Top Chef Canada: 8 Quick Questions with Guest Judge Wylie Dufresne

Wylie-Dufresne

Chef Wylie Dufresne pictured with Top Chef Canada host Lisa Ray.

Celebrated American molecular gastronomy chef  Wylie Dufresne was a special guest judge for Top Chef Canada episode eight‘s QuickFire challenge, where each chef had to create the tastiest and most clever dish inspired by a food  idiom.

Here are 5 quick facts you need to know about him:
1. Has a B.A. in philosophy from Colby College in Maine.
2. Worked up the ladder of  Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s kitchens after graduating from The French Culinary Institute in New York City (NYC).
3. His NYC restaurant wd~50 was awarded a Michelin star in 2006 and kept it through 2010.
4. Won the James Beard Foundation’s Best NYC Chef title in 2013 after being nominated for the award nine times before.
5. Guest judged on Top Chef in seasons 2, 4, 5 and 7. He switched to the other side of the stove when he competed on Top Chef Masters in 2009.

We wanted to learn more about Wylie Dufresne and asked him a eight quick questions he was kind enough to answer.

 

Q: When did you first discover your talent for cooking?
A: When I started working in restaurants at the age of 11, peeling potatoes.

Q: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
A: Napping!

Q: What is your favourite Canadian restaurant?
A: Well, I haven’t been yet but I’m really looking forward to trying Au Pied de Cochon, as well as Joe Beef.

Q: What piqued your interest in molecular gastronomy?
A: When I first started out, in culinary school and then working in the industry, I started to realize that I knew how to cook but that I didn’t really know why. And I started to ask myself why we poach an egg at a particular temperature or what exactly is happening to a chicken as we roast it.  I was looking for answers beyond simply “Because we’ve always done it that way” or “Because it works.” So really, I just set out to find those answers and along the way I was fortunate to speak to actual scientists who had even more to add to the conversation.

Q: How would you convince someone to try molecular gastronomy if they were apprehensive?
A: We hope that people will come to our restaurants with an open mind. We want them to try it because it is delicious and a fun New York dining experience.

Q: What is your favourite flavour to play with?

A: I don’t have a favorite – when I’m working I just try to find a balance.

Q: How do you think you would have performed if you were given this challenge?
A: One always hope to do well!  (Although my track record on Top Chef Masters is not so good!)

Q: What advice do you have for the remaining chefs?
A: The danger is that sometimes people over-think it or over-reach.  Keep it simple instead of being overly ambitious.  Make your goals realistic and focus on the taste above all.

Rich-Francis

Rich Francis during episode eight’s QuickFire Challenge.

 

Q: Which chef do you think has the best potential to go home the winner?

A: Well, I really like that it is an open field so it is hard to say. On any given day it could be anyone’s game.  Everyone could have one bad showing but still overall be a standout.  That is the fun of Top Chef!  From what I saw, Rich and Terry both had great visions.  But I still think it is anyone’s game!
Terry-Salmond
Terry Salmond during episode eight’s Elimination Challenge.
Related:
Watch online Top Chef Canada episode eight “School’s Out for the Chefs.”

Read Top Chef Canada: 8 Quick Questions for Guest Judge Hugh Acheson.

 

New Foodie Fad: ‘The Purple Diet’

purple diet

Juice cleanses, step aside. There’s a new approach to dieting, and get this — you can actually eat food!

This new diet trend, ‘the purple diet’, suggests you only consume purple-coloured foods. It has quickly become a very popular food trend in the U.S, and as trends go, likely soon in Canada. Some acceptable food items include purple cauliflower, purple potatoes, purple carrots, plums, etc. These colourful fruits and veggies are said to contain anthocyanins, which are powerful anti-oxidants and provide anti-ageing benefits. If you aren’t convinced yet, pop icon Mariah Carey followed the diet regime to lose her unwanted, post-baby pounds. She ate purple foods, three days a week, and is said to be seeing positive results.

Although the celebrity buzz around this fad is significant, nutritionists actually recommend eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies each day.

So do you think the ‘purple diet’ is a safe and healthy approach to losing weight, or do you think it’s just another fad? Tell us what you think on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Related:

Vegetable Spotlight: Eggplant

Eggplant or aubergine is that purple, spongey, shapely vegetable that people either love or hate. With its roots stemming from India, eggplant is an important part of Thai, Japanese, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Previously despised for its bitter taste, eggplant has come a long way and is now blended into baba ghanoush, broiled with miso, grilled with tahini or sautéed with Thai basil for many to enjoy. While some are put off by eggplant’s texture, there are so many varieties of eggplant and so many ways to cook that it is really the next “it” vegetable.

Being a night shade, some people do need to watch their eggplant intake as it’s not always recommended for those with arthritis. However, eggplant has a whole host of health benefits to keep the body strong!

Protect Your Noggin

Eggplant contains a nutrient called nasunin that actually works to protect brain cells. Nasunin specifically works to protect the cells that are responsible for preventing free radical damage, which is a precursor for cancer. These cells also dictate what nutrients come in, what waste goes out and they instruct the body to perform certain activities, so it is super important that these cells remain healthy!

Lower Risk of the Big C’s

Cancer and cardiovascular disease are two major degenerative diseases that affect many, many people.  Eggplant actually has potent anti-oxidant properties and is known as a free radical scavenger.  Free radicals increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease in the body, so it’s definitely important to have free radical scavengers on your side. Eggplant has also shown to lower LDL cholesterol, known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

How to Pick ‘Em

Even with those health benefits above, people can still be slightly intimidated by eggplant and unsure of how to buy it and how to prepare it.  When choosing an eggplant at the grocery store, whatever variety you choose, make sure it is smooth, lustrous and free of bruises and dents.  According to WHFoods, to check if an eggplant is ripe, slightly push in the skin with your thumb, if the eggplant skin springs back then that bad boy is ripe and ready to be cooked!  If your thumb creates a dent, then that eggplant is past its prime.

