Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 9 Recap

The Fab Four. The Fantastic Four. The Ghostbusters. And now, the Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Top Four. Dustin, Nicole, Trevor and Dennis may be our new favourite squad in the kitchen. Now if only they were all on the same team to fight hunger and squash appetites across our great land, rather than competing against one another for the title of Top Chef Canada.

For now we’ll have to be content with these finalists fighting the good fight solo… or at least with a little help from some other notable all-stars. That’s because no penultimate episode of a reality series is complete without looking back at the past, and in the case of this culinary contest that meant bringing in the past four winners for some help in the Monogram Kitchen during the Quickfire Challenge.

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L-R: Dale McKay, Carl Heinrich, Matthew Stowe, and Rene Rodriguez with Eden and Mark.

The task at hand? Create as many All-Stars caliber dishes as possible in a mere 35 minutes. Our former winners went back to their roots and served as sous-chefs for the top four in the glutinous battle, which seemed destined to-be, despite the random drawing to determine the pairings. Luscious-locked Rene Rodriguez was back and a perfect match with Dennis’s independent style; the pair banged out three presentable dishes together. Season 3 winner Matthew Stowe was finally able to return a favour and help Nicole present three entrees after she helped him with his path to the championship back in the day. Meanwhile Trevor was reunited with second-season winner Carl Heinrich where they worked better than Batman and Robin to pump out six passable dishes that were “perfectly seasoned” according to Mark McEwan. That left Dusty and Dale McKay, our #BeardedBros to cobble together seven dishes—six of which were deemed All-Star worthy.

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Dusty and Dale with their beards.

It’s a good thing these guys don’t have to do their own dishes because everything in our “clean-as-you-go” fibers was screaming at the… well, the screaming and general running around that was happening. Appliances were flying, chefs were sprinting and chaos ensued. Nicole was screaming nonsense and the contestants may have forgotten to scream “behind” more than once. (We miss you, Curtis.) Forget whichever poor sap has to do all of those dishes at the end of the day; we’re surprised no one lost a limb.


Classic Nicole.

Anyhow with a tie in place the challenge came down to what it should always come down to: flavour. And with his tastebuds still singing, Mark easily awarded the winning title (and $3,000 from the Monogram Kitchen) to Trevor, who is quickly gaining momentum heading into the finale. Obviously, Nicole and Dennis were pretty angry at themselves for not doing more while Dustin was probably wishing he stroked Dale’s “old-timey moustache” a little for good luck.

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One of Trevor’s Six Top Chef Canada-caliber dishes: Slow Cooked Salmon, Hollandaise and Roasted Asparagus.

With their duties officially out of the way the four winners bid the chefs adieu for now, switching from kitchen elves to tasters for the Elimination Challenge. It was a contest more weighted than most, since this was the last hurdle before the finale; whoever went home was probably going to be kicking themselves for the foreseeable future. No one wants to be the guy who went home before the end, especially when you’ve been concocting dishes for the finale in your head for the past few weeks. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

For this week’s Elimination Challenge, the final four went back to the classic drawing of the knives to determine which game meat they’d have to prepare and serve family style for a group of 10. (And yes, we could feel Jesse face-palming from the sidelines over the fact that he was eliminated right before a game challenge.) The catch? The dish needed to be prepared on a grill, by the lake of all places at Toronto’s Palais Royale. How very Canadian. Ah yes, and because grilling venison, bison, duck and boar through the Canadian winds and uneven heat wasn’t challenging enough, the chefs had $150 and 30 minutes to frantically run through Kensington Market and find their ingredients. It was like watching the Tough Mudder of grocery shopping—who knew you had to have a certain level of physicality in order to cook?

Oh, and because the pressure of cooking to get into the finale wasn’t enough on the line, there was also a huge trip to Beringer Vineyards in California at stake for the winner. That’s right, not only would he or she get to participate in the finale, but they’d be able to relax afterwards by sipping wine overlooking a Napa Valley sunset with a loved one. Heck we’d sign up for that any day of the week.

Knowing all of that, the chefs got to grilling for their table of 10: judges Mark, Mijune Pak and Chris Nuttall-Smith, along with host Eden, guest judge and James Beard Award-winner Normand Laprise, and guest-tasters Steffan Howard, Dale, Carl, Matt and Rene. Now that’s a dinner party!

So with the wine flowing and the plating precariously presented, everyone dug into the “wild dinner.” Oh Eden, don’t ever change.

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Dustin’s Grilled Venison with Birch-Glazed Apples, Mustard and Apple Jus

Dustin’s Grilled Venison with Apples was deemed classic, delicious and “safe,” while his pretty Potato Pave was a showstopper with all of its impressive potato layers. As for his Sweet and Sour Squash with Endive Salad, Brown-Butter Hazelnuts and Pickled Onions? The judges all agreed that it was a gamey dish they’d be happy to find on any menu.

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Dennis’s Whole Roasted Juniper and Cedar Bison Striploin

Next up was Dennis and his Whole Roasted Juniper and Cedar Bison Striploin. You could tell he was fighting hard to come back from the last hunk of meat he served tableside in this competition, which almost sent him home. Unfortunately he overcompensated and served meat that was too rare for some, although others at the table defended its cut. (Later, Mark would say Dennis got “lucky” with his piece of meat and that this wasn’t necessarily a result of skill.) As for his sides? His grilled cabbage and creamed leeks didn’t feel like a cohesive offering, and only served to confuse the judges in the end.

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Trevor’s Wild Boar Country Sausage with Brined and Smoked Boar Loin

As for Trevor, well he went into the challenge more confident than most, having just won last week’s challenge as well as this week’s Quickfire. He wanted to recreate a version of a pork dish he serves at his restaurant and so he went with boar several ways, including a Kale Salad with Grilled Boar Belly, Wild Boar Country Sausage and Brined and Smoked Boar Loin. Oh yes, and he had a Wild Mushroom Polenta to top it all off. Unfortunately his cutting board presentation—a self-professed “gamble”—really didn’t strike the judge’s fancy. Both Mark and Mijune were visibly disappointed there wasn’t more on the plate, and no one was completely sure how to eat it or what went with what. From our couches it was hard to see the problem (we were eating the heck out of those sausage patties with our eyes), but then again we also think store-bought potato chips are the food of gods. Wait… or is that those little black salty olives from the olive bar?

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Nicole’s Brined and Smoked Cinnamon Duck Breast, Confit Duck Legs and Cherry Jus

Anyhow last but not least was Nicole, who had the difficult challenge of grilling duck—apparently that’s the last way anyone wants to cook the bird, since the fat is kind of a huge fire hazard. (Perhaps the show should have come with a “don’t grill this at home” disclaimer?) So Nicole showed some smarts and came up with a workaround instead: she smoked her duck breast on the grill with some cinnamon and paired it with confit duck legs. She then served the dish with a Cherry Jus,  Creamed Savoy Cabbage with Braised Chestnuts and Bacon, for an overall offering that was largely applauded at the table, despite the flabby duck skin.


When Normand Laprise drinks your Cherry Jus straight from the pitcher, it’s safe to say you’re not going home.

Heading into Judge’s Table it was pretty obvious which direction things would go. It turns out playing things safe was a good bet in this case, because Dustin was the night’s overall winner. Unsurprisingly Nicole also joined him for a secure spot in the finale, meaning it all came down to Trevor and Dennis.


Mark and Chris can’t believe what they’re hearing from Trevor.

As the judges explained their reasoning and critiques, Trevor was all-around defensive, proving that even nice guys get snippy when they’re tired and missing their family. This competition grills on you, guys. (Pun intended.) But while Mark didn’t really like Trevor’s “posture,” he was quick to point out it wasn’t a popularity contest and that this decision came down to the food itself. Sadly, that meant Dennis would not get his chance to cook a Filipino feast for the crowd in the finale, as his convoluted side dishes cost him the competition in the end.

“What a cool guy,” Mark said as Dennis walked out to go and pack his knives. We thought so too, Mark. We thought so too.

“I’m pretty disappointed… The worst part is not executing under these circumstances. This was the biggest day and I just didn’t produce. Being so close is a tough pill to swallow,” Dennis said afterwards. “I hope people look at food a little differently after experiencing what I have to offer. I approach food to broaden people’s minds. There’s a big world out there with a lot of opinions and different ways to eat and enjoy. I hope people get that from me and what I’m trying to do.”

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Dennis’s final judges table.

“Dennis is one of the most likable young chefs you’ll ever meet. He’s always got this big smile on his face. He’s incredibly modest. He’s helpful with the other chefs, very genuine,” Mark told us later on. “He’s competitive by nature, otherwise he wouldn’t be on Top Chef Canada, but he doesn’t show that. We had some good moments with him and he leaves you with this feeling where you want to give him a big hug.”

“Oh, my god, Dennis has such a fantastic perspective. He brings such incredible and really rare influences into his food, influences that you often don’t find in kind of downtown Toronto fine cooking,” Chris added. “That’s one of the things that makes him such an exciting and interesting chef. He wanted so badly to do a Filipino feast for the finale and I would give just about anything to eat that food. He brings such a smart touch to just about everything he does… he’s an artist who has been painting other artists’ canvases throughout his career and I think as soon as he gets his own canvas, he’s going to do something impeccable.”

Until then we’ll always have those crispy prawns. Good luck Dennis—we want to give you a hug, too.

Next week? The finale. Hard to believe we’re here already, isn’t it? Will it be Tasmanian Devil Nicole, Defensive Nice Guy Trevor or Smiles-For-Days Dusty? The countdown to the big reveal is on.

Want more Top Chef Canada?
Watch this bonus scene from Episode 9.

Your Guide to Grilling Game Meat Like an All-Star

Game on: A spot in the Top Chef Canada: All-Stars finale came down to the competitors knowing their way around wild game and a grill. The grill is easy to master, and eager Canadians cook this way year round. Game meats, on the other hand, are tricky. Unlike beef, pork and poultry, game meats are incredibly lean and, therefore, easy to overcook, which means the difference between a juicy piece of meat and something akin to cardboard are not far apart when it comes to grilling.


