Cooking with Cannabis: Ottawa chef Mike Derouin prepares the perfect four-course meal
Eating & Drinking

Cooking with Cannabis: Ottawa chef Mike Derouin prepares the perfect four-course meal

It’s official — cannabis is legal in Canada. And while edible products have yet to be regulated, chefs across the country have already begun to explore the culinary possibilities that cannabis-based ingredients offer. And they’re doing much more than just baking pot brownies.

Mike Derouin runs local catering company Meshback BBQand has been cooking with cannabis ingredients for years — over that time, he’s mastered the subtle art of bringing marijuana to the dinner table. While he has honed his craft catering exclusive late-night dinners, changes in marijuana laws — which will soon include edibles — are bringing cannabis cuisine into the limelight. But there’s more to cooking with weed than simply finding a way to make the psychoactive drug palatable.

Preparing a multi-course cannabis meal presents unique challenges. “First of all, you don’t want to limit how much food you can serve or how much people can eat, so knowing the characteristic effects of each strain is important.” To this end, Derouin uses cannabis as a seasoning as opposed to a primary ingredient, which gives him more control over both its effects and how the flavours interact with other ingredients.

“You want to pair the right strain with the right dish, and that means finding common flavour profiles. Otherwise, the cannabis is just a novelty.”

Derouin uses cannabis-infused oils, butters, and tinctures to finish his dishes, giving him the flexibility to regulate the amount of cannabis throughout the course of a meal. “You want to get the dosages right, or else your dinner party will be over before it begins.” Photo by Amy Zambonin

“First and foremost, it’s about the food,” he says. “If it doesn’t taste good, then what’s the point?”

Here, Derouin prepares four courses, each with its own strain of cannabis, and discusses how best to strike a balance between the tastes and effects of this burgeoning product.  

The Starter: Roasted-tomato soup infused with Lemon Thai Haze

Photo by Amy Zambonin

“This is a great strain to start the meal with,” Derouin says of the Lemon Thai Haze used to finish this soup. “It has an uplifting effect — gets people talkative, energetic, in a creative frame of mind. It also has a significant citrus flavour and adds a bit of acid to the dish — almost like grating lemon zest.”

Second course: Butternut squash arancini finished with Hawaiian cannabutter

Photo by Amy Zambonin

The second course of butternut squash arancini with Parmesan cream is an upscale take on the traditional Southern Italian street food. Derouin finishes the sauce with Hawaiian cannabutter, which has a strong, herby flavour that complements the sage.

Main course: Braised short rib with Grease Monkey cannaoil

Photo by Amy Zambonin

The main course, a braised short rib with mashed potatoes and carrots, is infused with Grease Monkey cannaoil, which features hearty notes of rosemary and thyme. “An indica-dominant will set the mood in a more mellow direction,” explains Derouin. “It’s a nice counterpunch to the previous sativa-dominant strains and allows guests to settle in and relax for dessert and coffee.”

Dessert: Charred bourbon peaches topped with cannabis-infused cream

Photo by Amy Zambonin

Dessert features charred bourbon peaches topped with a cannabis-infused Chantilly cream. The cannabis strain used here is Mango Haze, which has great anti-inflammatory properties that help relax the body — making it perfect for the finale of a multi-course dinner.