Now that you know why eggplant is amazing for you and how to choose it, it is time to actually eat it. If you still aren’t too sure about eggplant, try this Middle Eastern recipe below and fall in love!

Za_tar_and_Harissa_Eggplant_001

 

Za’tar & Harissa Eggplant

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, cut into cubes

1 bunch kale or swiss chard

3 clove garlic

? cup parsley, chopped

? cup cilantro, chopped

¼ cup green onions, chopped

½ cup pine nuts

? cup dried apricots, chopped

 

Dressing:

¼ cup lemon juice

3 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon harissa (or more, depending on spicy-ness preference)

2 teaspoon za’atar

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Cut eggplant into cubes, place on a lined baking sheet, drizzle a small amount of grapeseed oil or melted coconut oil and bake for 30 minutes.

3. While eggplant is baking, chop the garlic and sauté it in a pan over medium heat with a little coconut oil.  Sautee until it becomes fragrant and translucent.

4. Add in the chopped kale and mix around so that the kale becomes nice and garlicky.

5. Put the ingredients for the dressing together in a separate bowl and chop the herbs.

6. Gently toast the pine nuts and then mix everything together in a bowl and enjoy.

 

TamaraGreen1 Tamara Green is co-founder of The Living Kitchen, and a Holistic Nutritionist and Natural Cook. She combines her knowledge of nutrition and passion for cooking good food to work with clients to create lasting changes in their lives.

Related:

Chopped Canada Mystery Solved: How to Cook with Napa Cabbage

Cheese puffs for an appetizer and corn dogs for dessert? Man, Chopped Canada just continues to throw curve balls at the competitors every week, but then again, should I really be surprised about that? No. No, I should not.

Moving on, there were a few ingredients that I had considered playing around with in the kitchen this week, (chocolate chip and prosciutto cookies came to mind) but I have been eating too much lately, so in my heart, I knew I had to go with something more vegetable-driven. After all, swimsuit season is almost here.

shallots

Napa cabbage is something you’ll always find in Asian-style dishes, like stir-fries or shredded up in everyone’s favourite ramen noodle and almond salad. Chances are that your neighbourhood grocery store has it stocked in the produce department, but if it doesn’t, you’ll find heaps of this vegetable at Asian speciality markets.

napa cabbage recipe

Searing (or giving a quick grill on the barbecue) gives this tender cabbage a much more robust flavour. Coupling that with the salty prosciutto and a sweet apple dressing makes for a salad that is equal parts fresh and filling. If you want to keep this dish vegetarian, just omit the prosciutto and add some crispy pita chips for texture.

dressing

Seared Napa Cabbage with Prosciutto Crisps and Apple Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

Total cook time: 25 mins

Ingredients:

Prosciutto Crisps:

6 slices prosciutto

Pickled Shallots:

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons chili flakes

2 teaspoons salt

2 shallots (halved, peeled and thinly sliced)

Apple Mustard Vinaigrette:

1 spartan apple (peeled, cored and quartered)

1 lemon (zested and juiced)

1 tablespoon grainy dijon mustard

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

canola oil (enough to emulsify, approximately ¼ cup)

Seared Cabbage:

1 head napa cabbage (outer leaves removed, quartered)

¼ cup canola oil

salt and pepper (to season)

Directions:

Prosciutto Crisps:

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.Place prosciutto on a baking sheet and let cook in the oven until crispy, about 10-12 minutes.

3.Transfer to paper towel to absorb any excess grease and to let cool.

Pickled Shallots:

1.Place first 5 ingredients in a small pot and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.

2.Place sliced shallots into a heat safe bowl and pour brine over top.

3.Let steep for 15 minutes, then transfer to a container with enough liquid to cover.

4.Will keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Apple Mustard Vinaigrette:

1.Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until very smooth.

2.Continue to puree while slowly pouring in oil until vinaigrette emulsifies (approximately ¼ cup).

3.Transfer to a bowl or container and keep in fridge until ready to use.

Seared Cabbage:

1.Heat a cast iron on high heat until smoking hot.

2.Working in two batches, sear the cabbage until caramelized on all sides, about 1 minute per side.

3.Transfer to serving platter and season generously with salt and pepper.

Assembly:

After searing, dress the seared cabbage with vinaigrette. Top with pickled shallots, prosciutto crisps and serve warm.

 

 

Dan Clapson Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

 Related:

Watch Chopped Canada Episode 16: For the Love of Cod
Read Chopped Canada Mystery Solved: How to Cook with Dragon Fruit

Cookbook Review: Eat More Dessert

Eat More Dessert

Eat More Dessert: More than 100 Simple-to-Make & Fun-to-Eat Baked Goods from the Baker to the Stars Hardcover by Jenny Keller

Price: $26.99
Pages: 224
Availability: Major retailers

Jenny Keller is a self-taught baker who has built an empire on sugar cookies and beautifully crafted desserts. Her passion for baking began in her grandmother’s kitchen as a tot, but wasn’t reignited until she had had children of her own. Seeking a creative outlet after choosing to stay home with her kids, Jenny realized that she was finding any excuse to throw a party and arrange elaborately themed dessert tables. Scouring flea markets and testing sugar cookie recipes had become a consistent pastime, and Jenny’s dessert tables were attracting some seriously sweet attention. Jenny quickly garnered a following from celebrities like Tori Spelling, and she began to gain a reputation as the authority for dessert tables at celeb-filled Hollywood soirees.