Dennis Tay grilling up bison in Episode 9.

Keep a few tricks in mind when throwing these on the grill and you’ll have a winning meal. First, let’s break down the three most common game meats — cooked up on last night’s episode — and some of their best cuts.

Bison, the most common game meat, is easily found in butcher shops and even chain grocery stores these days. In the winter, braised short ribs or slow-cooked roasts are the way to go, but tenderloin and striploin steaks are where it’s at for summer grilling. Of course, the richly flavoured meat also makes a fine burger.

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This bison steak looks very similar to a beef steak.

Like beef, bison steaks are great when grilled. Try this recipe for Grilled Bison with a White Currant BBQ Sauce.

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Grilled Bison with White Currant BBQ Sauce

Short ribs aren’t just for slow braising in colder weather. Bobby Flay shows how to grill up some sweet and spicy bison short ribs, complete with a matching barbecue sauce. Get Bobby Flay’s recipe for Spice Rubbed Bison Short Ribs with Orange Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce.

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Bobby Flay’s Bison Short Ribs

How about a surf and turf bison burger, topped with crab and a spicy banana pepper jam? Get the You Gotta Eat Here! recipe for the Wild Fennel Bison Burger.

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Wild Fennel Bison Burger

Venison — meat that comes from deer — is often thought to be quite, well, gamey. Meat from wild deer does tend to be, but that from farm-raised venison, which is what we see in butcher shops, is less so. The flavour can be beef-like, but is generally richer. Incredibly lean, when it comes to grilling, it’s best to stick to steaks or the tenderloin.

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This venison steak is extremely lean and has a rich red colour.

Simplicity showcases the meat at its best with this straightforward recipe for a rack of venison. Get Martin Picard’s recipe for Grilled Rack of Deer with Rosemary.

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Grilled Rack of Deer with Rosemary

Summer isn’t the same without at least one round of burgers on the grill. Switch out the standard beef for venison for this recipe from You Gotta Eat Here!

Boar is similar to its relative the pig, in both flavour and texture. The difference is that the meat tends to be darker in colour and is slightly richer. A larger animal than its pig counterpart, expect bigger cuts. Chops are great for grilling.

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These look like well-sized pork chops but they’re actually wild boar chops.

Elk, although not one of the ingredients the final four chefs were tasked to cook with, it’s also a great game meat. While similar to venison — cooking tips are the same for both — elk has a cleaner, almost slightly sweet, flavour. Its meat is dark red, almost like beef, and very tender. Roasts and steaks are some of the best cuts.

For an elk loin, Top Chef Canada Season 2 winner Carl Heinrich uses the technique of roasting the meat in the oven before transferring to the grill. Get Carl Heinrich’s recipe for Roasted Elk Loin.

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Carl Heinrich’s Roasted Elk Loin

Because game meats are lean, the main trick for grilling them is not to cook past rare or medium-rare. When cooked past that point, the meat will become dry and chewy — not a Top Chef Canada-worthy result. For venison and bison, that means taking the meat off when it has an internal temperature of 120°F to 125°F; wild boar should be removed from the grill at 145°F.

Starting the meat in the oven with a quick roast, then using the grill to get that signature flavour and markings are a good way to keep the meat from overcooking. As is brining or marinating first, using wet rubs or wrapping game meats in bacon, which will help keep them from drying out.

Looking for more ideas? Learn the rules of the game from our 11 Tips for Grilling Great Game Meat.

How to Make Crispy Baked Salmon Fingers with Minty Peas

Transform Canadian salmon into a nostalgic, yet healthy, fish finger dinner, that will please the whole family. Spelt flour, cornmeal and breadcrumbs create an additive crispy coating, with tender salmon fillets, rich in protein and omega-3s. Vibrant peas tossed with sliced fresh mint make an easy, well-rounded meal and add a pop of colour to your plate. When serving, adults may prefer homemade tartar sauce, but don’t forget the ketchup for the kids!

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup light spelt flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup cornmeal (fine or medium-grain both work)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets, preferably wild
3 cups fresh shelled green peas or frozen peas (defrosted)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp sliced fresh mint

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Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add flour to a large plate. Add buttermilk to a large glass baking dish or pie plate.
3. In a large skillet, combine cornmeal, breadcrumbs, oil, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Toast over medium heat, stirring often until light brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer cornmeal mixture to a third large plate.
4. Slice salmon into 2-inch wide fingers. Working one at a time, toss each fish finger with flour, shaking off excess, dredge in buttermilk and coat in cornmeal mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet, tucking in any thin pieces of fish to create uniform fingers. Repeat with remaining fish, flour, buttermilk and cornmeal mixture.
5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until crust is firm and fish flakes easily. Meanwhile, heat peas in a large skillet over medium heat with butter until bright green and hot, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in mint and remaining 1/4 tsp salt.
6. To serve, using a fish spatula or regular metal spatula, transfer fish fingers to plates along with peas.

Watch this video to learn how to filet a whole salmon.

This No-Bake S’Mores Cheesecake Was Made for Summer

Nothing says summer quite like making s’mores on the campfire. The fire crackles, the smell of toasted marshmallows that fills the air, and the laughs from watching those mallows unexpectedly catch on fire permeate the otherwise quiet night.

There’s a little je ne sais quoi about the combination of a plump and perfectly golden toasted marshmallow, melted dark chocolate, and classic graham squares. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of childhood, perhaps it’s the act of bonding with friends over s’mores. Whatever it may be, this no-bake s’mores cheesecake is a rich and dreamy version of the summertime treat that can be made without having to gather firewood.

Classic graham crackers are used to make a sweet, crispy crust, while a velvety dark chocolate cheesecake is the centrepiece. The cake is then finished with a torched meringue topping, a spin on what one might consider the pièce de résistance of a good s’mores treat; the classic plump marshmallow.

Smores Cheesecake

No-Bake S’mores Cheesecake
Makes: One 8-inch cake

Ingredients:

Graham Crust:
20 graham squares
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of salt

Chocolate Cheesecake Filling:
265 g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
340 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream (will yield ~2 cups whipped cream)
1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

Meringue Topping:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Smores Cheesecake

Directions:

Graham Crust:
1. Using a rolling pin or food processor, crush graham cracker squares into a fine crumb.
2. Transfer graham crumbs into a bowl. Add in pinch of salt and toss.
3. Add melted butter to mixture and mix until crumbs are evenly coated.
4. Press graham mixture into a parchment-lined 8-inch spring form pan.

Smores Cheesecake

Chocolate Cheesecake Filling:
1. Place chopped dark chocolate into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water. Stir chocolate until it has fully melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar and butter with a mixer on medium speed until creamy.
4. Gradually add melted chocolate, beating on low speed, until well combined.
5. With a rubber spatula, fold in prepared whipped cream until well combined. Spoon into prepared crust and chill until firm.

Smores Cheesecake

Meringue Topping:
1. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine.
2. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat. Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler.
3. Whisking constantly, heat the egg white mixture until the sugar dissolves and it is warm to the touch. Once warm, transfer the bowl back to the mixer.
4. With the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high until medium-stiff glossy peaks. Add salt and vanilla and mix until combined.
5. Fill meringue in pastry bag with piping tip. Pipe meringue onto chilled cheesecake.
6. Using a kitchen torch, toast the meringue top. Enjoy!

Smores Cheesecake

Looking for more campfire treats? Try our 14 Easy Campfire Recipes.

7 All-Star Ways with Watermelon

Watermelon’s ability to masquerade as tuna and tomatoes was a surprise to those of us who only associate the juicy fruit as a summer treat for hot days. But the competitors on Top Chef Canada: All-Stars saw the brightly hued ingredient for its versatility in the unusual trompe l’oeil challenge where the goal was to trick the eyes and the tastebuds of judges.

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Dustin’s Tuna Poke that’s really compressed watermelon.

Dustin Gallagher transformed compressed watermelon into a version of trendy poke, with the melon’s colour perfectly imitating that of deeply pink cubes of raw tuna, while Nicole Gomes created a “cherry tomato” from the melon, stuffing it with feta and topping with balsamic jelly and mint. Taking a cocktail cue, Jesse Vergen compressed his watermelon with beet juice and negroni.
In each of these dishes, the judges were meant to be fooled into thinking they weren’t eating watermelon.

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Nicole’s Cherry Tomato that is actually a watermelon stuffed with feta.

Take a page out of the All-Stars chefs handbook and have watermelon in other ways than just a slice of cool fruit on a hot summer day. From savoury, sweet to boozy, here are a seven delicious dishes to make watermelon the All-Star of the show.

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Watermelon and Haloumi
The watermelon soaks up a vibrant vinaigrette made with garlic, shallots, honey and mint. The haloumi is seared off until it’s hot and melty in the middle and is then served with the cool, savoury and sweetly fresh watermelon.

Watermelon Gazpacho
Gazpacho is not only the realm of tomatoes. This chilled summer soup can also be made with watermelon, as Tyler Florence demonstrates. Just like the more traditional version, it gets some spicy kick from chilies and acidic tang from vinegar, but the fresh watermelon adds an interesting twist.

Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad
Peppery arugula, salty feta and refreshing mint combine with cooling watermelon for a fantastic summer salad. Ina Garten tops it with a dressing made with lemon and orange juice for a citrusy punch.

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Watermelon and Strawberry Icebergs
Spiked or Shirley Temple-style for the kids, these Watermelon and Strawberry Icebergs are a sippable way to beat the summer heat. The fruity drinks are topped with cooling slush and flavoured with a hint of summery mint.

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Watermelon Granita
Watermelon is a cooling treat on its own, but when mixed with a bit of sugar and water and then frozen into a granita, it becomes a superior way to chill out. The best part is there’s no need for fancy ingredients or an ice cream machine.

