All posts by Leslie Wu

Leslie Wu writes about food and travel and the spaces in between.
Close up shot of Christa Bruneau-Guenther

Chef Christa Bruneau-Guenther Brings Her Home Cooking and Indigenous Roots to Wall of Chefs

Since childhood, chef Christa Bruneau-Guenther has cared for others in her extended family and community, using food to share stories and sustenance. Born in Winnipeg, Christa is a member of Peguis First Nations but grew up partially removed from her traditional Cree and French Métis roots. “The disconnect came from being brought up in an urban city and also the effects of residential schools,” she says. “Growing up in poverty, it’s just about survival every day.”

Christa Bruneau-Guenther on the set of Wall of Chefs

Although an aunt taught her to make bannock and homemade jam and there were the occasional fishing and foraging trips, Christa’s food journey really began in her 20s when she began to transition from home cook to chef. “Since I had 32 cousins and all I ever did was babysit from when I was eight, I was really good at taking care of others,” she says. At the age of 23, Christa opened up an Indigenous holistic licensed family daycare that helped inner-city children with trauma and other health concerns. She applied for government funding and began developing recipes in accordance with the newly released Canada’s Food Guide for First Nations, Inuit and Métis. 

See More: 12 Canadian First Nations Recipes

It was an eyeopener for Christa. “For the first time, I saw ingredients that were related to my Cree culture, such as squash, or pine nuts, and began incorporating them into our food program, getting the children involved in the food culture as well,” she says. “For myself and my staff, who were also Indigenous, we had this new sense of pride and self-worth and an understanding of where we came from.”

In her decade running the daycare, Christa continued her research into recipes and ingredients from her Indigenous heritage, which brought the challenges of recording recipes passed down through oral recounting and the lack of subject-specific recipe books in her local libraries. She began tapping into the community of Indigenous elders, as well as sharing her knowledge with local universities and residents. As a home cook with no restaurant experience or training other than a brief career as a server, Christa eschewed the traditional culinary school path. “Most of my learning was through Food Network, actually. I would watch and write down simple recipes from chefs such as Giada de Laurentiis and Christine Cushing and experiment in my own kitchen,” she says.

When an open space in the Ellice Café and Theatre — formerly a community-subsidized cafe meant to help homeless or displaced people — became available, the owners were looking for someone who would bring a similar aesthetic to the space. Christa opened Feast Café Bistro in Winnipeg’s West End in December 2016, showcasing the simple and affordable recipes that she brought from her home kitchen. The restaurant is already a fixture in providing aid to the homeless through donation initiatives of leftover food and “pay it forward” programs.

Related: 12 Tasty Canadian Indigenous Restaurants

Key to Christa’s efforts is accessibility of Indigenous ingredients — which can be a challenge given that the food costs of some harder to find foraged items can be higher than others. Feast uses these ingredients to maximize their flavour while keeping them affordable, such as incorporating sweetgrass, juniper and cedar for a dry rub for bison, sumac or bee pollen for pickling, and bannock as a pizza or sandwich base.

Christa Bruneau-Guenther on the set of Wall of Chefs

Christa also uses this accessibility ethos in her judging for Wall of Chefs, wanting to promote home cooks and their skill sets, bringing them into her shared community of those who cook for love. “Home cooks may have an advantage: they’re used to looking in their fridge and come up with something that’s healthy and that your family will love,” says Christa. “I want viewers to see that you can do this too, and even though you’re not a highly trained chef, it doesn’t mean that you can’t cook a delicious, pretty looking plate of food that feeds your soul.”

Watch full episodes of Wall of Chefs online. You can also stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Close-up headshot of a smiling Chef Nuit Regular

Chef Nuit Regular Brings a Warm Heart and a Keen Eye to Wall of Chefs

For as long as she can remember, Chef Nuit Regular has always found happiness by fostering it in others — although her happiness didn’t always start in the kitchen. As a young child growing up in Phrae, Thailand, she remembers hating to cook. “I wanted to go out to ride bicycles with my friends, but I had to help to make curry paste, even when I was little. My mother would grow her own vegetables and sell satay in the laneway outside the house,” says Nuit. “And I wanted to help my mother, because I loved her.”

When Nuit later trained as a nurse in Pai, Thailand, she made extra money for herself and her family by selling food in class, and then eventually worked in nursing by day and ran Curry Shack restaurant during the evening hours with her husband, Jeff Regular. “I wanted to become a nurse and help the poor people in my village to make them comfortable and ease their worry and pain,” she says. “And when I started cooking in the restaurant and the guests said they loved the food, it made me feel happy in the same way.”

Related: Inside Chef Nuit Regular’s Fridge

Close up shot of Chef Nuit Regular smiling

Photo courtesy of Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott

She and Jeff brought different flavours of Thailand to Toronto’s restaurant scene, including the northern Thai flavours at Sukothai, Pai Northern Thai Kitchen, Sabai Sabai and elaborate royal Thai dishes at Kiin. Trying to do something new has often presented its own challenges, both in sourcing authentic ingredients and in changing preconceived notions. Although many people were curious and wanted to learn, Nuit clearly remembers a customer who insisted her pad thai was made incorrectly. “He wanted me to add ketchup to the pad thai and I had to tell him, ‘I am sorry, but even though I won’t make any money here, I can’t give you the dish that way’,” says Nuit. “In the beginning, it was really hard because people didn’t understand, but now there’s a lot of diversity in Toronto.”

Related: 18 Ingredients the Wall of Chefs Stars Love to Splurge on

A plate of pad Thai noodles

Nuit Regular’s pad thai dish at Pai, which remains ketchup free.

Today, Nuit is a successful chef and restaurateur, responsible for over 200 staff members across her restaurant empire (with a second Pai location set to open this year) and her first cookbook, Kiin: Recipes And Stories From Northern Thailand, set to hit the shelves on October 20. As a judge on this season’s Wall of Chefs, Nuit enjoys the histories and backgrounds of the dishes that contestants set before her. “I want to see the story behind the dish, and those techniques from different households,” she says. Competitors looking to impress her discerning palate should be prepared to present a balanced, colourful and creative dish (she has even been known to sniff the food in front of her to check the aroma when judging). She also wants cooks to remember their portion sizes. “Don’t try to make a lot,” she advises. “You only have to make four plates, which is more manageable: the cooking time will be shorter, and your flavours will be more intense.”

Nuit Regular and Noah Cappe at a home cook's station on the set of Wall of Chefs

Nuit Regular on the set of Wall of Chefs

See More: Watch Full Episodes of Wall of Chefs

And as one former home cook to another, Nuit sympathizes with the stress of the competition (she still admits to some nervousness herself when she cooks in front of people). “I pause, take a step back and breathe,” she says. “And I tell myself, ‘You’re doing something that you’ve made for your family before that they love’. If you cook, follow your heart.”

How to Make Traditional Chinese Congee From Scratch

This recipe stems from my mother’s kitchen, where a bubbling pot of congee is a near constant presence, ready to be doled out as a breakfast, family lunch or late-night snack. Forms of congee can be found on tables around the world, from arroz caldo in the Philippines to India’s kanji. Whether you enjoy congee as a creamy porridge or more of a rice soup, it is the ultimate comfort food that doesn’t require any special equipment to make. Although some rice cookers have a congee setting, you can just as easily cook this recipe in a heavy pot. Be sure to get the bottom of the pot when you stir, because as my mother always says: “there’s nothing worse than burnt bits, which are distressing.” Take her advice and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon making this simple, yet restorative fix for your loved ones’ flagging spirits as the cold weather drags on. 

Congee

Traditional Chinese Congee

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients:

1 cup short grain jasmine rice (although there is some leeway in terms of rice choice, there are some outliers — parboiled rice will cook too quickly to achieve the right consistency, wild or brown rice cook more slowly and may be too chewy in the finished product)
10 to 12 cups cold water
1 2-inch knob ginger
7 cups boiling water (to be added as needed)
2 tsp salt
1 to 1.5 cups store-bought or homemade chicken broth
500 grams of pork shoulder or chicken thigh, cut into ¼-inch thick pieces
1 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp rice wine or sake
8 king oyster mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
3 green onions, separated into white and green parts (cut the white parts into larger 2-inch chunks, as they will be cooked, whereas the green parts should be chopped finely, as they’ll be used for garnish)

Note: while this recipe uses chicken broth and slices of pork or chicken, it could easily be made vegetarian or vegan by omitting the eggs and meat and using water, vegetable or mushroom broth.

Congee ingredients

Directions:

1. Rinse rice three times or until water runs clear. Drain rice. Place rice in heavy bottomed large pot and pour cold water over rice.

2. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stir with a rice paddle, thick spatula or heat-resistant silicone turner.

3. Add ginger. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour, topping up with hot water so that it doesn’t boil down. Adjust the heat to keep it just below a rolling boil, but not so high that it boils over (it boils over very fast, so do not leave it unattended). You may need to lower the temperature between the lowest setting and medium.

Related: How to Cook a Perfect Pot of Rice on the Stove

4. At the one-hour mark, the congee will start to thicken and become creamy as the rice begins to break down. Add salt and broth.

5. Marinate the chicken or pork with the cornstarch, sea salt, oil and rice wine or sake. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes to marinate.

6. Continue simmering for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add marinated pork or chicken slices, as well as the king oyster mushrooms and the white parts of the green onions.

Chicken slices

6. Continue simmering for another 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve warm with crispy you tiao (savoury fried crullers) and topped with rousong, pei dan (century eggs) or soft-boiled chicken or duck eggs, thin slices of raw fish, chopped cilantro, green onions or peanuts. Most of these add-ons can be found at Chinese markets.

Like Leslie’s congee? Check out her tips on how to make a soup creamy without dairy and how to make homemade hot sauce.

Chef-Nick-Liu-Profile

From Competitor to Judge: Nick Liu Returns to Food Network Canada On Wall of Chefs

Although those in the restaurant industry know that it can be cyclical in trends and fortunes, Wall of Chefs judge Nick Liu has definitely come full circle. Years ago, when he first dreamed up plans for what would become Toronto’s Dailo restaurant, Nick ran up against difficulties with procuring a space in the city’s hot real estate market. Undaunted, he started a series of pop-ups to promote his dream and his food, and eventually parlayed those temporary events into a full-time space on bustling College St. “Doing the popups gave me the ability to shift and move and really come up with a bunch of ideas really quickly,” Nick told Food Network Canada in a recent interview. Once the bricks and mortar restaurant opened, it quickly gained popularity and top 10 list mentions and expanded to include an outpost in the trendy collective known as Assembly Chef’s Hall.