Keller’s Eat More Dessert is a beautiful and light-hearted book, focusing on the design of a perfect dessert table. It features stunning photos, and simple recipes and food arrangements that are actually easy to recreate. Recipes range from just-assemble-and-decorate, to over-the-top cakes that require a little more patience and finesse. But even the most complicated recipe is simple enough for a beginner with little knowledge of baking methods and techniques. Most recipes only require a handful of ingredients, and can be replicated somewhat inexpensively. If you don’t feel like making Jenny’s butter cream or doughnut holes from scratch, the recipe suggests using store-bought mixes, icings and coffee shop doughnut holes instead. Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, Fluff and Cake Mix also make an appearance.

Aside from the how-to baking basics, Jenny gives tips on styling the perfect dessert table.

Chapters are divided into the following themes:

  • Princess Tea Party
  • Ice Cream Shop
  • Shipwrecked
  • Spring Garden
  • Love is Sweet
  • Vintage baby
  • Campout
  • Fall Bounty
  • Down on the Farm
  • North Pole Bakery

I chose to make Jenny’s Cake Pops (page 20) and Strawberry Sweetheart Cookies (page 63).

I am not a baker. There is something about careful measuring and floured surfaces that scares me. Creative decorating, however, I adore. So while I am usually pretty intimidated by baking, these recipes were a breeze. Both were surprisingly easy and my baking companion and I used store-bought mix and icing to keep it simple. Jenny emphasizes that any of her basic recipes can be modified to suit your event, so we decided to mix it up and create a chocolate version of the Strawberry Sweetheart Cookies as well. It took a couple of tries to find just the right sized scoop for the cookies to bake right, but in the end we were really pleased. These cookies were definitely an acceptable macaroon substitute.

Check out our scrumptious results!

The cake pops were lovely, fun to make, and they created a lot of smiles around the office. In the end, we made dozens of goodies for under $30. This is a wonderful book, and I will be using it again.

This book is meant for:

People who like to entertain, party planners, wedding shower hostesses, and parents looking for creative activities to do with their kids. It is great for anyone that wants to see an impressive result, without a ton of effort or cost.

JenJennifer Myers Chua is an art director, Asian-food enthusiast, and all-around creative type. Obsessed with culinary pursuits and whitespace, Jennifer spends her days working as a freelance designer and contributing blogger. She spends her nights deconstructing recipes in her mostly all-white loft with her mostly all-white French bulldog. You can check out more of what she does at www.jennifermyerschua.com

 

The Hot Plate Favourite: Chicken Fried Quinoa

For our next The Hot Plate favourite recipe, Account Executive Carly Spears shares how she transformed her favourite restaurant meal into a healthy recipe. Check out the inspiration behind Carly’s Chicken Fried Quinoa recipe and then cook up a batch in your own kitchen.
“Growing up, one of my favourite meals to go out for was teppenyaki, and one of my favourite reasons why, was for the fried rice! After watching the chef make my favourite dish a number of times, I grew to remember a rough idea of the recipe and, before long, was making it at home. Knowing well that this indulgent dish was not the type of dish we should be eating too often, I started playing around with the recipe – substituting olive oil for butter and, of course, quinoa for rice! I was instantly hooked. The crunchy texture of the tri-coloured quinoa adding that extra element that was apparently missing with the white rice. Now I can eat it all of the time without feeling guilty.”
Chicken_Fried_Quinoa_001
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Serves: 4
Ingredients:
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced garlic
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 cup (250 mL) tri-colour quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 cup (250 mL) small broccoli florets, blanched
1/4 cup (60 mL) low-sodium soy sauce (approx.)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced
Directions:
1. Heat half the oil in a large, nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the eggs; season with salt and pepper. Break the yolks without scrambling with the whites. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until yolks and whites are set. Transfer to a cutting board and chop; set aside.
2. Heat the remaining oil in the pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender but not browned.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the carrot; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the quinoa, broccoli and soy sauce. Cook for 3 minutes or until heated through. Stir in the egg. Divide between 4 plates and top with sliced chicken. Serve with soy sauce.
avatar_amandaGarbutt2 Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.  


Related: 

The Dos and Don’ts of Dining Out

Restaurant Interior

Having spent the past 20 years in a kitchen, I’ve seen just about everything you could imagine when it comes to customers. There are some people who just get it and have learned the ropes when it comes to going out for a nice dinner. But many people could use a little dining help. This guideline is for them!

Chef Paul’s Dining Do’s and Don’ts:

Do: Visit a restaurant mid-week. Chances are it won’t be as busy as the weekend, and the team will have time to ensure your experience is top notch. Try to keep in mind that weekend dining is optimal for tourists!
Don’t: Visit your favourite restaurant on a Sunday or Monday. Why, you ask? Well, the reality is that the head chef and general manager are likely off that day, which means the sous-chef is at the helm of the kitchen, and he is making the most of his opportunity. The same goes for the front of house. The top salespeople are given the best shifts, leaving the part-time servers to look after customers on calmer nights.

Do: Take the time to make a reservation if you want to dine at your favourite restaurant. Chances are if the location is busy, you will require a reservation to get in. This also helps the team to properly prepare for your arrival.
Don’t: Berate or yell at the hostess when you arrive for your reservation, and still have to wait a few minutes for your table. Please understand that we allocate a certain amount of time for guests to enjoy their meal, but sometimes they end up staying longer. Unfortunately, this is not in our control and we can’t simply tell them to get up and leave. In fact, I have arrived at many great restaurants and have waited for 15 to 30 minutes because my table wasn’t ready. Some teams might even buy you a drink at the bar while you wait!

