At just 29, Matt Blondin is a kitchen rock star, with the talent and testosterone to prove it. After stints at some of Toronto’s best restaurants, including Rain, Luce, Colborne Lane and Acadia, he now holds the top job at Momofuku Daisho, one of star chef David Chang’s acclaimed new eateries in the city. But it’s not all flash – behind Blondin’s obvious confidence is a steely focus and serious intelligence that Chang must have recognized as soon as he found him. Why else would the New Yorker have granted the Sudbury boy freedom to explore local ingredients and his French-Canadian roots within a high-concept Asian restaurant? In someone else’s hands, the results would be fusion confusion, but Blondin works it like a pro, serving Bo Ssam alongside sugar pie with grace, skill and, yes, a generous helping of swagger. If you should be lucky enough to find yourself at Blondin’s sixfoot– long dinner table (which he made himself), this is what you might get to eat.
2 strips bacon 1 pork jowl, cleaned and trimmed
3 onions, halved
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 pieces each bay leaf, thyme stems, cloves, allspice berries
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
3/4 cup white wine
1 pound smoked ham
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon liquid honey
Salt and pepper to taste
24 wonton wrappers
1 1/2 cups blanched broccoli and cauliflower florets
In a large saucepan, cook bacon until fat melts. Remove and sear jowl in bacon fat until golden on both sides; remove. Coarsely chop all but half of one onion and add to pan along with carrot, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, clove, allspice and mustard seeds. Sauté until fragrant. Add white wine to deglaze and return jowl and bacon to saucepan. Add ham, chicken broth and water. Simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove jowl and bacon. Strain liquid, skim fat and reserve. Discard remaining solids.
Heat oil in a small saucepan. Dice remaining half onion and add to pan, cooking on low until caramelized. Trim fat from jowl and discard. With a sharp knife, mince jowl and bacon. Add caramelized onion, mustard, honey, salt, pepper and a bit of braising liquid. Mix well. Place spoonful of filling in center of each wonton wrapper. Wet wrapper edges with water, fold over and press together into dumplings.
Boil dumplings in salted water for 3 minutes. Divide among soup bowls, along with broccoli and cauliflower florets. Ladle hot ham broth overtop and garnish with mustard oil and chive tips, if desired.