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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.

Jordan Andino’s Quick and Comforting Chinese Broccoli and Shrimp Stir-Fry

Everyone loves a meal that comes together in no time – especially when we’re all still busy adjusting to our “new normal.” The beauty of this dish, in particular, is that it combines both speed and comfort for a Chinese takeout classic you’ll want to make on repeat.  Packed with succulent shrimp and crispy veggies, you really can’t go wrong.

Related: Anna Olson’s Herbed Avocado Spread is the Secret Ingredient Your Sandwiches Need

Jordan Andino’s Chinese Broccoli & Shrimp in Oyster Sauce

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

Ingredients

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
½ onion, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
450g medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
5 Tbsp oyster sauce, divided
1/4 tsp chili flakes
12 stalks Chinese broccoli (gai lan)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 cups cooked rice, for serving (optional)

Related: How to Get Kids to Enjoy Vegetables

Directions

1. Heat vegetable and sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, about 1 minute. Add garlic and shrimp and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add chili flakes, 1 Tbsp of oyster sauce and broccoli. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add rice wine vinegar and toss to combine.

3. Continue to cook until broccoli is tender-crisp and shrimp is pink, about 2 minutes.

4. Drizzle with remaining oyster sauce before serving. Serve with rice, if desired.

Related: The Junior Chefs Describe Their Perfect Cake


Watch Junior Chef Showdown Sundays at 9ep 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.

Molly Yeh’s Bagel Salad Recipe is an Instant Brunch Classic

Salad has officially become the hottest addition to your brunch spread thanks to this colourful and creative dish straight from Molly Yeh‘s kitchen. Toasted everything bagel croutons, sliced egg, tomato, cucumber, red onion and nuggets of cream cheese rolled in everything bagel seasoning are nestled on a bed of vibrant greens, then topped with a homemade honey-Dijon dressing. You’ll never see salad the same way again (we’re talking to you, skeptics!) after just one bite of this instant brunch classic.

Related: Start Your Day the Molly Yeh Way With These Breakfast Recipes

Molly Yeh’s Bagel Salad Recipe

Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves:
4

Dressing Ingredients:
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad Ingredients:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 large everything bagels, torn into bite-sized pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp everything bagel topping (see Cook’s Note)
4 oz cream cheese (1/2 block), cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
5 oz mixed baby greens
4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped
4 sprigs fresh dill, leaves only

Cook’s Note: Store-bought everything bagel topping will absolutely work; however, some brands are extremely heavy on the salt and should be avoided for this recipe. It’s super easy to make your own everything bagel topping though: Simply combine equal parts dried minced garlic, dried minced onion, poppy seeds and sesame seeds, then add a pinch of kosher salt. You can also add a few pinches of caraway seeds and/or black sesame seeds if you’d like!

Related: Shaker Things Up: These Healthy Salt Substitutes Are the Real Deal

Dressing Directions:

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon and honey in a small bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking until creamy. Stir in the scallions and season with salt and pepper.

Related: Molly Yeh’s Chicken Shawarma Tacos Will Satisfy Your Late Night Takeout Craving at Home

Salad Directions:

1. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bagels and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden and crispy on the outside, about 7 minutes (they’ll still be a little chewy on the inside, but that’s good). Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice water bath. Carefully lower the eggs into the boiling water, reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Transfer to the ice bath to cool (or run under cold water for a little). Peel and slice into halves or quarters.

3. Place the everything bagel topping in a bowl. Roll the cream cheese cubes into little balls with your hands and then roll them around in the everything bagel topping.

4. On a serving plate, arrange the mixed greens. Top with the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, bagel croutons, cream cheese balls, eggs, scallions, dill, a few pinches of salt and a few turns of pepper. Drizzle with the dressing.

Get to know the cookbook author and blogger behind Girl Meets Farm with the 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Molly Yeh.

Watch Girl Meets Farm 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.

Lynn Crawford’s Bacon and Egg Ramen Soup is the Comfort Food You Didn’t Know You Needed

So many delicious flavours come together in this soup. You’ll be blown away by how simple it is to make, yet how complex the flavours are. It’s the perfect comforting meal for a rainy spring day.

See more: Anna Olson’s Herbed Avocado Spread is the Secret Ingredient Your Sandwiches Need

Lynn Crawford’s Bacon and Egg Ramen

Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4-6 servings

Broth Ingredients:

8 cups water
3 green onions
1 large piece dried kombu
1 cup bonito flakes
1-inch piece ginger, chopped and unpeeled
2 whole, unpeeled garlic cloves
Mushroom stems (see below)

Related: Ask the Junior Chefs: What’s Your Favourite Fancy Food?

Broth Directions:

1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add remaining ingredients, stir and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve for later use.

Ramen Soup Ingredients:

4 packages ramen noodles
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
225 g shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced into 1/4-inch strips (save stems, see above)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup light miso
2 Tbsp mirin
1 cup chopped kale, stems removed
4 to 6 slices prosciutto, torn

Garnish:

4-6 eggs, poached
1 small bunch green onions, finely chopped
Shichimi togarashi

Related: Here’s How to Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Ramen Soup Directions:

1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and shiitake mushrooms and cook until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add garlic, ginger, soy sauce, miso and mirin. Cook for one minute. Add reserved broth and bring to a simmer. Add kale and prosciutto. Cook until the greens are wilted, about 1 minute. Add noodles and stir to heat through.