Do: Take the time to inform your server, or even the manager, when something isn’t right. Often times we are quite busy, and although we strive for greatness, we’re not perfect. If you address your concerns in a respectful way, restaurant employees will be glad to solve the problem to ensure you leave satisfied.
Don’t: Tell us everything was great to our faces, only to head home and write a scandalous review of your experience, on every public forum you can find. This tends to be the result of someone lacking in culinary knowledge or experience. I can’t tell you how many times I have read foolish reviews, like “The hollandaise sauce was just too buttery” or “$12 for fish tacos seems really expensive. I had them in Mexico and they were 3 for $1.” This stuff drives me nuts! So do everyone a favour and leave the restaurant reviews to the food critics.

Do: Make a point to tell your server of any food allergies or specific dietary concerns you may have. Professional restaurants will take these very seriously and follow the proper steps to ensure your health and safety, but keep in mind we can only share in the responsibility of your well-being. If you have an allergy of any kind we MUST know what it is in order to prevent any cross-contamination.

Don’t: Make light of dietary restrictions or allergies. I can’t tell you how many people come in to our restaurant and proclaim they have celiac disease, while they guzzle down a beer and tell me it’s okay to cook their fries in the deep fryer. If you don’t really have a dietary restriction, making light of this disease, which adversely impacts just shy of 1% of the population, only hurts their chances of being taken seriously at restaurants in the future. Furthermore, while you think eating gluten-free bread is healthier than regular bread, I have news for you; you are simply replacing one starch with other starches, which are used to make something that resembles bread. Think about low-fat dishes we find at the grocery store; the fat has simply been replaced with sugar to make it palatable, causing people to unknowingly consume more fat.

Do: Trust that the menu the chef has created is their best work. Chances are that if their name is attached, they’re proud of what’s on the menu.
Don’t: Come in to their restaurant and decide to tear apart the menu, mix and match items to create your own concoction, and then complain that the food isn’t good. Understand that chefs are a cross between an artist and an assembly line worker. The art comes from creating a dish that is truly great, and being able to recreate that same great dish over and over again. When you change a chef’s creations, you are losing out on that.

Do: Last but not least, take the time to try a restaurant out for yourself before you pass judgement. In today’s world of instant information, people are so quick to love or hate something because of what complete strangers are saying, and they overlook real gems worth trying. At the very least, rely on friends and colleagues who share similar standards and dining habits for feedback. They will likely provide a much more accurate portrayal of what to expect.
Paul Shufelt Chef Paul Shufelt is a business partner and executive chef of Century Hospitality Group. He’s competed in the Canadian Culinary Championships and Best in Chow Burger Wars, has been featured in Avenue magazine and is leading a fundraiser for the Canadian Culinary fund.

 

Related:

How to Find the Perfect Match for Your Tea

Ready to play matchmaker and find the perfect match for your tea? Experiment with your favourite loose-leaf teas at home to create brand new flavor blends! Hot or iced, mixing and matching teas is a great way to expand your tea horizons. Check out these great tea recipes combining flavours that we love from DAVIDsTEA!

Hot Tea: 

A hot tea is a deliciously warm pick-me-up for morning and noon, and a great way to relax in the evening. Blending different loose-leaf teas creates a whole new flavour experience that can cater to your busy day.

Start your day off right:

1) Blueberry MuffinBlueberry Jam (black tea) + Birthday Cake (rooibos tea)

Blueberry-Muffin

A warm, delicious treat, this tasty blend will have you thinking you are enjoying freshly baked muffins that just came out of the oven. Combining the rich flavour of black teas with the fruity freshness of herbal and rooibos is a delicious energizer. Containing pieces of real blueberries, it’s a great choice for breakfast or your mid-morning break.

Try this other “Perfect Match” from DAVIDsTEA to start your morning! 

Blueberry Pancake = Blueberry Jam + Oh Canada!

After-dinner treat:

2) White Chocolate-Dipped StrawberryRed Velvet Cake (black tea) + Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait (herbal tea)

White Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

This delicious blend of white chocolate and strawberries is a playful twist on chocolate-dipped strawberries. This deep red blend is rich and creamy and is perfect for the tea drinker with a sweet tooth.

Try these other sweet “Perfect Matches” for the dessert lover: 

Apple Pie = Forever Nuts + Big Apple 

Tiramisu = Birthday Cake + Coffee Pu’erh

Iced-Tea: 

With warmer weather approaching, it’s time to get out the ice cubes and entertain with refreshing drink ideas. Nothing evokes relaxing on the patio or by the pool more than sipping on a margarita or tangy lemonade. Concoct new takes on these classic drinks with two cocktail-inspired tea blends that are delicious with or without the spirit of your choice!

4) MargaritaLime Gelato (green tea) + Orange Blossom (rooibos tea)

margarita tea

The vibrant flavour of lime with a hit of orange blends to create this margarita-inspired beverage — hold the salt! Add a splash of tequila for an iced adult beverage.

5) Goji Berry LemonadeGoji Pop (herbal tea) + La La Lemon (black tea)

Goji Berry Lemonade

Combining sweet pink Goji Pop with tart and tangy La La Lemon creates the perfect Pink Lemonade. Spike this bright blend with some vodka and you have a great party pleaser that is sure to make all of your guests happy.

Steeping Instructions:

Mix 0.75g of your favourite tea with 0.75g of its “perfect match”

Steep in 96°C water for 4 – 7 minutes. Enjoy!