Then, the pandemic hit, and like so many of his peers, Nick was faced with a mandatory shutdown of his restaurant as social distancing became the norm. After three months, he revived the pop-up strategy that had served him well before, offering the Spot Prawn Betel Leaf, Hakka Wontons and Big Mac Baos that had won him a loyal customer base.

Photo courtesy of Chef Nick Liu

See More: Meet the Home Cooks Competing on Wall of Chefs

Part of Nick’s ability to pivot comes from the wide array of influences drawn from his own life, including a father hailing from Kolkata and a mother born in the South African city of Port Elizabeth. The Hakka cuisine of his Chinese Canadian childhood are flavours that Nick grew up with (one of his earliest cooking memories is making dumplings at his grandparents’ house — an ingenious way to keep boisterous Nick and his brother occupied) and would form the basis of the New Asian style of cooking he would develop throughout his career. Trained at Toronto’s George Brown College, Nick worked in some of the city’s most recognizable kitchens: at French landmark Scaramouche, under David Lee at Splendido, and taking the lead at Niagara Street Cafe as executive chef. During that time, he also traveled and experienced as many cooking elements as he could — Tetsuya’s, St. John’s, cheesemaking in Bath or winemaking in Italy — Nick wanted to try it all. “Every place I’ve ever visited, I’d find my way into someone’s kitchen, like a family I met in Turkey who I met at their restaurant,” he says. “All these cultures, when you have these connections with food, want to invite you into their family.”

Now that he’s back home at Dailo, Nick has definitely learned some lessons about adaptability to the unfamiliar — and he’s sharing those lessons with the home cooks on Wall of Chefs  (he’s also no stranger to the competitive television world, having taken on Susur Lee as a contestant on Iron Chef Canada, Battle Bitter Greens). As a judge, Nick has seen contestants crumble under the pressure, often self-induced. “I think that the home chefs get into their own heads,” he says. “People start scrambling and changing their recipes and plating to make it a little bit more restaurant-worthy.”

Related: 15 Chef-Approved Tips to Avoid Kitchen Disasters

The top piece of advice he offers to anyone looking to win his approval as a judge (and top marks at the pass) is to keep from overcomplicating a dish. “I tend to gravitate towards simpler things. I don’t like too many things on a plate,” he says. “I’m looking for technique and balance of flavour, which are the most important things for me. And I really like when people try and get creative, but also pare that creativity down with confidence that they’re serving a great dish.”

Wall of Chefs returns September 1 at 10 PM ET/PT. Stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Make The Most of Your BBQ With Dylan Benoit’s Best Recipes and Tips

Whether you’re a grill guru or a complete BBQ novice, there’s always ways to up your grilling game — and Fire Masters host Dylan Benoit can help you fan your culinary sparks into a flame. Read on for the best ways to get a perfect BBQ chicken, the tastiest grilled corn or a sumptuous sauce for your next cookout with these handy tips.

Seasoning and Searing

Seasoning meat is an essential part of successful grilling, and Dylan recommends a heavy dose of salt to ensure that flavours are well rounded. You can stick with plain salt and pepper, or spice up your life with a rub, either dry (containing only dried or powdered ingredients) or wet (adding a liquid component). These mixtures are based on spices, herbs and salt, as well as other ingredients, and are rubbed on the outside of the meat and allowed to sit for a period of time — anywhere from half an hour to overnight.

Dylan’s Pro Tip: the longer your meat sits in the rub, the better it tastes.

Related: Marinating 101: How to Flavour Your Meat, Seafood and Vegetables

Searing involves cooking it over a high heat to give your meat or vegetables that golden, delicious crust— a great way to add texture and added flavour. When meat is cooked first at a lower temperature to the desired doneness, and then put into a smoking hot grill or pan to get a crust on the outside, this technique is known as reverse searing.

Dylan’s Pro Tip: Use reverse searing to cook thick pieces of meat. This technique is Dylan’s favourite way to achieve a perfect medium-rare.


Adding Bold Flavour 

Rubs can be purchased or made to your own individual tastes — the only limit is your creativity. Here’s a look at three of Dylan’s best wet rubs to get you started.  

Mediterranean Rub For Pork Chops

When it comes to the tenderest pork chops, turn to the dairy case to make sure your meat stays moist on the grill. Plain supermarket yogurt (use the full fat, Greek variety) can impart great flavour and texture, due to the lactic acid that helps break down the meat protein, while tenderizing at the same time.

Get the recipe: Dylan’s Mediterranean Rub

Dylan’s Pro Tip: Mixing the yogurt with aromatics such as dried herbs, lemon zest and honey will add great flavour, especially if you let the pork chops marinate overnight.

Butter Rub For BBQ Chicken

Based on a kitchen staple, a butter rub for the perfect BBQ chicken can be blended together in no time. Starting with softened butter, add whatever aromatics strike your fancy — Dylan likes a combination of sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest and dry mustard. Rub it all on the surface of the chicken and don’t forget to get under the skin — the butter that gets trapped there will help really season the meat.

Get the recipe: Dylan’s Butter Rubbed Grilled Chicken

Dylan’s Pro Tip: Chill the chicken prior to cooking to firm up the rub before grilling, and keep it on indirect heat to prevent flareups from the butter dripping onto the flames.

Related: The 10 Best Ways to Use Your Grill in 2020

Jerk Paste Rub For Spicy Chicken Or Pork

For those grill masters who can stand a little heat, Dylan’s best jerk paste recipe (inspired by the time he spends in the Cayman Islands) makes an excellent rub for either chicken or pork. This paste is redolent with ginger, plenty of garlic, a hit of allspice and scotch bonnet or habanero pepper for heat and plenty of brown sugar for sweetness and balance. Fresh cilantro and parsley add herbal freshness to counter the spice. Blend all ingredients into a paste, rub it liberally into the meat and let it sit, preferably overnight.

Get the recipe: Dylan’s Jerk Spice Rub

Dylan’s Pro Tip: Cook your jerk chicken or pork low and slow indirectly over mesquite charcoal for the best smoky flavour.

Give it a Rest

When you’ve finished cooking, it may be tempting to dive right into that juicy steak, pork chop or chicken — but waiting for a few minutes will get you even better results. A critical part of cooking meat, resting involves setting the meat aside after pulling it off the grill to allow the juices to redistribute rather than pooling onto the plate when you make that first cut. Remember, that meat will keep cooking after it comes off the heat (a process called carry over), so if you want your steak to be medium-rare, Dylan recommends taking it off the heat just after rare and let the carry over do the rest.

Dylan’s Pro Tip: Let your meat rest for up to half the amount of time that it cooked, and tent it with tinfoil to retain heat.

Related: Here’s why Dylan recommends Resting Meat.

BBQ Sides

Once you’re done planning the main event, don’t forget the sides. Dylan’s got you covered with a sweet and seasonal corn on the cob and a perky chimichurri sauce to keep things fresh.

Grilled Corn On The Cob

Grilling corn in its husks prevents the outside of the corn from burning, but also steams the inside, cooking it perfectly. Soak corn, husks and all, in warm water for half an hour (this technique will soften the husks and also keep the corn moist while grilling). Peel the softened husks back and be sure to remove all the silks from the top to avoid getting them in your teeth. Make a compound butter (check out Dylan’s pro tip below) and rub the butter liberally all over the kernels of the corn. Rewrap the corn with the husks and char it over medium-high heat on the grill until charred — the corn takes on the smokiness of the charred husks, enhancing the flavour.

Get the recipe:  Dylan’s Grilled Corn On The Cob

Dylan’s Pro Tip: A compound butter can be as simple as a garlic and herb combination, or much more complex — Dylan likes using a combination of chili, lime and maple.

Chimichurri

Whip up a batch of Dylan’s favourite condiment, made with a base of fresh herbs and garlic — bright with acidity and a bit of heat, chimichurri goes well with grilled meats and fish.

Although the traditional mixture is made mostly with parsley and a bit of cilantro, Dylan flips those ratios for a cilantro-forward and super simple sauce that just requires a few pulses of a blender.

Get the recipe: Dylan’s Bright Chimichurri Sauce

Dylan’s Pro Tips: Don’t get too carried away when blending — leaving it a little chunky adds more textural variation than a smooth paste. And be sure to budget time to allow the sauce to sit for 30 minutes to release the flavours. 

Watch Fire Masters Thursdays at 11ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Tips for Making Perfect, Top Chef Canada-Worthy Fresh Pasta

Perfecting pro-level pasta at home may seem like a daunting feat, but we’ve got you covered with these tips from Top Chef Canada’s recent pasta-making elimination challenge, plus a few recipes to get you started in your own kitchen. From soft and supple gnocchi to tender ravioli, this advice from professional kitchens will get you rolling in no time.

Get the Recipe: Fresh Homemade Fettucine

The Best Flour For Homemade Pasta

The lucky cheftestants got to work with freshly milled flour from urban mill Brodflour, but chances are, you’ll have to settle for supermarket flour. Nonetheless, a few wise choices will help your success rate when making pasta. The specialty flour known as 00 or tipo 00 is the traditional pick when it comes to making pasta, due to its fine grind (this attribute also make it a good option for pizza dough). Depending on the kind of pasta, which dictates other factors such as the amount of eggs added, coarsely ground semolina or all-purpose flour can also be used in forming pasta dough.

Related: This Week on Top Chef Canada…

Eggs in Fresh Pasta

For some types of pasta, especially fresh egg pasta, the golden yolks lend a sunny hue to the finished product. Recipes vary in terms of the number but it is generally around a 1:1 ratio of eggs to cups of flour. Some kinds of pasta dough, such as tagliatelle, use a combination of two whole eggs and four egg yolks per four cups of flour for added richness.

Eggs also play a crucial role in the elasticity and texture of fresh pasta, although dried pasta is often made with no more than flour and water.

Related: Get Funky With 10 Fermented Foods

Methods For Making Homemade Pasta

Although the tried-and-true method of making a well in the flour and adding the wet ingredients in the centre, then drawing the flour slowly inwards, works well to combine the ingredients gradually, this process can be automated using a stand mixer or other equipment (Alton Brown has an easy food processor method for his ravioli dough, for example). The dough is then kneaded, shaped into a disk and rested before rolling through a pasta machine or by hand using a rolling pin for flat types of pasta such as fettuccini, or shaping using molds or one’s hands with smaller shapes, such as pici.