4. Divide noodles among 4 to 6 bowls. Ladle hot soup over noodles, top with an egg. Garnish with green onions and togarashi.

Watch Junior Chef Showdown Sundays at 9ep 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.

 

 

What 2020 Culinary Trend Should You Try

Quiz: Which 2020 Culinary Trend Do You Need to Try?

You could say that culinary trends are an industry staple — the foundation on which all other dishes are eventually spun off. Just think about it: as soon as one chef blows your mind with a plate full of crunchy, edible bugs, other chefs clamour to create their own rendition of the dish. Before you know it, your local carnival is serving critters on top of ice cream. Maybe with some fried vegan butter on the side (because, you know, carnival food).

Or, if bugs aren’t your thing, consider all the ways intermittent fasting and plant-based diets have transformed the scene. Odds are you’ve probably tried cauliflower rice and there’s vegan protein in your daily smoothie. Maybe you’ve even considered becoming a flexitarian – after all, you’ve discovered it’s too hard to give up those steaks, sushi, and fried chicken forever, especially at dinner parties when you don’t want to be the odd man (or woman) out.

There are less subtle trends to consider, too. Many chefs are embracing nose-to-tail cooking as zero waste kitchens pop up in today’s climate, while online ordering and delivering have changed the fast food and takeout game. Are you doing your part to try and eat locally sourced, sustainable foods? Are there milk alternatives in your fridge and nutritional yeast in your cupboard? And hey — who else remembers when craft beer became a thing and opened up a whole new world of hoppy flavours?

We may no longer be chowing down on charcoal-everything or ordering up rainbow-coloured bagels, but trends in some shape or form will always have a place in the kitchen. From cooking techniques and ingredients to diets and new flavour combinations (two words: chocolate bacon), there are many ways to embrace them. But, which current or future trend is for you?

The chefs on Top Chef Canada were tasked with thinking about that in the eighth season premiere, when host Eden Grinshpan asked them to create a dish that represents a food trend of the future. Through healthy bowls, recycled technologies and a few ideas in between (fried grasshoppers, anyone?), these contestants proved that “trendy” doesn’t really mean one particular thing or idea.

Think you’re ready to tackle some trends in your own kitchen and prove your culinary prowess once and for all? Of course you are, you foodie, you. Take this quiz to find out what kind of a trendsetter you are in the kitchen, and how you can use that trend to concoct your own spectacular Top Chef Canada-worthy meal.

Tom Colicchio Answers Our Burning Questions About Top Chef All Stars: LA

We’re counting down the days until our favourite Top Chefs return to the small screen on Top Chef All Stars: LA. With a plethora of elite culinary masters facing off against each other, Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio has the difficult (albeit, delicious) task of trying all the dishes and, along with his fellow judges, selecting only one person to win the $250,000 jackpot.

Related: Ranking Food Network Canada’s Cooking Competition Shows, From Kind to Cutthroat 

Colicchio will be joined on Top Chef All Stars: LA by host Padma Lakshmi, fellow judge Gail Simmons and 15 returning chefs:

  • Eric Adjepong (Season 16: Kentucky)
  • Karen Akunowicz (Season 13: California)
  • Jennifer Carroll (Season 6: Las Vegas, Season 8: All Stars and Last Chance Kitchen Season 7)
  • Stephanie Cmar (Season 11: New Orleans)
  • Lisa Fernandes (Season 4: Chicago)
  • Kevin Gillespie (Season 6: Las Vegas)
  • Gregory Gourdet (Season 12: Boston)
  • Melissa King (Season 12: Boston)
  • Jamie Lynch (Season 14: Charleston)
  • Brian Malarkey (Season 3: Miami)
  • Nini Nguyen (Season 16: Kentucky)
  • Joe Sasto (Season 15: Colorado)
  • Angelo Sosa (Season 7: Washington D.C., and Season 8: All Stars)
  • Bryan Voltaggio (Season 6: Las Vegas)
  • Lee Anne Wong (Season 1: San Francisco and Last Chance Kitchen Season 7)

Ahead of the season premiere, we caught up with Tom Colicchio himself to get the scoop on the competition’s most explosive season yet.

FOOD NETWORK CANADA: How involved were you in the casting process for Top Chef All Stars LA?

TOM COLICCHIO: Not at all. (laughs) I’m not involved in choosing [the competing chefs] and I really don’t want to be. I try to be as impartial as possible. I don’t have a horse in the race here.

FNC: Who are you excited to see return to the show?

TC: I’m excited to see them all return, to tell you the truth. I think they’re all really strong. Since the show, Karen Akunowicz has won a [James] Beard Award [and] several chefs have been nominated for Beard Awards. I think the rivalry from season five between second-place finisher Brian Voltaggio and Kevin [Gillespie] should be interesting… But [we’ve] got a lot of chefs who’ve done some great things since they’ve been on the show. I’m just happy that we got a lot of participation from some really good chefs, and it made for a fantastic season.