Watermelon Cake
While we usually think of eating watermelon in its natural state – cubed, sliced or pureed – Lynn Crawford has a recipe that takes the fruit and adds it to a baked cake for something completely different. To really bump up that melon flavour, some of the juice is also added to the glaze.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 8 Recap

Oprah and Maya Angelou. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Harry Potter and Professor Dumbledore. Those mentor relationships have nothing on the mentors we saw this week on Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, as the Top 5 received an inspirational video from those “who shall always be named” heading into their next Quickfire challenge.

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For Dusty, Trevor and Dennis they drew inspiration from their professional relationships. That meant messages from Susur Lee, Ron MacGillivray (the owner of Fable) and Nick Liu (the chef and owner of Dailo), respectively, to pump the chefs up and remind them of how far they’ve come. It was a little more personal for Nicole and Jesse though, who received messages from their mom and step-dad mentors back home. Cue the collective “awwwws.”

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It was a nice Survivor-esque locker room moment that even had us a little teary eyed, so naturally it was immediately trumped by the challenge itself. The chefs dried their eyes pretty quickly when they learned that even their mentors may actually be out to get them, in the form of a personalized box of mentor-approved ingredients. Eden and guest judge Antonio Park then took off while the chefs sweated out dishes from their random boxes and the clock ticked down, forcing the likes of Nicole to figure out how to quick-cook pork belly and Dustin to make due with a haphazard box that included quail, miso, shallots, fingerling potatoes and… whiskey. Maybe the whiskey was for the nerves?

“White boy meets Asian,” Dusty told to the cameras while flashing that million-dollar smile and telling Antonio that after today he was no longer so sure who his mentor is.

“Don’t be a psycho in the kitchen,” was what Trevor took away from Ron MacGillivray’s video. Apparently our cool, calm and collected nice-guy Trevor lets the pressure get to him every once in a while too… who knew?

Apparently Trevor should have been slightly crazier with his dish though, since his halibut landed him at the bottom of the pack alongside Nicole’s pork belly. But we mean… how do you compare those two meats in terms of cooking time? One takes minutes while the other takes hours. Luckily for both the chefs it was just the Quickfire, and the only thing on the line was their pride.

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Dennis’s Annatto-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Coconut Caramel Dressing and Fennel Slaw.

As for Dustin and his quail? Well it was hailed as one of the best dishes alongside Jesse’s venison. But it was Dennis’s Asian-inspired pork tenderloin that finally landed him a win following a few weeks of stumbles, and it seriously looked like the beginning of a massive comeback for the chef.

And then the Elimination Challenge was announced and everything Dennis thought he knew was a lie.


You want us to do what?!?

Want to know how to seriously trip a chef up? Ask him or her to create food that looks like one thing and tastes like another. And do it twice, times 75, for a cocktail party. We can just imagine the curse words that were going through these guys’ heads when they heard about that one.

But, that’s why this battle is called Top Chef Canada: All-Stars. The whole point of doing the show is to make the possible out of the impossible, and to make sure it tastes delicious along the way.

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Montreal restaurateur Derek Dammann 

And in this case that meant watermelon. Glorious, juicy, red watermelon. Three out of five Top Chef Canada chefs recommend it when it comes to tricking the taste buds and deceiving the eye. It’s no wonder guest judge Derek Dammann asked Mark McEwan if his store had any watermelon left; it popped up on more than one plate. But only Dustin executed it well enough with his Tuna Poke, which was actually compressed watermelon with wasabi avocado, nori and coconut cream. That, along with his Tomato Salad (tomato foam and confit with balsamic and basil) landed him on the top. And here we were worried that his shaky-handed server would launch watermelon and tomato foam all over those precarious stairs.

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Dustin’s Tuna Poke (front) and Tomato Salad

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-8-Trevor-Elimination-ChallengeTrevor’s Scallops and Orange (front) and Spaghetti Bolognese

Also on top? Our calm, cool and collected Trevor, who killed the night with two vegetarian dishes that were supposed to taste like meat. We weren’t sure about his tactics at first, but as it turns out his mushroom-based Spaghetti Bolognese and his white beet Scallops and Orange completely wowed the judges, and landed him five grand as the night’s big winner. Enjoy that family vacay, Trevor. Way to not be a psycho in the kitchen and finally — finally, win an Elimination Challenge after all of these episodes of Top Chef Canada.

With Trevor and Dustin on top that left a pretty upset Dennis, Nicole and Jesse on the bottom. Dennis was so sure that his “Pistachio Bonbon” (which was basically steelhead trout) and his “Moss on a Shell” (Tom Yum Mussels) were gambles that would pay off; nobody else took the extra step of making two hot dishes. But while the taste may have been there neither dish really deceived the eye, and the judges were just confused.

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The bottom three face the judges.

Then there was Nicole, whose Cherry Tomato (feta-stuffed watermelon) wasn’t just boring to judge Janet Zuccarini, but the entire table felt that it was an awkward and slimy presentation — no one wants watermelon fingers at party, Nicole. Geesh. The judges didn’t exactly dig her Garden Carrot (duck confit with sous-vide carrot puree) either, despite the pretty presentation.

But in the end it was poor Jesse, whose inedible Carrot (chicken with buffalo sauce) and Beet Negroni (compressed watermelon with negroni and beet juice) that really missed the mark. While the latter dish may have been passable, it was the carrot that really threw the judges and put Jesse in hot water. Eden admitted she didn’t like eating it in the slightest. So it seemed obvious when Jesse was unceremoniously sent home, knocking the fun facial expression factor on this show down several notches.

“What hurts the most is not making it to that finale. I had it in my head that I wanted to be there so there’s a bit of pain, but in the long run I had a good run. I slipped up a couple of times, I was trying to do a dish that I’d never done before and I missed a couple of steps. There was no going back,” Jesse said afterwards. “A chef is not just a cook, a chef is a leader of cooks and a lot of times when you’re a leader you have to be positive. That’s something I excel in. I’m a leader in my field and I’m proud of that. I can roll with the punches, I can take punches and I can keep f—ing fighting. I want to be remembered as the guy from New Brunswick who came and kicked ass.”

“Jesse is Mr. Smile. He’s a great guy. He sort of has that real outdoorsy, let’s go forage for berries and we’ll cook a duck [vibe],” Mark McEwan told us. “His food is very much from that category and I like his style. If Jesse could be a little more refined around the edges, he would have had better success. At the heart of it, he’s a good, straight-ahead cook.”

And now excuse us while we look straight-ahead to next week’s second-to-last episode. How are we here already? Who will go home next? And what kind of crazy challenge will the powers that be dole out this time? Until then, these are the questions that will keep us up at night.

Watch a bonus scene from Episode 8:
The Trouble with Watermelon

 

Why Sweet Potato Toast is All the Rage (+ 2 New Recipes!)

Sweet potato toast is all of the rage right now. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s paleo-friendly, inherently gluten-free, Instagram-worthy and just darn right delicious. Some people don’t feel great after eating bread first thing in the morning, and sometimes complain of crashing, bloating or feeling foggy. Sweet potato toast is a creative and nourishing alternative that provides your body with immune boosting antioxidants and helps regulates blood sugar. This makes it a perfect breakfast (or snack) for starting your day off on the right foot.

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Show us your sweet potato toast creations @foodnetworkCA and tag #MyFNCRecipe.

Ingredients:

Fried Egg & Avocado Sweet Potato Toast:
2 sweet potato slices
1/2 avocado
Pinch of sea salt and pepper
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sunflower sprouts or pea shoots
2 eggs
1 Tbsp butter

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Almond Butter, Apple & Banana Sweet Potato Toast:
2 sweet potato slices
2 Tbsp crunchy almond butter
1/4 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
1/3 banana, sliced
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp hemp seeds

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Directions:

Fried Egg & Avocado Sweet Potato Toast:
1. Cut a sweet potato lengthwise into slices that are 1/4-inch thick.
2. Place 2 of these sweet potato slices in the toaster and toast for 10 minutes, flipping them after 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook 2 over-easy eggs. Heat 1 Tbsp of butter over medium-high and swirl around to coat the pan. Crack each egg into a small dish, like a ramekin, and pour into the pan. Flip the eggs after about 15-20 seconds and then cook for another 15-20 seconds. Remove the eggs and place on a separate plate.
4. Once the sweet potato slices are toasted, fan the avocado slices over them and place the over easy eggs on top.
5. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper over. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and pea shoot sprouts.

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Almond Butter, Apple & Banana Sweet Potato Toast:
1. Cut a sweet potato lengthwise into slices that are 1/4-inch thick.
2. Place 2 of these sweet potato slices in the toaster and toast for 10 minutes, flipping them after 5 minutes.
3. Smear crunchy almond butter over the toast.
4. Fan a granny smith apple over one slice and bananas over the other.
5. Drizzle honey on top and sprinkle with cinnamon and hemp seeds.

Watch this handy guide to all things sweet potatoes, including how to select, store and cook them.

Photos by Sarah Grossman.

Chef’s Secret to Making the Fluffiest Pancakes Ever

A weekend breakfast staple, pancakes — hotcakes, flapjacks or whatever you like to call them — just might be the ultimate morning comfort food. As simple as they can be, it’s always refreshing to get some ideas from an expert on how to make them even better.

Yellow Door Bistro is a chef-driven European restaurant located inside Calgary’s Hotel Arts. There they cook up delicious fare from morning to night, but the restaurant is most renowned for its imaginative brunch creations. The most famous are the gourmet pancakes that start with the same base recipe, but change each month to incorporate new flavours and garnishes.

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The secret to their perfectly light and fluffy pancakes, you ask? Executive chef, Quinn Staple takes a very unique approach to the batter preparation that’s similar to how one would prepare a soufflé. Eggs are an integral part of a classic pancake recipe, but Staple’s version separates the yolks and the whites. The simple act of whipping the whites on their own before being folded into the batter, makes for lighter, fluffier pancakes. Genius!