Related: Get the Recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Homemade Pici Pasta With Carbonara Sauce

Homemade Pasta Shapes and Tips

There’s still more choices awaiting you: pasta shape dictates cooking method, time and even which type of sauce you should use. In a stressful double-elimination, the remaining five chefs had to choose their pasta types, make their own dough and create their best dish for guest judge Danny Smiles (a former Top Chef Canada contestant himself and now owner of three restaurants including Osteria Fortuna, planned to open in June 2020). Adding to the pressure was the freshly milled flour, which will cause pasta dough to oxidize (changing colour and flavour) if made too far in advance. As a result, chefs couldn’t use the one hour prep time the day before to make their dough, instead needing to make it the day of the Eliminate Challenge.

At home, however, you have the advantage of all the time you need to tackle a fresh pasta project. Take some inspiration from each of the Top Chef Canada contestants and their dishes to create your own prize-worthy creation.

How to Make Homemade Orecchiette

Orecchiette is made by hand, with the pasta maker’s thumb forming the distinct indents that give each piece its distinctive “little ears” shape (Francis used a non-traditional method of forming it on a paddle, giving the pasta small ridges). Although he had never made orecchiette before, Francis’ precautions in making a test batch to experiment with the fresh flour and his technique paid off. The judges raved about his version with broccoli sauce, crunchy broccoli stems, fried spelt grains and an Asiago emulsion. Judge Danny Smiles observed that the dish adhered to its roots from Puglia, where orecchiette and broccoli are frequently used together.

Pro tip: Francis put his pasta dough in a vacuum bag to take the air out and speed up the resting process. If you have a vacuum sealer at home and are in a hurry, you can try this technique as well.

Get the recipe for Orecchiette With Homemade Ricotta And Cherry Tomatoes

How to Make Homemade Gnocchi

Due to the time constraints, Stephanie didn’t have time to make the traditional potato-based version of gnocchi, which requires cooking and cooling potatoes before putting them through a food mill, combining with flour and eggs and shaping into individual pieces. Instead, she opted for Parisian-style gnocchi, beginning with a choux paste (similar to eclairs) where butter and water are cooked, then combined with flour before putting it in a stand mixer to beat in the eggs. The mixture is piped into a pot of boiling water to cook. The judges liked the softness of Stephanie’s gnocchi, although they felt that they were a bit lost amidst the cornucopia of other ingredients in her Parisian gnocchi with pattypan squash, white asparagus, wild rose harissa and white asparagus sauce with ricotta.

Pro tip: When combining the eggs in the stand mixer, add them slowly one by one to ensure a soft and tender, eggier dumpling.

If you’d like to try a potato-free version of gnocchi, take a look at these Ricotta Gnocchi from head judge Mark McEwan.

How to Make Homemade Ravioli

Lucy’s first job on her first day as a chef at Terre Rouge was making pasta, so it’s no wonder that her cashew, caramelized onion and Gruyère ravioli won favour with the judges for its texture, winning her a place in the finale. Ravioli is made by running pasta dough through a pasta roller to achieve a thin, smooth sheet, then dolloping spoonfuls of filling in a single row across the bottom half. After folding over the top and pressing gently between sections of filling to remove excess air and seal each ravioli, a pasta cutter is used to trim each piece.

Pro tip: Listen to sound of the dough in the stand mixer — it will tell you when the dough is reaching the right consistency (you are looking for a stiffness similar to play dough).

Want to tackle your own ravioli? Try this Short Rib Ravioli and Creamy Mushroom Sauce, or Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli.

Related: How to Host a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Drag Brunch

How to Make Homemade Agnolotti

This pocket-sized filled pasta (or “little cute pillows with a beautiful pocket of filling on the inside”, as Imrun described it) starts out the same way as ravioli. The dough is rolled and dots of filling are piped onto the sheet of pasta, but before the final cuts are made, imprints are pushed into the sides of the filling to create a pillowy dent. Although Imrun’s use of nutritional yeast to top his kabocha squash and mascarpone agnolotti mystified the judges, they loved the thinness and execution of his pasta.

Pro tip: Using a piping bag to fill the agnolotti ensures even distribution and neatly centred dots.

Try one of these tasty ravioli recipes and adjust the method and filling size as described above to try them with agnolotti.

How to Make Homemade Tagliatelle

Rich with added egg yolks, tagliatelle’s long, flat ribbons make it a tender and versatile pasta. Adrian discovered the perils of deviating from the traditional recipe when he attempted to substitute squash purée for eggs, resulting in a soggy dough that stuck and broke in the roller during his first attempt. His second try was also too wet, forcing him to roll out the dough by hand, which ended up with tagliatelle that “looked more like spaetzle”, according to head judge Mark McEwan. Overall, although the judges liked the flavour of his butternut squash tagliatelle with butternut béchamel and scotch bonnet cremini mushrooms, the errors in executing the pasta itself sent Adrian home.

Pro tip: Be careful when substituting ingredients or adjusting your recipe, especially when using wet ingredients such as butternut squash that add moisture to the dough and can disrupt the water to flour ratio. Try making it yourself with this recipe for Homemade Tagliatelle.

Once you’ve made your fresh pasta, try one of these 50 Best-Ever Pasta Recipes for Easy Dinners. Watch Top Chef Canada Mondays at 10ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

The Price of A Slice: Breaking Down the Costs of Cake

Have you ever bitten into that perfect, ornately decorated slice of cake and wondered why it costs so much more than the one that you bake at home? After all, you’re a pro baker, with a killer carrot cake recipe and decorating chops to avoid #cakefails. You’ve watched all the baking competitions and thought: well, that doesn’t look too hard.

The thing is, you’re paying for not only the baker’s time but their expertise when you buy those custom creations in the bakery. And those prices can vary greatly due to a wide array of factors.


Cakes can be priced per slice or as a whole, and sometimes include consultation and cake tasting sessions with the customer. Frosting a cake with fondant (which tends to lend itself to elaborate preparations due to its pliability) tends to be more expensive than just buttercream, since most fondant cakes require a buttercream layer underneath anyway. Fondant can also sit for longer with less depreciation in quality since it creates a seal around the cake layer — a big bonus for busy bakeries around wedding season, which tends to fall within certain time periods of the year.

Related: Anna Olson’s Cake Decorating Ideas for Swiss, Italian and French Buttercream

Fondant isn’t just restricted to nuptial bliss, however. Although wedding cakes used to be the big showpieces for ornate design, today, people are splashing out for custom cakes for all sorts of occasions, from birthdays to other milestone events, such as awards, albums or even retirements from pro baseball (hey, athletes like cake, too, as evidenced by these creations from Buddy vs. Duff‘s Buddy Valastro.)

Let’s take a look at a few more elements that rack up those cake costs.

Time Is Money

Duff Goldman, pro baker and Food Network baking judge (he’s also set to go up against Valastro in the new season of Buddy Vs. Duff), sets prices for cakes according to difficulty and labour at his bakery Charm City Cakes. It takes a lot of time and training to properly spin sugar, work with isomalt and execute elaborate technique-driven decorating styles (such as macramé and crochet textures, a big trend for 2020, according to Harper’s Bazaar), and the price you pay reflects that level of expertise and experience. A study by The Knot in 2017 estimated that wedding cake makers spend an average of 15.4 hours per cake, with each ornate floral decoration taking about 26.8 minutes.

Related: 50 Wonderful Wedding Cake Recipes to Celebrate Your Big Day

Ingredients Add Up

Both quantity and quality of ingredients also factor into the final price. Even though professional bakers often pay wholesale prices, the cost of that single bean chocolate or gold leaf adds up. Smaller bakeries also aren’t getting the same bulk discounts on flour, butter and sugar as those large scale facilities churning out cakes on conveyor belts, so they are paying a premium (and those costs add up fast: the Knot study estimated that the average wedding cake uses a whopping 13.5 cups of sugar).

Get the Recipe: Naked Wedding Cake

Convenience Is Key

Like most things in life, you’re also paying for convenience. Although the bragging rights for successful checkerboard cakes or other elaborate designs are high, consider what you’d have to stock at home in order to make that creation. Commercial ovens suitable for large scale cakes, scales and piping equipment all cost money (not to mention available storage space), and you’re forking over the cash to avoid storing your own forks. The ability to have someone else take care of the details on your big day, whether it’s a wedding, birthday or other celebration, is often priceless—among other things, cake bakers are often pros at moving sky-high creations, which is a task that’s not for the faint of heart.

So the next time you wonder why that elaborate bakery cake costs what it does, consider the time, labour and love behind each forkful.

Watch The Big Bake: Spring Tuesdays at 9PM ep and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

 

 

How-to-Melt-and-Temper-Chocolate-for-Perfect-Candy-Making

How to Melt and Temper Chocolate for Perfect Candy Making

Dreaming of divine chocolate decorations but terrified of losing your temper? For many baked items, such as fluffy frosting or creamy cake fillings, you can get away with simply melting chocolate to take it from a solid to liquid form like in these Chocolate Divinity Candies. When you get into the world of bonbons and confectionary, however, that’s another matter entirely. Tempering chocolate is a mandatory step if you want both the shiny gloss and the distinctive snap of a well-made candy or decoration like in Anna Olson’s Chocolate Dipped Marzipan — and that’s where you have to pay some attention to technique in order to achieve success.


L-R: Anna Olson’s Chocolate Divinity Candy and Chocolate Dipped Marzipan

If the thought of working with molten chocolate (and even worse, the dangers of it seizing or splitting) has you clutching your (baking) pearls, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out the best, and easiest, ways to work with chocolate, even if you’re a novice chocolatier.

How to Properly Melt Chocolate

For melting chocolate, each method has its advocates: some cooks prefer the double boiler method (or just setting a glass bowl on top of barely simmering water), while others turn to the microwave for an easy fix. Both methods involve the same basic principle: chopping chocolate into chunks for faster, more even melting, and applying gentle heat until most of the distinct shapes have disappeared.

If the unthinkable happens and your chocolate separates into a greasy, gritty mess, due to over-vigorous stirring or too-high heat, you can try Anna Olson’s ingenious trick to add moisture to return the mixture to molten glossiness (note: this fix is only for melting — even a single drop of water is the enemy of a well-tempered chocolate).

How to Properly Temper Chocolate

For this technique, you’ll need to pull out a few items, namely a candy thermometer, a sturdy glass bowl and a silicon spatula that can handle some heat without melting. Depending on the method you use, you may also need a few more pieces of equipment, such as a marble board and wax paper.

The initial stage of tempering looks much like the melting process — use a glass bowl set over barely simmering water (not a rolling boil; there shouldn’t be any bubbles) to melt the chocolate chunks, or place the bowl in the microwave and use short bursts, checking often.

