Neurosurgeon who raises Japanese wagyu cattle shares sandwich recipe

At first glance, neurosurgery and cattle farming don't appear to have much in common. But Dr. Douglas James Cook, a neurosurgeon at Kingston General Hospital, says there's plenty of overlap.

Kingston, Ont., neurosurgeon Dr. Douglas James Cook raises wagyu cattle after leaving the hospital

Dr. Douglas James Cook says you only have to eat a small portion of wagyu beef to feel satiated. (Douglas James Cook )

At first glance, neurosurgery and cattle farming don't appear to have much in common. But Dr. Douglas James Cook, a neurosurgeon at Kingston General Hospital, says there's plenty of overlap.

Along with his work in operating rooms, Cook runs Otter Creek Farms in Kingston and brings a scientific approach to raising wagyu, a Japanese breed of cattle.

"I spend my professional life as a clinician, scientist and surgeon, doing research on complex and rare diseases in the brain. But we can apply this knowledge and analytic technique as well to agriculture," Cook told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"Bringing this niche breed of cattle to Canada is just one part of what we're doing with the farm."

Dr. DJ Cook owns Otter Creek Farms in Kingston. And when he's not busy on the farm, he's also a neurosurgeon at Kingston General Hospital. 12:54

More nutritional value

Cook is doing research on things like the nutritional profile of the beef he's raising, and is learning about the cost of emissions and sustainability per pound of weight gain in his cattle, he said.

And although wagyu beef is expensive, Cook said it provides more nutritional value than other beef. 

Because of the cattle's feeding regime, there are more rich, fatty acids packed into the muscle. People eating it are satiated earlier because of the extra fat content, he said.

"At the end of the day, this is a healthier style of eating," Cook said. "This type of product is something that emphasizes the idea of quality over quantity, and it's really a change in mindset in terms of North American diet."

Food truck to sell wagyu beef

The neurosurgeon/farmer has also teamed up with chef Eric Brennan to start the Otter Creek Farms food truck and to sell Brennan's wagyu beef creations in Kingston. 

But folks in the Ottawa area can taste it this weekend, from noon to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, at an Ottawa Wine and Food Festival event at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum in the Central Experimental Farm.

Cook, who was raised on a beef farm in Lindsay, Ont., said he loved growing up in a farming community but had to step away from it to train and attend medical school.

When he returned to Canada after completing a fellowship at Stanford University in California, he looked for a place to plant roots where he could work as a neurosurgeon and raise cattle. Kingston was the perfect place. 

"Underneath it all, I always wanted to get back to the farm," he said.

Sapporo braised wagyu shoulder sandwiches with napa cabbage coleslaw

Coleslaw ingredients:

  • 3 oz napa cabbage, thinly sliced.
  • 3 oz each of julienned carrot, pear, red onion and daikon radish.
  • 3 tbsp. sesame oil.
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar.
  • Juice of 1 lime.
  • Zest of 1 lime.
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds.

Directions for coleslaw: 

  1. Add vegetables to a bowl. 
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, lime juice and zest 
  3. Toss dressing on vegetables and let sit for a least one hour before serving. 

Sandwich ingredients: 

  • 3.5 oz of wagyu beef shoulder per sandwich (substitute with regular beef if wagyu not available).
  • 2 cans Sapporo beer.
  • 1 can Vernors ginger ale (substitute with another ginger ale if Vernors not available).
  • Salt, pepper and oil to season the wagyu beef shoulder.
  • Rich beef stock.
  • 1 knob ginger, peeled and sliced.
  • 3 onions, peeled and cubed.
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped.
  • 1 chili pepper (or 2 tsp. chili flakes).
  • 3 lime wedges.
  • 1 tbsp. canola.
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil.
  • Crusty bread or sandwich buns of your choosing.

Directions for sandwich: 

  1. Season with salt and pepper, and rub well to ensure even coating.
  2. Heat sunflower oil to just before smoking, sear shoulder on all sides until evenly golden brown.
  3. In a roasting pan, sautee ginger, lime wedges, onion, garlic, chili pepper in canola oil and finish with sesame oil.
  4. Deglaze with two cans of Sapporo beer and one can of ginger ale.
  5. Add rich (preferably homemade) beef stock to cover, add shoulder, bring to simmer.
  6. Cover tightly and place in preheated oven at 325 F for 3.5 hours.
  7. Remove from liquid.
  8. Slice shoulder into sandwich-sized pieces. 
  9. Add meat to your bun or crusty bread of choice. 
  10. Top meat with coleslaw.

CBC Radio's All In A Day