To get that soufflé-like height for your pancakes at home, Staple recommends using metal ring molds and brushing the inside with butter or oil. This will help the pancakes rise high. This step may take a few extra minutes, but trust the chef; it’s well worth it in the long run. Try it out for yourselves this weekend!

souffle-pancakes-ingredients

Soufflé Coconut Pancakes with Pineapple and Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

Pancake Batter:
1/2 cup egg yolks
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup egg whites

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 lb. butter, cubed
1/4 cup 35 % cream

Directions:

Pancake Batter:
1. Mix egg yolk, butter and coconut milk together. In a separate bowl mix sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix wet ingredients into dry.

souffle-pancakes-steps2

2. Use a whisk to whip egg whites until they turn white and form soft peaks (you can use a stand mixer for this stage as well).
3. Once the egg whites are incorporated, gently fold into batter.

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Note: Batter will keep in the fridge overnight, but for best results (i.e. for the fluffiest pancakes) use right away.

To Cook:
1. Grease ring molds and large pan with canola oil. Heat pan on medium-high heat.

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2. Place molds into pan, add two healthy spoonfuls of batter into each and allow to cook until batter has risen noticeably and bubbles have formed around its edges, approximately 3-4 minutes.

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3. Carefully remove the mold using tongs and gently flip pancakes over, reduce to medium heat and allow to cook for another 4 minutes.
Note: If not using ring molds, just portion batter into pan and once bubbles appear on the edges of the pancakes flip them and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Caramel Sauce:
1. Melt brown sugar and cream together and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and carefully and slowly whisk in the diced butter until emulsified.
3. Allow to cool before serving.

To Serve:
Once the pancakes are cooked stack as many pancakes are desired on a plate, top with caramel sauce, chopped pineapple, whipped cream and toasted coconut. Enjoy!

pancakes-pineapple-coconut-final

Optional Garnishes:

Coconut Chantilly:
2 cups 35% cream
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup icing sugar

1. Whisk all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks are formed.

Semi Dried Vanilla Pineapple:
1/4 pineapple cut into small wedges
1/2 scraped vanilla bean

1. Toss pineapple wedges with vanilla seeds and spread evenly on a parchment lined tray. Dry overnight in an oven with no heat. Next day reserve in an airtight container.

Watch this video to learn all about the delicious history of pancakes

Mark McEwan Toronto Taste

Giveaway: Win VIP Passes to Toronto Taste!

Toronto Taste, the city’s acclaimed culinary fundraiser, returns June 4th for another tantalizing and tasty evening in support of Second Harvest.  Want to be there? Food Network Canada is excited to be giving away one pair of VIP passes!

John Catucci Toronto Taste

Set at Corus Quay, a gem on Toronto’s waterfront, the event features delicious dishes and drinks from over 90 restaurants and beverage purveyors. You’ll also get a chance to meet some of your favourite Food Network Canada stars including Mark McEwan, Roger Mooking, Michael Smith, and John Catucci. You don’t want to miss the culinary event of the year!

Foie Gras Crostini Toronto Taste

The evening is filled with delectable eats, silent auctions and entertainment, including the annual Chef Challenge, where three renowned chefs are tasked with creating a winning dish using mystery ingredients. In an exciting new twist, Second Harvest is offering three individuals the chance to become sous chef for the Chef Challenge, and one top fundraiser will earn a coveted spot at the all-star judge’s panel.

Since 1991, Toronto Taste has raised over $12 million to support Second Harvest’s food rescue program. Every ticket sold enables Second Harvest to provide meals for adults, children and seniors in need.

For more information and to get tickets for Toronto Taste on June 4th visit torontotaste.ca.

We’re giving away one (1) pair of VIP passes to Toronto Taste, valued at $720 CDN. If you are a Ontario resident and the age of majority or older, comment below and tell us, “Which currently airing Food Network Canada show is Chef Mark McEwan the Head Judge on?”. For your chance to win, you must comment by 12:00 pm ET on May 24, 2017. Odds of being selected depend on number of eligible entries received. Winners will be randomly selected and notified by email no later than 12:00 pm ET May 25, 2017. Selected entrants may be required to sign and return a Winner Release Form in order to claim their prize.

The Ultimate Grain Salad for a Summer Picnic

Combine the freshest produce of the picnic season with nutrient-rich quinoa, hearty white beans and a quick vinaigrette for a grain salad that won’t wilt or spoil on your next outdoor adventure.

Food-Netword-Canada-Picnic-Salad-Recipe-Allison-Day-5

Here, we mix crunchy quinoa, cooked beets, white beans, cucumber, basil, dried cranberries, pine nuts and dill, and mix it all up with a zesty dressing. Vibrant purple beets infuse the entire salad with a beautiful and subtle pink hue. While we love the summery flavour here, you can also  mix and match with your favourite ingredients, adding or subtracting as you see fit.

Prep Time: 15
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 6

Food-Netword-Canada-Picnic-Salad-Recipe-Allison-Day-1

Ingredients:
3 large beets, quartered
1 cup uncooked quinoa
11/2 cups water
1 Tbsp diced preserved lemon or 1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 (19 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Food-Netword-Canada-Picnic-Salad-Recipe-Allison-Day-2

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Add beets to a covered ovenproof casserole dish with a splash of water or bunch up in a ball of foil. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until tender when pierced with a knife. When cool enough to handle, remove beet skins and thinly slice.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 1½ cups water and quinoa to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and steam covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add to a large bowl along with beets; all mixture to cool for 15 minutes.
3. For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk preserved lemon or lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Reserve.
4. To cooled quinoa and beets, add beans, cucumber, basil, cherries or cranberries, pine nuts, dill and prepare dressing. Mix well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to pack and serve, up to 5 days.

Food-Netword-Canada-Picnic-Salad-Recipe-Allison-Day-4

Try this recipe for Fully-Loaded Summer Picnic Potato Salad.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 7 Recap

Women have come a long way, but when it comes to Top Chef Canada, we’re still waiting for a female chef to be crowned Queen of the Monogram Kitchen. A pretty peeved-off Nicole reminded us of that fact as we geared up for another balls to the wall episode of the All-Stars season on Sunday night, pointing out that it was up to her and Connie, now that the other women have packed their knives and left.

Apparently Nicole has every intention of making sure she’s the first female to the top, because now that she’s had a taste of the bottom, she’s adamant about not landing back there anytime soon. Her terrible dessert last week basically brûléed a fire under her butt, and the Tasmanian Devil was back in full force, guys. She’s all about winning the Quickfire prize money AND the show itself, thank you very much.

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episode-7-Quickfire-Challenge

Speaking of Quickfires and prize money, this week it was three grand on the line when Eden asked the Top 6 to approach a lavish spread of  ingredients, and pick three they wanted to use most for their next dish. Obviously this was a trap, because it’s never as simple as just picking yummy food and creating an awesome dish. Not on this show, anyhow. So sure enough as soon as the ingredients had been selected, guest judge Doug Quint, more famously known as the owner of Big Gay Ice Cream, stepped into the kitchen and revealed to the chefs what they were really up to: ice cream.

Seriously, will the dessert torture never end for these guys? Could Eden have pulled out a more diabolical laugh? With ingredients like garlic, cauliflower, beer and foie gras in hand, this may have been the first challenge where we would have rather dove into a bag of chips (more on those chips later) than tasted what the chefs came up with.

But that’s why these guys are All-Stars, lest we forget. Naturally, they took lemons and made…limoncello ice cream. Okay, so not quite, but Dustin completely froze out the competition with his “Foie-Rero Rocher” ice cream of foie gras and hazelnut with honey roasted plums and balsamic. Taking some CO2 to his concoction before freezing it was genius, as Nicole pointed out. If he could make fatty liver taste like a delicious ice cream, well, maybe we should just give him this competition now.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-7-Quickfire-Dustin-Ice-Cream
Dusty’s “Foie-Rero Rocher” Ice Cream: Foie Gras and Hazlenut Ice Cream, Honey Roasted Plums and Balsamic

He was Quint’s clear favourite at any rate, and his win finally ended Nicole’s prize money streak. Mind you she came pretty close to first with her garlic and coppa ice cream, with candied coppa and salted caramel. Heck, transforming garlic and meat into a yummy frozen treat sounds pretty impressive too. Way to nail that meaty consistency, Nicole.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-7-Quickfire-Dustin-Smile
It makes perfect sense that Dusty (and his smile) would win the prize money from Sensodyne.

What didn’t impress Eden and Quint was Jesse’s cheesy ice cream with strawberries and Parmesan tuile; watching Eden’s face while tasting that dish made up for her evil laughter from earlier. Connie’s “Corn Surprise” that came with candied bacon and a cheese tuile wasn’t the most delicious offering either according to Quint, and we think the criticism really threw her off her game heading into the Elimination Challenge. You could say she went into it with a chip on her shoulder.

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episode-7-Chefs

But before we get there, we need to point out that of all the Elimination Challenges so far, this one may be our absolute favourite. Why? Well, the chefs were told to create a late-night eat. You know, the thing they wanted to most mow down on after a long shift late at night. It’s like the challenge makers wanted to make us all a little extra hungry this week as we imagined what the over-the-top calorie-laden offerings would taste like. Hosting the entire thing in Toronto’s secret subway station and having chef Grant van Gameren – a guy known for his late night tasty snacks – stop by to sample the fare was just icing on the dessert-free challenge’s metaphorical cake.

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episode-7-Grant-Van-Gameren
Grant van Gameren (left) with Mark McEwan

Our inner gluttons were salivating the entire time these chefs were prepping. With $400 in the bank and their creativity set free, these guys and gals definitely had fun with their dishes. Well except for Trevor, who initially drew a huge blank because all he eats late at night is salad (yawn). Thankfully, he then remembered that he makes a kick-ass steamed bun with pork belly and so he saved himself by impressing the judges with his bun-steaming skills. Equally impressive were Dennis’s shrimps, which had the judges raving and Mijune dancing. (Yep, she was actually dancing in the subway.)