All loose-leaf teas available for individual purchase at DAVIDsTEA stores and online at DAVIDsTEA.com

 

Top Chef Canada Episode 7 Recipe: Taking the Challenge Home

poached pears

It was all castles and canapes this week on Top Chef Canada, but luckily there were no dragons (except for some scathing remarks from the judges, I suppose). Anyway, onto one of the more interesting ingredients of this past episode, mead! Unlike what Jesse mentioned in this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada, mead is not exactly ‘beer made with honey.’ It’s actually a lot closer to wine in the way that it’s produced. Nowadays, you should be able to readily find mead at most farmers’ markets in Canada and boutique liquor stores.

If you’ve never tried it, I suggest stopping what you’re doing right now (well, after you read this in its entirety, obviously) and go track a bottle down. There are a few different kinds of mead, traditional, sweet, dry and hopped. The latter, hopped, is somewhat similar to a cider, bubbly and bright but without that apple taste that can be somewhat overpowering. It’s also gluten-free, so a great alternative to any gluten-sensitive folks out there who are not loving the range of gluten-free beers that are currently available in Canada.

pears and blue cheese

Pears and blue cheese are always a winning combination, so it was no surprise that we saw Jesse take the top spot in the elimination challenge again this week. Poaching pears in the mead was a genius idea, so I was happy that I could play around with this technique as well this week!

poaching-pears

When the holidays roll around, I love poaching pears in a big pot of red wine loaded with aromatics like cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Not only are these sweet, fruity beauties delicious during the colder months with a simple creme anglaise, but the best part is that fact that after you’re done poaching your pears, you have some mulled wine (more or less) ready to be consumed.

Since I never like wasting alcohol, I’d suggest saving this mead after you’ve poached the pears, straining it to catch any bits of pear or lingering spices, cooling the remaining liquid in the fridge and having it on ice with an orange slice or two. You know, sangria-style! Yes, your deck is calling your name (and mine too)!

finished poached pears

Mead Poached Pears With Bacon And Blue Cheese

Serves: 2-3

Total cook time: 25 mins

Ingredients:

3 cups traditional mead

2 tablespoons cane sugar

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

2 bosc pears (peeled and halved)

5 strips maple smoked bacon (cooked until very crispy, loosely chopped)

? cup crumbled blue cheese

crackers (for serving)

 

Directions:

1.Place the first 4 ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.

2.Reduce to medium heat, add the pears and let poach until very tender, about 20 minutes.

3.Remove from liquid, pat dry and let sit for a few minutes to cool.

4.Slice as thinly as possible.

5.Place slices of pear onto crackers, top with crumbled blue cheese and chopped bacon.

6.Serve at room temperature.

 

Dan Clapson Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

Related:

 

 

Sweet VS Savoury: 14 Different Ways to Cook Sweet Potato

Sweet potato

 

The sweet potato craze continues to grow and it’s no wonder; they’re affordable, versatile and super-healthy! This colourful veggie is loaded with antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, and dietary fibre—all essential for good health! They also have endless culinary capabilities that extend way beyond the basic casserole dish or sweet potato fries. So what are you waiting for? Jump on the sweet potato train, and start enjoying the orange spud — morning, noon and night!

  1.  Anna’s Sweet Potato Homefries
  2.  Sweet Potato & Spinach Frittata with Fresh Sweet Onion Salsa
  3.  Sweet ‘n Spicy Breakfast Hash
  4.  Healthy Potato Skins
  5.  Sweet Potato Poutine
  6.  Sweet Potato Soup with Matchstick Fries & Frizzled Leeks
  7.  Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potato
  8.  Sweet Potato Dumplings
  9.  Sweet Potato Cakes
  10.  Braised Lamb Shank Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash
  11.  Sweet Potato Marshmallow Bake
  12.  Vegan Baked Chocolate Almond Doughnuts
  13.  Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake
  14.  Sweet Potato Pie

Related:

No Canadian Restaurant Is Too Far For You Gotta Eat Here!

John-Catucci-Hero-Image

You Gotta Eat Here, but you might as well also bowl here.

That’s one of our crew’s working philosophies as we travel this amazing country in search of great food. We bowl in every single city with an alley. It’s become an obsession of mine — though that certainly hasn’t led to an improvement in my scores. I even bought bowling shoes to help out my game (confession: they haven’t). We usually play five-pin — but on the East Coast they have candlepin bowling, which is mix of five-pin and 10-pin and way harder.

YGEH! goes out of its way to visit locations that are outside of major cities; we won’t shy away from places that are difficult to get to. We love a good road trip! This is a show about Canada and Canadian restaurants and there are tons of eateries outside of urban centres that are well worth the journey.
Everyone has their travel traditions — that favourite restaurant where they just gotta eat on the way home from the cottage or visiting their grandmother, or to stop the kids from asking, “are we there yet?” Yes kids, we’re there!
Tundra-Inn-Restaurant

The You Gotta Eat Here! episode featuring the Tundra Inn premieres tonight at 9:30ET/6:30PT.

This coming season, in Churchill, MB, we visit the Tundra Inn and Pub, where they specialize in Northern comfort food like elk pie. It’s the farthest distance we’ve travelled for the show; it took us two days to get there, but it was totally worth it.
Now, we couldn’t drive to Churchill — there aren’t any roads. You can only get there by train or plane. So you can imagine how pleased everyone on the plane was to hear my very special version of “I’ll Be There for You.” We were there in the summer, beluga whale season, which is followed by polar bear season — so if we had stuck around, maybe we would have gone from ordering off a menu to being on the menu. Seriously, they’ll eat you.
Elk-Meatloaf

Get the recipe here for the elk meatloaf from the Tundra Inn & Pub in Churchill, MB!

