut to order. “Whether you want a quarter ham or a brisket in a particular size, we are happy to oblige.”
James Watt, â€¨Manotick Village Butcher
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, James Watt at Manotick Village Butcher is well- qualified to offer cooking advice: “I like to suggest simple but tasty recipes for even novice cooks who love our meat but aren’t sure how to prepare it. I’ll advise how to brine your turkey before cooking, and how to make a lighter velouté sauce to go with it instead of gravy. I’ve also come up with a turkey crown roast, which is a bone-in, skin-on breast that can still be stuffed. It’s ideal for smaller gatherings.”
His other holiday advice would be to consider dishes like beef Wellington or braised shank of lamb or beef. James recommends reducing the braising liquid, then finishing it with dark chocolate chips for a mole-inspired sauce.
“Another idea is to ask for a cradled prime rib roast and rub it with sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce and cracked peppercorns, then finish it with your favourite barbecue sauce. For the holidays, I also like to suggest skin-on ham, roasted gently and glazed towards the end with a reduction of caramel, pineapple juice, hard apple cider, cloves or perhaps some nutmeg or mace.”
Joel Dienerâ€¨, Sasloves Meat Market Wellington
Sasloves Meat Market on Wellington Street is quite famous for its around-the-block lineup of eager cooks picking up Christmas turkeys, but that’s only a part of the shop’s holiday story. While owner Joel Diener grew up in an era in which families ate together on a regular basis, he recognizes that today, the holidays are often the only times many people enjoy extended family gatherings and special dinners.
“We want to help make it easier for families to celebrate together. From turkey to gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce, we’ve got it all and we’ll even cook it for you if you’d like. The same goes for our fantastic knish, brisket, smoked salmon, salmon Wellington, chopped liver and latkes. We just want you to gather and be happy.”
Sasloves also caters to customized requests and specializes in organic meats and gluten-free options. People bring us family recipes and we recreate them here. We like fulfilling special requests for things like rabbit, goose or exotic meats. If you need help preparing foods or recreating traditions from another country, we can help you out, just as my father did for decades after he founded Sasloves over 60 years ago. It’s all about family.”
Andrew Muckleston, Muckleston & Brockwell
Andrew Muckleston may be at the helm of Ottawa’s newest butcher shop, Muckleston & Brockwell in Beechwood Village, but he’s leveraging loads of experience, not to mention many years of holiday celebrations, on his butcher’s block.
“We bring in whole animals from trusted local suppliers and we know exactly where each one came from. This gives me confidence in the quality and also gives you access to all the more difficult-to-find and fine cuts such as hanger steak, tri-tip, flat iron, porterhouse and skirt steak, which are some of my personal favourites. We also offer farm-raised, grain-fed turkey. For the holidays, we’ll add house-made terrines, gravies, pâtés, bone broth and more to our lineup.
Having a cutting counter out front where people can watch the action makes the butcher both accessible and approachable. “I love talking to customers and helping them pull together an impressive menu. In addition to expert advice and fantastic meat, the shop is stocked with an array of food and serving products that will elevate your holiday table, plus make gift-giving easier too.”
David Wallace, Around the Block butcher shop
When he’s not cutting and packaging meat, butcher David Wallace from Around the Block Butcher Shop says talking to customers and helping them plan meals is a favourite pastime.
“People are asking for help more than ever before, it seems. I love suggesting new possibilities, or having the chance to explain our products. For example, people like learning about why dry-aged prime rib is going to impress their family and friends with its incredible flavour and tenderness.”
At Around the Block you can buy house-made stuffing as well as finding a great selection of cheeses, compotes and preserves to round out your festive menu. “Salmon or goose can be a nice alternative for the holidays and duck is always popular,” advises David. “Crown roasts of lamb and pork are delicious and impressive at the table. This year I’m thinking about some new possibilities, such as racks of venison. People are turning more to game meats for special occasions and properly prepared, they are really nice.”
Stéphane Sauvé, Glebe Meat Market
Fans of French-Canadian inspired fare flock to the Glebe Meat Market year-round, but particularly over the holidays, says Stéphane Sauvé. “We’ve been in business almost 100 years and our tourtières are still made using a very old family recipe.”
Glebe Meat Market also offers haggis, Pâté Chinois (Shepherd’s Pie) and delicious ragoût de pattes, a traditional dish of shredded pork hocks with meatballs and dark gravy. “I love the classics and they seem to be increasingly popular. Other favourites include game birds, bison roasts and gammon, which is a British-style cured pork leg.”
Stéphane explains that inexperienced cooks and busy people are looking for dishes that are easy to prepare and serve, but still taste really delicious. “For example, we make marinated porchetta roasts and several variations of turducken, which are easy to carve and serve. For smaller families, a great option is our boneless turkey leg, stuffed inside a boneless turkey breast.”