“It was just like a flavour bomb there was so much going on. It was like umami, like he really knocked that out of the ballpark,” she told us later.

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Dennis’s Fried Shrimp with Singapore Chili Sauce and Green Garlic Butter Rice Noodles

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episdoe-7-Dustin-Eggplant-Double-Down
Dusty’s Eggplant Double Down: Eggplant Parmesan, Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce and Roasted Piquillo Pepper 

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episdoe-7-Nicole-Shrimp-Cake-Ginger-Scallion-Pistou
Nicole’s Shrimp Cake with Ginger Scallion Pistou, Rice and Coleslaw

Had the rice noodles underneath been just as impressive, Dennis probably would’ve won. As it stood, we figured it came down to Dustin’s meaty vegetarian eggplant dish that had Chris Nuttall-Smith grinning and raving at the Judges Table like we’ve never seen him light up before (he called it a “disgustingly delicious dish” and compared it to mad scientists trying to trick people into eating all of the eggplant).


When you know your sandwich is damn good…

Nicole’s smoky and flavourful Prawn Cakes proved to be one step better though – just like that she was back at the top of her game as she was announced as the night’s big champion. What a comeback kid. Can we all just please break out a slow clap? From last to first is pretty damned impressive.


When your dinner guests arrive and you’re trying to act like you’re ready…

Anyhow, with those four at the top that left Connie and Jesse by their lonesome selves at the bottom. For Jesse, the judges hated his moose poutine and pretty much called it inedible, but for them what was even worse than a poorly executed dish was one that looked as though the chef just didn’t try. And this finally brings us to those aforementioned chips. Sadly, by creating a dill “chips and dip” dish as her late night eat, Connie definitely left the impression that she could have done more. Mark McEwan said it best when he explained that the chips were great, but that they were something he’d expect to eat for free while waiting for his actual late night eat. That put the judges in a bit of a (dill) pickle when it came to deciding who went home: the chef that made a too rich gravy with too strong cheese and drowned his fries, or the chef who delivered… well, chips?

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episode-7-Connie-Jesse-Hugs
Connie and Jesse hug it out when finding themselves facing elimination.

Turns out the latter was a bigger sin and poor Connie, who obviously had a lot on her mind this season with her sick mom, was sent home.

“I know Connie wanted it so bad and she’s a fierce player and she’s super talented and so I was hoping more from her as well,” Pak said afterwards. “But I know that she was going through a lot of personal stuff at that time and it was maybe distracting her a little bit. Her heart wasn’t fully there, perhaps.”

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episode-7-Connie-Jesse-Judges-Table

“The worst part is just feeling like I disappointed a bunch of people,” Connie revealed afterwards, noting that she was originally going to do a poutine but then changed her mind when she found out Jesse was doing one. “Today it’s what I didn’t do, because I didn’t make a dish that was substantial enough and I think the judges felt like I wasted my time in the kitchen. It sucks because I just took a risk with this dish. I never cook dishes that I’m not comfortable with so I took a risk and it wasn’t a good decision. There’s a lot going on at home and I’m just not in a good place.”

Top-Chef-Canada-All-Stars-Episode-7-Connie-DeSousa
Connie’s face showed the doubt she felt during the Elimination Challenge.

“I think Connie didn’t necessarily perform to the level she could have performed at through the competition,” Nuttall-Smith said. “She had some bad luck, you know, she had some stuff going on that I think made it hard. I would have loved to see her do better.”

“She was the one I thought was going to take it. It just goes to show you, where your frame of mind is at any point in time is either your friend or not,” McEwan also revealed later on. “Connie was there, but she really wasn’t there with us, unfortunately. I think it was just bad timing for her in a bunch of ways and she really didn’t show her true potential there.”

You didn’t disappoint us, girl. We’re with you 100 percent.

For now though, the competition is getting stiffer than a bowl of overbeaten egg whites. We’re down to the Top 5 heading into next week, and who might go home next is anyone’s guess.

Want more from Episode 7?
Watch these bonus scenes:

Dustin’s Family Call

Connie’s Family Call

Jesse and Morimoto Making Ice Cream

 

Best-Ever Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich

Packed with all the components of a classic chicken Caesar salad pressed between bread — can you really ask for more? Maybe just a side of fries or salt and vinegar chips, otherwise, nope!

Chicken_Caesar_Salad_Sandwich-10

This is my version of a Caesar salad turned delicious sandwich. To really take it to the next level, the ciabatta bread is treated and toasted as garlic bread before all the fixings get layered inside. Garlic and parsley compound butter is generously spread over the bread and toasted under the broiler until crispy and fragrant. Don’t be afraid of colour on the bread…believe in the char! It adds a deeper flavour that goes really well with the smooth avocado and creamy Caesar dressing spread.

This is a great recipe for the grill too. Prepare the components ahead of time, then grill the chicken and the bread and let everyone assemble their own sandwich. If you’ve had it once, I feel like you will be making this again.

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
For the Caesar dressing spread:
1 clove garlic
2 anchovy fillets
1 egg yolk
3 Tbsp grated parmesan
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

For the garlic compound butter:
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 tsp salt

1lb (454g) boneless skinless chicken breast
Olive oil
Salt and fresh pepper

1 loaf Ciabatta

4 to 6 romaine heart leaves
1 avocado, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
Shaved or grated parmesan

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Directions:
For the Caesar dressing spread:
1. Place the garlic, anchovy fillets, egg yolk, parmesan, lemon juice, Dijon and Worcestershire into a blender or food processor.
2. Blend until smooth and combined.
3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the blender/processor is going to emulsify the oil into the spread.
4. Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste.

For the garlic butter:
1. Combine the softened butter with the garlic, chopped parsley and salt. Set aside.

For the grilled chicken:
1. Slice the chicken into 2 or 3 thin fillets per breast by slicing into it as if you were to butterfly the breast and then just continue to cut through so you have 2 thinner fillets. If the chicken breast is thick enough you can get 3 out of it!
2. Pound each fillet with a mallet until about 1/4 inch thick.
3. Season the fillets on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
4. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.
5. Oil the grill and sear the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.

For the garlic Ciabatta bread:
1. Heat the broiler on to high and place a rack in the upper third of the oven.
2. Cut the ciabatta open and spread the garlic butter on both halves. Use it all!!
3. Place the buttered ciabatta onto a sheet pan and broil on high for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and slightly charred.

Assembly:
1. Spread the Caesar dressing over the garlic bread.
2. Layer the romaine on the bottom half of the sandwich.
3. Place the grilled chicken on top of the romaine and then top with the sliced avocado, hard boiled eggs, and tons of shaved or grated parmesan. TONS!
4. Top the sandwich with the other half of the garlic bread and cut into 4 servings.

Singapore Chili Sauce: You’ll Want to Put This All-Star Sauce on Everything!

Late-night eats call for those foods that hit all these crave-worthy notes: crunchy, salty, fatty, tangy, bright. These are the flavours and sensations the judges were looking for in the seventh episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars where the chefs had to create their ultimate late night eat.

TCC-Episode-7-Dennis-Tay-singapore-chili-shrimp

Dennis Tay felt panic as the judges approached his station, but he was needlessly worried; they loved his Fried Shrimps with Singapore Chili Sauce and Green Garlic-Butter Rice Noodles and he was in the top four for the challenge. (Resident Judge Mijune Pak was literally dancing as she ate the dish; there’s fewer compliments higher than that.)

Inspired by his own cravings after service for noodles and fried seafood, Dennis created a dish that combined those with his love of Asian flavours.

Since we can’t have Dennis whipping up fried shrimp with a Singapore Chili Sauce for us at home, the next best thing is to make chili sauce ourselves.

Typically used in combination with crab or as a condiment for Hainanese Chicken, this spicy sauce combines the hot, sour, sweet and salty flavours that Southeast Asia is known for. The key is in the balance. Yes, it should be delightfully spicy – it is a chili sauce, after all – but not to the point it overpowers the tang of lime and vinegar, the heat of the ginger and the garlic flavour. Tasting it to get all those flavours in equilibrium is essential.

Gwendolyn-Richards-Singapore-Chili-Sauce

While spicy heat is key, I’ve called for juicy, long red chilies here for spiciness that doesn’t completely suppress the other flavours. To really spike the spice, either leave in the seeds or consider throwing in a bird’s eye chili or two.

Singapore Chili Sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:
4 long, red chilies
3/4-inch piece of ginger, about as thick as a thumb
3 cloves garlic
2 tabelspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lime juice
splash sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons chicken stock, hot

Directions:
1. Chop off the chili stems, slice in half lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds.
2. Peel and roughly chop the ginger and garlic.
3. To a food processor, add the chilies, ginger and garlic and blitz a few times before adding the vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil, salt and sugar. Puree thoroughly.
4. Depending on how thin of a sauce you want, add a few tablespoons of the hot chicken stock. Puree the sauce again.
5. Check the seasonings, adding more salt, sugar, lime or vinegar if needed.
6. This sauce will keep for several days in the fridge.

Simple One-Pot Campfire Power Breakfast

The amount of energy we burn while camping with kids requires breakfasts of epic proportions. It’s essential to start the day with plenty of protein, nutritious veggies and big flavours, all accompanied by tons of coffee, of course.

Finished breakfast -1

Made in a Dutch oven, this one-pot power breakfast is super easy to cook, with no chopping required. It does take some time to cook, however, so make sure you have a pot of coffee brewing and a good book on hand while you wait by the fire. Whether you’re fueling up for a hike, wrangling children or just tossing a Frisbee on the beach, this hearty breakfast will keep you full well into the morning.

Note that cooking times will vary as not all campfires are created equal. Just try for an even medium heat and it will turn out just fine.