FNC: Do you think there’s an advantage for chefs who competed on the most recent seasons of Top Chef?

TC: That’s one way of looking at it. But the other hand, someone who competed ten years ago has ten more years of experience under their belt. So that’s kind of hard to beat, too. Every season is different. Every challenge is different.

We find that halfway through a season, everything starts to look the same. [We] start seeing a lot of patterns in terms of flavour combinations and things. [But this time around], I think everyone kind of stood true to themselves. There’s not a lot of looking around, you know, where someone wins two [challenges] in a row and all of a sudden [a chef] tries something similar to that. [We’re looking for] good food. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if it’s rustic or what I call tweezer-ready. Good food is good food. Technique is good technique, [and] you can’t mask that. It really comes down to, ‘is it delicious or not?’ So I think this season, the chefs seemed a little more confident in their ability.

FNC: Are there any former Top Chef other contestants you’d like to see return in a future All Stars installments that haven’t come back yet?

TC: I’d love to see all the winners come back. That would be definitely pretty awesome. I think that might be hard to do, but you know, I’d love to get as many back as possible.

Watch Top Chef All Stars LA Thursday at 10 P.M. ET/PT on Food Network Canada. Stream Top Chef All Stars LA and 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.

Anna Olson Buttercream Decorating Tips

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

If you are a fan of cake, then you must be in-the-know when it comes to buttercream since it is the most common frosting. But have you fully immersed yourself into all of the many styles of buttercream, and how to use them?

Cupcake buttercream (also known as American butterceam) is the simplest to make, and is best used to top its namesake: cupcakes. I’ve written a piece on cupcake fun – check it out here.

Swiss Buttercream

Swiss buttercream is the next level – it’s fluffy, yet satin texture balances butter and sugar wonderfully, and it is my all-time favourite buttercream for decorating cakes. It’s easy to make, it takes food colouring well, holds piping detail, and can sit out at room temperature for presentation. Essentially, egg whites and sugar are warmed together and then whipped (a Swiss meringue) and once cooled, butter is whipped in along with flavours and/or colours.

Check out this video as I make it step by step.

Italian Buttercream

Next is Italian buttercream, for the frosting fancier. If you are covering a cake that has a mousse or curd filling, or if you are assembling a tiered cake such as a wedding cake, then you will want this most stable (yet still fluffy and tasty) buttercream. Boiled sugar is poured into egg whites while they whip (an Italian meringue) and once cooled, the butter is worked in. Italian buttercream has all of the virtues of Swiss buttercream, but it sets up more firmly when refrigerated, and is very stable at room temperature, which is why it is ideal for wedding cakes.

French Buttercream

The last buttercream to mention is the least known: French Buttercream. Instead of being made with meringue, egg yolks are the base, making this buttercream rich and custard-like. It tends to have a softer set than Swiss and Italian buttercreams, so I like to keep my décor simpler, with less piping detail.

Pecan Torte with French Buttercream

Get the recipe for Pecan Torte with French Buttercream

Getting Creative with Buttercream

Using Swiss or Italian buttercream, décor is unlimited! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Rustic – Not into piping, but still want a polished look? You can mask (cover completely with frosting) your cake fully and then use the tip of your palette knife to “rough up” the sides as you spin the cake around on a wheel – just treat your palette knife like it’s a needle on a record and start at the base of the cake, moving your way up.

Anna Olson Rustic Buttercream

Ombré – By tinting buttercream in varied shades of the same colour, you can gradiate the colour from dark to light or vice versa as you pipe.

Chocolate Berry Cake with Italian Buttercream

Get the recipe for Chocolate Berry Cake with Ombre Italian Buttercream

Sheer – While a “naked” cake fully exposes the sides, the “half-naked” or sheer style of décor adds a little buttercream to add finesse but the layers can still be seen.

This sheet cake is actually inspired by my own wedding cake, which I made 20 years ago this month. Amazing how what is old becomes new again, even with cake décor trends!

Get the recipe for Chai Layer Cake with Maple Meringue Frosting

Buttercream Tips

A few final buttercream tips to get you on your way:

  •  All buttercreams should be used at room temperature, freshly whipped.
  • That said, you can make any buttercream ahead of time and chill or freeze it. Before using, let it come fully to room temperature and re-whip it to fluff it up.
  • Gel food colouring is best for buttercreams – a dab of colour on the end of a toothpick goes a long way, but remember that the colour intensifies as the frosting sits, so keep that in mind before you add more.

So jump into the kitchen and start playing…today is a perfect day to make and decorate a cake!

For even more baking tips, see her top tips for assembling and icing cakes and get inspired with 67 of Anna Olson’s best-ever cake recipes.

Eddie Jackson's Pineapple Gochujang Short Ribs

Eddie Jackson’s Gochujang Short Ribs Are Your New All-Star Dish

Eddie Jackson’s sweet short ribs made with gochujang sauce and fresh pineapple make for easy entertaining, leaving you with more time to enjoy with your guests (and the big game!). Inspired by Koreatown tableside grilling, they are ready in a flash — and will be gone even faster!