Where tempering differs, however, is the next step, where the chocolate mixture is cooled and warmed within precise ranges of temperature in order to achieve a smooth, shiny surface when it hardens (the temperature you need to hit depends on the type of chocolate you plan to use).


Anna Olson’s Chocolate Covered Caramel Bars

This varying of temperature can be accomplished in a couple of ways: by adding other ingredients such as more chocolate (seeding) or cocoa butter to the mixture, or by pouring two-thirds of the hot chocolate mixture onto a marble board and mixing it with putty knives to cool it manually (see Anna Olson’s step-by-step description for more on this method).

Inquiring scientific minds among us may be intrigued by more gear-driven approaches, including Alton Brown’s combination of the friction of a food processor’s blades plus liberal use of a hair dryer to create heat, or J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s sous-vide circulator method over at Serious Eats.

Decoding Seed Tempering

For the easiest method using the least equipment, however, seeding chocolate is probably the best approach for a chocolate novice (for a visual demonstration, check out the video below from The Great Chocolate Showdownjudge Steven Hodge, pastry chef and chocolatier at Temper Pastry in West Vancouver.) With a few simple steps, this process can be achieved without too much stress (on both the chocolate and the cook).


 

Using the glass bowl over simmering water method, melt chunks of chocolate to the desired temperature (remember that they vary depending on the chocolate and are very narrow ranges, so use that candy thermometer.) We’ll use dark chocolate for this example, which should be heated to 45 to 48 degrees — milk and white chocolate, with higher milk and sugar contents, may react differently. 

Take the chocolate off the heat (leave the burner on…you’ll need it again shortly) and add prepared small pieces of chocolate (the “seeds”), which will help cool the mixture down quickly as they melt into the warmed chocolate.

Stir with a spatula until the overall temperature comes down to about 27 degrees Celsius (again, there may be some variation depending on the type of chocolate you use).

Next, quickly warm the chocolate back up by putting it into the double boiler until it hits 32 degrees Celsius and a thick and glossy texture — perfect for piping into a pretty design on waxed paper that will set up beautifully. If you aren’t sure if you’ve tempered the chocolate correctly, you can test it out by piping a small bit onto the waxed paper (or a metal sheet pan set over an ice pack).

Working quickly, swirl and create chocolate garnishes to your heart’s content: the designs should set up to a delicate decoration with the signature snap when you bite into it (try and leave a few decorations for dessert!)

 For more decadent chocolate creations, check out The Great Chocolate Showdown on Food Network Canada on Tuesdays at 9 pm E/T.

Flour 101 holiday cookies

Flour 101: Your Guide to Mastering Holiday Baking

Although most home bakers are working on a smaller scale than the sky-high creations seen on The Big Bake, there’s still a lot of pressure around the holidays, especially when it comes to baking family favourites and traditional holiday treats. Set yourself up for baking success by choosing the right type of flour for a number of applications, from homemade cookies to gingerbread houses. This expert advice will cover some helpful tricks and recipes to help take the stress out of holiday baking. Please remember to have fun and make holiday baking a family event. Also, always ensure that safe food handling of flour is followed. Enjoy!

The Basics

In general, paying attention to the protein level in flour and applying it accordingly will give you the best results, as the higher the protein content, the more structure the final product will have. Hard winter wheat and hard spring wheat flour are primarily used for yeast leavened products like breads, pizzas and tortillas. You may see this flour called All-purpose, bread, pizza or no-time dough. Soft wheat flour is primarily used for sweet baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins, cake donuts and biscuits and is often called pastry flour, cake flour or hi-ratio cake flour.

See more: Ardent Mills’ complete flour portfolio including definitions and best-used-for applications.

Cookies

A large batch of cookies is the perfect plan-ahead project to have stashed away for unexpected company, gifts, office cookie exchanges, or just enjoying in front of the fire (don’t forget to save some for Santa!). Typically for cookies where a tender touch is required such as the traditional Linzer cookie, softer varieties such as a cake or pastry flour are used to give a lighter, melt-in-your-mouth tender texture that still has enough structure to hold a filling like jam or icing.

For sturdier cookies,  like those used for constructing gingerbread houses (like this very Canadian gingerbread cabin) a lower protein hard wheat flour, like  All-purpose flour can be helpful.

Tip: Most cookies will freeze well, making them a true timesaver for the busy holidays. Make large batches early and freeze them in airtight containers to ice or decorate later. You can also prepare the cookie dough ahead of time and freeze, to quickly bake fresh, as needed.

Cakes

Both all-purpose flour and cake flour play a part in cake baking. To get Bundt cakes (such as this festive orange-cranberry version) to stand tall and withstand a filling of vibrant berries, all-purpose flour helps add heft. A bûche de noël (yule log), on the other hand, requires that the cake be soft enough to roll around a creamy filling without cracking, which is where cake flour shines.

When baking gluten-free cakes (like this gluten-free marble pound cake) there are many options in terms of gluten-free flour, including naturally gluten-free ancient-grains such as amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff available from The Annex by Ardent Mills. Or you may consider using an organic flour to replace the conventional flour in the recipe. Ardent Mills has organic offerings under the brand Simply Milled by Ardent Mills™ in both all-purpose or pastry flour that are suitable for cakes. This will certainly appeal to the health-conscious members of your family to bake cakes made with organic flour, without having to adjust the entire recipe.

Tip: Be sure to cool cakes completely before adding frosting to avoid runny icing and peeling tops. Chill cakes and ensure frosting is firm before wrapping and freezing to avoid ruining decorations.

Holiday Pudding

Depending on which side of the pond you hail from, pudding can mean either a post-meal sweet, a cake-like sponge or a custardy creation. Steamed British-style puddings — such as the plum and figgy pudding made famous through Christmas carols — use trusty all-purpose flour and a bain-marie (water bath) to keep them moist throughout baking. Often referred to as “instant-blending” flour, granular flour can be used to thicken custards and other pudding-style confections, without creating lumps or the need for a roux.

Tip: Puddings are perfect to make ahead for the holidays. Try this luscious caramel and salted butter pudding, which uses a boil and chill setting method,  as an easy plating or topping option.

Breads

The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air makes any home feel cozy for the holidays. Bread flour packs a powerhouse of protein and plenty of stretchy gluten, making sure your loaf has a firm interior and crispy brown crust. Ciabatta bread takes advantage of this stickiness to produce an artisan bread with a chewy texture. Whole wheat, whole grain, rye and barley flours can also be used in bread baking, producing a loaf with a deep flavour and dense crumb.

For sweet breads, such as the perennial holiday favourite panettone, a lighter texture is preferred. All-purpose flour can be used to help the dough create the distinctive and desired dome-shaped structure.

Tip: Bake your festive creations ahead of time (be sure that you have a lot of room in the freezer) and defrost the bread in a low temperature oven for an easy savoury or sweet fruit-studded snack.

Pies

Perfect pie crust is an obsession for many bakers and with good reason — it is often viewed as both a science and an art. Although one of the many debates tends to be about whether to use lard, butter or shortening for the crust, the type of flour can also make a difference. Some recipes, such as this sugar pie, call for unbleached flour, according to the taste preferences of the baker. Pastry flour, which is often confused with cake flour, differs due to its slightly higher protein content. The added protein in this flour lends a bit more support for baked goods that need to have some structure while keeping the flaky texture, making it perfect for filled pies such as this mincemeat pie.

Tip: Prepare pie dough ahead of time and freeze in pre-portioned containers ready to thaw and roll out. The filling can also be prepared ahead of time to use later, or, depending on the pie, the crust can be blind baked, filled and frozen.

Safe food handling of flour

For safe food handling of flour, please make sure to follow these safety tips.

  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
  • Bake products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.

Looking for more holiday baking ideas? Check out full episodes of The Big Bake.

Host Gail Simmons on the set of Iron Chef Canada

Gail Simmons Answers Your Most Burning Question About Iron Chef Canada

Chefs stepping into the Iron Chef Canada Kitchen Stadium, as well as home viewers, will be familiar with Gail Simmons — as the all-knowing host, she’s the first voice you hear on each episode and the one who provides background information on chef and ingredient pedigrees.

Gail’s also made her bones in the kitchen, as a culinary-school trained expert, food writer for Food & Wine magazine and judge on Top Chef. Although she currently lives in Brooklyn, Gail is Canadian through and through — born and bred on Toronto’s food scene. “Part of the reason I was so excited to do this show was that it gave me an opportunity to work on not only a brand I love, with a network I’ve always wanted to work with, but to have a project that brought me home,” she says. “And the bonus is that the work I’m doing is with the best chefs in Canada and I also get to see how far the culinary world has come since I left twenty years ago.”


Host Gail Simmons on the set of Iron Chef Canada

One thing that Gail is especially excited about this season is the focus on Indigenous cuisine, especially in Battle Trout between Iron Chef Lynn Crawford and Chef Shane Chartrand of the Maskekosak from Enoch Cree Nation. “I have to say I cannot wait to watch this episode because, to me, it just epitomized true Canadian cooking,” she says. “Chef Shane is cooking food that opened my eyes to the bounty of Canada.

As the show’s knowledgeable host, Gail doesn’t get to taste the finished dishes, but she does get to see what competitors do successfully, and what causes panic on the kitchen line. “The simple ingredients can be just as challenging as, let’s say, offal (watch the full episode of Battle Offal here) where you need to understand how to cook with the internal organs of different animals. That is incredibly difficult in a lot of ways, but it also focuses what you can make,” she says.

Keeping it simple can be a real challenge for chefs wanting to demonstrate technique and skills in a competitive environment, especially with more familiar ingredients. “An ingredient that we all cook with all the time is so open to possibilities and vagaries that the challenge becomes cooking on the fly and keeping your focus, and doing something that is interesting, but is still all about that ingredient,” she says. 


Chef Shane Chartrand takes on Iron Chef Lynn Crawford in Battle Trout

Similar issues arise when chefs heed the siren song of the ice cream machine. “I’m all for ice cream, don’t get me wrong, but there are a couple [of] flavours where I’m just like ‘that should never be made into ice cream’,” Gail laughs. “For some reason, I guess because it’s there, and you can do it relatively quickly, almost every chef can’t resist the temptation.”

Given the time restrictions, Gail sees the pressure cooker and deep fryer used to get ingredients cooked quickly, especially proteins. When it comes to equipment that could be used more, however, Gail pines for use of the wood smoker. “It would take more time, so I understand why they don’t, but I love seeing them pull out a smoker.  It adds a lot of nuanced flavour,” she says. “I also love the dehydrator, but you need a lot more time with that.”