Ingredients-1

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 organic pork sausages, raised without antibiotics (about 1 lb)
1 green pepper, seeded and quartered
4 green onions, trimmed to fit pot
10 large eggs
Fresh mild herbs, such as parsley or basil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
5 oz baby spinach
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
A handful of fresh cherry tomatoes
Tabasco, for serving

sausages Step 1-1

Directions:
1. Heat a cast-iron Dutch oven over the camp stove or campfire, then add olive oil and 1 tsp of butter. Add the sausages, green peppers and green onions to the pot. Cook everything together, turning occasionally, until it gets plenty of colouring (a little char means a more flavourful dish).
2. Remove the onion after a few minutes and reserve. Continue cooking the sausage and peppers for a total of about 15 minutes. Remove everything from the pot and keep warm in tin foil.
3. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat gently with a fork just to break the yolks. Tear up the herbs and add to the eggs; season with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tsp of butter in the pot and add the spinach. Stir until the greens are cooked down, then transfer to paper towel and blot dry.
4. Add the remainder of the butter to the pot and swirl to coat the bottom. Pour in half the eggs; then arrange spinach over the egg. Sprinkle 3/4 of the cheese over the spinach. Pour over the remainder of the egg.

everything in. Step 3-1
5. Return the sausage, green pepper and green onions to the pot, arranging them in a single layer. Sprinkle the cherry tomatoes and the remaining cheese over the top. Add a few herbs if you have any leftover.

Cooking. Step 4-1
6. Cover the pot and place over low heat (low coals, rather than full flame). Carefully, with a pair of sturdy tongs, pile a few embers on the lid. Cook, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the egg is nearly cooked through. Time will vary with campfire heat, so just keep checking under the lid to see how the eggs are cooking.
7. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for about 10 minutes. The eggs will continue cooking during this resting period.
8. Serve hot with hot sauce on the side.

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Looking for more long weekend breakfast ideas? Watch this Lumberjack Breakfast recipe video and check out our 24 Easy Breakfast Casserole Recipes.

Portuguese Custard Tart

How to Make a Party-Sized Portuguese Custard Tart

Similar to its standard mini version, this extra large Portuguese custard tart is a fun twist on the classic pastry. The flaky, crisp crust filled with rich, velvety custard slices up beautifully to feed a small crowd. Even in the larger size, this tart keeps the signature browned top and crunchy edges by being baked in an extra hot oven (and by blind baking the puff pastry shell before adding the filling). A hint of cinnamon in the heavenly pastry cream is all you really need, but feel free to serve with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, a side of ice cream or a warm cup of coffee.

Portuguese Custard Tart

Bake time: 37 to 40 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups whole milk (divided)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Pinch salt
6 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 sheet frozen puff pasty, thawed

Portuguese Custard Tart

Directions:
1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer the syrup for about a minute or so, then remove from the heat to let cool.
2. Add 1 cup of the milk to a large saucepan. Heat over medium until the milk begins to steam and small bubbles begin to form around the edges.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, flour, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl until a smooth paste forms. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and set aside.
4. Once the milk is warm, gently stream about half of the warm milk into the flour mixture, while stirring. Stir in the remaining milk and sugar syrup. Whisk to eliminate any lumps. Add in the egg yolks and whisk to combine.
5. Pour all of the ingredients back into the large saucepan and place over medium-low heat. While stirring, heat the mixtures until it thickens and large bubbles begin to pop at the surface. Always keep stirring slowly, and be sure not to let the mixture curdle.
6. Strain the custard into a heat-safe bowl. Stir in the vanilla and cover by pressing a piece of plastic wrap directly to the top surface of the custard. Refrigerate until thickened and ready to use, or overnight.

Portuguese Custard Tart

7. Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Gently unfold the thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Trim the puff pastry into a square that’s about 3 inches larger than your round tart pan (an 11-inch square for an 8-inch round tart pan). Gently lift and fit the puff pastry into the tart pan. Press the dough into the pan. Trim the excess dough by rolling over the top edge of the tart pan with a rolling pin, paring knife, or kitchen shears.
8. Dock the dough to the bottom of the pan by pricking it with a fork. Be sure to prick any surface you wish to keep from “puffing” up including to crease between the bottom and sides of the pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Portuguese Custard Tart
9. Brush on side of a piece of foil with butter and line the chilled dough with it, butter-side down. Fill the pan with pie weights and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, carefully remove the foil/weights and return to the oven for 2 minutes.
10. After the 2 minutes, gently press down the centre of the tart shell with a clean kitchen towel if it has puffed up at all. Allow to completely cool.
11. Increase the oven to 450°F.
12. Once the tart shell has cooled (keep it in the pan), fill it with the custard. Place the filled tart on a rimmed baking sheet and into the pre-heated oven for 25 to 28 minutes. When done, the centre should be partially browned and the crust should be cooked. If at any time the crust begins to brown too quickly, cover the edges with foil (most likely halfway through the bake).
13. Allow to cool before slicing. Best served the day that the tart is made.

Portuguese Custard Tart

Roti

The Tasty History of Roti in Canada

Here’s some good news for Canadians from coast to coast: you don’t have to travel 11,000 kilometres across the ocean to get your roti fix.

“Everywhere we go [in Canada], there is a roti shop to be found,” say Marida and Narida Mohammed, co-owners of Twice De Spice. Born in Trinidad, Marida and Narida Mohammed sisters grew up eating this delicacy on a daily basis, calling it the “equivalent of what sliced bread is to Canadians.” But with a gazillion and one ways to make and eat this warm, chewy flatbread, what exactly is “roti?”

Mona's Roti in Toronto

Mona’s Roti in Toronto.

“In the [Indian] subcontinent, ‘roti’ is a generic word for bread and is often a synonym for chapatti,” says Richard Fung. “In Trinidad, [the word] is used generically also: Indo-Trinidadians eat sada roti, alu puri, and paratha, also known as ‘busupshut.’ Dal puri [generally refers to] what Canadians call ‘West Indian or Caribbean roti.’”

Fung should know: he grew up eating roti in Trinidad and produced Dal Puri Diaspora, a documentary exploring the roots of roti in Trinidad, India, and Toronto. Eating his way across the “roti trail,” Fung’s film showcases just how diverse the dish can be.

Many food historians believe that this ancient flatbread originates from the Indian subcontinent, where even today, no meal is complete without a side of roti.

“In India, puris are deep fried — so what we call dal puris in the diaspora might perhaps more correctly be a dal paratha,” says Fung. “The cooking method and the ingredients (white flour, split peas) are the results of conditions on the plantations.”

The dish began to reach all corners of the earth in the 19th-century, when indentured workers from India introduced the recipe to southern Caribbean colonies of Britain and the Netherlands. Over the decades, the dish gradually garnered its own Caribbean flare.

“Caribbean roti is a large flatbread made with white all-purpose flour and stuffed with ground, seasoned split peas and cooked on a griddle,” says Fung. “In its commercial form, it’s wrapped in a style similar to a burrito around curried meat or vegetables.”

Cooking roti

Roti being cooked on a tawah at Mona’s Roti in Toronto.

Much like the origins of roti, the roots of roti in Canada are a bit fuzzy. With waves of immigration in the 1960s, the wrapped roti from Trinidad arrived in North America, where it was popularized in big cities like Toronto and New York and became known as “Caribbean” or “West Indian” roti.

“A lot of people migrated [to Canada] from [Caribbean] islands and Guyana,” says  Marida and Narida. “Coming to Canada and the U.S., they brought their culture here to North America. As it travels, it changes and the spice levels.”

According to Fung, Ram’s Roti Shop was the first roti eatery in Toronto, opening in the 1960s (now closed) and serving Indian-style roti. Today, roti restaurants are scattered across the Greater Toronto Area, and there are plenty of choices for hungry hordes eager to sink their teeth into this satisfying dish.

“Toronto has a huge West Indian population,” say Marida and Narida. “In the Caribbean-populated areas like Scarborough, West Etobicoke, Brampton, and Mississauga, you’re going to find a roti shop tucked in somewhere.”

While Marida and Narida name Ali’s Roti and Drupati’s as being among their favourites in Toronto, you can also mosey over to Mona’s Roti — a Scarborough eatery visited by Great Canadian Cookbook host Noah Cappe and that’s famed for serving mouth-watering roti. Here, the bread is stuffed with a slew of delicious fillings, such as tasty curries (chick peas and potato, chicken, goat and shrimp), stews (beef and king fish) or veggies. The chicken curry is a best-seller!

Mona's Roti in Toronto

Mona’s Roti in Toronto.

Of course, Toronto isn’t the only place to enjoy this delicious dish. As  Marida and Narida say, no matter where you go in Canada, you’re bound to find “a roti shop tucked away somewhere.” Featured on You Gotta Eat Here, snag a spot at Calabash Bistro in Vancouver, where you can indulge in six types of Caribbean-style roti. A must try is the goat curry wrapped in a fresh busup roti served with organic mixed greens.

Plus, it’s impossible to tire of eating this favourite dish. There is no shortage of chefs across Canada who are making endless and ever-evolving variations on roti. As Fung points out, some Toronto chefs are adding new flavours and ingredients not found overseas.

“Immigrants directly from the subcontinent began marketing rotis with fillings typical of North Indian cuisine, such as saag panir or butter chicken,” says Fung. “Places like Mother India Roti and Gandhi sell hybrid rotis that one wouldn’t find in India or the Caribbean, but are very much a result of an encounter in Toronto.”

Marida and Narida are kick-starting “dessert roti,” which they predict will be “the next big thing.”

“You can never go wrong with Nutella and bananas with whipped cream on any kind of warm bread,” they say. “Sweet rotis — that’s a trend that we’d like to put out there!”

Try making your own roti at home with these tasty recipes.

Mom Deserves This Waffle Cake With Maple Whipped Cream

This dessert comes together with much less effort than a traditional layer cake, but is every bit as impressive. Maple-cinnamon syrup is brushed onto multigrain waffles that are layered with maple-sweetened whipped cream. A swirl of maple butter and a cinnamon drizzle provides the finishing touch to this sweet treat.

