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Burned mackerel with popcorn powder and vegetable glaze served up at Normand Laprise's restaurant Toque!, in Montreal, September 17, 2010.

Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail/christinne muschi The Globe and Mail

I take pride in the amazing evolution of Montreal's culinary scene over the past 10 years. Quebec's unique gastronomy has come a long way since I attended culinary school, and it keeps reinventing itself, with the help of proud, creative and hard-working younger chefs.

The chef de cuisine at Toqué, Charles-Antoine Crête, is a good example of this new generation: He has worked all over the world, learning different techniques and traditions, and brings diversity to the kitchen.

He takes nothing for granted and always wants to push the dishes to a new level. We spend a lot of time thinking about what goes on Toqué's or Brasserie T's menus and how it will be prepared.

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It is increasingly important for us to research where ingredients come from. We care about sustainability, traceability and methods used by the growers or the suppliers. One particularly sensitive issue is the choice of the fish we serve. Many of the world's oceans are being overfished, sometimes to a point where certain species of fish are endangered.

While I don't have an official blacklist, I put a special emphasis on purchasing and serving mostly local species and working with well-managed fisheries that use sustainable practices like line-caught or hand-gathered fishing, rather than bottom trawling, which consists of pulling a fishing net along the sea bottom. This practice removes too many unwanted species in a single run.

That's why it is possible to find tuna on Toqué's menu only a few times a year; it comes from Nova Scotia and it has been line-caught by a fisherman I know.

I encourage you, when you buy fish in a shop or eat in a restaurant, to ask where it comes from first - whether it is from a sustainable source, whether it is an endangered or over-exploited species. Overfishing is preventable and fixable. I hope that, collectively, we will make long-term changes for the health of our oceans.

Today's recipe is uses line-fished mackerel from Îles de la Madeleine.

Burnt Mackerel


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4 fillets of mackerel

4 tablespoons salt

8 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup maple syrup


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Preheat the oven to 225 F. Mix salt and sugar together and coat each fillet of mackerel liberally. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Remove and rinse well with water and pat dry with a towel.

Lay the fillets on a cookie sheet and coat with olive oil and maple syrup. Place in preheated oven for 15-18

minutes or until the fish is done. When ready to serve, brush the mackerel with maple syrup and apply a food torch until the skin is caramelized.

Cut each fillet into diagonal slices. The fish can be served with a little salad with herbs or even just with small pieces of nori as an appetizer.

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