Due to the prowess of the Iron Chefs, Gail is adamant that she doesn’t desire to set foot in Kitchen Stadium as a competitor, although she has written about chefs (she counts many of the Iron Chefs as friends and colleagues who she’s known for years) and cooking techniques for decades. “I have culinary training, but I don’t work in a restaurant every day,” she says. “I would love to cook against all of them, really, but I could never claim to do what they do.”

For those brave souls who are entering Kitchen Stadium for the first time, Gail has this piece of advice: remember the clock. “Chefs who fail to think in advance about time management and really pay attention to the ticking of the clock are the ones that aren’t able to follow through,” she says. Taking the time to scope out the space is also essential, she says. “You spend a lot of time racing around looking for things, racing around to get from the fridge to the fryer.”


Host Gail Simmons on set for Battle Trout of Iron Chef Canada

Chefs do get some help from the culinary team, who stock the kitchen with ingredients and also prepare equipment so that competitors aren’t waiting to preheat an oven or bring water up to temperature. Lest viewers at home think there’s any creative stretching of time in production, Gail makes it clear that the competitors have to adhere to strict time limits. “The one question I get the most from viewers is ‘Is that hour really an hour?’ she says. “When we say go, that clock is in real-time. And most people can’t cook a two-course dinner in an hour for their family, let alone what these chefs do. It is extraordinary.”

Watch Iron Chef Canada on Wednesdays this fall, starting at 10 PM E/T. 

Good Eats: The Return

Alton Brown is Back With Good Eats: The Return 

Fans of the original Good Eats may remember all the elements that made the show great: quirky puppets, costumes and power tools all wielded by a friendly neighbourhood mad genius named Alton Brown who showed a generation how to cook, and cook right.

Now, Good Eats: The Return (airing on August 31 at 10 PM E/T) is bringing back the zany fun — and sound scientific principles — to the screen, two decades later. We caught up with Alton to spill the secrets on the new season of Good Eats: The Return, and how the show has developed through the years.

Host Alton Brown, as seen on Good Eats: The Return, Season 15.

Host Alton Brown, as seen on Good Eats: The Return, Season 15.

Premiering on Food Network in 1999, the original Good Eats ran for 13 seasons, covering off cooking techniques, gear, and gadgets all the while providing home cooks with a road map to explore the best way to tackle detailed recipes. Don’t think for a minute that Brown has been taking it easy since then: with host duties on Cutthroat Kitchen, Iron Chef Gauntlet and a live tour showing off his prodigious musical chops, he’s been as busy as ever. 

Still, he couldn’t let the Good Eats concept alone for too long, revisiting his favourite episodes with Good Eats: Reloaded last year. Reloaded looked at essential topics such as roast chicken, chocolate, pie and burgers. “I had always planned on bringing Good Eats back, but when I realized I had the opportunity to go back and fix old shows with Reloaded, It got me started about a new visual language and working with the crew I had worked with for so many years,” says Alton.“It was a refresher course in certain ways.”

Now, with Good Eats: The Return, Alton is putting those key skills he’s learned to work on brand new episodes. He promises everything from a bread episode straight out of science fiction (“We’re doing a wild sourdough show that is set in a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s still in my kitchen. It’s after a zombie apocalypse and a nuclear blast and the reawakening of a giant dinosaur,” he says), to a new take on classics such as steak tartare. “We tell stories about food, and we tell stories about a very wide array of foods. And we won’t do a recipe if a story can’t drive it,” he says.

Alton Brown on the set of Good Eats: The Return

Alton Brown on the set of Good Eats: The Return

Fans can also expect a return of the tried and truly-tested recipes that made the original Good Eats a success. “I think that what people like with me is that they know that everything’s been vetted to death,” says Alton. “We’ve looked at the information six ways from Wednesday.”

To kick off the season, Alton visits a classic chicken parmesan recipe, based on high demand from the fans. He applied his trademark methodical approach, delving into the history of not just the dish, but the idea of Italian-American cuisine in general. “What we believe to be Italian food is 100 percent an American thing, which came out of a very specific immigrant experience. Chicken parmesan was an immigrant upgrade of eggplant parmesan, based on availability,” he says. “The problem is, if you treat chicken like eggplant, it becomes a very different kind of dish. So to get the most out of the chicken, you’ve got to reengineer the dish, which we did. But I never would have come to that unless I had understood the evolution, not only of the dish, but of the Italian American immigrant experience and the birth of Italian food.”

Good Eats: The Return is also coming back at a new time in food culture, where online sourcing and savvy viewers are changing how the show is made. “We used to have to call grocery stores to see if they had certain ingredients and now, we don’t have to worry about that anymore,” says Alton. “And because of things like the internet and social media, people know more about food.”

With this season’s episode on shakshuka, for example, this viewer knowledge meant that Alton could approach the topic differently. “A few years ago, no-one knew what shakshuka was — they thought it was a basketball player,” he jokes. “Now, everybody knows what shakshuka is, so there’s a lot more acceptable avenues that one can take telling culinary stories.”

One thing that hasn’t changed with Good Eats — and never will — is Alton’s desire to make family-friendly viewing for everyone to enjoy. “There are people that watched this show with their parents in 2003 who are now introducing their children to the show,” he says. “The highest honour is when people come up to me and say, ‘this was the one thing we watched together as a family’. I want to still make media that can connect generations under a roof. I always want this show to be viewed by people from age 4 to 400.”

Watch the first two episodes of Good Eats: The Return on Food Network Canada on August 31, 2019, starting at 10 PM E/T.

Anna Olson’s 10 Secrets to Mastering Meringue Make Lemon Pie That Much Better

The perfect meringue is a lofty, yet very attainable, goal for any baker. Achieving that crowning glory of pillowy softness inside and browned exterior is no easy task — but professional baker Anna Olson has you covered with a few tips and tricks to make sure your next meringue attempt doesn’t fall flat.

Let’s start by breaking down meringue by type. Depending on the stability required, meringue techniques can vary from a simple whip and serve to a more complicated cooked syrup version:


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

Common Meringue

This is simply egg whites with granulated sugar, sometimes with cream of tartar or lemon juice added for stability. The whites are whipped to a medium peak, which Anna describes as “peaks with a curve, but not a full curl when the beaters are lifted”. This method is used for the pretty swirls you see atop lemon meringue or other pies, and is often browned once frosted.

Swiss Meringue 

A method that takes the simple meringue one step further by heating the egg whites and sugar over a water bath until gently warmed (for those reluctant to pull out a double boiler, a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water will also work). The warmed egg white mixture is then put into a mixer and whipped into a meringue, which sets as it cools. You’ll see this technique used for pavlovas, meringue cookies or anywhere you want a little more stability and firmness once baked.

Italian Meringue

This is the zenith of meringue firmness — Anna calls it “the magical combination of whipping hot sugar syrup into softly whipped egg whites.” By melting sugar (and sometimes honey) to a specific temperature, then whipping it with egg whites, this extra thick meringue can be used for marshmallows and other candy (Anna makes torrone, a type of Italian nougat candy with pistachios, almonds and citrus zest). You can also use this method for key lime pie, a cousin to the ubiquitous lemon meringue.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Key Lime Meringue Pie

Ready to get started? Here are Anna’s 10 secrets to achieving the perfect meringue for lemon pie.

1. Don’t Over-Whip

One of the hardest things for novice bakers (and even some pros) to judge is how much is too much when it comes to whipping egg whites. Over-whipped egg whites look kind of craggy, says Anna, and when you touch them, they start to collapse. You don’t want to bake with over-whipped eggs, because whatever you bake will fall once it hits the heat of the oven.

A quick fix? A little bit of time: let the eggs sit, and after about 10 minutes, the mixture will start separating. Even if you’ve added sugar, you can whip those egg whites on medium speed back to the point you missed the first time.

 2. Keep Thing Hot

When topping a pie, make sure your filling is hot when you’re ready to put on your meringue, says Anna. The reason you don’t want to put a layer of meringue on a cold filling is to prevent condensation — that layer of dew in between the lemon filling and the meringue. Keeping the filling hot when spreading on the meringue ensures a nice even layer without gaps or weeping (either from the pie or the cook).


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Pie

3. Pretty Peaks

Want to get the same Instagram-worthy swirls and flourishes you see in the bakery window? In her recipe for lemon meringue pie (above), Anna recommends adding half the meringue and using a bamboo skewer or paring knife to swirl and secure it to the lemon curd. Then, dollop the remaining meringue onto the pie and use the back of your spatula to lift up the meringue and create spikes.

 4. Stir, Stir, Stir

If you’re making an Italian meringue, you’ll be standing by the stove for a bit: Anna advises that you stir the sugar mixture constantly when you’re bringing it up to the initial stage of 280°F to prevent it from boiling over. Between 280°F and 315°F (the final stage), you can take a break and ease off the stirring — the danger of an overflowing pot is past.

5. Safety First

To prevent spatters when putting hot sugar syrup into a mixer going at high speed, Anna has a safety tip: pour it down the side of the bowl — it will bypass the beaters entirely and go to the bottom without splashing a single drop. You’ll be able to tell when the mixture cools and thickens by the sound of the motor, and by touching the side of the bowl.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Squares

6. Connect the Dots

When smoothing your meringue over the pie filling, make sure it connects with the crust — that little connection kind of latches the meringue in place, says Anna. Use a spatula and even, long strokes to smooth the thick meringue onto the pie, making sure you don’t press too hard, deflating your meringue and, even worse, staining the pristine white fluffiness with flecks of filling.

 7. Perfect Piping

For pro-level piping to top mini lemon meringue pies, cupcakes, eclairs or even profiteroles, scoop your meringue into a piping bag (be sure to prep your fillings first). Anna’s technique involves piping evenly and in one concentric motion for round desserts, or using a slight back and forth wave for an eclair. Any mistakes can be scraped off for a second attempt — we won’t tell.

Get the recipes for Anna Olson’s Cheerful Lemon Meringue Desserts

 8. Time for the Torch

Although meringue will set on its own, those dramatic dark touches of colour can be added with a butane kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Don’t have a creme brûlée torch? Take a tip from Anna’s recipe for lemon berry meringue cake (below) and turn the desserts out onto a parchment-lined baking tray, pipe and then bake the meringues for two minutes in a 450°F oven.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Berry Meringue Cakes with Bumbleberry Sauce

 9. Cool it Down

Even if you’re tempted to dive right in, it’s very important that once you’ve baked your meringue, you let your pie cool completely before slicing into it. The reward for your patience? Pretty, even slices with distinct meringue and filling layers.

 10. Keep Things Fresh

Sadly, lemon meringue desserts aren’t meant for keeping. Anna advises making the pie the day you plan to serve it in order to show off your perfect meringue at its finest. Don’t worry — with a pie this good, you’ll have no problem indulging in seconds.