Make this maplelicious cake for your Mother’s Day brunch or lunch, or just to celebrate sugaring-off season in Eastern Canada. To save time, prepare the waffles up to a month in advance, then cool, place in re-sealable plastic bags and freeze.

Waffle-Cake-final-1

Ingredients:
1 recipe Multigrain Waffle batter
Vegetable oil
6 Tbsp pure maple syrup, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp salted butter
2 1/2 cups 35% whipping cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup spreadable maple butter

Waffle-Cake-top-down-1

Directions:
1. Heat a round Belgian waffle maker and lightly brush with oil (I use a KitchenAid Waffle Baker). Place the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer in the freezer to chill.

2. Measure 1 1/2 cups of waffle batter into the centre of the waffle iron, close the top and cook for nearly 4 minutes, or until the waffle is golden. Remove the waffle and cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining batter until you have three large waffles. You should have just enough batter. Cool the waffles completely while you prepare the cinnamon syrup.

cinnamon syrup soak layer 1-1

3. In a small pot, combine 4 Tbsp of maple syrup and the cinnamon over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring slowly. Remove from heat and whisk in the salted butter until it is melted and the syrup is smooth and a little creamy. Cool to room temperature.

4. In the chilled bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream to soft peaks. Turn off the mixer and add the remaining 2 Tbsp of maple syrup and the vanilla. Beat again until very stiff. You are now ready to assemble your cake.

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5. Place a waffle on a cake stand or platter and brush with about 1 Tbsp of the cinnamon syrup, letting it pool slightly in the pockets. Dollop about 1/3 of the whipped cream on and spread it around evenly. Drizzle 1 Tbsp of maple butter over the whipped cream. (If it is not runny enough, simply warm it slightly in the microwave.)

6. Place a second waffle on top of the decorated first and repeat the layers; syrup, whipped cream, maple butter. Place the final waffle on the cake. Brush lightly with cinnamon syrup and heap all the remaining whipped cream on top, piling it up at least 4-5 inches high. Drizzle the remainder of the maple butter on top of the whipped cream. At this point the cake can hold, refrigerated, for several hours before serving.

waffle-cake-top-layer-1

7. Generously drizzle the remainder of the cinnamon syrup all over the cake, letting it drip down the sides, then serve at once. To plate, use a bread knife cut the cake into wedges and serve.

Waffle-Cake-slice-served-1

Looking for more maple madness? Watch these videos for Maple-Nut Wafflewiches, Maple Cinnamon Rolls and Canadian Maple Pie Parfaits.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 6 Recap

You know who else was shocked by Andrea’s elimination last week? Every. Other. Chef. Yup, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars was back with a new episode on Sunday night and the remaining competitors were pretty freaked out that an early front-runner had left the competition so soon. Connie even had a bad dream about Judges’ Table as an indirect result of it. But let’s be honest: the chefs were freaked out but also probably slightly relieved. Because we all know that the master plan in doing this show is to eliminate the competition, one by one. Mr. Burns, rubbing his fingers together muttering “excellent,” styles.

Top-Chef-Canada-Josh-Elkin-Eden-Grinshpan
Josh Elkin (left) with Eden Grinshpan

But on Sunday night there was other business to attend to first: namely the chefs had to jerk around. That’s right, the night’s Quickfire Challenge revolved around everyone’s favourite road trip snack: jerky. Guest judge Josh Elkin, A.K.A. the Sugar Showdown host who’s known for being creative with his culinary quests, joined Eden Grinsphan in a Krave Jerky cook-off in which the chefs had to incorporate the beefy snack into an appetizer. Cue the awesome train of facial reactions, ranging anywhere from utter disgust (oh, hey Dennis) to delight (what up, Jesse?). Oh, and did we mention there was a $5,000 prize on the table? We could practically see Nicole’s eyes light up.

So what did cooking with flavoured jerky entail, exactly? While we probably would have hid in the corner and stuffed our faces with the stuff, rugged outdoorsman Jesse opted to rehydrate a pot of jerky in order to wrap it around some scallops and white asparagus. (Side note: we don’t care how great white asparagus tastes; it does not photograph well. Can we all just please agree on that?) Unfortunately, his plan didn’t exactly pan out when the jerky became gross and soggy, and he had to go with a backup Jerky Coated Scallops with his poached asparagus instead.

Sadly the dish failed to impress Josh, as did Connie’s Vietnamese salad and Dennis’ Jerky Pork Dumplings, which he meticulously crafted. We actually felt kind of bad for the guy; he worked so hard on that dish and was clearly upset to fall into the bottom (especially for something small like using too much soy). Dennis has got to be in for a revival in the near future, we can feel it in our jerky-loving bones.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-6-Nicole-Arancini-Jerky-4-ways
Nicole’s Arancini with Sticky Rice and Jerky 4 Ways

On the other end of the spectrum Trevor knew how to play to his audience and created a riff of a Jalapeño Popper that we would totally order in a bar. His strategy of a swank-free plate earned him a spot in the Top 3, but it wasn’t enough to edge him into a win. Dustin seemed to take the opposite strategy and transformed a Beef Tartare via pickled jerky, but while that also impressed Josh it was Nicole’s “balls, balls, balls,” or what was more properly known as Arancini with Sticky Rice and Jerky 4 Ways, that impressed the guest judge most.

So Nicole walked away with yet another cash prize. Shocker, right? At this point she’s won so much money she almost doesn’t even need to win the show. We wonder if she did end up giving Trevor his requested thousand bucks. Are sharesies even allowed on this show?

Anyhow, you can’t really blame Nicole for feeling on top of the world, or assuming that she had this thing in the bag. After all, as she pointed out to the cameras at one point she’s never actually been on the bottom. Which meant that the tide was about to turn, or the sauce was about to thicken… or whatever the culinary equivalent of that expression would be.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-5-Canadian-History-Book

So with the Quickfire behind them and immunity no longer on the table the chefs were asked to get patriotically creative with Canada’s 150th birthday for the Elimination Challenge. The show, in turn, got creative too and swapped out the traditional drawing of the knives for a drawing of the history books. Each chef had to pick a book that represented an important piece of Canadian history and then create a dish (an appetizer, entrée or a dessert) assigned to that moment.


We’re not surprised this was Curtis’s reaction when Eden mentioned book reports.

Obviously the chefs who drew desserts—Nicole and Connie—were less than impressed. “Chefs don’t want to do desserts, that’s why there’s pastry chefs,” Nicole lamented over her selection. Um, to be fair, didn’t Nicole just wow the judges with her riff on a carrot cake that she made of her own volition in the last episode? Yeah, we thought so.


When mere mortals are feeling stumped in front of the fridge they just end up ordering a pizza.

Either way, with the tasks assigned and the 15-minute shopping frenzy at McEwan foods done, the chefs had the prerequisite two hours to prep in the Monogram Kitchen before heading to this week’s hot spot, the ROM. There, guest judge Jeremy Charles and guest taster Ken Lister joined Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak, Janet Zuccarini and Eden at the table for an all-around Canadian feast.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-6-Jeremy-Charles
Jeremy Charles ready to taste Canadian History.

Dustin, who grinningly pulled the Gold Rush and had no idea what to do (“Do I look like a history buff?”) impressed the entire country yet again with his Cod Fritter Stuffed with Quail Egg. Between the flecks of gold on his plate and the golden hue of the runny yolk the judges definitely awarded the plate a gold star. Meanwhile Dennis’s comeback and Trevor’s resurgence were also present-day themes of historic proportions when the latter’s Red Fife Fry Bread impressed a raving Mijune and the latter’s Striploin was perfectly executed in puff pastry with a “150” carved into the side. Oh Curtis. And here you thought it was going to be cheesy.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-5-dustin-Elimination-Challenge-dish
Dustin’s Cod Fritter Stuffed with Quail Egg, Baked Cod and Sea Buckthorn Vinaigrette

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-5-Trevor-Elimination-Challenge-dish
Trevor’s Roasted Striploin with Mushrooms, Pearl Onions and Porcini Foam in Puff Pastry

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-5-Dennis-Elimination-Challenge-dish
Dennis’s Birch Syrup Bison Carpaccio, Sea Asparagus, Pickled Ramps and Red Fife Fry Bread

In the end it was Dustin’s dish that won again, leading to another megawatt smile from the fan favourite. (Seriously, that guy could power his own kitchen.) And with Connie’s Apple Crisp with Candied Bacon landing in the middle of the pack, that left Jesse’s (Not-So) Braised Short Rib, Curtis’s Roasted Cod and Nicole’s Apple Rhubarb Compote as the worst dishes of the night. And here Nicole thought she was “killing it.” Whoops.


Never say never, Nicole.

As conflicted as the judges were at all of the dishes, it was Curtis’s over-thought plate that stood out as the worst. He obviously had a feeling he would be sent packing, which is maybe why he told his fellow chefs that “feeling good is for stupid people” during the challenge. His confidence just never got there and he kept over-thinking all of his plates.

“If we’re going to go by my feelings, I knew there were certain issues I wish I could have solved,” Curtis said following his exit. “I was certainly disappointed that I didn’t execute every aspect as I exactly wanted to. You almost always mentally prepare yourself to be sent home. Now that I’ve been through Top Chef Canada twice, it’s perhaps not my greatest strength in terms of the environment or the context of how we compete. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to win more than anyone else.”

“What I love so much about Curtis is he’s not your typical chef… He never went down the normal route,” Eden revealed to us afterwards. “He gave us something that was always unique and calculated in his own way. Sometimes it really worked out. Sometimes it didn’t, but sometimes it really did.”

“I always call Curtis the mad professor,” Mark told us later. “He really has a process that he goes through mentally when he does a dish. I don’t always get it, but the stories are good. Oftentimes, they work, but I think Curtis would do better if he just had a slightly less complicated theory, in terms of how he lands on the plate. He really tries to have a lot of different formulas going in one game and sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Oftentimes, his textures were just not there.”

