spring galette

Say ‘Goodbye’ to Winter with These 5 Springtime Galettes

After a long winter of root veggies, we can’t help but get excited over the beautiful bounty of spring produce nature brings. Asparagus, rhubarb and fresh peas are among the first delights of the season, and that’s a delicious reason to celebrate!

You don’t need to make an elaborate meal to harness the goodness of these spring flavours. A simple galette is an easy and excellent way to make the most of spring. These five, no-fuss recipes will have you and your guests overjoyed to officially say ‘goodbye’ to winter.

Spring pea and leek galette

For The Pastry:

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp or more cold water

Directions:
1. In a food processor, mix flours, salt and sugar. Add in butter and pulse until butter is evenly dispersed into pea-size pieces. Add vinegar and pulse. Run the food processor as you add water 1 tsp at a time through the spout on the top. Dough will come together into a smooth ball.
2. Roll out on a floured surface until dough is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Refer to recipes below for shape.

Leek, Pea and Egg Galette:
Chop 3 leeks into 1/2-inch rounds. Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a large pan. Cook leeks in pan with 1/2 tsp of salt until fragrant but not soft, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Roll out dough into a 12 inch circle. Toss leeks with 1/2 cup freshly shucked peas. Place mixture in the centre of dough leaving a 3-inch border from the edge. Create a 3 inch divot in the center of the mixture. Crack an egg inside the divot. Fold the edges over mixture and brush pastry with heavy cream. Sprinkle fresh thyme and ground pepper over pastry, egg and leeks. Bake on a lined sheet tray in a 400°F oven until pastry is golden brown, about 35 minutes.

spring--asparagus-tart

Asparagus and Lemony Ricotta Galette
Trim 1lb of asparagus and blanch. Roll dough into a 12×8-inch oval. Mix 1 cup of extra smooth ricotta with 1 tsp of lemon zest. Spread mixture into centre of dough leaving a 3-inch border around the edge. Toss blanched asparagus with 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus spears side by side over ricotta. Fold over edges of dough and brush with heavy cream. Sprinkle 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese over pastry and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Bake on a lined sheet tray in a 400°F oven until asparagus is bright green and pastry is golden, about 35 minutes.

Fig and orange galette

Fig and Orange Marmalade Galette
Roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Quarter 3 cups of black mission figs. Microwave 1/4 cup of orange marmalade for 20 seconds. Gently toss figs in marmalade to coat and place in the centre of the circle, 3 inches from the edge. Fold over edges of dough onto figs. Brush dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of turbinado sugar. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in a 400°F until pastry is golden, about 35 minutes.

strawberry rhubarb galette

Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Galette
Roll out dough into a 12-inch circle. Mix 1 cup of quartered strawberries with 2 cups of sliced rhubarb, 3 Tbsp granulated sugar, 1/4 cup almond flour, 1 Tbsp of corn starch, and 1/2 tsp salt. Place mixture in the centre of dough leaving a 3-inch border around the edge. Fold over edges and brush with heavy cream. Sprinkle 3 Tbsp sliced hazelnuts over pastry and filling. Bake in a 400°F oven on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment until pastry is golden, about 35 minutes.

pear-galette

Pear, Lavender and Black Pepper Galette
Slice 3 small ripe pears in half. Remove core with a spoon then place pears cut side down on surface. Slice the pear halves vertically being careful to leave the top 1 inch uncut. Roll out pastry into a 12-inch circle. Place pear halves cut side down in the centre of the dough.
Press on pear halves gently until they fan out. Brush 1 Tbsp of melted butter over pears then drizzle 2 Tbsp of honey. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of lavender and season with black pepper. Fold over edges of dough and brush with heavy cream. Bake in a 400°F oven until pastry is golden, about 35 minutes.

Looking for more spring dishes? Try our 40 Fantastic Spring Cake Recipes.

Schwartzs Deli-Smoked-Meat-montreal

The Delicious History of Montreal Smoked Meat

What better way to get a taste of Canadian history than by sinking your teeth into a Montreal-style smoked meat sandwich?

In case you’re a first-timer, Montreal smoked meat — or viande fumée — is a cross between corned beef and pastrami, and typically served on rye bread smothered in zesty mustard. Developed by Jewish delis in Montreal and influenced by New York City’s pastrami, this succulent sandwich is traditionally made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices. Smoky and savoury with a peppery zing, it’s no wonder this meaty delicacy has been popular since the early 1900s.

Montreal Smoked Meat

But like any legendary dish, the origins of Montreal smoked meat are fuzzy and hotly debated among food historians. Some credit Benjamin Kravitz, founder of the famed Bens De Luxe Delicatessen and Restaurant that opened in 1908 (and closed in 2006), for introducing smoked meat to Montreal. After fleeing Lithuania in 1899, Kravitz and his wife, Fanny Schwartz, started serving smoked-meat sandwiches from their fruit and candy shop, using an old family brisket-curing recipe. By the early 1960s, the deli was open 22 hours a day and serving almost 8,000 peckish patrons a day, including big names like Leonard Cohen, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Bette Midler, and René Lévesque.

Others say that Reuben Schwartz put Montreal-style smoked meat on the map. A Jewish immigrant from Romania, he was the original founder of the iconic Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen. Considered the oldest deli in Canada, this legendary hot spot has been serving preservative-free brisket braised in fine herbs and spices since 1928 and is practically a city landmark.

However, Eiran Harris, the Archivist Emeritus of the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, believes neither can claim credit for introducing Montreal-style smoked meat to the city. According to this sandwich sleuth, the origins are much more complex.

“The actual genesis was the arrival in 1884 of Aaron Sanft from Yassi, Romania,” Harris said in a 2009 interview. “He became Montreal’s first kosher butcher. Although I don’t know the exact year he introduced [the dish], I do know that he was the first to advertise it.”

In 1894, a full-page advert in a Jewish newspaper proclaimed: “A. Sanft Kosher Meat — 560 Craig Street, Montreal’s largest butcher shop, clean and fresh meat daily. Manufacturer of salami, smoked meat, corned beef, smoked beef and sausages. Same quality as New York. Guaranteed not to spoil.”

By the turn of the 20th century, it wasn’t the only delicatessen in town selling smoked meat. Competition was fierce, with numerous purveyors advertising the “kosherest” smoked meat in the Jewish newspaper. From his research, Harris believes it was a New Yorker, Hyman Rees, who opened Montreal’s first “real, sit-down delicatessen restaurant.”

Montreal Smoked Meat

“On May 9th, 1908, he opened the British-American Delicatessen Store on St. Lawrence Boulevard,” says Harris. “The 5 cent smoked meat sandwich caused long lineups around the corner to Ontario Street. Customers were encouraged to vacate their seats as soon as they consumed their meals in order to make room for hungry patrons waiting in line.”

Ultimately, no one knows for sure who “officially” introduced Montreal smoked meat, but the experts can agree on one thing: the dish is likely Romanian and Jewish in origin. It takes a little time-travel across the pond to trace the recipe’s roots.

“Historians believe that modern day smoked meat originated in Turkey and was brought to Romania by invading Turkish armies,” says Harris. “Romanian Jewish butchers improved the curing process, resulting in an exquisitely tender delicacy.”

But what makes Montreal-style smoked meat so special? Pastrami was first popularized in New York City’s Jewish delis in the early 1900s, and this type of kosher-style deli meat eventually made its way to the Great White North with waves of immigration. However, smoked meat in Montreal eventually developed its own flavour, and according to Harris, it all boils down to how the meat is cooked.

“Traditionally, the dry curing process commenced with salt and spices being rubbed on the surfaces of briskets,” says Harris. “They were then piled into wooden barrels, where they remained marinating in their own juices for a period of 12 to 20 days, depending on the thicknesses, and being turned over a couple of times.”

Afterwards, the cured briskets were hung up on racks inside a smokehouse and cooked for six to nine hours depending on brisket size. As Harris says, this dry cooking technique “resulted in the unique quality and flavour of Montreal-style smoked meat.”

In contrast, Harris believes the “need for speed” influenced the American-style cooking tradition. Some purveyors used the “wet cure,” whereby briskets were rubbed with spices and soaked for only four days in a brine-filled barrel of nitrate and water. Another technique involved “heated smoked meat” — cooked briskets that were steamed for just three hours prior to being sliced and served to order.

Schwartz's Deli

Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen in Montreal.

Since New York City’s cuts were considered superior in the early to mid-1900s, it took a bit for patrons to work up an appetite for the Montreal-style smoked meat. In the 1930s, Schwartz’s played a big role in popularizing the dish with their succulent 13 cent sandwiches, attracting hungry hordes and leading other delis to pop up across the city after the 1950s.

Today, the feeding frenzy continues in countless delis across Montreal. Aside from the legendary Schwartz’s, get your fix at Lester’s Deli, a family-run “smoked meat institution” for deli lovers, or mosey over to Reuben’s Deli and Steakhouse for a Famous Super Sandwich — a 10-ounce sandwich piled sky high on rye bread with mustard. But make sure to pull up a stool at Wilensky’s, a hole in the wall hangout since 1932. Rumour has it that Anthony Bourdain loves this joint, and a must try is their “Wilensky Special” — a grilled beef salami and beef bologna sandwich with “compulsory” mustard.

If you’re overwhelmed by the endless delis in Montreal, take a food tour with Fitz and Fowell Co. Over a half day, you’ll get a crash course in the history of Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches, as well as get to sample the best of the bunch. If you still have stomach space, take away some Montreal smoked meat from a local deli and build your own sandwich at home with this recipe from Christine Cushing. Or for something different, try making this tangy Montreal Smoked Meat Pizza or Smoked Meat Poutine!

Iron Chefs Reveal Their Secrets to Winning in Kitchen Stadium

When seven chefs enter Kitchen Stadium to earn the chance to cook against three Iron Chefs in the new series, Iron Chef Gauntlet, they will need focus, good time management and solid flavours in their dishes.  So say the chefs the competitors will have to topple in order to earn the Iron Chef title.

Iron-Chef-Gauntlet-Competitors-Group
A new generation of Iron Chef hopefuls enters Kitchen Stadium in the new series. Find out who they are here.

Iron Chef Gauntlet – airing Sundays at 9 E/P – features seven superstar chefs competing first against each other in Kitchen Stadium, until one is left to face off in separate battles against Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon for a chance to earn the right to be called an Iron Chef.

Iron-Chef-Gauntlet-Flay-Simon-Morimoto-Kitchen-Stadium
Iron Chefs Flay, Morimoto and Symon getting ready to battle in the Gauntlet.