Fore more inspiring Anna Olson Dessert recipes, browse her 50+ Most Popular Easter Desserts, Top 20 Lemon Desserts and her Best-Ever Cake Recipes.

A Royal Wedding Inspired Tea Party Menu

Take a cue from the House of Windsor and hail Britannia with this very proper wedding inspired royal tea. Steeped in tradition with a hint of a modern twist, our afternoon tea for eight is fit for both the Queen Mum and the next-gen royals in line for the crown. We’ll walk you through the perfectly-mannered steps of serving a bountiful feast of sandwiches, biscuits, desserts and, of course, tea, that will delight any anglophile in your life.

Despite seeming decidedly lowbrow next to high tea, its imperial sounding cousin, afternoon tea, stems from the habits of the Duchess of Bedford in the early 19th century. Small sandwiches, scones and other bite-sized treats became popular amongst the rich and famous, while high tea remained a substantial meal meant to sustain the working class at the end of the day.

Brioche-Tea-Sandwiches

Tea Sandwiches

Traditional tea sandwiches are dainty delicacies, made with thinly sliced bread and vegetables and meant to be consumed in one or two bites. In your own kitchen, a mandoline or vegetable peeler can be used to make almost translucent shavings for fillings, while a rolling pin helps to flatten the bread. When it comes to fillings, think beyond plain cucumber and try to offer a variety of savoury and sweet to suit all tastes. Simplify your life by pressing a versatile bread such as brioche into double duty for both types of fillings — the slight sweetness will make a good pairing for most teatime toppings. For a playful take on tea sandwiches, transform the flavours of Bloody Mary cocktails such as pimento olives and anchovy paste into a small snack, or take tuna salad from the lunchbox to the parlour with fancy open-faced tuna and white bean treats.

Get the recipe for: Brioche Tea Sandwiches,  Bloody Mary Tea Sandwiches,  Open-faced Tuna Tea Sandwiches.

Lemon-Cranberry-Scones

Scones with Jam, Cream and More 

Given the brouhaha over the correct order of cream and jam layering, Brits take their scones seriously. Avoid controversy by letting guests slather their own scone with Devonshire cream, lemon herb chèvre or a honey and orange flavoured homemade butter. Offering gluten-free and vegetarian versions is a nice touch for dietary-restricted guests. When baking scones, use a light touch to avoid overworking the dough and ending up with tough scones.

Get the recipe for: Lemon Berry Scones With Lemon Glaze and Devonshire Cream,  Gluten-free Sweet Potato Scones, Lemon Cranberry Scones

Watch Anna Olson teach you how to make flavoured homemade butter and other homemade treats, then get a step-by-step recipe for Honey and Orange Butter and Herb Butter.

Battenberg-Cake-recipe

Biscuits and Cakes 

Dust off your tiered cake stands and silver trays — or fashion a sleeker version with plates balanced on overturned bowls — to serve these prettily portioned treats. Think small and bite-sized to keep a sense of modest British restraint, but offer a variety so you and your guests don’t feel deprived. Our menu contrasts the checkerboard pattern of a traditional Battenberg cake with the gooey lusciousness of savoury cream cheese profiteroles and Southern charm of a butter pecan crumpets.

Get the recipe for: Battenberg Cake, Savoury Cream Cheese Profiteroles, Butter Pecan Crumpets

Tea

A comforting pot of tea is often filled with a well-known blend such as Earl Grey, and steeped in ritual. Niceties such as warming the teapot first with boiling water, swaddling the teapot in a cozy and debating the milk in first or last question are all traditions you can bring across the pond for your afternoon tea. For variety, why not take it a step further by offering your guests some different flavours and temperatures in their cuppa? Mint tea is a soothing herbal digestif with a beautiful aroma and colour, while lemon lavender iced tea offers a refreshing floral note for your senses. For those who want to be a bit naughty like Winston Churchill, who reportedly used to hide strong spirits in his teapot during Prohibition, a white tea and rum cocktail with honey lime syrup will fit the bill. Serve up your tea in your best china, or for a more modern take, mix and match in Chinese, Japanese, Russian or Moroccan teacups for a splash of colour and pattern. Be sure to select china or glassware that can withstand hot liquid, and place saucers or doilies strategically to avoid spillage.

Get the recipe for: Moroccan Mint Tea, Lemon Lavender Iced Tea, White Tea and Rum Cocktail With Honey Lime Syrup

So this season, whether you are hosting William, Kate, Harry or Meghan (or a party of aristocratically-minded friends and family), raise a cup to celebrate the ritual of afternoon tea. Just remember to keep those pinkie fingers down — Miss Manners dispelled the habit as a needless affectation once the cup handle was invented.

How to cook rice on stove

How to Cook a Perfect Pot of Rice on the Stove

Confession time: Years ago, I received a rice cooker as a gift that I’ve used guiltily only when the gift-giver in question comes for dinner. The rest of the time — whether I’m cooking rice to accompany a hurried weekday dinner or as the base for a leisurely simmered-all-day weekend cooking project — I turn to a trusty pot and a stovetop burner. Want to learn how to cook rice with a no-fuss, no-mess method? Look no further than this recipe that will turn out a pot of fluffy, perfect rice every time.

The perfect pot of rice is easier than you think.

The perfect pot of rice is easier than you think.
Thinkstock

The Right Equipment to Cook Rice

I find up to two cups of uncooked rice will be just fine in a medium-sized saucepan, while anything more is best prepared in a larger pot. Similar to pasta, you’ll be using a boiling liquid as a cooking medium, so make sure you have enough room for bubbles to rise without boiling over. A lid with an adjustable steam vent is nice, but not crucial — you can always prop the lid open with a wooden spoon or pair of chopsticks. The flat wooden paddle found in Chinese or Japanese supermarkets is made specifically for this purpose (and the ones with a straight edge are perfect for stirring the bottom of the pot).

How to Cook Jasmine Rice: A Basic Method

There are as many methods of cooking rice as there are cultures that use it, so keep in mind this is the way that works for me, but it’s not the only one by far: pilafs and pilaus, risottos and biryanis all use different techniques for speciality dishes.

1. Pour your rice into a pot. (Up to one and a half to two small coffee mugs will adequately feed two people). Rinse the rice in cold running water, drain the excess water, then repeat this twice or until the water in the pot is clear when you agitate the rice.
2. Add enough liquid to cover the rice by about an inch. Use a ratio of 2:1.
3. Cover the pot, place it on a burner set to medium-high and bring the water to a boil.
4. Once the liquid boils, lift the lid and give the rice a thorough stir, making sure you get the areas at the bottom. Turn the heat down to low (just above minimum). Keep cooking the rice on low for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is tender, and has lost that wet look.
5. Fluff the rice with the paddle.

This method creates light grains of rice across the top of the pot and a crisped rice crust along the bottom and sides. You can stir those crunchy bits — prized among some cultures — into the rest of the rice for textural variation, or toast and enjoy it later for a snack.

You can vary this basic method to a wide range of rice options:

How to Cook Sushi Rice

I prefer the pleasant fluffiness and slightly sticky texture of short-grain sushi rice, pairing it with everything from spicy stir-fries to a silken stew. Use the above method, reducing the water to a 1:1 ratio. When the rice is cooked, add a tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar (add two tablespoons if you will be using the rice to make sushi) and a sprinkle of furikaki flakes (a Japanese rice seasoning mix that can consist of sesame seeds, seaweed, dried egg or bonito and other crunchy goodness) to taste.

How to Cook Basmati Rice

For those looking for a little more structure in their grains, long-grain varieties such as basmati, are delicate and slightly perfumed options that retain their slender shape when cooking. Using the method above, reduce the water to a 1:1.5 rice/liquid ratio. Some basmati rice recipes will benefit from a short soaking period for softer rice — a purely optional step.

How to Cook Brown Rice

Brown rice, which can be either short or long grain, adds fibre and whole grain goodness to your diet. Although brown rice generally takes longer than white rice to cook (typically, an additional 15 minutes or more), the simmering time can be minimized with a brief toasting in butter first, which emphasizes the grain’s natural nuttiness. Before beginning the method above, melt four tablespoons of butter or margarine in a  pot on medium-high heat, then stir in the brown rice. Toast for a couple of minutes while stirring, then add the liquid and proceed with the method above.

Rice Flavour Variations

If you’re pairing rice with other dishes, using water is fine. Add creaminess with some coconut milk, use chicken broth to give it a little pep (the concept behind recently trendy Hainanese chicken rice) or use some mushroom stock if you’d like a little umami heartiness.

There it is; simple rice in about 30 minutes, without needing to pull out specialized equipment and without too much fuss. For more ideas on how to cook rice, check out our 16 Best Rice Recipes for Dinner and Dessert.

ina-gartens-Perfect-Roast-Turkey

Your Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Checklist

The first time I cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal from scratch, I can say for a fact that I used every single cooking vessel — pots, pans, roasters and Dutch ovens — in my reasonably well-equipped kitchen. Although I had lists upon lists and every step mapped out well beforehand, it still took three days of intensive cooking and resulted in my exhausted-self, muttering in an exasperated tone, “How the heck do people do this every year?”

Experience has shown me the value of starting well ahead — a month or more, ideally. If this seems excessive, think of it as trading a frenzied few days for an hour here and there, resulting in a relaxing Thanksgiving.

Here is a foolproof way to space out your Thanksgiving feast and make sure everything is on time, right up to the moment guests take their seats at the dinner table.

Make-Ahead-Deep-Dish-Apple-Pie

Thanksgiving Menu: (Serves 8)

One Month To Go
Order Your Turkey From the Butcher
You definitely don’t want to be the recipient of last-minute turkey on the big day, when selection is sparse and crowds are full. Ordering ahead — especially if you’re asking the butcher to do something more involved such as spatchcocking or you have a specifically sized bird in mind — will give you time to discuss your menu and get some cooking tips.

A general rule of thumb is a half pound to one pound of meat per person, but you want to err on the side of being lavish — leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. For a foolproof turkey measure, the Turkey Farmers of Canada offers an online turkey calculator that will tell you the size of turkey you should buy, depending on the number of guests.

Sit Down and Plan Your Menu . . .
. . . right down to drinks and appetizers. Decide on how many people you’re looking to invite and send out invitations with an RSVP time of next week. If your friends and family are notorious for bringing unexpected guests, budget space and food accordingly. Be practical: do you have enough seating and table room for everyone to comfortably eat?