Textures or not, it was another rough exit for everyone involved. We’ll miss Curtis, his bromance with Trevor and that wicked slick ponytail. But as they say the show must go on.

Watch Episode 6 Bonus Scene:

 

How to Win at Dessert: Use Versatile Pâte à Choux for All-Stars Treats

From profiteroles – or, as we more commonly know them, cream puffs – to savoury, cheesy gougeres, towers of spun-sugar caged croquembouche and chocolate eclairs – all are built on one simple recipe: pâte à choux. This pastry is airy, light and hollow – which makes it ideal for filling with delicious things. Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-6-Nicole-Gomes-Paris-Brest Nicole Gomes’s Paris-Brest with Apple-Rhubarb Compote and Ginger Pastry Cream celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday. When it doesn’t work out, as chef Nicole Gomes unfortunately had happened to her in the sixth episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, the pastry was dense, heavy and hard to cut. The difference here between the two comes down to technique. Croquembouche Anna Olson’s impressive croquembouche.  Pâte à choux’s name reflects the dough’s cabbage-like appearance when baked. A fundamental part of the world of French pastry, it forms the backbone of many a dessert, including:

    • Profiteroles or Cream Puffs – small puffs of choux pastry, often filled with pastry cream, ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and dipped in a chocolate glaze.
    • Chouquettes – essentially profiteroles, but topped with pearl sugar before baking.
    • Croquembouche – A tower of profiteroles, held together by caramelized sugar and typically encased in a spun-sugar cage.
    • Eclairs – like profiteroles but oblong in shape.
    • Paris-Brest – named for the famed bicycle race, it is shaped like a wheel.
    • Honore Cake – A dessert with a puff pastry base that is topped with pastry or whipped cream and encircled on top with profiteroles.
    • Gougeres – a savoury profiterole, the choux pastry is augmented with cheese and sometimes herbs.

So, how to ensure you’ll have a Top Chef Canada-worthy pastry? Well, understanding the science behind pâte à choux is a good place to start. Whereas cakes and cookies rely on baking soda and baking powder to give them lift – created by a chemical reaction between the leaveners and other ingredients – the puff in a cream puff comes from steam being released. The water in the dough is heated as they bake and starts to expand, but the shell of the pastry has already started to cook, so that steam creates a ballooning effect. The result is a hollow dessert waiting to be filled. Laura-Calders-French-Food-At-Home-Gougeres A savoury treat: Laura Calder’s Gougeres made with gruyere cheese.

The ingredients are simple: butter, water, flour, eggs and a bit of salt. It’s the technique here that matters. Think of pâte à choux as a four-step process: two parts for making the dough and two parts when it’s baking.

The dough starts with one part butter and two of water – or a water-milk combination – that are brought to a simmer and then combined with flour. It’s key to add the flour all in one go and then keep stirring the mixture without stopping for several minutes to cook out that raw flour flavour and start drying the dough a bit. Good news: this is an excellent arm workout.

If you want to keep working your arms, you can transfer the dough to a bowl and add the eggs while continuing to stir, but feel free to move to a stand mixer or pull out your handheld one for the next step. The addition of eggs is where intuition needs to take precedence. Adding too much egg will lead to a runny dough and that means flattened pastries. Instead, add them one at a time while mixing and resist the last one if the dough is glossy and soft, but holds its shape when scooped.

Bake-with-Anna-Olson-profiteroles-eclairs Baking Queen Anna Olson’s eclairs and profiteroles.

A piping bag can be used to make the desired pastry shapes, but dolloping the dough with a spoon to make profiteroles works just as well. If piping, dip the end of your finger in a bit of water and smooth out any tips on the dough that could overbake.

Now the dough is ready for the oven. The key here is to start at a higher temperature and then reduce it. That initial blast of heat will help them puff as the water evaporates; the lower temperature will help them finish baking without overcooking. For best results, the tip of a sharp knife should be used to pierce the bottom of the pastry as soon it’s out of the oven to let any residual steam escape and keep it from getting soggy. These vents are perfect for then piping in pastry cream. The result should be a light and crisp outer shell with a virtually hollow interior. All choux pastries are best when eaten on the same day they’re made – which, really, is the perfect excuse to finish them all off.

Spring-Pastel-Eclairs Try these eclairs with pretty pastel-coloured glazes.

Pâte à Choux
Cooking Time:
45 minutes
Serves: 20 to 25 profiteroles or about 10 eclairs

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the water, milk, butter and salt to a simmer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add all the flour at once, stirring vigorously until the dough is no longer sticking to the side of the pot.
3. Transfer the dough to a bowl and, using a stand mixer or handheld beaters, mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated before adding the next one.
4. Scoop or pipe the dough into mounds on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet for profiteroles, smoothing over any points with a wet finger. (For eclairs, pipe oblong shapes.)
5. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 15 minutes or so. The pastries should be puffed and nicely golden.
6. Using the tip of a sharp knife or a toothpick, poke a hole in the side or the base of the pastry to vent any extra steam.
7. Cool completely before filling with ice cream, sweetened whipped cream, pastry cream or even savoury fillings.

Filling Recipes:
Laura Calder’s Pastry Cream
Savoury Cream Cheese Profiteroles

Want more tips? Watch Anna Olson make her version of pâte à choux along with her recipes for Profiteroles, Croquembouche and Gateau St. Honore.

Tourtiere anna olson

The Meaty History of Québécois Tourtière

No visit to Québec would be complete without indulging in a savoury slice of tourtière, the famed double-crusted meat pie with a flaky, buttery crust. But did you know this delicious dish has deep roots in an old Christmas tradition dating back centuries?

“It’s the type of food you will find only in the winter season, and nowadays, close to Christmas,” says Ricardo Larrivée, chef and host of the Food Network Canada’s Ricardo and Friends. “You will do it maybe once a year, a bit like going to the sugar shack. It’s a tradition.”

Tourtiere

Tourtière can be traced back to the 1600s, when Québécois settlers attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve and celebrated afterwards with réveillon, a late-night festive feast fit for a king. A tradition borrowed from Europe, the table would be overflowing with seafood, meat dishes, wine and luxurious sweets, consumed late into the evening. Tourtière was always on the table, and in 17-century Québec, the pie was traditionally served in a cast-iron cauldron and stuffed with cubed meats, often wild game (rabbit, pheasant, or moose).

Four centuries later, the pie remains a staple dish both at réveillon and in Québécois households. Although recipes vary, the basic ingredients are the same: a buttery pastry shell is filled with spiced meats and vegetables, and then baked until the crust is golden and flaky.

“It’s part of our heritage and it’s nice to keep it alive,” says Ricardo.

Some food historians believe tourtière may be related to a 5th-century pie called “La Patina,” made in a bronze pot with layers of pastry and a hole in the crust’s centre. However, in Québec, the earliest recipes for tourtière appeared in La cuisinière canadienne (1840), likely the first French-language cookbook published in Canada. And there are all kinds of theories about the history behind the name, “tourtière.”

“A ‘tourte’ was the name of a bird like a pigeon, and they were making pie with these types of birds,” says Ricardo. “So they called it ‘tourtière.’ Another other explanation is that it got the name from the dish — a tourtière is also the [pie pan] in which this meat pie was cooked and baked.”

Tourtiere

But what makes an “authentic” Québécois tourtière? It’s a hotly debated topic within the culinary community, with no clear-cut answers or consensus.

Along Canada’s coasts, it’s not uncommon to find meat pie made with salmon or trout. In Montreal, it’s all about ground pork, beef, or veal baked into a delicate shell, while others in Saguenay-Lac St. Jean lean towards making giant pies stuffed with game meats — enough to feed a family of twenty.

“In Gaspésie, we are making layers of dough, under which we will have either game or meat, and even sometimes potatoes,” says Ricardo. “The top is crusty and golden brown, where the inside pieces of dough will be soft as if you were having a dumpling.”

Virtually every Québécois family has a recipe. But regardless of these regional renditions, four spices are almost always included — cinnamon, clove, allspice and nutmeg — which distinguish this meat pie from the others.

The “pie love” knows no boundaries in Canada, with the recipe being constantly replicated and adapted. Some renegade chefs are getting creative in the kitchen, making funky renditions such as Bite-Sized Tourtières, Tourtière Phyllo Triangles and Tourtière Spring Rolls, perfect for parties and pairing with condiments like Dijon mustard, chili sauce, chutney, red pepper jelly or pomegranate jelly. Oh mon dieu!

But despite these playful renditions, Ricardo says that tourtière is a relatively rare dish to find on the menus in Québec and across Canada.

“The reason why this particular dish won’t be in the hot spot is pretty simple: it takes a lot of time and it’s pretty expensive,” says Ricardo. “There are six to eight pounds of meat in that. It’s something unique — it was a country staple food. Rarely will a restaurant do it.”

Tourtiere bites

Since it’s slim restaurant pickings, why not try mastering the classic Québécois tourtière at home? Start with this classic tourtière by Anna Olson, packed full of savoury meats and spices, or for a Montreal-style recipe, try “Chuck’s Tourtière,” a crust teeming with ground pork and veal seasoned in onions, cloves, and spices.

Martin Picard has long been a tourtière champion, making a mean version at Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon. Give his Tourtière De Ville recipe a go, stuffing the pastry with ground pork and meaty chunks of braised pork shoulder flavoured with spices, wine, and garlic.

As for Ricardo, he often makes his pie with hand-chopped pork, instead of minced meat spiced with nutmeg and clove. But no matter which recipe you choose, Ricardo says to expect one thing every time.

“Be prepared not to sleep for a whole night,” he says. “Because you have to wake up – four, five, six times – to add some broth into the hole on top of your dough. It’s good when it’s moist! It will take at least 8 hours to bake slowly. It’s a heavy dish, probably 20 lbs!”

Looking for more Québécois treats? Try these 15 Delicious French Canadian Recipes.