The competition will be fierce; the trio of Iron Chefs have a combined 103 wins in Kitchen Stadium. Through all those battles on both Iron Chef America and, for Morimoto, on the original Japanese show, the three have learned a thing or two about how to come out on top.

Iron-Chef-America-S10-Symon-Battle-Octopus
Michael Symon competing in an octopus battle in Iron Chef America Season 10. 

“The last five minutes goes really quick,” says Michael Symon, who holds the highest rate of wins compared to his fellow Iron Chefs, with 34 first-place finishes out of 42. “Don’t underestimate how quickly it goes, and start getting your food on the plate as quickly as you can.”

Symon understands what it’s like to be on the other side of Kitchen Stadium; on his first appearance on the show, back in 2005, he lost to Morimoto who created a series of stunning dishes featuring asparagus, including his signature ‘stained glass’ sushi.

He advises competitors to rely on their cooking strengths.

“Cook the food that got you here,” he adds. “Not the food that you think someone else wants you to cook.”

Iron-Chef-America-Flay-vs-Hughes
One of Flay’s losses was to challenger Chuck Hughes in a battle using lobster.

Flay, who was been triumphant 43 times out of 60, echoes Symon’s advice about not venturing too far out of the culinary box.

“Do something that is simple,” is his advice. “Something really well-executed is important, [because] these judges know what they’re tasting. So, taste, taste, taste.”

Morimoto may have the longest history with the Iron Chef show, but he keeps his advice succinct. “Focus,” says the chef who has won 26 times in his 44 appearances. “Don’t have too much focus and forget about normal potential.”

Iron-Chef-America-S10-Morimoto-Paiche-Fish-Battle
In Iron Chef America season 10, Morimoto battles with the secret ingredient paiche fish.

No matter how well they manage their time is or how focused a chef is on presentation and creativity, ultimately it all comes down to the flavours of the dishes.

“Make sure you have a contrast of textures and then some surprises as they’re eating it,” says Flay.

Symon points out that because it’s a competition, the judges are faced with eating a number of dishes and competitors will be smart to keep that in mind.

“Keep your flavours very simple and clean, but remember that the judges are only going to take probably one or two bites of your dish, so … you can’t cook subtly,” says Symon. “I think you have to have nice, poppy flavours that are going to excite the judges with one bite.”

Host Alton Brown takes you behind-the-scenes of Iron Chef Gauntlet:

 

How to Make a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Meat Pie

In a challenge that came down to pie vs. pie in Top Chef Canada All-Stars Episode 4, the winners were most definitely the judges, who were treated to some seriously stunning dishes. Both Nicole Gomes and Connie DeSousa whipped up meat pie creations for the elimination round that challenged chefs to get inspired by cities across the country; their efforts put them both into the top three for the night.

TCC-Episode-4-Nicole-Meat-Pie-with-Bacon-Duck-Veal
Nicole’s Montreal-inspired meat pie with bacon, duck, veal, trumpet mushrooms and albufera sauce.

“Holy smokes, this is the best meat pie I’ve ever had in my life,” guest judge Chef Lynn Crawford said after tucking into Gomes’ indulgent, Montreal-inspired, triple-meat pie.

Connie DeSousa’s rustic hunter’s pie, inspired by St John’s, Newfoundland, had a whimsical presentation and judges couldn’t stop raving about the bone marrow chimney. Months later, resident judge Chris Nuttall-Smith can still recall the details and the flavours of it.

“That, to me, was an example of a chef at the top of her game, making beautiful food that people can’t help themselves from eating almost compulsively,” he said. “I could have just eaten the whole thing.”

TCC-Episode-4-Connie-Hunters-meat-pie-2
Connie’s St. John’s-inspired hunter’s meat pie with bone marrow and roasted root vegetables.

Both chefs found the formula for a compliment-earning, crave-worthy pie: a good, flaky crust; tender, well-seasoned meat; and a rich sauce.

Making a Top Chef Canada: All-Stars-worthy pie can be done by keeping a few simple tips and tricks in mind. First, though, let’s talk about the main types of meat pies.  A standard meat pie typically features flaky pastry above and below, encasing tender pieces of meat, a gravy-like sauce and some vegetables for colour and flavour.

Traditional-Tourtiere
Try this recipe for a classic tourtière.

The Québec classic tourtière has a pastry crust, but is made from ground meat, warmingly flavoured with allspice, cloves or cinnamon and without much sauce to speak of.

Ina-garten-Chicken-Pot-PieIna Garten’s chicken pot pie has moist chicken in a rich sauce and is topped with a tender, flaky crust.

Pot pies, typically reserved for chicken, only get pastry (puff or otherwise) lids, while shepherd’s pie foregoes pastry altogether in favour of fluffy mashed potatoes dolloped atop and then baked until the edges are crisply golden. (Technically, most people serving this dish are making cottage pie, which is made from beef, instead of shepherd’s pie that is traditionally made with lamb or mutton.)

Crust:
It’s no secret that the key to a flaky dough is having a light touch; overworking the pastry will only lead to a tough crust.

A simple trick is to freeze the butter and grate it, right into the flour mixture, on the large holes of a box grater for evenly-sized pieces. You can also blitz the two together using a food processor — just make sure not to over process! The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.

Watch this video to see how to blend the flour, butter and water in a food process to make the pastry.

Add the minimum amount of liquid and tumble it all onto the counter to press together the loose chunks to form the dough. Work quickly to keep everything cold and give the pastry a chance to chill out in the fridge before rolling out and using. Try Ina Garten’s recipe for the perfect pie crust.

Anna Olson makes her meat pies with a savoury pastry that uses cake and pastry flour, and room temperature butter to form a crust that’s sturdy enough to stand up to the filling, but still tender. For her pastry, she recommends using a mixer as opposed to a food processor. Get Anna Olson’s pie crust recipe here

Filling:
The filling needs to be rich and, well, meaty. Unlike many fruit pies where the filling is just tumbled into the crust, covered and thrown into the oven, meat pie fillings are usually cooked in a separate pot or pan before being encased in pastry and baked. This is a great way to build flavour and ensure the meat is cooked before going into the pie.

Good fillings have some sauciness to them, but they shouldn’t be overly runny; cooking it off first helps get that thick, gravy-like consistency.

Rocket-Bakery-lamb-stout-pie-2A mirepoix of aromatic vegetables add flavour to a sauce made of beef stock and stout in this Lamb and Stout Pie.

For pies with bottom crusts, it’s key to let the filling cool before baking the pie, so a little organization will be necessary. That’s less of an issue for pot pies since a hot filling has no bottom crust to cook too quickly, nor for shepherd’s or cottage pies because there’s no pastry to begin with.

Presentation:
Save the lattice tops for fruit pies; you’ll want a fairly solid pastry lid to keep all that delicious meaty filling inside.

However, you’ll want to give the steam a chance to escape, so make cuts into the top crust or throw in a pie bird or chimney. You can certainly get creative with how you slash.

TCC-Episode-4-Connie-Hunters-meat-pie-close-up
A close up of Connie’s pastry decorations on her meat pie.

Connie decorated her chubby little pies with small pastry leaves, which were both pretty and evocative of the woods where hunters would gather game. Pretty pastry decorations are also a great way to use up any last scraps of dough.

Even if pastry isn’t the starch of choice, using the tines of the fork to create patterns in the mashed potato topping of a shepherd’s pie can be beautiful. The peaks of those striations will get deeply golden brown and stand out nicely when served.

Here are some more recipes to get you started on your efforts to make a Top Chef Canada-worthy pie:
Puff-Topped Spiced Pork and Apple Pot Pie
Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie
Chuck Hughes’s Tourtiere
Mini Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pies
Mexican Beef Pie with Cheddar Crust
Tomato Slab Pie

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 4 Recap

There have been more than few epic bromances in our time. Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles. But after watching the most recent edition of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, we’d like to add Curtis Luk and Trevor Bird to that list.

Because this is a competition and all, it’s easy to forget that many of these contestants are actually friends in real life. So it escaped our memories that Curtis and Trevor not only both competed in the second season of Top Chef Canada, but that they also worked together afterwards to open Trevor’s Fable restaurant in Vancouver.

Top-Chef-Canada-Season-2-Episode-6
Season 2, Episode 6: No one looks this happy at judges table unless they had the best dishes.

So when the pair found themselves on the bottom of the competition after last week’s Middle Eastern Feast, they took their “Walk of Shame” back into the Monogram Kitchen in a friendly fashion. So naturally we felt torn as to whether we should hug them or fist bump them; either way watching the chefs band together like that made us really, really want them to do well in this week’s Quickfire Challenge.

Luckily, the duo proved the culinary powers of bromances are actually a real thing, and they did exactly that. Tired of being on the bottom, the guys buckled in and sucked up the night’s Quickfire challenge better than most: create a memorable brunch.

You see, as anyone who knows a chef in their life can attest, chefs hate (or in Trista’s words “f—ing hates”) the brunch shift. It can be repetitive, stressful and involves getting up at a ridiculous hour like 4:30 a.m. in order to serve it. It’s basically the hell of all shifts for chefs, and so when host Eden Grinshpan announced that she and Brunch Queen, guest judge Maneet Chauhan, wanted the contestants to create an ultimate brunch dish utilizing a Braun multiquick hand blender… well let’s just say it looked like a few of them wanted to knock back a few non-celebratory mimosas first.

TCC-Episode-4-Maneet-Chauhan
Maneet Chauhan advising the chefs of the theme of the Quickfire Challenge.

Trista, who went into the whole thing with a self-professed negative attitude, attempted an updated Croque Monsieur with smoked salmon and béchamel that Chauhan thought tasted gummy, and it landed her at the bottom of the pack. Dennis, meanwhile, fulfilled the creative part of the challenge with his Filipino brunch of European bass and garlic rice, but an overly grilled fish was less than desirable to the judges. As for Jesse’s potato pancakes? Well there was just way too much going on with that plate, which meant he rounded out the bottom three.


Be careful not to get a contact buzz, Trevor.

And that brings us back to our boys of the kitchen, Trevor and Curtis. The former really impressed us by smoking his own salmon on the coolest looking hot-box inspired smoker we’ve ever seen. His resulting Salmon Pancakes were a true highlight, elevated even further by the picked shallots and horseradish crème fraîche. Meanwhile Curtis made the most mouthwatering-sounding Shrimp and Grits, which were topped with a perfectly poached egg crusted in cornmeal. Please. Get. In. Our. Bellies.