In Kimberley, B.C., you’ll see us visit the The Peddle and Tap. Kimberly is an Alpine mountain town in the Kootenays. It takes forever to get to because the roads wind all the way around the mountains. The restaurant is bicycle-themed and I got to ride a really old school tricycle. Also, I’m not very good at riding old school tricycles. I am good at eating pasta and these guys make Meat and Spaghetti Balls. That’s right. They make balls out of the pasta, toss them with cheese and then deep fry them. Delicious!

Hey John, has anything weird happened to you on the road? Funny you should ask, Reader. Why yes it has.

We almost hit a moose during Season 1 in Cape Breton, NB. We had been told by the locals to be wary of moose in the area. And we were like, pffft, okay… We were on the highway going back from the restaurant to hotel, and we were coming around this bend, and we saw a set of lights coming towards us. We quickly made the realization that the car ahead had actually just stopped. For a moose. When we did the same, the moose came up to the passenger’s side and tried to jump the roadway railing. It screwed up and jumped on our car a little bit and then found its path. Everyone basically peed their pants. But I got the last laugh the next season when I ate a Pulled Moose Sandwich at Chafe’s Landing in Petty Harbour, Nfld. Point: Catucci.

Cod-Cakes

Get the recipe for Codfish Cakes from Chafe’s Landing here

When you’re on the East Coast and you get to these small fishing villages like Lunenburg, NS, it looks like a postcard. And if you haven’t seen Tofino, you’re basically going to pee your pants it’s so pretty. There’s just nothing else in Canada that looks like it. It’s perfect!
Magnolias-Grill

Working up an appetite outside of Magnolia’s Grill in beautiful Lunenburg, NS! Get the delicious lobster linguini recipe from Magnolia’s Grill here. (Yum!)

Many Canadians don’t really get to see much of the country, but it truly has been one of the perks of this gig — despite the long hours away from home. As a comedian, I’d visited major cities like Vancouver — but never had the chance to drive around and tour the countryside. This country is gorgeous, and it’s so vast that you kind of forget how many different looks it has!
Old-Crow-Cafe

We’ve learned that no distance is too far for a great meal. Take The Old Crow Café in Gabriola Island, B.C., where we visited in Season 3. Getting there was a full-day trek from Vancouver. We took the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, then drove up to Courtenay, and finally took another ferry over to Gabriola. But it was all worth it for a taste of Chef Darrin Boyko’s Halibut Togarashi Tacos.

Is your mouth watering yet? How far would you go for great food? In this country, you’ll never run out options as long as you stay clear of moose!

Be sure to catch up on episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! 

This is an abridged version of a blog post that originally appeared in The Huffington Post Canada. To read John Catucci’s full post go here.

 

Related:
Watch YGEH! visit Chafe’s Landing restaurant in St. John’s, NL.
Watch YGEH! visit the Magnolia’s Grill in Lunenburg, NS.
Watch YGEH! visit the Wildside Grill in Tofino, BC.

When to Import and When to Buy Local

“Where does that come from?” has become the most asked question by our guests at Marben (aside from, “Uh, excuse me, where are your washrooms?”). “Does your beef come from Ontario? Where do you buy your trout? Is that cheese Canadian?”

Ten years ago, maybe even five years ago, those questions were almost unheard of—so why now, all of a sudden, the interest in where things come from?

We have all become much more educated on the subject of provenance, the importance of understanding what you are ingesting and the impact it has locally and globally.  The premise is a simple one: buy ingredients close to home and in season. If you do that, in theory, it will be fresher, tastier, environmentally friendly, and you will be putting money into the pockets of someone in your community trying to put a kid through university, rather than into the pockets of a CEO buying another yacht.

At Marben, we use only the best quality ingredients available to us. The vast majority of those ingredients are locally sourced, but to be honest, that is by default. That means we look first at the quality of the ingredient and secondly at where it comes from. I don’t believe in using an ingredient just because it is local; local ingredients can be amazing ingredients, but not all local ingredients are great ingredients.

We buy rainbow trout from Kolapore Springs in Collingwood, cheese from Monteforte in Niagara, and beef from McGee farms in Sterling, Ontario, because they are the best ingredients that we can source, and also because they are local.

We do import a few key ingredients that, in my humble opinion, you just can’t replace with local ingredients. Things like; Spanish Iberico ham, salt-cured anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea, Parmesan cheese, saffron and olive oil.  I don’t believe that anyone in Canada has been able to make ham like the Spanish… yet. So we buy Spanish ham. Olive trees just don’t grow in the diverse climate of Canada, so we import fine olive oil from Italy or Spain.

Spanish ham, I think, is a perfect example of when to import. There are plenty of great charcuterie producers in Canada; prosciutto-style hams are made right here, in our own backyard. But Iberico ham really is something different—something special that only the Spanish make.

 

Here is a very quick rundown of Spanish ham:
Jamon means ham in Spanish, and Jamon Serrano or Jamon Iberico means Serrano ham or Iberico ham. Serrano and Iberico are breeds of Spanish pigs, and in Ontario, for example, you will often hear of Berkshire or Duroc pigs, which are the names given to those specific breeds of pig.

To put it simply, Iberico ham is the king, and Serrano the queen of Spanish ham. Iberico is in many ways comparable to Kobe beef in Japan, a prized breed that is fed and cared for with the utmost respect. They are also animals that naturally provide very evenly marbled meat, which results in an incredibly juicy, tender and full flavour.