Serve at your next gathering with other crowd-pleasing favourites from Game-Day Eats: 100 Recipes for Homegating Like a Pro.

Eddie Jackson's Pineapple Gochujang Short Ribs from Game Day Eats

Pineapple-Gochujang Short Ribs

Prep time: 5 minutes (plus 5 hours marinating and resting time)
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 8-10

Ingredients: 

1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 oz (about 115 g) fresh pineapple, roughly chopped
½ cup turbinado sugar
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 kiwi, peeled and roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 (1-inch/2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon gochujang
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 lbs flanken-style short ribs
Thinly sliced scallion, for serving

Directions: 

1. In a food processor, combine the soy sauce, pineapple, sugar, shallot, kiwi, garlic, ginger, gochujang, sesame oil, and black pepper. Pulse until the ingredients are combined and no large chunks remain.
2. Put the ribs into a large resealable plastic bag or large nonre­active bowl with an airtight lid. Pour the marinade over the ribs and massage it into the meat. Seal (or cover) and refrig­erate for at least 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature about 1 hour before grilling.
3. When ready to grill, prepare a grill for direct cooking (or set a grill pan over medium-high heat).
4. Grill the ribs until the meat is browned through, 2 to 3 min­utes per side, turning frequently. Top with the scallions and serve immediately.

Tip: Shake off any excess marinade before you grill the meat to prevent any flare-ups. Any leftover marinade can be brought to a boil until it reduces slightly and used as extra sauce for the ribs, if desired.

From the book GAME-DAY EATS: 100 Recipes for Homegating Like a Pro by Eddie Jackson. Copyright © 2019 by Eddie Jackson. Published on September 24, 2019 by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

Buddy vs. Duff

Buddy vs. Duff: See Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman’s Most Epic Cakes

In Buddy vs. Duff, legendary bakers Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman will bring their culinary A-game as they face off in a series of dessert-themed challenges. The battling bakers will compete in a final space-themed task, where the judges will crown the winner and settle this epic feud once and for all. For a (visual) taste of what you cake expect to see from the series, we’ve kicked off the competition early, showcasing some of the most epic baked creations from Buddy and Duff. May the best baker win!

Buddy’s a pro at bringing animals to life

This sea-creature-inspired cake has our eyes go from the Hammerhead shark breaking through the top-most tier to the eel weaving it’s way through the middle section, all the way to the colorful collection of underwater life and seashells scattered all around the base of this cake. From shading to texture, we just can’t get over how detailed every creature on this cake is up-close!

Duff is all about the details when it comes to scene-style cakes

This elaborate city-scape cake created by Duff and his team called for 150 pounds of cake and 50 pounds of fondant. There is so much going on here, from a “just married” car and mini wedding cake to the hot air balloon — can you spot the sailboat?

Buddy is a master chef when it comes to barbeque baking

This cake, dubbed “House of Que”, looks so good; you would think it was the real deal. We’ll take a side of ribs, please!

Duff is always looking to up the ante

Never to be outdone, Duff takes the barbeque-baking concept to the next level, with his massive and ultra-realistic steak-cake, created with the Baltimore Ravens logo seemingly seared into the fondant. We love how detailed this cake is, from the meat-like texture created with shading and colouring, to the T-bone design that really completes the illusion of a real steak.

Buddy has a musical side – or at least his cakes do

Buddy created this amazing guitar-themed cake as a birthday tribute to musical icon Willie Nelson. The hand-painted details make this creation a true work of art — just look at the (intentional) signs of “wear and tear” and signature designs added to mimic Willie’s real guitar.

No one does a large-scale cake quite like Duff

This behemoth of a stadium-themed cake, designed to mimic the real deal and created for the US Open Grand Slam Tennis Tournament in 2010, has onlookers in awe as Duff adds the final touches. We love how Duff was able to mimic crowds in the stands, and have you seen the extra design elements outside of the stadium piece?

Buddy’s a builder – with fondant, at least

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Having so fun @marylandlive how do you like my cake?

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Channeling his inner urban planner, Buddy crafted this true-to-life urban landscape for Maryland Live, and judging by the look on his face — he seems pretty happy with the results. We don’t blame him — the buildings, roadways and even greenery that sit atop the base of this giant cake all look like the real-deal.

Duff creates the stuff of (Marvel) legends

Would you believe this giant Hulk recreation is in fact, a fully-edible cake? Believe it! The mean green machine himself was built up as a cake and presented by Duff to the Stan Lee in 2014 at Comikaze Expo. Duff recently reposed this epic throwback creation as a tribute to the late Marvel Comics legend.

Buddy serves up the best of both worlds

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If you struggle with satisfying your sweet tooth while also getting your daily fruit-fix, Buddy’s got the solution with this delicious watermelon cake. All cake and icing on the outside, with juicy, ripened watermelon on the inside. Now this is a summertime treat to get excited about!