Unfortunately for the guys but fortunately for Nicole, it was her riff on Pain Perdu with decadent almond croissants and cheesy duck eggs that made her the ultimate winner for a second week in a row. That meant she not only lucked out with immunity in the Elimination Challenge, but she also nabbed $2,000 from Braun and a De’Longhi Automatic Espresso Machine. Maybe Nicole can use it the next time she’s got to get up early for brunch.

For now she’s pumped up enough, it seems. Heading into the Elimination Challenge, the chefs were asked to create dishes inspired by some of Canada’s great cities. And Nicole was obviously feeling pretty giddy since she had immunity and would automatically make the Top 8 next week. You know what they say about the view from the top though; it can be pretty lonely—especially when you keep reminding everyone else facing potential elimination that you have immunity. So you could forgive Andrea for not having any of Nicole’s friendly banter while they were prepping their dishes, explaining to the cameras that she just wanted Nicole to shush and do her work already so that the rest of them could cook in peace.


You can almost hear giddy Nicole’s cackle…

Maybe Andrea was a little crankier than she let on earlier in the episode, when she said the real Quickfire was having kids? Or maybe she just felt extra stressed out about Lynn Crawford being the guest judge of the night. The last time Andrea cooked for her in season one, she made an Italian Wedding Soup and Crawford said it tasted like a divorce before the wedding. Ouch.


Andrea’s feeling about the Elimination Challenge are a bit different than Nicole’s.

It wasn’t all animosity though; in fact it was pretty cool watching the chefs collaborate on their dishes despite only having 15 minutes to shop at McEwan Foods. With so many different palates from so many different regions, everyone was giving each other tips about their respective cities and flavour profiles… it was such a Canadian thing to do.

Connie, whose mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer and was given eight months to live, has understandably been off her game so far this season. But she too was in the “Walk of Shame Club” and also tired of being on the bottom, so she went into this thing intent on getting her groove back. When she drew St. John’s as her inspiration city, she was determined to prove her worth and create a dish that would blow the socks off of Eden, judges Crawford, Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak and Chris Nuttall-Smith, along with guest taster Victor Barry who was hosting everyone at his swanky Toronto spot, Piano Piano.

Blow their socks off she did, with a beautifully crafted marrow chimney on top of her St. John’s-inspired Hunter’s Pie. That plate could have been straight from a Tim Burton movie and made us just as giddy about the food as Eden. (Side note: Eden’s sheer joy and excitement at sitting down to these dishes is infectious, even if we ourselves get to taste none of it.)

Obviously the concoction landed Connie in the Top 3, alongside Dustin for his Ottawa-inspired smoked duck and maple-glazed apple, and Nicole for her gluttonous Montreal meat pie consisting of bacon, duck and veal (Crawford confidently deemed it the best meat pie she’s ever had, it was that good). At the end of the day the theme seemed to be repeat winners though, and so it was Dustin’s dish—complete with that hot-box smoker contraption that Trevor used earlier in the Quickfire —that landed him the big win for the second week in a row. Maybe Dustin should thank Trevor for the inspiration in his Academy speech.

TCC-Episode-4-Connie-Hunters-meat-pie
Eden on Connie’s dish: “That marrow chimney! Can that happen every day, please?”

TCC-Episode-4-Nicole-Meat-Pie-with-Bacon-Duck-Veal
Chris on Nicole’s dish: “An absolute French-Canadian fever dream.”

TCC-Episode-4-Dustin-Smoked-Duck-Mushrooms-Maple-Apple
Chris on Dustin’s dish: ‘I’ve come to your restaurants as a critic… this is the best thing I’ve ever had of yours.’

As for Trevor and Curtis? Well they found themselves in the middle of the pack with their respective Toronto Prawn Mousse-Stuffed Halibut and Saskatoon Braised Short Ribs. Since Trista’s Vancouver-inspired dish made Mijune want to “cry for her city,” and Jesse’s Winnipeg pierogis were likened to cardboard, those two were easily placed at the bottom of the night. Dennis had a tough go of it as well when his Calgary inspired, tableside-carved Tomahawk Steak went beyond medium rare, giving him that (dis)honour as well.

There was just no saving Trista though. Between the terrible squid ink presentation on her BC Salmon and Dungeness Crab and the Asian components that the judges said lacked any actual Asian flavours, Mark declared, “this dish would close your restaurant. It’s that bad.” That meant Trista’s time was glaringly up in this contest, and all for over thinking it. Well, at least she wasn’t sent home for serving up plastic wrap this time.


Trista should have listened to Professor Curtis.

“She made such a confused, weird, frankly not-really-edible dish and when she was describing to us what she’d done, she just said, ‘I kept going and going and going and I didn’t know when to stop,’” Nuttall-Smith said. “It’s not ever a happy moment when you see a chef kind of fall on their face.”

“Trista has such heart, such soul. Her cooking is often really personal and really smart and at its best it’s really breathtaking stuff. I think the piece that she’s not missing but could use more of in her career is confidence,” Nuttall-Smith told us. “Trista second guesses her cooking, she second guesses her flavours. The thing that would help her the most is to get out to do some exploring and then to come back and confidently cook her food. When she cooked her food, I think she was brilliant. If she can do that, I think she’s going to be unstoppable.”

“Of course it sucks. I said to myself when I came onto All-Stars that I’m not going to get as upset as I did last time and I’m not going to let a technical thing come in the way,” Trista said later on. “I had a bad day. I sh*t the bed on a plate. It didn’t make sense and I have every right to go home.”

TCC-Episode-4-Trista-Salmon-Crab-Vermicelli-Noodles-Squid-Ink
Not as delicious looking as the top 3 dishes: Trista’s Vancouver-inspired Salmon and Dungeness Crab with Squid Ink.

And here we really, really thought she was a frontrunner. It just goes to show you that no matter how great you’ve done in the past, you’re only as good as your last dish on this show. It seems like these judges know it, too.

“Trista came a long way. She understood what it was to win, which was fabulous because she’s always buckling at the knees at Judges Table.” McEwan recalled. “And it was so much fun to see her have those great successes. There’s a young chef that brings her all, every time she comes. She doesn’t always hit it, she can really miss, but when she swings for the fences, once in a while, she hits it and it was fun to watch.”

Enjoy that bottle of wine you took with you, Trista. We’re certainly raising a glass to you.

Remaining chefs take note: ride your highs as they come because you never, ever know when one small misstep will send you packing. And someone will definitely be sent packing next week.

Gluten-Free Chickpea Skillet Pizza with 3 Delicious Variations

Looking for a delicious gluten-free alternative for pizza night? This easy recipe uses socca, a chickpea flour pancake as a high-protein, high-fibre base and is cooked stovetop for a quick meal. With three unique flavour combinations to spruce up the basic crust, satisfy your pizza crazing with one, two or all three!

Three-Socca-Pizza-1

Prep Time: 10
Cook Time: 30
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Socca Pizza Crust (makes 3):
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Roasted Sweet Pepper, Mozzarella and Basil:
1 socca pizza crust, prepared according directions
4 roasted sweet red peppers, sliced into small pieces
1 ball fresh mozzarella, room temperature, torn
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Chana Masala Socca Pizza with Cilantro and Yogurt:
1 socca pizza crust, prepared according directions
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp garam masala
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt, for serving
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4 sweet marinated green peppers, sliced
4 fresh red chilis, split, for garnish only (optional)

Falafel with Tahini Yogurt and Cucumber:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 lemon, quartered
1 socca pizza crust, prepared according directions
4 prepared falafel, homemade or store-bought, crumbled
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup diced fresh tomato
2 green onions, thinly sliced into strips
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions:

Socca Pizza Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 200ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk chickpea flour, water and salt until combined.
3. In small nonstick skillet, heat 1 tsp oil over medium heat. Cooking one at a time, add a ladleful of socca batter to the pan and swirl to the edges. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until dry on top and bottom is mostly golden brown; no need to flip. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Continue with remaining socca batter and oil.
4. Keep socca warm in oven until ready to assemble pizzas (topping recipes below).Three-Socca-Pizza-4

Chana Masala Socca Pizza with Cilantro and Yogurt:

1. In a large high-sided skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, carrot, garlic, garam masala and chili powder. Reduce to medium low; sauté for 10 to 12 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add onion mixture to a blender along with tomatoes; puree until smooth.
2. Add pureed mixture back to skillet along with chickpeas, lemon juice and salt. Simmer partially covered over low for 20 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
3. To serve, spoon chana masala over warm socca crusts, garnish with cilantro, pickled peppers and a drizzle of yogurt. Serve immediately topped with a sliced fresh chili.

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Falafel with Tahini Yogurt and Cucumber:
1. In a small bowl, whisk yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt until combined.
2. Heat crumbled falafel in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until warm.
3. To serve, over warm socca crusts, layer cucumbers, warmed falafel, tomato, green onion, drizzle with yogurt tahini mixture and sprinkle with chili flakes. Serve immediately with a lemon wedge.

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Roasted Sweet Pepper, Mozzarella and Basil:
1. Over warm socca crusts, layer red pepper, mozzarella, olives, basil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Serve immediately or warm briefly in a low oven to gently melt the cheese, if desired.

Looking for more delicious gluten-free recipes? Try our 30 Delicious Gluten-Free Dinners.

How Iron Chefs Flay, Morimoto and Symon Dominate Kitchen Stadium

In the fight for culinary supremacy, there is no greater arena than Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium. Here, chefs have sweated and swore as they sliced and diced their way to victory (or defeat!) by conjuring up a series of dishes all using a mystery ingredient. Each dish is presented to a panel of exacting judges and the chef with the highest total score in taste, presentation and creativity wins.

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Iron Chefs L-R: Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon

In its next iteration, Iron Chef Gauntlet, premiering  Sunday, April 23 at 9 E/P,  the original cooking competition show takes a new turn as seven chef superstars face off first against each other in kitchen stadium. The last one standing then challenges three Iron Chefs – Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon.  Should they be successful against the acclaimed trio, the challenger earns the title of Iron Chef.  That will be no small feat.

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These three were guest judges on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption’s Final Battle “Heritage.”

Morimoto, Symon and Flay are all accomplished chefs that have earned their way into Kitchen Stadium, building up restaurant empires that dot the United States and beyond.  Their varied backgrounds show there’s no one way to become an Iron Chef.

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Masaharu Morimoto as Iron Chef Japanese in the original Iron Chef series.

A chef trained in the art of sushi, Masaharu Morimoto has combined his instruction and heritage with his years of cooking in the U.S. to create his own fusion approach. His first restaurant opened in 1980 in his home city of Hiroshima. After running it for five years, he left Japan for the U.S. where he was ultimately tapped to be the head chef of famed restaurant Nobu.

