Something to Cluck About

Canadians certainly love their poultry, and especially chicken. In 2016, we each consumed an average of 32.5 kg of chicken – the highest level of consumption ever, reports Chicken Farmers of Canada. In fact, chicken has been first choice of Canadians for more than a decade, when fowl surpassed beef for first place in the meat sweepstakes.

Chicken remains consumers’ protein of choice while turkey shows room to grow, according to Technomic’s recently released 2017 Centre of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report. Chicken consumption has been bolstered over the past few years by increases at breakfast and snacking occasions. Turkey is still viewed more as holiday fare, though 39 per cent of turkey-eaters say they are more likely now than two years ago to enjoy turkey during the rest of the year.

Where comfort meets ingenuity

Diners love the slow-roasted comfort aspect of turkey, particularly at harvest time and over the holidays, says Abdul Rizal Hassan, executive chef, Holiday Inn Aéroport Montréal Airport. “I always like to try something new on the menu, and especially with poultry it is so important to keep diners interested and capture their enthusiasm.”

Hassan serves a chicken scaloppini braised in flour and layered with spinach, mushrooms, cheese and asparagus, topped with cured Italian meat then finished in the oven and glazed with a marsala sauce before serving. “It’s an appetizing dish with great presentation, and it can be tailored seasonally with fresh vegetables and fish instead of spinach. In the winter, we add a third layer of thinly-sliced potatoes that we bake in the oven. They’re like thin chips, crunchy and beautiful.”

Invigorating fall and winter menus with turkey

“Turkey does not have to be sage and garlic, it can be focused with allspice, lemon, mushroom, pine nuts, soy sauce, chili peppers,” says James Keppy, national culinary chef for Maple Leaf Foods. He notes that more than 70 per cent of customers say they want to be inspired by new flavours from the restaurants they frequent – so inspire them!

“Thanksgiving sandwiches, poutine, tacos and flatbreads utilizing cranberry aioli, stuffing and sage become new builds with familiar flavours,” Keppy says. “Mac ‘n cheese can be upscaled with pulled meats, seafood and gourmet cheeses. Even a scalloped potato with ham dish will bring back good memories -- and memories mean comfort food.”

something to cluck about insert 1RESEARCH SAYS

  • 47% of consumers say it’s important for restaurants to be transparent about where they source their poultry.
  • 45% of consumers who eat chicken strongly agree that restaurants should offer more chicken entrées with ethnic flavour.
  • 38% of consumers who eat turkey would like restaurants to offer turkey as a protein choice for a wider variety of entrées.
According to a Technomic report

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New twists on old favourites

To make something new and different in poultry dishes, Keppy recommends getting creative with ethnic and fusion flavours. “Shawarma will work in salads, sandwiches, mains and pizzas as well as in the traditional pita. Indian dishes continue to grow over the past five years along with the growth of Moroccan, Korean, Lebanese, Greek and Turkish cuisines. Customers value authenticity in their dishes.”

Thanksgiving comfort with flair

Traditional comfort food always does well in the darker months of the year, notes Juriaan Snellen, McCormick Canada executive corporate chef. “Braised poultry and rich stews will warm you up on a cold day and are easy to prepare in advance.”

This season put a twist on the traditional classics by adding flavourful seasonings and unique ingredients inspired by consumers’ quest for bolder tastes. Elevate Thanksgiving turkey dinner with a bay leaf-infused honey glaze served with pear chutney for a welcoming touch of tartness, Snellen suggests.

Leftovers can be transformed into decadent ragouts served over pappardelle pasta garnished with fried sage. Or venture out into a tapas-style dinner option with bite-size turkey meatballs topped with cracked black pepper, rosemary and sage.

Go over to the dark side

In the rest of the world, dark meat has always been preferred over leaner white meat. Now dark meat chicken is gaining popularity with North American consumers.

“Darker meat contains more fat, which translates to more flavour and a juicier finished product,” Snellen notes. “Because of the higher fat content, you can apply bolder, stronger marinades, rubs and sauces to it. A perfect example is Filipino Pinoy Chicken, where chicken legs and thighs are marinated in a combination of soy sauce, garlic, spices and banana ketchup before it is roasted in the oven.”

Darker meat contains more fat, which translates to more flavour and a juicier finished product. Because of the higher fat content, you can apply bolder, stronger marinades, rubs and sauces to it.

Fusion builds excitement

We will continue to see a fusion of ethnic inspired flavours and traditional fare driven by immigration patterns that will bring exciting new dishes to the table, Snellen predicts. “Oven-roasted turkey will cozy up with Italian gnocchi topped with a rich cream sauce; whole chicken is brined in a salt liquid for a couple hours before a Lebanese 7 Spice seasoning also known as Baharat is applied.” Serve it with saffron rice mixed with barberries – a Middle Eastern berry that looks like a small cranberry but has a more pungent tart and sour note – and really give your guests something to cluck about.

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