Duff makes the donut cake of all donut cakes

Helping Krispy Kreme celebrate their 81st birthday – and the launch of a new donut flavor – is no easy task, but judging by this cake, Duff is up to the challenge. This donut-covered cake looks too good to be true… mind if we have a piece, Duff?

Tune in to Buddy vs. Duff Sundays at 10:00 PM E/P.

4 Genius Ways to Elevate Store-Bought Desserts

So you’ve been tasked with making or bringing a dessert, have you? While it’s a nice thought to want to bake up a spiced cake with hand-crafted frosting, crumble an amazing pie with those apples you picked in the fall, or even whip up a batch of the warmest cookies the season has to offer, sometimes time just isn’t on your side.

That’s when store-bought desserts from the local bakery or grocery store are oh-so-key. You can buy them ahead of time (giving you more time for other dishes or a little more sleep), and then thanks to these ingenious tips from our very own Anna Olson, you can take them to the next level. Trust us, these simple tricks just may have people thinking you slaved in the kitchen.

Just don’t forget to put the dish on your own plate before serving!

Classic Chocolate Sauce

Six ingredients, a pan and a whisk are all you need to make an indulgent, silky-smooth chocolate sauce that you can pour over decadent vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit, or—if you feel like it—just eat it straight up with a spoon. It’s that good.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Classic Chocolate Sauce with:

Brownie Sundae Explosion

Caramel Butter Tarts

Classic Caramel Sauce

We were shocked at how easy this yummy dessert-topper is to make with just a little planning and the foresight. It’s a classic addition to any crumbly, fruit-based dessert, but we love it mixed with brownies or other chocolaty items too.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Classic Caramel Sauce with:

Anna Olson’s Caramel Apples

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Raspberry Coulis

If you’ve got a creamy dessert or something chocolaty on-hand, bring it to the next level with a fruit-based coulis—a classic pastry chef concoction that’s actually way simpler to make than it sounds. (Seriously, you don’t even need to turn on the oven.) The people you’re making it for don’t have to know that though; tell them you made a fresh coulis and then sit back and revel in their impressed looks.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Raspberry Coulis with:

Anna’s Coconut Cream Pie

Mint Chocolate Cake

Quick Toffee Sauce

Gingerbread, sticky pudding or plain old ice cream will never be the same after you’ve had those items with this simple toffee sauce that packs a huge flavour punch. Amazingly, you only need four ingredients and a few short minutes to whip it up, but it can also be assembled beforehand and quickly heated up again before serving. Now that’s what we call a (not-so) sticky solution.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Quick Toffee Sauce with:

Spiced Nut Cake

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

Looking for more easy desserts? Try Anna Olson’s Best Pie Recipes.

7 Most Indulgent Desserts You Need to Try from The Baker Sisters

There are desserts, and then there are unforgettable, show-stopping masterpieces that are so good you can’t get them out of your head. Considering that Rachel Smith and Jean Parker have travelled far and wide in search of the best bakeries for their series The Baker Sisters, it’s safe to say that when it comes to indulgent desserts they definitely know a thing or two.

From deep-dish dessert pizza that’s so indulgent you won’t be able to stop yourself after just one slice, to a mousse cake that’s like a giant chocolate-wafer-hazelnut confection that goes by a certain name, here are some of their top picks from across the country.

1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Crunch Cupcakes at Crave Bakery in Calgary


Click here to get the
Caramel Peanut Popcorn Topping recipe.

It’s like the bakers at Crave took the wishes of every sweet-toothed consumer out there and combined their cravings into one delightful cupcake with this mouthful of a concoction. Between the chocolaty peanut butter, the salty popcorn and the sweet caramel, this is exactly what we picture an explosion of flavours to physically look (and taste!) like.

“It had the biggest name and in one little cupcake, it delivered,” Jean says. “You had your two frostings playing with each other, the chocolate and the peanut butter. Their cake recipe itself was like grandma’s and it was spot-on perfect…Then we made our own caramel corn, and put that on top of it. It was little and stacked up, but it was crazy good.”

2. The Dark Knight Cake at Chess Piece Patisserie & Café in Fredericton

This Fredericton-based Parisian style café may offer a wide range of baked goods and pastries, but for the Baker Sisters one thing truly stood out: the Dark Knight Cake that Jean got to recreate for the show.

She raves:  “It’s a mousse cake, praline in the inside, and covered in a chocolate glaze. The flavours, the textures, everything about it…”

“Your fork slid through it,” Rachel adds. “It was so indulgent because of those layers of chocolate.”

3. The London Fog Cake at Cadeaux Bakery in Vancouver

In terms of making classic hot beverages come to life in cake form, Eleanor Chow Waterfall has an instant, indulgent winner with her London Fog cake.

“There were 37 steps to make it,” Jean recalls. “Eleanor was awesome. One cool chick, but very precise and would not skip or take any shortcuts. It took a long time. I think there were nine layers of cake; it was huge, and it was perfect. It was infused with this tea, silky, light and fluffy, really high.” No wonder the sisters thought it was to die for.