Morimoto joined the original Japanese version of Iron Chef in 1998, while still leading the Nobu kitchen.  After the series came to an end, Morimoto eventually left Nobu and opened his own restaurant in New York City  – the first of many, including ones in Napa Valley, Mumbai, New Delhi and Tokyo, for which his restaurant earned a coveted Michelin Star in 2008. When Iron Chef America was created and filming was moved to New York, Morimoto returned to kitchen stadium to battle once again. He also served as a guest judge on The Next Iron Chef.

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Masaharu Morimoto working with the secret ingredient salmon  in season 10 of Iron Chef America.

He would ultimately take 42 wins out of 68 head-to-head battles in both the original series and Iron Chef America, showcasing his out-of-the-box thinking and fusion approach with his dishes. While he won more than he lost, his battle against Homaro Cantu was an upset when he was bested by the chef known for his technological and molecular gastronomy approach to cooking the humble beet.
But perhaps the most noteworthy battle pitted him against now-colleague Flay in the first of four episodes across different iterations of the show. That first time, Morimoto was horrified at Flay’s behavior after he jumped on the counter at the end of the cooking time. He stated that Flay was “not a chef” because of how he behaved. (Flay lost that battle, but won the next against Morimoto in a rematch in Japan. They’d each win one more round against the other.)

Watch Worst Mishaps on Iron Chef America, including one from Bobby Flay.

 

Flay is known for his brashness – after all, one of his most popular shows, Beat Bobby Flay, has him challenging chefs in culinary competitions. However, with several Food Network shows under his belt, not to mention numerous restaurants across the U.S. and in the Bahamas, Flay has earned the Iron Chef title.

Bobby Flay came into prominence as the Executive Chef at Mesa Grill and not long after opening the spot, he  became a partner in the southwestern-focused restaurant. Other Mesa Grills, along with Bolo Bar and Restaurant, would follow, including one in Las Vegas which earned a Michelin Star in 2008.

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Bobby Flay and Michael Symon team up in a Thanksgiving themed episode of Iron Chef America.

While he continued to build his restaurant empire, Flay joined Iron Chef America in its first season in 2005, racking up 43 wins out of 61 battles. Among them, a battle that saw his competition, Hiroyuki Sakai (who had the most wins under his belt in Japan) make ice cream from trout – and serve it with a trout skin crisp. (Being a judge on Iron Chef America would never be dull.)

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I
ron Chefs Symon and Flay team up against Alex Guarnaschelli and Geoffrey Zakarian in Iron Chef America’s Thanksgiving battle.

Compared to those two chefs, Michael Symon is a relative neophyte, only joining Iron Chef America in Season 5.  He opened his first restaurant, Lola, in Cleveland in 1997, followed by Lolita and his B-Spot burger joints in the same city.  Roast, in Detroit, began dishing up meat-centric meals starting in 2008. His latest restaurant, Mabel’s BBQ opened last year. Symon was named best new chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 1998 and Bon Appetit named his burger joint as one of the country’s ten best. His food has a Mediterranean focus – something he comes by honestly, having grown up in a family of Greeks and Sicilians.

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Michael Symon and Masaharu Moritmoto meet again in Kitchen Stadium in an Iron Chef America Holiday Battle.

His first foray into Kitchen Stadium was as a competitor on Iron Chef America, trying to best Morimoto in a battle featuring asparagus. The Japanese chef showcased a stunning dish of “stained glass” sushi, wowing the judges with all his plates and taking the win. Symon may have lost, but clearly did not lose his fire for competition.
Three years later, he competed on The Next Iron Chef, coming out on top and earning a spot on Iron Chef America alongside Morimoto and Flay. Although the newest of the three to join the show, Symon has the highest rating of the trio with an impressive 34 wins out of 42 battles.

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Michael Symon (third from left) with the cast of The Next Iron Chef.

Go behind-the-scenes of Iron Chef Gauntlet:
Watch Iron Chef Gauntlet Set Tour
Watch Tools for Iron Chef Gauntlet

Awesome Sauce: The 5 Mother Sauces Aren’t Just for All-Stars

The names themselves may be unfamiliar but chances are, you’ve likely come across a mother sauce.

In this week’s Quickfire Challenge, chefs went head-to-head against a fellow competitor to make one of these five foundational sauces. Those at this level of competition should know exactly how to make Hollandaise, Velouté, Espagnole, Béchamel and Sauce Tomate without a second thought. Known as the so-called mother sauces, these recipes are building blocks of cooking and are a feature in everything from your standard eggs Benedict to a traditional lasagna. As guest judge John Higgins, director of George Brown Chef School said, “You make a béchamel, you can make macaroni and cheese. You make a velouté, you can make chicken pot pie. That’s why they’re important.”

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J
ohn Higgins puts the chefs through the ‘mother’ of all Quickfire Challenges.

Originally, there were four “grandes” sauces — so dictated by Marie-Antoine Careme in the early 19th century: béchamel, espagnole, véloute and allemande (a velouté thickened with egg yolks and whipping cream). But 100 years later, French chef and restaurateur Auguste Escoffier dropped allemande, adding brunch bastion Hollandaise and a sauce tomate. Some two centuries later, these sauces are still typically taught in culinary schools around the world and used frequently by home cooks.

Barring hollandaise, mother sauces all start with a roux — even a traditional sauce tomate, though it’s not unusual for that part to be skipped.  Made from fat mixed with flour, the roux is what thickens the liquids added to it. A roux is typically made with butter, but other fats and oils can be used. Once hot, flour is stirred in and cooked for a minute or two to eliminate the raw flour flavour, before the liquid is slowly added and cooked until thickened. The type of liquid used is what separates the mother sauces

Let’s break them down, shall we:

1) Béchamel
That creamy white sauce found in traditional lasagna is a béchamel, which is a roux that has cream or milk added to it. Traditionally, a little nutmeg is also thrown into the mix. A béchamel is the starting point for most cheese sauces, like those for macaroni or for topping steamed or roasted veggies. Here’s a step by step recipe on how to turn a béchamel into a family friendly cheesy sauce for veggies.

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Curtis Luk added sour cream to his béchamel and served it with roasted cauliflower.

2) Velouté
Like béchamel, velouté is among the easiest of the five mother sauces to make. It again starts with a roux, but then either chicken, vegetable or fish stock — all pale in colour — is added. Its name shares its roots with “velvety,” and this sauce should be smooth and soft. Jesse Vergen went the seafood route for his velouté, using lobster as a base and serving it with crab and chanterelles.  A simple version using chicken stock is good in a chicken pot pie, like this Ina Garten recipe.
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Jesse’s seafood casserole made with his lobster velouté, dungeness crab, chantrelle mushrooms, old cheddar and pine nuts.

3) Espagnole
Translated as the ‘Spanish’ sauce, though why a recipe so intrinsically linked to French cooking bears this name is up for debate, this one is essentially a roux mixed with veal or beef stock. However, most recipes for this rich and meaty sauce start with a mirepoix of onions, celery and carrots and call for the addition of bones, bits of meat and tomato puree — along with a bouquet garnish of herbs — to build flavour.

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Connie builds flavour in her espagnole sauce using mirepoix.

Unlike the other mother sauces, espagnole is rarely served as is, but instead is used as a jumping off point for a sauce chasseur (hunter’s sauce, with herbs and mushrooms) or added to a bourguignonne sauce (made with red wine, herbs and onions or shallots).  Try this not-so-traditional recipe for Beef Bourgignon that uses the mother sauce technique.

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Surf and Turf: Trista unconventionally paired her rich, beefy espagnole sauce with a seared, meaty piece of halibut.

4) Hollandaise
It’s often proclaimed that hollandaise is a tricky sauce to master and there are numerous tips and tricks for what to do if it “breaks” or curdles. Patience is key here as the melted butter has to be slowly drizzled into the whisked egg yolks, all while keeping the temperature steady so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.

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John Higgins tests if the Hollandaise coats the back of the spoon properly.

Virtually any breakfast spot is going to have hollandaise on the menu, but it’s also nice with fish, and can be easily transformed into a Béarnaise — delicious on steak — by swapping out most of the lemon juice for vinegar, and adding some shallots and tarragon.

By browning the butter, Dennis Tay gave his hollandaise a nuttier flavour before adding soy and lime and serving it with poached salmon.TTC-Episode-3-Dennis-Tay-Salmon-Hollandaise-2

For a luxurious seafood dinner, try this recipe for Lynn Crawford’s pan seared salmon with wild mushrooms and pink shrimp hollandaise sauce.

5) Sauce Tomate
More modern versions of this sauce exist, but at the time that Escoffier was listing off the five mother sauces, his recipe called for a few unexpected ingredients, including salt pork and a roux. The pork, no doubt, added flavour, but cooking the tomatoes down will thicken a tomato sauce just as easily — and with fewer steps — than a roux.

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John Higgins tastes Nicole and Trevor’s versions of sauce tomate.

No matter how complicated you want to go, the base remains the same: tomatoes. A standard mirepoix is usually also part of the recipe, along with garlic and herbs. Fantastic over pasta, bien sur, this sauce is also good with recipes that have a Provençal flair, like Nicole Gomes’ dish of seared lamb, grilled eggplant and Nicoise olives.

TCC-Episode-2-Nicole-Lamb-Provencal
Nicole’s Quickfire Challenge winning dish using sauce tomate.

Try this recipe for lamb shoulder chops in tomato sauce, a  lamb dish with a Mediterranean flair that you can make at home.

Looking to learn more? Discover the 5 Knife Skills Every Chef Should Know.

How to Make the Most of Your Easter Leftovers

When it comes to Easter, most of us are either going to roast a big, beautifully glazed ham or some succulent lamb. Rabbit is also a possibility (for those of us with a strange sense of humour, like myself), but let’s stick with the common denominator: a satisfying Easter ham dinner with all of the fixings.

As delicious as reheated leftovers can be the day after a big holiday meal, it’s a lot more fun to get creative with whatever traces of yesterday’s feast you have lingering in your fridge. It’s probably safe to assume you’ve got plenty of sliced ham, mashed potatoes, a mix of roasted root vegetables (i.e. carrots, squash or parsnips) and some greens, too. Now let’s see what you can do with them!

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Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: There are few things you can’t do when assembling a grilled cheese sandwich. Slices of ham, some roasted vegetables and a mild cheese like provolone, along with some honey mustard, make for an delicious, gooey sandwich, especially for kids.

Soups: The humble potato makes a great thickener for soups. Combine leftover mashed potatoes with some chicken stock, then puree until you’ve got a smooth consistency. Give your leftover meat and vegetables a quick chop, add them to the pot along with desired spices, and once they’re heated through (10 minutes or so), you’ve got a big batch of soup on your hands.