Clean Out Freezer Space
This is the time to start using those meals you’ve put aside for a busy day or ditch that crystallized ice cream — you’re going to need that room in the weeks ahead.

Three Weeks To Go
Finalize Your Menu
Now’s your opportunity to whittle down your menu from all the things you optimistically wanted to make. Be ruthless in your planning — do you really need eight appetizers and five desserts for a party of eight? (The answer is no.)

Make Two Shopping Lists
Read all your recipes carefully and make two shopping lists: one for non-perishables (you’ll be buying those this week) and one for perishables to be purchased closer to the big day.

Beat the crowds and head out to the grocery store to stock up on your long-storing items in bulk: store-made or canned/boxed stock for gravies and soups, flour and sugar for baking, cocktail napkins, and juices and pop for drinks. Also, think about buying ingredient staples, such as garlic, onions, apples, potatoes, carrots or parsnips, which all keep well and will save you from an overloaded cart later on. Buy ingredients for stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy to make next week. Consider purchasing wine and mixes for winter cocktails, such as a festive mulled cider.

Take Inventory
Open your cupboards and review your platters and serving dishes that can go from freezer or fridge to table, and assign them to each dish: appetizers, turkey, stuffing, sauces, vegetables, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, and desserts. Have a spare handy in case you misjudge the volume.

Simple-Oven-Baked-Stuffing-Recipe

Two Weeks To Go
Make Your Pie and Cheesecake Bites
Store them in the freezer on pretty plates that you can place on the table.(Read this article for tips on freezing cookies and bars.)

Time to Think Savoury Thoughts
Make-ahead gravy will take a last-minute item off your plate on the big day and let you focus on other things. Using roasted chicken wings builds a flavour base, so all you have to do is add the drippings when you’ve cooked your turkey and you’re all set. Cover and store in the freezer.

Cranberry sauce is easy to make ahead, as well. Store it in a small microwavable dish that can go straight from the freezer to the table to save a plating step.

Get ahead of the game by making stuffing and storing it in the freezer and oven-safe dishes to make reheating a snap. Instead of one big container, consider making two portions to avoid having to pass big platters around the table (and upping the potential of using a toaster oven to reheat it on the big day, freeing up precious oven space), or look at a plate of these apple and onion stuffing muffins to make portion size and plating easy.

Now’s also the time to par-bake dinner rolls to store in freezer bags (make sure to get out all the excess air) and whip up some make-ahead mashed potatoes to store in the freezer in oven-ready dishware.

One Week To Go
Grocery Shopping Round 2
Back to the grocery store with your second list of perishables, including vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli, dairy such as butter, milk and eggs, coffee and tea, and any ingredients you need for appetizers. Consider some pots of fresh herbs for garnishes and aromatic table decorations.

Time for a Kitchen Inspection
Clean out space in the refrigerator for leftovers, and give it a quick wipe down so that new food doesn’t absorb the odours of last week’s takeout. Check your oven, toaster oven, stovetop and range hood to ensure they are clean and ready to go. Pop out greasy filters to give them a soak so that your fans work effectively. Locate your fire extinguisher (better safe than sorry), warming trays or chafing dishes and check that you have enough power outlets to run everything — a power failure is the last thing you need.

Check your Dishware and Cutlery Situations
Do you have enough matching plates, forks, spoons and sharp knives, coffee cups, and wine and water glasses? Locate your cloth napkins and tablecloths, and wash them if necessary.

Three Days To Go
Pick up Your Fresh or Frozen Turkey
If it’s frozen, now is the time to start defrosting it in the refrigerator (for a 10 lb bird, Turkey Farmers of Canada recommends two days and two hours of defrosting time in the fridge).

Best-Ever-Green-Bean-Casserole

Two Days To Go
Veggie Time
Make your green bean casserole and cauliflower and broccoli cheese in table-ready serving ware, cover them securely and store in the fridge.

One Day Before
Get Your Gear Ready
Assemble serving platters for the turkey and rolls, as well as serving implements for each dish. Check how many trivets you have for warm dishes going to the table to preserve your tablecloths. Put together your smaller items, such as corkscrews, pie servers, gravy boats, ladles, electric carving knife, strainers and hand blenders for last-minute gravy adjustments, etc., to have on hand so that you’re not searching for them at the last minute. If you don’t use your coffeemaker or espresso machine regularly, pull it out of storage. Assemble appetizer and dessert plates with cocktail napkins.

Set the Table
Cover the whole table with another tablecloth or bed sheet to keep it dust-free, and watch out on removal so you don’t end up performing an inadvertent, unsuccessful, magic trick.

Prepare and Truss the Turkey
And store it uncovered in the roasting pan in the refrigerator to let the skin dry out for crispness.

Gather Your Garnishes
A bit of watercress or other greens is a pleasing contrast to the turkey. Put butter into serving dishes, cover, and store in the refrigerator. Assemble your appetizer platters and store, covered, in the refrigerator. Chill white wine, juice and soda. Print out the game plan below so you can check items off as you go.

The Big Day
In the Morning: Treat yourself and sleep in! You’ve earned it, and you’ll need the energy as the day goes on.

Noon: Make sure to have some lunch, so you’re not starving as the day goes on. Look over your lists and recipes again. Take the apple pie out of the freezer to defrost.

1 p.m.: Carefully remove the cover from the table setting and add any last-minute touches (the pots of herbs for an informal centrepiece, candles, fresh flowers, etc.).

2 p.m.: Pull turkey out of the fridge to bring to room temperature.

3 p.m.: Turn on the oven to 350 ° F to preheat.
Add aromatics such as onions and apples, if desired, to the cavity of the turkey.

3:30 p.m.: Put the turkey into the oven.

4 p.m.: Open or decant wine. Put mulled cider on the stovetop to simmer.

5 p.m.: Bring your appetizer platters out of the fridge to serve, adjusting any seasonings or last-minute garnishes.
Bring the mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetables out of the fridge to bring to room temperature.

6 p.m.: Guests arrive.Serve appetizer platters, wine and mulled cider.
Serve appetizer platters, wine and mulled cider.
Take the turkey out of the oven and cover with foil to rest.
Pour off juices to add to gravy (reserve a 1/4 cup) and put on stovetop to heat.
Put mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetables into the oven.
Carve the turkey. Take reserved juices and pour on top of the slices to keep them moist and plate them on your prepared platter with watercress.

6:45 p.m.: Take out potatoes, stuffing and vegetables and put them on the table.
Put dinner rolls in the oven to finish baking and melt butter on a low heat on the stovetop to brush over.
Call everyone to start getting ready to eat.
Pour wine and drinks. Bring the rolls and turkey to the table.

7 p.m.: Dinnertime!
Turn the oven off. Put pie in the oven to warm for dessert and bring out the cheesecake bites. Turn on the coffeemaker.

8:30 p.m.: Serve desserts and coffee and tea.

10 p.m.: Relax…the dishes can wait until tomorrow.

Looking for to plan your own menu? Start with these Great Canadian Thanksgiving Recipes.

5 Cheap and Tasty Cuts of Pork to Make for Dinner Tonight

It’s easy to fall into a routine at the meat counter — after all, pork chops and steaks are simple and guaranteed crowd pleasers. For something a little more interesting, however, follow the lead of chefs across the country and look at off-cuts such as cheek, shoulder, hock, feet and tails, all of which, with a little preparation and care, yield great flavour. Or, if you’re set on pork tenderloin, try taking it one step further with savoury stuffings. Either way, stretching your imagination (and your dollar) a bit will land you a meal that’s a cut above the rest.

Rolled Pork Florentine

Get the recipe for Rolled Pork Florentine
Food Network Canada

Tender, My Love
Typically sold boneless, tenderloin is easy to portion out into individual medallions if you don’t want a larger roast, and is a good size for a smaller family.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin: Lean and solid meat without much fat or sinew, fast-cooking tenderloin can be butterflied, rolled around savoury seasonings and roasted for a special occasion dinner or any time that warrants celebrating. Since pork tenderloin is relatively tender, it doesn’t need the low and slow cooking that tougher cuts require (in fact, overcook tenderloin and it will be dry and stringy). Prepare your filling ahead of time, and make sure it’s cooled before stuffing the tenderloin if it’s going to be sitting before cooking.

Tackle a crisp and crackling Stuffed Porchetta With Epic Homemade Gravy, spinach and bacon stuffed Rolled Pork Florentine, fly the Italian colours with Tricolore Stuffed Pork or go German with a Cauliflower and Caper Gratin With Pork Rouladen. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, make succulent sandwiches or try one of these recipes.

instapot-pulled-pork-recipe

Get the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Food Network

Shoulder Season
Pork shoulder (or its alter ego, pork butt) is a more heavily marbled area than tenderloin, and can be prepared with the skin on or off, and can come bone in or boneless. You’re more likely to see blade cut shoulder (which comes from the area closer to the tenderloin) at the supermarket.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder: Pork shoulder can be cooked low and slow as a roast, or, when thinly sliced into chops, grilled on the barbecue.  Cubed and seared off in a hot pan before adding to liquid, pork shoulder makes an excellent dish with lentils, adding flavour to braised dishes as it simmers away. Left whole, it’s the ideal vehicle for strong seasonings such as the vibrant herb and citrus marinade for harissa-spiked cider braised pork with apples. Or, pull the fork-tender pieces apart to shred for that summertime favourite, pulled pork sandwiches, best enjoyed with loads of smoky barbecue sauce.

Try making Pulled Pork Sandwiches (or one Mega Pulled Pork Sandwich), Cider Braised Pork Shoulder With Apples or Braised Pork Shoulder With Lentils.

Roasted-Pork-Hocks

Get the recipe for Roasted Pork Hocks
Food Network Canada

Hock It To Me
Meaty pork hocks come from the front or back legs of the pig between the foot and shoulder. You may also see smoked hocks in German or Polish supermarkets, which can be used like ham bones to flavour soups.

How to Cook Pork Hocks: Settle in: you’re going to need patience with this one. Due to the fibrous tissue and sinew in hocks, longer cooking times are a necessity. Pork hocks can be braised in liquid with vegetables for a complete meal, or, for a true lesson in crispy carnivorousness, brined and roasted for crackling that puts chicharrones to shame.

Try a relatively light hock preparation in a Pork Hock Terrine, or keep it crispy with simple Roasted Pork Hocks. If you’ve picked up a smoked hock, try the whimsically named Pig and Pea Soup.