4. The Amazing Schnecken at Trafiq in Vancouver

We may never be able to look at cinnamon buns with a fair eye (or taste them with the same palate) again after witnessing the magic that went into making the Schnecken at this cafe. Rachel goes so far as to call the treat, which is reminiscent of a Chelsea bun, “insane.”

“Even in the show when I’m doing my tasting, I turn to the baker and I’m like, ‘I need to take a private minute,’” she says. “It was buttery. It was ooey goey. You pour your caramel on the bottom and then your nuts, and then you put your buns on it. He actually froze his buns and then sliced it, and then baked it frozen because what ends up happening is it doesn’t over-bake the dough. So the dough is still really soft and the outside of it gets that firm, crispy that you want. And it was huge.”

Get the recipe for the amazing schnecken here. 

5. The Deep Dish Pizza at Junked Food Co. in Toronto

You don’t have to travel to Chicago to experience delightful deep-dish pizza, especially if you’re looking for a sweeter riff on the original. The crew at Junked Food Co are renowned for their sweet eats, especially since they’re open late and speak to a very specific, sweet-toothed crowd.


Rachel eyeing a slice of that dessert deep dish pizza made by Junked Food Co.’s Brian McKilligan.

“That deep dish pizza was crazy. These men know exactly what they’re doing and who they’re selling to,” Rachel says. “This deep-dish dessert pizza had everything—marshmallow goo, chocolate, caramel, gummy candies. It’s got it all.”

6. Wild Strawberry Brioche Bun with Cream Cheese Icing at The Old Apothecary Bakery & Café in Halifax

Sometimes the most indulgent offerings are the ones that actually bring us back to the basics thanks to the simplicity of their ingredients. That was definitely the case for the sisters when they travelled to Halifax and made these wild strawberry brioche buns.

“It’s not terribly fancy, but it was a brioche wild strawberry bun, like a cinnamon roll, but it was made with wild strawberries from Halifax,” Jean recalls. “The brioche dough was slathered in this cream cheese icing. It was so fresh and lovely and decadent.”

Want to see more indulgent treats? Take our delicious quiz: Pick a Dessert and We’ll Tell You Where You Should Live. You’re gonna want some cake after, though.

7 Great Bakeries the Baker Sisters Are Sweet On

When you’ve pretty much made it a life mission to source and sample all of the best baked concoctions in Canada and beyond, it’s safe to say that you know a thing or two about where the best bakeries are located. Especially if you grew up with baking in your blood the way Rachel Smith and Jean Parker did.

So as the first season of The Baker Sisters wraps up on December 1, it only made sense to ask the sisterly duo to dish on their favourite bakeries, letting us all know where to indulge the next time we crave sweet, sugary cinnamon rolls or the best baked bread around.

Here are seven of the sisters’ top picks; some are their local haunts and some are new ones they fell in love with while filming The Baker Sisters.

Christie’s Mayfair Bakery LTD, Saskatoon

If it’s a family style, European bakery experience you’re looking for, then Christie’s is certainly it. From their pretty cookies to their bountiful breads, this establishment has the vibe and flavours to match.


Jean and Rachel pose with the bakers from Christie’s Mayfair Bakery while filming an episode of The Baker Sisters. Photo courtesy of Jean Parker and Rachel Smith.

“They’re an Italian family. For lunch, they brought over their stone pizza oven that’s on a trailer and they made pizzas for everybody, even in the community,” Rachel recalls. “People came over and they were giving them free pizzas. This bakery actually figured out when we were flying back home, and they met us at the airport with boxes of granola and t-shirts just to say thank you. You felt like you were one of the family.”

Watch baker Tracey make cannoncini, an Italian pastry classic:

 

Sugar Bakeshop, Charleston, SC

This small-batch bakeshop is known for its made-to-order concoctions and wedding-worthy, seasonal cupcakes, but it was the place’s small-town charm that really spoke to this sisterly duo.

“The vibe those guys were putting out was amazing,” Jean says. “[They’re] huge members of the community. We could stay there forever and their baked goods were delicious. They were so welcoming and hospitable. Southerners do have their charm.”

Leslieville Cheese Market, Toronto

Don’t let the name fool you—this establishment may have earned a huge reputation for its amazing variety of cheeses, but this shop knows how to whip up some baked goods to match—especially when it comes to melt-in-your-mouth, buttery croissants.

Just being baked by #epibakery . At 10am this delicious croassaints will be at #leslievillecheesemarket

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“I love Leslieville Cheese Market. They have the best butter croissant,” Rachel raves. “You gotta go early because they go quick, and I normally buy two.”

Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market, Toronto

Jean admits that choosing an all-encompassing farmers’ market is “cheating” slightly, but both sisters call out Henry from The Humble Bread for having “beautiful” breads, and Alli’s Bread for the amazing cinnamon buns.

“The cinnamon bun at Alli’s will blow your mind,” Rachel says.

“You really have to share it. As much as it hurts my heart to share, you have to because it’s so sweet and lovely. And huge,” Jean adds.

