Acid Test with Matthew Ravenscroft
Matthew Ravenscroft, aka The Dirty Raven, is a Toronto-based chef specializing in all things vegetables—and, most importantly, a new father. With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, we wanted to celebrate Matt’s love of edgy—and acidic—vegetable cookery honed in some of Toronto’s best restaurants like Matty Matheson's Parts & Labour, The Drake, and Rosalinda.
Read on to learn more about Matt's thoughts on acidity in cooking, and a flavor-tripping carrot that changed his life.
What does acidity bring to food?
Acidity is that extra touch of brightness that can bring everything else to life on a dish. The small whisper of encouragement that some dishes didn't realize they needed but changes everything.
What are some of your favorite ways to feature acidity in your cooking?
I love to use acidity, and particularly vinegars, to just coax flavors out of an ingredient and finish a dish. I think it adds a very subtle complexity that can actually be quite loud when used correctly. It's often that "mmmm, what the hell is in this?!" that gets blurted out when people are gushing about a dish. Whether it's raw, roasted, grilled, or braised, acidity goes with every vegetable I cook, every sauce I finish. Sometimes I use it before roasting, or just add a fresh spritz to finish and really make it pop. It becomes a matter of how much it needs to sing.
Lately, I'm loving using vinegar on mushrooms or cellar vegetables, particularly squash —whatever the season has to offer really. I think it pushes against the depth of flavor of roasted veggies in the best way possible and adds a new dimension.
Do you have a favorite flavor-tripping memory?
Once while filming something many years ago, someone brought my chef some produce to use while we filmed. Included in that care package was this bunch of carrots that just actually blew me away. It felt like I had taken acid or something. It was just that mind-blowing in that it was packed full of flavour, and definitely the most carrot-y carrot I had ever eaten. But it's just a carrot? It felt like everything became both a hallucination and seen with such clarity in that moment. Everything felt alive. I immediately blurted out "why is that like this?!" to which I was told "because we give them love" and everything just seemed to click in that moment. That was over 5 years ago and I’m still smiling thinking about that carrot.