Casseroles: Layered leftovers can give the illusion of a brand new dish, while it’s basically the same as reheating them (shh, it will be our secret!). Try layering your roasted vegetables, followed by ham (pour on some leftover glaze or gravy if you’ve got it) and a layer of mashed potatoes, then bake until golden brown on top. Dinner is served!

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Last, but not least, try taking your Easter dinner odds and ends, and transforming them into this dinner-worthy quiche that actually uses mashed potatoes and cheese to make a gluten-free crust.

Who knew leftovers could be so impressive? You did, of course!

Easter Dinner Leftovers Casserole

Cook and Prep Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4-5

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Ingredients:

Mashed Potato Crust:
4 cups leftover mashed potatoes (room temperature)
2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
9 inch cast iron skillet

Quiche Filling:
2/3 cup leftover ham roast, diced
1/2 cup leftover roasted carrots, diced
1/2 cup leftover braised kale, finely sliced
1/3 cup half and half cream
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
1 tsp maple syrup (optional, only suggested if the leftover ham was not glazed)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

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Directions:

Mashed Potato Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Place potatoes and cheese in a medium bowl and mix well to combine.
3. Brush skillet with canola oil thoroughly, covering bottom of pan and sides.
4. Gently press the potato mixture into the skillet until it’s a fairly even thickness throughout the pan and sides.
5. Bake in oven until it starts to turn golden brown, approximately 18-20 minutes. (Note: potato “crust” will fluff up slightly while baking, don’t worry about that.)
6. Remove, reduce oven heat to 375°F and let cool for a few minutes before adding filling.

Quiche Filling:
1. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well with a spoon to combine.

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2. Pour egg mixture into pre-baked potato crust and return skillet to oven.

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3. Cook for 25 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the centre of quiche comes out clean.

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4. If serving right away, allow to cool slightly before slicing. Will keep in the fridge for up to four days.

Looking for more post-holiday dinner ideas? Here are 20 delicious ways to reinvent your Easter leftovers.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 3 Recap

It must be hard work sampling all of that Top Chef Canada: All-Stars cuisine every week. We imagine that for every ridiculously rich sauce and succulent, saliva-inducing bite that the judges take, their tummies would need a little alka seltzer or Tums to balance it all out. So we can forgive head judge Mark McEwan for taking a break during this week’s Quickfire Challenge, especially since it meant we got guest judge Chef John Higgins (who also happens to be the director of the George Brown Chef School, a Chopped Canada judge and Andrea’s mentor) as his stand-in instead.

Higgins (and host Eden Grinshpan) certainly hit the mother lode in terms of flavour profiles when he tasked the 10 remaining chefs with creating one of Auguste Escoffier’s five “mother” French sauces, pitting the chefs against each other as they drew for their respective saucy fates. The theory goes that if a chef can nail the base sauces, he or she could go on to do anything in the kitchen, from mac ‘n’ cheese to chicken pot pie and every comfort food in between. So naturally all of the All-Stars should be able to nail these sauces, because otherwise they may as well be the Swedish Chef. That’s how important this Quickfire was, people.

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Andrea, who was so sure she could kick Curtis’s butt in the béchamel category didn’t exactly earn an ‘A’ when her sauce proved thicker than her challenger’s. Maybe she didn’t get the memo that slow and steady wins the béchamel race? Either way she shouldn’t feel too bad; Dusty similarly failed to “wow” in front of his mentor, Susur Lee in Episode 2.

These two…amiright???

Speaking of Dustin, it was mano versus mano when he and Dennis—who has a thing for clothes pins on his apron — both drew Hollandaise sauce. Their ensuing showdown proved that a D & D spin-off series is the show none of us knew we needed. We’d watch the heck out of those two cooking together or travelling around Toronto, sampling food from other chefs’ kitchens.

Meanwhile it was Trevor versus Nicole in a sauce tomate battle royale, Connie versus Trista in a scrimmage of that traditional brown sauce known as espagnole, and Jesse versus Jonathan in a very velouté showdown. In the end it was Dennis, Nicole, Trista and Jesse (with his luxurious sounding lobster velouté ) who moved on and were then tasked with creating a dish in just half an hour that showcased their winning sauce. Although we really, really wanted to just take a bath in Jesse’s Seafood Casserole, it was Nicole’s Lamb Provencal, a.k.a. Seared Lamb Chops, Eggplant, Nicoise Olives and Almond Gremolata that won over Chef Higgins and Eden’s stomachs. It was enough to land her the coveted immunity and a huge advantage in the Elimination Challenge: she got to assemble her own Top Chef Canada team in the first group face-off.

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Nicole’s Lamb Provencal with eggplant, nicoise olives and almond gremolata.

Nicole did what any sensible chef would do in that moment, and picked the team that she felt she’d have more fun competing with. That included Dustin and Dennis (naturally), Andrea (because, girl crush) and the wise-cracking Jesse. You know, all the chefs we’d want to knock back beers with.


Squad Goals.

Meanwhile, Trista and Connie were teamed up with Curtis, Jonathan and Trevor, who has kind of pitted himself as the underdog so far this season. The night’s task? To create a Middle Eastern feast of five mezze (appetizers), three mains and two desserts for the judges, guest judge Sabrina Ghayour and guest taster Suresh Doss at Mark McEwan’s Aga Khan Museum restaurant.

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Sabrina Ghayour at the tasting table.

Right away it was obvious that Nicole’s chosen ones were jiving together, whereas the other team seemed to lack the same cohesion. From the time they set foot in specialty grocery store Adonis (with a trusty 100 bucks in their Interac accounts), it was utter mayhem—as tends to happen when you’ve only got 20 minutes to shop for a feast. Obviously, some handled it better than others. While Trista looked lost without her pomegranate molasses, Jesse managed to collect his head in order to purchase actual lamb heads for his tagine when he couldn’t find goat. Hey, when in Morocco you’ve simply got to go(at) with the flow…

Back in the Monogram Kitchen the chefs had two hours to prepare for service, which meant even more running around for the chefs like they were lambs with their heads chopped off (#SorryNotSorry). There were so many delicious ingredients flying around, like halloumi and orange roughy and pomegranates and pine nuts… we’ve never longed to smell a show before but this week we came pretty close as the hunger pangs set in. And no, the stale almonds in the cupboard certainly did not satisfy from our couches.

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Andrea’s kibbeh nayyeh – lamb tartare with harrisa labneh and za’atar crisps

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Nicole’s shish tawook fritter – walnut fritter stuffed with garlic chicken, served with pickled turnip.

At judges’ table, the theory behind Nicole’s teammate choices rang true when Team One nailed their mezze. Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak and Janet Zuccarini dug in alongside Sabrina, Suresh and Eden, as they all practically licked Andrea’s Lamb Tartare plate clean. Meanwhile Jesse’s take on a saffron-infused Fish Dolma was unconventional but completely celebrated by the judges, Nicole’s Walnut Fritters were devoured, Dennis’s Tabbouleh Salad hit all the right notes and Dustin’s Hummus-Baba Ganoush hybrid was a genius flavour combination that had everyone gushing.

Team Two didn’t fair nearly as well with their mezze, which the judges said lacked overall flavour. For starters the dishes were all pretty much all vegetarian, which would be fine in a vegetarian restaurant but not so much on Top Chef Canada. But more importantly the presentation felt like five separate dishes with no cohesiveness; a big no-no when it comes to a progressive feast.
Unfortunately the mezze was more than a stumble for Team Two. When it came to the main event, Connie’s Preserved Lemon Chicken and Trista’s Almond Cake dessert couldn’t save the guys on the team, whose dishes ranged from “incredibly bitter” (Trevor) and “lost in translation” (Jonathan) to “medicinal” (Curtis). In fact we’re still waiting to see if Janet’s unwelcome high from Curtis’s Saffron Ice Cream has come down a little. When compared to Jesse’s Lamb Head Tagine (yes, it turned out to be delicious), Nicole’s old-school Poached Trout and Dustin’s winning dish of the night, deboned, Honey-Glazed Quail fried à la Susur Lee, well it was obvious that Team Two was going to send someone packing.

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 Dusty’s honey glazed quail was stuffed with chicken farce and served with roasted dates, pearl onions and figs. Sabrina Ghayour exclaimed, ‘This dish hits all the bells of what the Middle East is about.’


And again…Squad Goals.

In the end there were no heated words exchanged about the quality of the food or defiant defenses about how a dish would have held up in a real restaurant, as Jonathan packed his knives without any pushback.
“Right now I’m feeling disappointed that I wasn’t able to really focus… not just on my dish but to help my team put together a stronger menu,” he said afterwards. “It’s a relief not to have to continue to compete. It’s not easy cooking with such a strong troop of people, but they are awesome.”

“I remember his food from the first time we met him and it was far more entertaining and robust and flavourful and full of coconut milk and chili and pizzazz,” McEwan said later on. “He’s kind of gone to a very healthy, vegan-ish focus, but I thought he lost a lot of his thunder in doing that. I didn’t see the Jonathan that I remember… so I was disappointed.”

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We expected the second-season finalist to go a little further in the competition, too. Like Eden pointed out at judges’ table, throwing a twist into something you’ve made many times before just doesn’t cut it on Top Chef Canada: All-Stars. “I don’t know what’s next for me yet, I’m at a serious crossroads in my life,” Jonathan revealed in his exit interview. “I’m trying to digest all of the emotions of going through this competition myself and I hope once that comes through I’m able to show my passion for food adequately. It may be humble and it may be simple, but it will be delicious.”

Get More Top Chef Canada!
Bonus Scene: Trista and Connie discuss team blunders after finding out their safe from elimination.
Bonus Scene: Nicole can’t find her cart during Elimination Challenge grocery shop.

Chuck and Danny’s Perfect PEI Breakfast

It’s the end of the road for Chuck and Danny as their epic culinary trip draws to a close. Driving the RV across the Confederation Bridge (the longest one in the country), the chefs are on the search for seafood — and Prince Edward Island is home to some of the best that Canada has to offer. Chef Ross Munro of Red Door Oyster Co. points the chefs north to harvest some of the ocean’s bounty onboard Lester the Lobster boat. “We’re here to show them PEI’s best,” says Munro, who gives the chefs a surprise gift: a huge bag of local mussels for a true Maritime breakfast.

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Ross Monro (right) takes Danny and Chuck out lobster fishing.

Mussels are big business in PEI, producing 50 million pounds (22,730 tons, if you’re counting) per year, according to The Mussel Industry Council of PEI. Canadian mussels should be shiny and blue-black when you buy them from the store. “You know they’re fresh when they smell like the ocean,” says Chuck.