Celena’s, Toronto

Umm… I'm having a #Chocolate #Croissant for #breakfast today! #CelenasBakery #TorontoBakery #DanforthEast #pastries

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This traditional bakery makes everything fresh and in-house, and they have a wide variety of goods including breads, pies, sweets and cookies. For Rachel though, this place is her local haunt for one pretty big reason: its chocolate croissant.

“They do a chocolate croissant that no matter what time of day it is, and even if it was made in the morning, when you bite into it, it melts,” she says. “It’s not a hard piece of chocolate. I want one right now.”

The Rooster Coffee House, Toronto

To be fair, the location that Jean frequents on Broadview in Toronto gets their baked goods from places like Jules Patisserie and Circles and Squares. Still, it’s still her favourite place to hang out at while enjoying a hot beverage and a pastry (or two).

“They have the best view of the city, 100 per cent, on the patio,” she says. “The baked goods are plentiful and gorgeous and delicious.”

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, Toronto

When pie is a part of your name it’s safe to say that you know how to whip up a mean tart or two. The sisters experienced this firsthand when they visited Wanda to learn her tricks of the trade, and the establishment has since become one of their favourites.


Click here to get the recipe for Wanda’s sour cherry pie.

“When we baked at Wanda’s, that sour cherry pie,” Rachel remembers. “She made the best sour cherry pie. She’s known for her pie, and her favourite is the sour cherry pie and one of the first pies she really started making. It blew your mind.”

OK, we’re sold. Road trip, anyone?

Use our bakery map to find all all the bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters

Anna Olson Halloween Hacks

Anna Olson’s Spooktacular Halloween Hacks

If you ask us, the best food-based Halloween offerings combine a little trick and a whole lot of treat. In fact, one of the best parts about the ghoulish holiday is invoking some kitchen creativity and concocting amazing offerings that look as though they belong at a feast table in the great hall at Hogwarts.

Anna Olson may not have the magic spell that brings chocolate frogs to life, but she certainly has oodles of creativity up her flour-dusted sleeves. Check out these four spooktacular Halloween hacks that not only elevate party-friendly treats but are guaranteed to impress kids and adults alike.

Spiderweb Donuts

Scare up some of these elevated jelly donuts for your next Halloween party or office get-together. All you need is a standard sugar glaze, some jelly donuts, a makeshift piping bag and a toothpick. Easy, peasy. (Spiders not included.)

 

Witch’s Cauldron Instant Ice Cream

Source some dry ice and watch guests’ faces positively light up when you whip up some instant, smoky ice cream in a matter of seconds. Extra points for a colourful spread of gummy worms, crushed Oreo cookie “dirt” crumbs and other sugary toppings to pour over top.

 

Slimiest Green Slime

It only takes three simple ingredients to simmer up some kid-friendly slime that’s not only chemical-free but edible, too. Decorate cakes, cupcakes or other concoctions with “green slime,” or just give it to the kiddies to play with as they see fit for some real Halloween fun.

 

Spooky Kitchen Fun: Halloween Treats

Get the kiddies involved in some good old-fashioned Halloween fun with these simple hacks that won’t just transform snacks into adorable creations, but you’ll craft some life-long memories while you’re at it. From witches hats and pretzel ghosties to blondie Frankensteins and fanged pumpkins, these treats are surprisingly easy to assemble.

 

Looking for more spooktacular inspiration? Try our 18 Orange and Black Halloween Treats.

creamy lobster linguini

Giada de Laurentiis’ Romantic Valentine’s Day Menu

Forgo the fancy restaurants and prix-fixe menus this Valentine’s Day and make your sweetheart swoon with a little taste of Italy right at home. Start the evening off with a restaurant-worthy Italian cocktail, followed by a rich risotto appetizer and a luscious pasta dish that’s so good, it may just lead to a romantic, Lady and the Tramp moment.

So set the table, light some candles and let Giada De Laurentiis’ simple and delicious Italian menu complete your intimate evening.

The Gentle Italian
Treat your loved one to a pink, effervescent Italian aperitif that goes down smooth. This light, lemon-scented sipper gets a hint of orange and rhubarb from a splash of Aperol, and a fizzy finish from Italian Prosecco.

Artichoke Arancini

Artichoke Arancini
Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a warm, gooey and crispy bite of arancini. These golden risotto balls are lovingly made from scratch with toasted arborio rice, white wine and fresh basil. For an extra-special surprise, add a touch of fresh mozzarella or spicy sausage to the centre of each arancini ball.

Creamy Lobster Linguine

Creamy Lobster Linguine
Rich, buttery lobster gets even more indulgent in this gorgeous dish complete with bacon, shallots and a creamy garlic sauce. Basil, tarragon and a heaping handful of freshly grated Parmesan is enough to woo your lucky dinner guest.

Chai Chocolate Truffles

Chai Chocolate Truffles
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete without chocolate, and these rich, indulgent handmade truffles are just the answer. There’s only five ingredients in Giada’s scrumptious chai-flavoured truffle recipe, and your special someone won’t know that it took you less than 20 minutes to make them. For a truly romantic touch, present them in a heart-shaped box with a cappuccino to sip as you enjoy these delicate treats.