Crispy-Pork-Cheek-Latkes

Get the recipe for Crispy Pork Cheek Latkes 


Food Network Canada

Turning The Other Cheek
Pork cheeks come from the often used face muscles of the pig, which have sinew running through them but not much fat. When cooked, pork cheeks are soft, yet maintain enough structure that they can be used to stuff ravioli, pulled apart for ragu or simply served whole on top of mashed potatoes or a purée of parsnips. Most butchers should be able to set some aside for you if you call ahead of time or put in a special order.

How to Cook Pork Cheek: A quick pan sear on each side of the cheek, then a covered braise in flavoured liquid, will make pork cheeks fall-apart tender. Unlike the time commitment needed for cuts such as shoulder, however, cheeks cook relatively quickly — in under half an hour for most preparations. Combined with shredded potatoes for a crispy latke and a powerful salsa verde, pork cheeks can be a hearty lunch or appetizer with a crunchy exterior yielding to soft and luscious meat.

Give Crispy Pork Cheek Latke a try.

Happy Feet (and Tail)
North Americans may be more familiar with pig’s feet and tails through the gustatory delights of Oktoberfest (such as the revelry in Kitchener-Waterloo’s annual celebration) or the lively culinary tales of Mennonite cuisine in Canada’s doyenne Edna Staebler’s Food That Really Schmecks. These off-cuts are part and parcel to many cuisines, from spicy Jamaican stew peas with pig’s tails to Chinese red braised pig’s feet, redolent with soy, black vinegar and ginger.

How to Cook Pig’s Feet and Tails: The natural gelatinous goodness of both tails and feet add body and gloss to stocks, leading to that jello-like consistency much prized among soup connoisseurs. Traditional preparations of both tails and feet often begin with a boiling step to soften the meat, which can be picked off the bone and used to punch up the flavour of meatballs or croquettes. Pig’s tails can also be slathered with your favourite sauce or glaze and crisped under the broiler or on the grill for a sweet and sticky treat that will add a twist to your next barbecue.

Ready to take that next step? Try Foie Gras Stuffed Pig’s Feet, Pig’s Feet Meatball Ragout or Pig Tail Croquette.

So remember, pork chops aren’t the only cut in town — from cheek to tail, the entire pig is your playground. If you’re intrigued and want to check out more common pork cuts, as well as recommended cooking times and other info, check out this check out this handy chart and trot off to your butcher counter right away.

Chuck and Danny’s Perfect PEI Breakfast

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

888x593-Chuck-and-Danny-With-Ross-Monro
Ross Monro (right) takes Danny and Chuck out lobster fishing.

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

888x593-Acadian-Bread-Robert-Pendergast
Acadian bread from  ‘the weirdest baker on PEI’.

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

888x532-Chuck-Danny-with-Robert-Pendergast
Danny and Chuck have a PEI breakfast with Robert Pendergast (center).

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

See how Chuck and Danny make their Mussels Benedict:

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

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

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

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

888x593-Chuck-and-Danny-at-Sunset
The sun sets on this road trip;  PEI is Chuck and Danny’s final destination.

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

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

Chuck and Danny Get Schooled On Acadian Caviar

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

bay-of-fundy-camp-site-chuck-and-danny
Chuck and Danny’s million dollar view of the Bay of Fundy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acadian-Green-Caviar-Chuck-and-Danny

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

Watch how Danny makes his omelette:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

chuck-and-danny's-rouge-park-bacon

Chuck and Danny Bring Home the Bacon

After a few weeks in the wilderness, Chuck and Danny are heading back to the big city for some urban renewal, along with a few expert tips from Toronto chef Elia Herrera, who shares some of the flavours and recipes from her native Cordoba, Veracruz. As they munch on Elia’s rajas poblanos tacos, she points the chefs towards the best purveyors in Southern Ontario, where they’ll gather bacon, onions and hot sauce for a Mexican-inspired campsite feast.

Chuck-Danny-Meet-Elia-Herrera
Chuck and Danny meet Chef Elia Herrera in Toronto.

At Frolic Acres Farm, the chefs meet Les and Terry Caswell to help them feed their prized pigs. The pigs’ feed is supplemented with buckwheat, which also gives the farm’s honey its buttery richness. The pigs roam the fields, rooting in the ground and playing with the  other animals on the farm, including the resident shaggy Scottish Highland cattle. “The flavour that you get from the pork is from what they eat outside,” says Terry. “It’s a fuller flavour.” Although Chuck and Danny have pork belly in mind to make porchetta, they’re tempted by the offer of maple-smoked bacon and pretend to mull it over — for almost a minute. “Yes, of course we want the maple-smoked bacon,” declares Chuck.

At Glen Rouge campground in Canada’s first urban national park, the chefs start assembling their bounty into a deluxe morning feast of maple-smoked breakfast burritos, made over the campfire with minimal fuss as a one-pan meal (someone’s got to do the dishes, after all). “That’s the thing about breakfast,” muses Danny. “People use four different pans, but if I could, I’d make the coffee in here, too.”

Chuck-Danny-Breakfast-Rouge-Park
Breakfast of champions: breakfast burritos with maple-smoked bacon.

The chefs start by crisping cubes of the maple-smoked bacon for a sweet and salty bite, then chop some onions they pulled from the ground at Willowtree Farm, where they learned to top and tail the locally grown alliums for market. “This is the smell of camping, right here,” says Danny. To top off their creation, and for an extra layer of velvety goodness, Chuck and Danny add in Oaxaca cheese — a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese with a squeaky texture — that will partially melt to bind the delicious ingredients together. Home cooks can substitute mozzarella and a sweeter-style smoked bacon (or make Chuck’s maple-glazed Big Time Bacon) if they want to try this playful take on bacon and eggs for an easy and hearty brunch or lunch.

Eager to dig in, the chefs wrap the mixture in tortillas — with a healthy sprinkling of some locally-made hot sauce they picked up from a roadside stand — and take a big bite. “The hot peppers aren’t hot at all,” deadpans Danny, whose bravado is interrupted with a coughing fit. “That’s going to wake me up.” Good thing he has the perfect antidote on hand: a glass of creamy horchata (a sweetened rice drink) made with the Caswell’s honey and the wild rice that the chefs gathered via canoe on Chemong Lake with James Whetung of Black Duck Wild Rice.

Chuck-Danny-Harvesting-Rice-Lake-Chemong
Harvesting rice on Chemong Lake

Watch the recipe video on how to make Breakfast Burritos.

As they sip and savour their Mexican/Canadian fusion meal, Chuck thinks about how the region’s ingredients have fit in so well with their theme. “Celebrating two nations through food is pretty special,” he says.

For more of Chuck’s better-with-bacon recipes, check out his Bacon Roasted Potatoes, Mussels with Bacon and Rapini, or Cobb Salad.

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

Chuck And Danny Discover a Salty Paradise on Salt Spring Island

 All aboard the ferry to Salt Spring Island, as chefs Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles head out to one of Canada’s premier growing destinations, 20 minutes off the coast of British Columbia.

Brooke-Winters-with-Chuck-Hughes-Danny-Smiles
Brooke Winters, center, with Chefs Danny Smiles and Chuck Hughes

After meeting up with Brooke Winters, chef and owner of BNurtured Farm to Fork Food Trailer, to get the lay of the land, Chuck and Danny fall in love with the Salt Spring Island Saturday Market — in order to sell here, you have to have grown it, made it or raised it yourself — and immediately add it to their list of must-visit destinations in Canada.

Chuck-Danny-Salt-Spring-Island-Farmers-Market
Chuck and Danny enjoying the vibes at the Salt Spring Island Farmers Market.

Salt-Spring-Island-Farmers-Market-Vegetables
Gorgeous vegetables from the Salt Spring Island Farmers Market

The island’s specialty is sea salt, which comes from evaporated sea water. Fleur de sel is made from the prized salt flakes that form on the top of the water during the evaporation process.

The chefs learn some salty language from local expert Philippe Marill, owner of Salt Spring Sea Salt. “As a chef, as a cook, you’re nothing without salt. It boosts the flavours in all your ingredients,” says Chuck. Fellow francophone, Philippe, who hails from Montpellier in southern France, teaches them his method for salting food: holding your hand high, sprinkle the salt, rubbing it between three fingers to crumble the flakes. “Don’t touch it on the plate,” he warns. “Accept the chaos — that’s what you want to create, a little roller coaster of taste and also, emotion.”

Chuck is impressed. “Philippe is deep,” he says.

Philippe-Marill-Salt-Spring-Sea-Salt
Chuck’s salt guru: Philippe Marril, owner of Salt Spring Sea Salt

The salt will be a big theme for the dinner — with five different flavours, including  jalapeno-lime and blackberry, it’ll be a saltapalooza, promises Chuck.

The menu is ambitious, with Philippe’s salt in every dish. To take the edge off of people’s appetites, guests roast salt sprinkled spot prawns over a campfire, while the chefs stay hard at work, packing a salt crust around ling cod (thanks to Chuck’s fishing prowess), and working on the pièce de résistance: lamb three ways. Chuck and Danny are more than up to the task as they prepare rack of lamb with garlic sea salt, lamb loin chops and thinly sliced barbecued lamb for lettuce wraps.

Chuck-and-Dannys-Grilled-Lamb-Chops
Chuck and Danny’s grilled lamb chops with fresh herbs and lemon.

Danny shows how to make his smokey and creamy baba ghanoush.

 

A key component to their DIY lettuce bundles is a unique baba ghanoush, made Chuck and Danny style by placing the  eggplant directly onto the hot coals to pick up the smokey flavour and aroma. The chefs are using a few types of local eggplant, including a Turkish variety, from EcoReality Co-op — an organic permaculture farm in Salt Spring Island’s Fulford Valley — to lend a riot of colours, tastes and textures to the dish. Eggplants are widely varied in terms of bitterness, firmness, thickness of skin and number of seeds, and roasting them on a barbecue is a forgiving cooking method that allows home cooks to try an assortment of shapes and sizes. After roasting, the eggplants are covered with plastic wrap, which allows the steam to soften the flesh, making the eggplant skin easier to separate.

In the RV, Danny blends the eggplant with roasted garlic, tahini, cumin and Salt Spring’s smoked mesquite salt. Home cooks can steal Danny’s secret ingredient — a touch of plain yogurt — for a creamy consistency. “It’s almost like a cheat to add richness to it,” he says. A final drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of more salt to garnish, and the baba ghanoush is ready to pair with the lamb, lettuce and pickled garlic scapes for a sweet and savoury parcel.

Long after the salt celebrations come to a close, Chuck is still consumed with their new discoveries on Salt Spring Island. “I think you were even talking in your sleep about that salt,” teases Danny. “You’re obsessed with salt on this trip — it’s changed your life.”

Find out more about how sea salt is made.

Just another msblogs site