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Acadian bread from  ‘the weirdest baker on PEI’.

Since Chuck and Danny have got straight from the source, they want to show off their mussel power with a nontraditional eggs Benedict, Maritime-style. Even though they’re camping beach-side, Chuck and Danny are still chefs at heart — no store-bought English muffins, here. Friend and fellow chef Robert Pendergast (the self proclaimed “weirdest baker on PEI”) is camping at the same park with his family, and he stops by with some of his famous fresh-baked heritage bread, made Acadian-style with chunks of pork and potato.

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Danny and Chuck have a PEI breakfast with Robert Pendergast (center).

“Bread, mussels — it’s a PEI breakfast, no?” says Chuck. Danny offers to whip up a fast hollandaise in the trailer, while Chuck gets started on the mussels. The rule of thumb when cooking mussels is that they should be closed (or at least, close when you tap them.) Scrub them clean with a brush (no soap, obviously, says Chuck) and steam them in an inch and a half of seawater in a large pot with the lid closed for a few minutes.

See how Chuck and Danny make their Mussels Benedict:

For a classic hollandaise, Danny separates the eggs, using just the yolks for the emulsion. Since there’s no room in the camper for a full standup blender, Danny is using an immersion hand blender, which home cooks can emulate. Slowly adding the melted butter until the mixture is emulsified and thickened, Danny adds his own twist: white balsamic vinegar instead of the traditional lemon juice to complement the mussels with its sweetness. “This white balsamic is great and won’t change the colour of my hollandaise,” says Danny. A bit of salt and the hollandaise is ready to go.

Time to dig in — the chefs start popping the mussels out of the shells (and a few into their mouths while they’re working) and set them onto the bread. Their creation is finished with a healthy dollop of hollandaise, and a sprinkle of cayenne “for that extra little bit of spice to wake you up in the morning,” says Danny.

“Anybody who puts potato and bacon into their bread is okay with me,” says Chuck, taking a bite with a loud crunch.

“This is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while,” says Pendergast.

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The sun sets on this road trip;  PEI is Chuck and Danny’s final destination.

Bring mussels to your table with 25 Marvelous Mussel Recipes or for more inspired Benedict ideas, check out 10 Brunch-Worthy Eggs Benedict Recipes for everything from devilled eggs to pizza. Get Chuck and Danny’s recipe for their PEI breakfast of champions here and be sure to check out their most bromantic moments from the road.

Missed the episode? Catch it online at Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip.

Last-Minute Easter Brunch Menu

Putting together an unforgettable Easter brunch doesn’t mean hours spent prepping in the kitchen. If you’re shackled for time, we’ve got the dishes to create a flavourful spread without a hassle. The best part? Compliments galore and full appetites for a fun Easter egg hunt!

Starters:
Carrot Pear Mini Loaves

This sweet mini loaf can be made the day before and make the perfect starter to a hearty brunch. Put it out on the table before everyone sits down to have brunch and serve with a side of fresh butter or creme fraiche. If you’re feeling like going the extra mile, whip up this 10-minute mascarpone cream cheese icing in the morning then spread over the top of the cooled carrot pear loaf before serving.

carrot-pear-mini-loaves

Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey Vanilla Yogurt
Ina Garten’s fruit salad recipe is so simple to make and can be easily prepared ahead of time. With notes of honey, vanilla, and a variety of delicious berries, banana and grapes, it’s a simple and healthy dish that packs a lot of punch.

Main:

Potato Crusted Mushroom and Swiss Quiche
This fresh take on quiche using a potato crust adds a flavourful twist on the classic. To make this main ahead of time, simply prepare the crust the day before. Get creative with the fillings and substitute or add different ingredient combinations to suit your family’s palate. Got more meat lovers in the brood? Ham or bacon will make a nice addition.

tess-potato-crust-mushroom-and-swiss-quiche

Sides:

Arugula Salad with Pear and Prosciutto
The mixture of the peppery arugula with the sweetness of the pear and the saltiness of the parmesan and prosciutto are a perfect balance in this delectable salad.

Ham and Scallion Scones with Lemon Herb Chèvre Dip
These savoury breakfast scones by Anna Olson make a yummy side on their own, but with the lemon herb chèvre dip, they are simply irresistible. Make the dough a week before and freeze until you’re ready to bake on Easter morning.

ham-and-scallion-scones-with-lemon-herb-chevre

Desserts:

Chocolate Crêpes
Although this dish takes longer to make, it’s well worth it – and the kids will certainly appreciate it! Don’t get stuck on just using sliced bananas in this recipe. From fresh strawberries to mint leaves, set out a small spread of different toppings for people to create their own unique concoction. Don’t have the time to spare? Try making this cheater 10-minute shot glass crêpes instead.

chocolate-crepes

Drinks:

Starbucks Salted Caramel Cafe au Lait
This combo of sweet and savoury is a delicious end to a great Easter Brunch menu. The mixture of salt and caramel are a perfect combo, making it a delicious après le dejeuner dessert on its own.

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Five All-Star Knife Skills Every Cook Should Know

The secret to a smooth restaurant service is perfect mise en place.
With each ingredient prepped properly and literally “in its place,” chefs have everything they need on hand to prepare a dish as soon as it’s ordered. For the Quickfire Challenge in this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, chefs’ prep skills were put to the test through a series of tasks that had them filleting fish, finely dicing shallots and shucking oysters — all to the exacting standards of head judge Chef Mark McEwan.

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Those shallots aren’t going to brunoise themselves, chefs!

“Every great dish demands accurate preparation,” he says before the challenge is launched. While those cooking at home aren’t under a clock or McEwan’s watchful eye, there’s no doubt making a meal is faster and easier when all the ingredients are ready to go. Knowing how to properly slice and dice underpins all that prep; uniform cuts guarantee even cooking and also makes it all look like you’re a professional.

Here are five knife skills essential to perfect mise en place:

1. Julienne
Julienne simply means to cut food (usually vegetables) into long, thin strips, some 1-2 mm square and 4-5 cm long. This cut is also sometimes known as alumette, which refers to their matchstick shape. Squaring off the edges of round vegetables like carrots helps keep the julienne precise, and you can pop those trimmings into stock or soups. Once squared, simply slice the food into slabs and then again into strips.

Julienned-Carrot
A perfect carrot julienne.

 

2. Batonnet
The big brother to julienne, batonnet uses the same technique of cutting food into strips, but to a more robust size. Food cut into batonnet (literally batons) is about twice the size of a julienne, with the sticks some 6 mm square and 6 cm long. Just like for julienne, it’s best to start by squaring off the vegetable, then slicing into slabs and then into batons.

3. Dice
Dicing vegetables is a snap once you’ve learned the basics of batonnet. There are a few different sizes of dicing, which are essentially cubes of food. Depending on the recipe, it may call for a large dice (20 mm cubed), medium dice (13 mm) or small (6mm cubed), which is the size of dice you will get when starting with the batonnet cut above. The smallest type of diced vegetable, the brunoise, gets a category of its own (see below).

To go from a batonnet to a dice, simply take the item that has been cut into batons, turn it 90 degrees and slice cross-wise. This will make the right-sized cubes. (For larger dices, simply start with larger batonnet-type cuts.)

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Different sizes of diced vegetables.

4. Brunoise
The smallest of the dice cuts, brunoise is a mere 1-2 mm square. Just like dicing starts with batonnet, a brunoise begins with food cut into julienne. Then, it’s a simple matter of turning it 90 degrees and slicing it cross-wise to make the small squares.

Brunoise is particularly great for things like shallots, where tiny cubes of the allium go a long way. Pop them on top of salads, to flavour a vinaigrette or use as a base for pan sauces, like Andrea Nicholson did in the Quickfire after finely dicing an impressive 273 grams of them in three minutes.

Watch How to Brunoise an Onion:

5. Chiffonade
This knife skill is generally used for herbs or leafy vegetables (think spinach or chard) that cuts them into ribbon-like strips. A larger chiffonade of leafy greens is great for cooking, while using the technique on herbs like basil or sage makes a beautiful garnish.

Start by stacking the leaves one on top of the other and then rolling them tightly, like a cigar. Slice through the stack cross-wise (across the cigar shape). The narrower the cut, the more fine your ribbon strips will be.

Watch How to Chiffonade Basil:

Going for the Gauntlet: Iron Chef Returns with All-New Series

It’s been four years since chefs stepped into Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium to determine ‘whose cuisine will reign supreme,’ but the epic wait is finally over. Chefs will battle it out for culinary supremacy in the premiere of Iron Chef Gauntlet on Sunday, April 23 at 9 E/P. 

In Iron Chef America, a competitor and an Iron Chef go head-to-head, cooking a series of dishes using the dramatically unveiled Secret Ingredient. Each dish is judged by a panel of esteemed judges on all things taste, presentation and creativity. Whoever has the highest combined total score is the winner of the challenge.Iron-Chef-Gauntlet-Bobby-Flay-Michael-Symon-Masaharu-Morimoto
Iron Chefs L-R: Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, Michael Symon

But it’s a new era in Kitchen Stadium and the battle to win the Iron Chef title is tougher than ever.  Over the course of five episodes, seven culinary superstars will first face off against each other in Chairman’s Challenges and Secret Ingredient Showdowns until they are whittled down to just one. In the finale of this six-part series, the last chef standing enters the gauntlet where he or she must face off against three Iron Chefs — Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto — and cook with three Secret Ingredients. No good work goes unpunished in Kitchen Stadium! If the chef succeeds against the Iron Chef trinity in taste, presentation and creativity, he or she will earn the title of Iron Chef…and will have our unwavering awe and admiration until the end of time.

Alton-Brown-On-Set-Iron-Chef-Gauntlet
We miss the Iron Chef drama! Alton Brown unveils the secret ingredient.

Alton Brown returns as the host of Iron Chef, but this time he has a new task on his plate: he will be judging the Chairman’s Challenge; the first test that decides which chef will go onto the next round. Alton told Foodnetwork.com that in this elite culinary competition, he will not stand for sloppy technique.
“One of the first things that falls off when the clock is running is knife work, is consistent knife cuts and I won’t put up with that.” You’ve been warned, chefs!

Iron-Chef-Gauntlet-Competitors
Click here for Iron Chef Gauntlet competitor full bios.