Iberico ham is so valued because in Spain, it is state law that they must be allowed to roam free in the ‘dehesa’ plains, eating acorns to make up at least 70% of their body fat. This imparts an almost indescribable nutty taste and silky smooth texture. Iberico ham is typically aged 12-36 months, giving it a firm texture and intense flavour. Unfortunately, like Kobe beef, Iberico ham is very expensive, but is worth every penny.

 

Check out these decadent and daring recipes!

 

Tequila Cones

Tequila Ceviche Cones

Iberico Ham

Iberico Ham with Tomato-Rubbed Cristal Bread

Manchego Batter

Manchego Cheesecake Batter

 

Bob Bragagnolo Rob Bragagnolo is the executive  chef at Marben Restaurant in downtown Toronto. Rob, a native Torontonian, lived and cooked in Spain for over a decade, and is co-proprietor of Marc Fosh Restaurants in Palma de Mallorca.

 

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Fresh Start: 6 New Ways to Eat Soup

new ways to eat soup

This past winter has a been a long and treacherous road, and most of us are ready to put it behind us. Thankfully, spring is around the corner and we can all find solace in the fact that the weather will be changing, our attitudes will be altering with it, and we’ll be able to put those winter jackets away.

But, one thing we won’t have to put away is our spoons! We here at The Burnt Tongue know that soup can be served all year round and can be exciting and fresh enough to parallel mother nature’s new approach to weather. Below we have listed different ideas to keep soup fresh and relevant throughout spring, including 6 of our own recipes!

 

Meat-turned-veggie soups: 

Split Pea and Ginger Soup Recipe 

Vegetarian Chili Recipe 

 

Gazpacho:

Fruity Gazpacho Recipe 

Andalusian Gazpacho Recipe 

 

Dessert Soups:

Chilled Hungarian Cherry Soup Recipe 

Chilled Peach Soup with Basil 

 

You can also remix your favourite classic soups!

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup: Even if you have made something a million times, there is always a way to spice things up. Our absolute favourite swap out for noodles in classic chicken noodle soup is tortellini! If we are feeling something a little more lively and aromatic, we give our chicken soup a bit of a Thai twist by swapping out classic herbs with cilantro, adding some heat and possibly coconut milk!

Classic Tomato: This is another one of those soups that we’ve eaten and made a number of times. Our new favourite way to eat tomato soup in the spring is to add a citrus twist to it by adding some orange into the mix. The lively citrus flavour gives this classic soup a perfect twist for the spring weather.

 

 

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14 Dishes You Can Indulge in After Passover

Smores Brownies

Passover has come and gone…and so have the strict dietary restrictions! If you’ve been longing for some gluten-filled goodness, then we have the perfect dishes to feed your cravings.

Here is a list of the most irresistible dishes you can enjoy again!

1. Smores Brownies
2. Mini Croissants
3. French Toast Sticks
4. Eggs Benedict
5. Cheesy Quesadillas
6. Banana Bread
7. Three Cheese Pasta Bake
8. Bruschetta Pizza
9. The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich
10. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
11. French Onion and Mushroom Soup with Mozzarella Gratin
12. Spaghetti With Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
13 New York Style Cheesecake
14. Beef and Vegetable Pot Pies

7 Vegetarian Alternatives to Your Favourite Fast Foods

vegetarian fast food alternatives

We’re not going to sit here and tell you that fast food doesn’t taste good and you should never crave it. That’s just not true. Fast food is delicious. And fast! (Go figure.) However, we want to help you take a healthy approach to your favourite fast foods so that you feel as good as that burger tastes. Whether you’re already living the meat-free life or not, it’s always good to incorporate different protein sources into your diet, like beans and tofu. So put down that takeout menu and check out these 7 delicious vegetarian alternatives to your favourite fast foods.

1. Vegetarian Chili Recipe

2. Vegetarian Burgers Recipe

3. Curried Vegetarian Stew Recipe

4. Vegetable Pad Thai Recipe

5. General Tso Tofu Recipe

6. Bean Burritos with Spanish Rice Recipe

7. Portobello Mushroom and Canadian Swiss Pizza Recipe 

 

Roasted Mushroom Toasts from The Hot Plate

Roasted-Mushroom-Toast-019-web

Embrace all varieties of fresh spring mushrooms with our Roasted Mushroom Toasts. The simplicity of this recipe allows the natural, earthy flavours of the mushrooms to shine through.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:1 lb (500 g) mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, button and shiitake, halved
2 king oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp (30 mL) canola oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, melted
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, halved
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley
4 slices rustic bread
1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded Gruyere cheese
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Toss the mushrooms with the oil, butter, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on 2 large baking sheets. Bake, stirring and rotating the pans once, for 20 to 25 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned and tender. Discard the thyme and stir in the parsley.
2. Adjust the oven to broil. Toast the bread for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden. Spoon the mushrooms over the toasts and top with cheese. Broil for 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients. 

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Popcorn Toppings for Rainy Game Nights

games-night-main

Who ever said April Showers were a bad thing? We’re taking advantage of those gloomy days when you don’t want to leave your cozy home with a good old-fashioned games night with your besties.

With a theme of rum and coke and gourmet popcorn, we’re revealing three amazing and easy ways to make your own popcorn toppings on a budget. From savoury herbs and garlic to sweet chocolate and caramel, these flavors are bound to satisfy those taste buds.

Now let the games begin!

 popcorn toppings game night
 1. Herb and Garlic Popcorn
Ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tsp. herbes de Provence
2 garlic cloves, chopped in half
½ tsp. sea salt
Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan on low heat, mix the oil, herbes de Provence and garlic, for about three minutes. Remove pan from stove, and prepare popcorn.
  2. Remove and discard garlic gloves from mixture, and pour it over the hot popcorn, shaking the bowl to mix as you go. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.
renee-headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin. 