Looking for more romantic recipes? Try one of these 12 Romantic Recipes to Make at Home.

Watch Giada Entertains Sundays 12 pm E/T.

Favourite BBQ Dishes from You Gotta Eat Here!

John-Catucci-BBQ

You don’t have to be from Texas to know what good barbecue tastes like, as Canadian restaurants and backyard barbecue mavericks are proving across Canada. Barbecue may have its roots in the American South, but the Great White North also has its fair share of grill masters.

Great barbecue can be simple or complicated – that’s up to you. But, it’s the smoke that imparts a depth of flavour that makes it anything but boring. More than just a cooking technique, barbecuing is an event in itself.

What do you do during the May Two-Four, a.k.a. Victoria Day, weekend? For many Canadians, it marks the beginning of barbecue season and the unofficial start to summer. With luck from Mother Nature, the weekend offers the perfect weather to be outside with good company and great food.

I think there’s a connection that many people make between barbecue and happy feelings. You don’t have to have a fancy smoker or a huge barbecue — all you need is passion, patience and some hungry people to feed. I remember being a kid and sitting in my Zia’s (aunt’s) kitchen, smelling the charcoal smoke coming through the back door as my Zio (uncle) grilled on a little, tiny, round hibachi barbecue. That was back in the 1970s and I can still picture that scene perfectly — all of us waiting in anticipation for Zio to finish. He would take his celery stalk and use the leaves to brush oil and red wine vinegar onto the meat. I can recall the smell of the vinegar hitting the meat and getting that char flavour. That’s the moment I’ll always remember; sitting in that kitchen and just seeing the smoke come in every time the back door would open.

Great barbecue is about so much more than meat on a grill, it’s about the experience: the sunshine, the smells, and four or five family members lurking over your shoulder telling you what to do. “The flame’s too high!” “Not enough heat!” “Flip that steak!” “Don’t drop the asparagus!” “Get me another beer!”

I eat barbecue like it’s my job. Seriously, I get paid to eat. (I know, I know, I’m a lucky bastard.) And I’ve been fortunate enough to eat at some of the best barbecue joints in Canada. I’ve eaten ribs on the west coast, pulled pork in the maritimes, and even a barbecued dessert or two in the middle part of the country. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some amazing barbecue chefs, true artists with wood, spice, and smoke. These folks will grill anything! Trust me, anything. (Pig tails, anyone?) If it’s delicious, Canadian pit masters will find a way to barbecue it.

Check out delicious BBQ dishes from You Gotta Eat Here! Select ‘caption’ to see the dish’s description. Click on the image to get the recipe.

When I’m not eating barbecue, I’m thinking about it. So I’ve created my ultimate fantasy barbecue day menu. All I need is a bottomless pit for a stomach, a pair of super stretchy pants, and a teleporter. Let’s go!

Barque-Smokehouse-Brunch
Barque Smokehouse Smoked Duck Panckes. Get the recipe here

Breakfast: Our first stop on our all-barbecue-all-day adventure is Barque in Toronto. Order the Barque Benedict: smoked beef brisket piled high on cornbread, topped with two poached eggs and smothered in smoky barbecue Hollandaise sauce. The brunch here is enough to fill you up for the rest of the weekend. But I’m just getting started.

Pig-BBQ-Joint

John visits Pig BBQ Joint in an upcoming episode on May 23. Schedule details are here.

Lunch:
In my dream scenario, it’s Bacon Explosion Day at Pig BBQ Joint in Victoria, BC. This is ground pork sausage wrapped in a lattice of bacon, sprinkled with more bacon, then smoked, sliced, and piled on a sandwich with tangy barbecue sauce. BOOM.

Big-T-BBQ

Check out the link at the bottom of the page to watch  John visit Big T’s BBQ.

Dinner: Now this is where the stretchy pants come into play. In Calgary, Alberta Big T‘s famous Elvis Platter is bigger than my car. It’s a ridiculous amount of food, and it’s all meaty and delicious. There are six different types of meat here: brisket, pulled pork, huge St. Louis-style ribs, a whole smoked chicken, crispy rib ends, and Andouille sausage. Barbecue is meant to feed a crowd!
Smoky Cheesecake
Get the Smoky Chocolate Cheescake with Pecans recipe here.

Dessert: You left room for dessert, didn’t you? Of course you did. We’re back to Ontario to D&S Southern BBQ just outside of Ottawa in Carlsbad Springs. How do you barbecue dessert, you ask? Excellent question. The answer is their Smoky Chocolate Cheesecake and Pecans. A tall, creamy chocolate cheesecake that gets hickory smoked low and slow, cooled, and then covered with a rich chocolate ganache. Topped with roasted pecans and caramel sauce, they serve it with some homemade strawberry chutney. The chocolate sucks in the smoke like a little sponge, resulting in one of the creamiest and craziest cheesecakes I’ve ever tasted.

And of course my “dream” barbecue day would end in a really long nap.
No matter where you eat your barbecue, all you need is great company and a little smoke and you have the recipe for a fantastic time!
Barbecue on, Canada!

Watch back-to-back new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 ET | 6 PT.

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

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