Meet the chefs who have the stomach to take on this grueling challenge:

  • Stephanie Izard (Chicago):  Top Chef season 4 winner and James Beard award winning chef and restaurateur.
  • Nyesha Arrington (Los Angeles): Named Chef of the Year by Eater L.A. in 2016. Combines French technique with Southern California cuisine.
  • Michael Gulotta (New Orleans): Named 2016 Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine.  Executes Southeast Asian cuisine using the Louisiana pantry.
  • Shota Nakajima (Seattle): Won the Seattle round of the World Washoku Challenge in 2014. Creates Japanese comfort food with Pacific Northwest ingredients.
  • Jason Dady (San Antonio): 2012 James Beard award semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur. Runs a Texas-sized empire of Italian, Spanish, BBQ and seafood restaurants.
  • Jonathan Sawyer (Cleveland): 2015 James Beard award winner Best Chef: Great Lakes. Worked for Michael Symon before opening his own French, Italian and Asian restaurants.
  • Sarah Grueneberg (Chicago): Chef/Partner of Monteverde Restaurant, named a Best Restaurant by Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and GQ. Travelled the world and has global approach to cuisine.

Iron-Chef-Gauntlet-Sarah-Greuneberg
Sarah Grueneberg setting Kitchen Stadium ablaze.

And there’s more Iron Chef!  The one-hour special,  Legend of Iron Chef, airing Sunday, April 23 at 8 E/P right before the Iron Chef Gauntlet premiere, relives the most memorable Iron Chef moments and gives you the inside scoop of this culinary phenomenon.  Iron Chef Eats premieres Monday, April 24 at 9 E/P with back-to-back episodes each week, and will recount where the stars from the world of Iron Chef eat when they’re not in the kitchen.

Spring Appetizer: Crudités with Preserved Lemon Guacamole

Spring is perfect for al fresco dining; the outdoors providing a bright, natural setting for any dishes you’re serving. Next time you are entertaining, rather than spending hours on prep, try a simple yet impressive crudités platter. Typically filled with fresh, seasonal vegetables and a dipping sauce, this stunning appetizer is sure to delight your guests.

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Creamy, crunchy, spicy and tangy, this guacamole has got it all going on. Finely diced preserved lemon brings both a hit of salt and a good dose of acidity to this perfectly balanced dip. A rainbow of spring produce alongside the guacamole makes this vibrant appetizer the star of any spread.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Guacamole crudite prep-1

Ingredients:
3 firm-ripe Hass avocados
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 of a preserve lemon, rinsed
1/3 cup minced sweet white onion, such as Vidalia
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Assorted spring vegetables, such as baby carrots, snap peas, young asparagus and radishes

Guacamole-mixing-1

Directions:
1. Cut each avocado in 1/2 lengthwise. Remove the pit and discard. Scoop the flesh out of the peel with a soup spoon and place in a medium bowl.
2. Pour the lime juice all over the avocado and then mash them to a pulp. I like to use a pastry cutter for this job; a fork works just fine, too.
3. Finely mince the entire preserved lemon (rind and pulp) and remove any seeds you encounter. Add to the mashed avocado, along with the minced onion, cilantro, salt and pepper. Mash everything together, then taste the guacamole and add additional seasoning if desired. Since we are not serving this dip with salty tortilla chips, I find a little extra salt in the guacamole goes a long way.
4. Scrape preserved lemon guacamole into a serving bowl. Garnish with a fine dice of preserved lemon rind if desired. Serve immediately with a platter of spring vegetable crudités.

Guacamole-and-crudite-final-1

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 2 Recap

It’s a good thing our returning chefs were able to scrape the rust off their knives during last week’s inaugural episode of the All-Stars edition (we’ll remember you fondly, Elizabeth). Because if the red eyes and requests for coffee on Sunday night’s follow-up installment were any indication, this competition is going to be a little more grueling than these guys remember.


Trevor’s last name is actually Gazelle, not Bird.

The eleven remaining chefs seemed to take it all in stride at least, diving (or in some cases Top Chef parkour-ing) right into the night’s opening Quickfire Challenge with plenty of gusto. Which is actually saying something considering the entire mise en place, “Chef Nerd Olympics” challenge basically consisted of grunt-work that chefs of this caliber can now hire minions to do for them. There’s a reason executive chefs usually have fancier jackets than the rest of the kitchen staff, you know.

Still, we got a real sense that for these guys it was fun to filet fish under head judge Mark McEwan’s “laser beam” glare, dice up shallots into perfect brunoise cuts without shedding a single tear, and stop “shucking around” with some juicy oysters. Hey, host and punmaster Eden Grinshpan isn’t the only one who can have fun with wordplay here.

Connie, who was pretty confident in her ability to whiz past the competition since she excelled at this challenge in the first season, fell short when she failed to remove all of the bones from her bass in the first round. It was the start of an off night for the chef, who eventually revealed why to the cameras. Turns out she’s been carrying around a pretty big burden: her mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer and was given roughly eight months to live. Obviously Connie was feeling pretty guilty about leaving for a month to do the show, but her mom told her that if she didn’t win, not to come home. Talk about extreme pressure – we’d probably have a few off nights too.


What’s that you say, Dennis? It’s not enough time?

Anyhow, in the end it came down to Andrea and oyster-shucking king Dennis, who both proved they could be the best sous-chefs anywhere with their chop-chop abilities. But the real question was who could make the best dish out of those ingredients in 15 short minutes? Geesh. We mean, sure—seafood doesn’t take as long to cook as other proteins, but we can barely get water to boil in that time, let alone prepare an elegant dish for a hungry host and head judge. Who, by the way, were salivating so hard at what we can only imagine were amazing smells wafting up from the Monogram Kitchen that we got super hungry at home. So much for watching this show on an empty stomach.

That’s real nice, guys. Laugh at how frantic Dennis is during the Quickfire challenge.

It was Andrea’s Oysters Poached in Crème Fraîche with White Wine Butter Sauce and Seared Sea Bass that won her immunity in the Elimination Challenge though, even though Dennis’s Canh Chua, a Vietnamese Sweet & Sour Soup with Tamarind Broth, Poached Sea Bass and Poached Oysters looked equally appetizing. Now those are two dishes you can’t get at Red Lobster.

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Andrea’s Seared Sea Bass With Oysters Poached in a Crème Fraîche White Wine Butter Sauce

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Dennis’ Sweet and Sour Vietnamese Soup With Tamarind Broth-Poached Sea Bass and Poached Oysters

After all that hard work, we’d say the chefs earned themselves a nice little repose. Maybe a cold cocktail with an umbrella while they put those steel-toed boots up for a bit and maybe even sucked back some of those shucked oysters, right? Wrong. Those remaining oysters must have gone to the production crew because the Elimination Challenge was up next and one of Toronto’s hottest chefs, Susur Lee, was coming in to guest judge. Again, no pressure or anything.

The task itself was pretty simple: create a dish inspired by a world-famous food market. The catch? This Top Chef Canada caliber dish would then be served to 75 very hungry foodies. Obviously, our invites were lost in the mail. Dennis and Jonathan pulled Mexico City postcards from the giant mailbox that was wheeled into the Monogram Kitchen, meaning they got to cook up some Mexican fare. Connie and Trevor got Vietnam’s Bac Ha, Trista and Todd pulled Rio De Janeiro, Jesse and Dennis were all about Madrid, and Curtis and Nicole pulled Brussels postcards from the box. Actually, Nicole could barely reach her card thanks to her short arms, proving that sometimes the struggle is real for the vertically challenged folk out there. As for Andrea, well she got to pick from any of the markets as part of her reward for winning the Quickfire, and so she picked Brussels as an homage to her Brussels-born mum.

Here’s the thing about making a dish for 75 people: even though the chefs had a decent budget ($350 to spend at McEwan Foods) and two hours to prep in the Monogram Kitchen, they were only given 10 minutes to actually plot out their menus. If that were us, we’d spend roughly seven of those minutes staring blankly at our cards before scribbling something illegible in our remaining time.


Nicole is totally handling the pressure well. 

Obviously these guys had more ideas than we would, but they ran into some problems too. Nicole’s waffle batter didn’t turn out the way she’d wanted, forcing her to re-imagine her Morocco Dog with spiralized, crispy potatoes. (Viewers take note—you can spiralize something other than a zucchini.) Meanwhile Dennis’s empanada batter was actual garbage; we know this because he dumped it angrily into the trash when he realized he didn’t have time to start over. So he did a toast of sorts instead and presented the judges with what became the winning dish of the night: ‘Nduja Prawn Toast a.k.a. a fancy-schmancy open-faced sandwich consisting of shrimp, quail egg and salsa. For the record, we would totally travel to Madrid to eat that.

Dennis-Tay-Nduja-Prawn-Quail-Egg-on-toastDennis’ ‘Nduja, Prawn and Quail Egg on Toast with Romesco and Salsa Verde

Oh and as for Andrea? Well she certainly didn’t take her immunity for granted, and pumped out a Salt and Sugar-Cured Salmon with Apple Fennel Slaw & Bacon Beer Aioli. She didn’t make it to the top three though (Trista and Nicole were the ones to stand alongside the Dennis for that honour), but that could have also been because judge Chris Nutall-Smith was jealous of Andrea’s glasses. (Twinning!)

Apparently one market we’ll be staying away from in the near future is Bac Ha; at least we will be if Connie and Trevor are making the morsels. Even though their respective salads looked pretty they were underdressed and in Trevor’s case, topped with overcooked meat.


Chefs: when Chris makes this face, be very afraid.

Luckily these guys were both saved by a worse dish in the end: Todd’s Cod Salad with Fresh & Salt Cod, Capelin & Tomato Salsa. The offering was supposed to be inspired by Rio De Janeiro, but it was obvious that Todd didn’t know what that meant. He basically told the cameras as much. So the Newfoundland chef fell back on flavours he knew instead and then got a little defensive with judges Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak and Nutall-Smith when they said it was a fail. Trevor, standing next to Todd at judges’ table, wasn’t the only one shaking his head in the tense situation; we get Todd wanting to defend his dish (that was his province on a plate, after all), but sometimes you’ve just got to pick your battles. And telling the judges they’re not used to your kind of food might not be the best way to convince them to keep you around.

In the end it was obvious that Todd just didn’t care to stick around as much as Trevor or a tearful Connie, who told the other chefs that the judges “broke” her with their criticisms. And so the judges sent Todd packing—cod and all.

“Being back on Top Chef Canada was a chance for me to continue to spread the world about Newfoundland and Newfoundland ingredients; that’s one of the big reasons I came back,” Todd said in an interview later.

“The thing for me in a competition like this is I might not be prepared to do All-Star food. I do what I do and I might not be what the judges are looking for. I’m okay with that. The dish tonight, I was happy with it. I’ve served it lots of times and this was one of the better versions that I’ve made. But it just didn’t stack up to everybody else’s; that’s the way it works.”

