The Temple of Lard

Great things happen when you give an idiosyncratic, pig-fixated chef complete creative control. I finally got my hands on a copy of Au Pied de Cochon: The Album, the self-published cookbook/scrapbook/manifesto by one of Canada's most famous chefs (can anybody name another?) and the John Belushi of whole-hog cooking, Martin Picard. I can confidently say that the most gluttonous, self-indulgent meal of my life was at Picard's six-year-old Montreal restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon, where he composes delightfully barbaric dishes around PDC's four basic food groups: foie gras, duck fat, blood sausage and pig's feet (hence the name). It's impossible to dine there without consuming an essential organ of an animal that's been featured in a Disney film. And the book's just as un-P.C. as the restaurant, a cardiologist's candy shop of Picard's greatest hits that includes recipes for baked beans with piglet heads, "duck in a can," and his take on the Quebecois classic, poutine. (Picard adds a foie and egg yolk-based gravy to the traditional combo of fries and cheese curds, then tops the whole thing with a hockey puck of seared foie gras, because, why not?) If you ever find yourself with a surplus of fatty duck liver, the book is offers enough options to make a Chicago restaurant inspector blush: foie gras-stuffed pig's foot, foie gras burger, foie gras pizza, foie gras maki, foie gras lobster roll. The rest of the work is a peek behind PDC's bloodied curtains, more Manson family vacation album than the usual farm-and-field portraiture: There's Picard boxing a pig carcass while his shirtless staffers drink beers and cheer him on. There's Picard, in near-nude Bacchanalian repose, surrounded by plucked chickens. There's Picard in a camouflage ski mask, a shotgun across his lap, napping next a dead goose. There's Picard in an outhouse, pants around his ankles, reading his own cookbook (how meta!). I can't think of another restaurant cookbook as free-wheeling as The Album, and I certainly can't think of another quite as bold. (Buy it online at www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca.)

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