Top 10 Hollandaise Recipes

Hollandaise Sauce

Making hollandaise sauce from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but it’s well worth the extra elbow grease. There are endless variations of this wonderfully rich and buttery topping, and plenty of ways to use it. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there is definitely a hollandaise out there for you!

  1.  Classic Hollandaise Sauce
  2.  Truffled Poached Eggs with Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus, Mimosa Vinaigrette Hollandaise
  3.  Pan Seared Salmon with Pink Shrimp Hollandaise
  4.  Sausage and Apple Stuffing Benny
  5.  Artichokes with Brown Butter Hollandaise
  6.  Lobster Eggs Benedict
  7.  Asparagus with Rhubarb Hollandaise
  8.  Sausage and Apple Stuffing Benny
  9.  Rib Steak and Asparagus
  10.  Pan Seared Salmon with Pink Shrimp Hollandaise

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What Does Your Favourite Dip Say About You?

dip recipes

Over here at Food Network Canada, we’re firm believers that a party without an assortment of dips, is simply not a party worth attending. If you’ve found your way to the miraculous dip table and are scanning your options, the one(s) you choose may be saying something about your party personality.

 

Hummus: Over the past couple of years, this Middle Eastern staple appetizer has really exploded in popularity. What does this mean for you if this chickpea dip is your top choice? It means that you’re delightfully trendy and chic, of course. Now fix your in-season accessories and head back onto the dance floor.

Guacamole: You’re sensible, reliable and fiercely loyal. Your friends can always count on you for everything from a ride to the airport to a ride home from the police station. Let your hair down and have some fun! Guacamole is a great start.

Salsa: Oh, good; you’re here! Now the party can get started! From mild to super-spicy, you like to keep people guessing. Hanging out with you is always a wild ride, and your friends wouldn’t have it any other way!

Spinach Dip: This hearty dip is as classic as you are. You have an affinity for all things traditional and comforting, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Your ideal night is a quiet night in with a movie and close friends.

Crab Dip: You better hope everyone at that party is ready to get as wild and crazy as you are, because that’s just your thing. You love hopping from bar to bar in search of a good time, and who can blame you? You’re a hard-working perfectionist during the week and deserve to have some fun!

 

 

 

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Chopped Canada Mystery Solved: How to Cook with Lavender

Lavendar

Whether it was the package of cupcakes to be used in the entree round, or the Parmesan that popped up for dessert, Chopped Canada this week had no shortage of awkward items that were to be used. Out of all of the ingredients that were pulled out of the baskets, I opted for one that I see chefs on television shows fail with most often: lavender.

When used lightly, lavender can add a beautiful, floral sort of sweetness to dishes. However, when it’s overused it can taste like an old woman’s perfume. Even twice on this season’s Top Chef Canada, we’ve seen chefs make unsuccessful dishes with lavender. Recently, I saw it used in a chicken pot pie on a restaurant menu. Now, I can’t speak to the taste of this as I didn’t order it, but that is one combination I will likely never try at home!

We’re going to keep things simple here because these little dried flowers can be extremely powerful. First – a simple syrup. If you like to mix your own cocktails at home, this is a perfect way to start experimenting with lavender, especially when it comes to gin or vodka and soda-based beverages. The great thing about playing with a simple syrup is that you can adjust it to your tastes, adding more or less as you see fit.
Iced-tea-Lavendar-Syrup
Here, I’ve added the simple syrup to a homemade iced tea, but toss an ounce (or two) of vodka into the mix and a splash of soda and you’ve got yourself the perfect patio drink now that it’s finally warming up out there!

For dessert, I made a cream that’s been infused with lavender. Again, since the temperature’s rising, this combination of macerated berries and fragrant, airy cream makes for an ideal spring or summer dessert. Try using this lavender chantilly cream to top citrus-forward desserts like lemon tarts or key lime pie.
Strawberries-Lavendar-Cream

Lavender Simple Syrup

Yields: 1 cup
Total cook time: 6 minutes

 

Simple syrup ingredients:

1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar
2 teaspoons dried lavender

 

Simple syrup directions:
1.    Place all ingredients in a small pan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
2.    Stir until sugar has completely dissolved.
3.    Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
4.    Pour through a fine mesh strainer and keep cool in the refrigerator to use as desired.

Lemon Lavender Iced Tea

Yields: 4- 6 servings

 

Iced tea ingredients:
6 cups steeped and cooled black tea (like Orange Pekoe or Assam)
? cup lavender simple syrup, more or less to taste
4 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Iced tea directions:
1.    Place all ingredients in a pitcher and stir to combine.
2.    Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

 

Macerated Strawberries and Lavender Chantilly Cream

Yields: 4-6 servings

Prep time: 1 hour

 

Strawberries and cream ingredients:
3 cups strawberries, quartered with tops trimmed
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 teaspoon vanilla
? cup icing sugar

Strawberries and cream directions:
1.    Place first three ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to combine.
2.    Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using. (Use within 1 day of preparing.)
3.    Place cream and lavender in a small pot and heat on stove on medium heat until cream begins to steam, but is not boiling.
4.    Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
5.    Pour through a fine mesh strainer and place in the refrigerator until completely cooled, about 45 minutes.
6.    Pour once more through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, add vanilla and icing sugar and whip using a whisk or a hand mixer until peaks form.
7.    Chill cream in the fridge until ready to serve.

8.    To serve: place several generous spoonfuls of cream into a small bowl and top with macerated berries.

 

Related:
Watch Chopped Canada Episode 16: For the Love of Cod
Read Chopped Canada Mystery Solved: How to Cook with Dragon Fruit