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-2-Judges-Table

“Todd just failed to deliver. These were all flavours—the capelin, the cod—these are all flavours that he knows; they’re all products that he knows how to work with,” Nutall-Smith told us later on. “He was 100 per cent in his comfort zone and the dish just failed. This was a point where I really started wondering, ‘What’s happening with this guy? He knows better than this. He is a much better chef than this dish would suggest.’ I think he also lost some confidence, some conviction in that competition. I think when we didn’t appreciate his dish, I think that probably shook him a little bit.”

Those are the breaks.

Well we appreciate your time, but that’s a wrap on another week of the culinary competition, folks. We can’t wait to see what worldly dishes the remaining chefs will pull out of their knife-blocks next week.

Extra Top Chef Canada: Watch this week’s bonus scene featuring Andrea.

lattice-rhubarb-tart

Spectacular Spring Rhubarb Lattice Tart

Sometimes you need a show-stopping dessert, and this rhubarb tart takes the cake! It may require a little more time than your typical tart but the result is well worth the effort. Tender, sweet spring rhubarb shines like jewels over a lovely light almond and ricotta filling. Just like a lattice-topped pie, you may need a slice of patience to assemble this impressive dessert.

lattice-rhubarb-tart

Prep Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:

Pastry:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp or more cold water

Rhubarb:
5-6 stalks of fresh rhubarb
1/4 cup apple jelly

Ricotta Almond Centre:
1 cup extra smooth ricotta
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

lattice-rhubarb-tart

Directions:
1. In a food processor mix flours, salt and sugar. Add in butter and pulse until butter is evenly dispersed into pea-size pieces. Add vinegar and pulse. Run the food processor as you add water tsp by tsp through the spout on the top. Dough will come together into a smooth ball.
2. Roll out dough on a floured surface until dough a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick.
3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Place rolled out dough into the tart pan and gently press into and up sides. Discard excess dough. Poke the surface of the dough with a fork. Place a piece of parchment over dough and place baking weights over top. Bake until edges of crust begin to turn golden, about 12 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and remove baking weights and parchment. Return to oven until crust is golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

lattice-rhubarb-tart

5. Decrease oven temperature to 350°F. Slice rhubarb along a mandolin into long, thin strips. Set the strips on a flat surface and form a lattice pattern with rhubarb by weaving strips over and under each other. Continue to weave until a square forms 9 inches wide. Trace a circle 8.5 inches over lattice. Cut out circle carefully ensuring to keep lattice intact. Set aside.
6. In a large bowl, whisk ricotta with almond meal, sugar, almond extract, salt, and egg together until combined. Transfer mixture into the tart shell. Smooth over surface and spread into an even layer. Lift the rhubarb lattice circle and place over ricotta mixture.
7. Microwave apple jelly for 15 seconds and brush over rhubarb. Bake in oven until rhubarb is tender and ricotta mixture is set, about 25 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Looking for more spectacular spring recipes? Try these 20 Fresh and Beautiful Rhubarb Recipes.

Why Top Chef Canada Judges Are Still Raving About Trista’s Pot-au-Feu

A chance to overcome past humiliation with a few humble ingredients was on the menu as some of Canada’s best chefs returned to Top Chef Canada seeking redemption, and the opportunity to be named the best of the all-stars. The first elimination round saw chefs forced to revisit the ingredients that had been their downfall in their original appearances on the show.

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Trista looks less than thrilled to see her past on a plate.

For Trista Sheen, who made it to the 10th episode on Season 2, it wasn’t the chicken, carrots and peas that sent her packing; it was a piece of plastic wrap that made it onto the judges’ plate.

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Trista faces the judges in the tenth episode of season 2.

There’s something deliciously poetic and just plain delicious, that for her chance at redemption, Trista went with a humble dish with plenty of history for a challenge about facing the past.

Her “Scarborough” pot-au-feu played on a classic French dish of braised meat and broth, but she infused it with her own history, taking the flavours from the neighbourhood where she grew up.

Trista-prepares-dish-in-Lavelle-kitchen
Trista preparing her elimination challenge dish in the Lavelle kitchen.

By definition, pot-au-feu — literally translated as “pot on the fire” — is an age-old French dish made with meat and vegetables, cooked in water that slowly turns into a broth. Picture a bubbling pot set over a fire in a kitchen fireplace, and you’ve got a sense of its origins. (Not to be confused with a soup or stew, the broth from a pot-au-feu is not generally served as the main part of the meal.)

Traditionally made from a mix of inexpensive cuts of beef such as short ribs, brisket and shanks (ones that benefit from being cooked for long periods of time) pot-au-feu also includes root vegetables, along with simple seasonings of garlic and herbs. That slow braise of meat and the later addition of onions, potatoes, carrots and turnips — and, in some cases, leeks and cabbage — creates a deeply flavoured, clear broth. Recipes often call for marrow bones, which add even more richness.

Pot-Au-Feu
A traditional pot-au-feu made with different cuts of beef.

Although cooked in one pot, it’s dished out as a multi-course meal. The rich broth is customarily served on its own as the first course, or with the marrow bones; a prized part of the meal as people scoop out the buttery marrow onto toast, and eat it alongside.  After that, the meats, neatly portioned, and vegetables are dished up family-style on a large platter with standard garnishes of tangy mustards, crunchy cornichons and salt. Some versions include a recipe for pistou, a blend of oil, garlic and herbs, to be added to the table for drizzling over the dish, while others suggest serving it with a bit of horseradish.

Tristas-Scarborough-Pot-Au-Feu
Trista’s elegantly presented “Scarborough” pot-au-feu.

Trista’s take was a nod to the neighbourhood of Scarborough, a Toronto suburb with a vibrant immigrant community that has translated into the area being known for its ethnic cuisines, including Caribbean, Chinese and African.

“I loved the soul and the personality behind that dish; that really stuck with me,” judge, Chris Nuttall-Smith said. “I hope that dish doesn’t end with this competition; I hope she continues to serve it and works with it.”

The base of her dish was the same as any pot-au-feu: meat and vegetables. But she then gave it a Jamaican twist by adding jerk flavours, with the heat of spicy peppers and warming spices like allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. She served it up with a carrot, chard and corn pistou — a take on the more traditional basil-oil version — and a jerk aioli, all artfully presented.

“She nailed it on the first round. Beautiful, the presentation, the flavours, it was gorgeous,” said judge Mijune Pak, who still raved about this dish, months after tasting it.

Watch the Top Chef Canada: All-Stars premiere online.

Chuck and Danny Get Schooled On Acadian Caviar

This week, Chuck’s got a family connection to the chefs’ destination: his grandfather hailed from New Brunswick, and his best food memories stem from out east. “When I was growing up, we’d always have lobster and oyster parties,” says Chuck. “It has a lot to do with my love of food.”

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Chuck and Danny’s million dollar view of the Bay of Fundy.

Danny’s also excited about their campgrounds at Fundy National Park (“How did we score this campsite?” he says, surveying the incredible view) as well as meeting the local artisans behind the products they cook with on a daily basis. “A lot of what we use in the restaurants back home is from New Brunswick, so it’s fun to come here and connect with the guys that are bringing us the ingredients that we love,” says Chuck.

Cornel-Ceapa-with-Chuck-and-Danny
Caviar expert Cornel Ceapa talks to Danny and Chuck.

One of those producers, world renowned caviar expert from New Brunswick, Cornel Ceapa, founder and owner of Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar Inc., joins Chuck and Danny for breakfast — and he’s brought along a tasting of three caviars, an excellent start to the day. “He’s the king of caviar,” says Chuck. “He’s the doctor of caviar,” Danny corrects him, since Ceapa has a PhD in sturgeon studies.

Caviar can come from a variety of sources, but sturgeon eggs are particularly prized. Ceapa settled in New Brunswick — where sturgeon is native to the Saint John River — to farm it in captivity. “When you think of sturgeon, you think of Iran or Russia, not New Brunswick,” marvels Chuck.

Sturgeon-Skin-Chuck-and-Danny
That’s not a surfboard — it’s a sturgeon skin! Ceapa shows Chuck and Danny how large a sturgeon can get.

Similar to cheese, caviar changes from day one to the end of its life cycle as it matures into different flavours. Ceapa prefers an aged caviar, so he’s brought along two young wild caviars (one week old and two months old) and a third one from aquaculture for the lucky chefs to compare.

Caviar---Chuck-and-Danny's-Road-Trip

Ceapa walks Chuck and Danny through the finer points of enjoying caviar, with tips that you can use at home:

  • Caviar is delicate, so keep it on ice. Spoon a bit onto the back of your hand and tilt it to look at the shine, colour and shape.
  • Put it in your mouth and don’t swallow it right away — feel the eggs in your mouth and swirl it around a little bit to let the taste develop.
  • The taste will grow on you; the salt will be the first taste you register, as that is the first sensory element on the tip of your tongue. Then, the butteriness will build, as a base flavour, as the other tastes develop.

Acadian-Green-Caviar-Chuck-and-Danny

The two month caviar has more of a complex, ocean vibe, while the younger version is grassier, says Danny. Chuck prefers the feel of the eggs in the Acadian Green caviar from aquaculture, that has a vibrant dark green hue and slightly larger eggs with a nice shine, so they decide to use all three types in a classic egg-on-egg pairing: a caviar omelette.

Watch how Danny makes his omelette:

 

“Everybody has their own technique,” says Chuck, who is vigorous in his egg mixing. Chuck keeps the eggs constantly moving in an almost scramble, and then, instead of flipping the omelette out, uses a plate held over the pan to invert the omelette in one move — a method that home chefs may find less stressful.

Savouring their omelettes, topped with all three types of caviar, the chefs and Ceapa concede that these are “best omelettes I’ve ever had.” With the salty notes of the caviar playing counterpoint to the creamy eggs, the group finishes every bite of their caviar creations.

Caviar-omelette-chuck-and-danny
Here’s the recipe for the Caviar Omelette.

“This has ruined omelettes for me for the rest of my life,” says Danny.

Caviar is a luxurious treat for breakfast (you’re so fancy Chuck and Danny!) and can make a dinner très special. Kick off dinner with an hors d’oeuvre like a devilled egg with caviar or a blini made from buckwheat flour (another Acadian ingredient) and topped with caviar and crème fraîche. For the main event, serve this impressive plate of sturgeon two-ways: seared sturgeon with nori and sturgeon caviar.

Missed the episode? Catch it online at Chuck and Danny’s Road Trip.

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