Monday, 5 September 2011

What would my last meal be on Earth? Quite possibly this...A Roast Chicken

Whenever, I have ever been asked as a Chef, if I could choose anything at all, what would my last meal on earth be? Invariably, the answer is usually between a really simple yet perfect bowl of pasta like the one that I recently discovered at Briscola restaurant in Toronto or the King of all comfort food…roast chicken.  To be honest, I believe that nothing congers up visions of homey, rustic, delicious food than a simply cooked roast chicken.





Now I am certain that there are as many different preparations of roast chicken as there are days in the week. But for this post, I have decided to break down a few chickens into its component pieces, to expedite the cooking time and to make it applicable to home cooking even on weekdays where time or the lack thereof is always a concern.  I hope that you enjoy this simple, delicious and quick recipe of one of my favourite foods.




Ingredients


1 Whole free-range chicken (chicken legs, drums or breast can also be used)

1 Large Onion

1 Celery stalk

1 Carrot

1 Bunch of Fresh Thyme

1 Bunch of Rosemary

3 Bay leaves

Kosher Salt

Cracker Black Pepper

Fresh flat leaf parsley

3 Garlic cloves

½ Lemon

Olive oil




Method



Preheat oven to 450° F

If using a whole chicken, breakdown it down into pieces OR can use store bought pieces – whichever is easiest.

Place in a large mixing bowl.

Wash hands and sanitize.

Season with whatever you would like – keep it simple.

I used seasoning salt, pepper, paprika and soya sauce to marinate the chicken pieces.

Place in fridge until ready to cook.

Get a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper.

Wash, peel and cut into a small dice the carrot, celery and onion.  This is the holy trinity of roasting, braising and stocks and so much more.  This is called a mirepoix. Place the mirepoix on the tray, a drizzle of olive oil, add thyme, bay leaf and garlic cloves.

Get the chicken out of the fridge and place in a even layer to promote even and thorough cooking.

If your oven is convection turn on the fan and place tray in the oven.

Once chicken is in oven, reduce heat to 400°F and let roast for 25 mines.

After cooking for 25mins, flip the chicken pieces to allow for even browning and crispy skin.  Allow to cook for approximately another 15mins or until the chicken is done. 

Chicken is done when an instant read thermometer reads an internal temperature of 180°C.

Take the chicken out and let sit for a few moments.


When you are ready to serve the chicken squeeze the lemon over the chicken.


Enjoy!




For any suggestions on flavour combinations or advice on how to butcher a chicken please comment or connect with me on @Twitter! Take care and enjoy the recipe!









Roasted Beets, Carrots, Peppers with my Garden Herbs..so simple so delish!


Lately, I’ve been obsessed with beets. When I was a child, my parents would make beet soup with pork. It was rustic, homey and delicious.
Beets are nutritious and packed with flavour. Like carrots, beets have natural sugars that are released when roasted, which makes them so sweet. 
I was at a local market the other day and saw these beautiful deep purple beets and thought to myself, “what can I do with these?” This is a simple, quick recipe that I created consisting of roasted beets with carrots, red peppers, onions and fresh herbs are so easy to make and hard to resist!
 

Lovely locally sourced beets, carrots, red peppers - treated simply, when cooked the natural sugars caramelize and make them hard to resist!

Ingredients
3 Beets
3 Carrots
3 Red Peppers
1 Bunch of Thyme
1 Large Onion
3 Cloves of Garlic
Olive Oil
Kosher salt
Cracked Black Pepper 

Method
Preheat oven to 400° F
Prepare the baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
Peel and slice the onion.
Wash, peel the Beets, Carrots and Peppers.
Cut them into wedges keeping in mind the differing time required to cook the ingredients evenly. Carrots and beets take longer than peppers to cook.
Crush the cloves of garlic.
Combine in a large mixing bowl with the thyme.
Drizzle the olive oil and mix thoroughly.
Season with salt and pepper.

Lay out the mixture on the baking sheet evenly and place in the oven to cook.
Roast in oven for approximately  35 mins or until the beets and carrots are fork tender.


Enjoy!


Foodie Adventure Follow-up - The photos are here!

It's been a few weeks since we have been back from our Malaysian foodie adventure. I'm still getting back into the daily grind of things here in Toronto, and the buzz from our trip has left us wanting more.
Visiting the exotic beauty of Malaysia was one of the best experiences I have had - the people, culture and the local cuisine have made an impression on me that I won't soon forget.
A full write-up of our travels and the food is coming soon, but I could not wait to share some great photos with you. Visit here for a full gallery from our foodie adventure!


The locals eat so well and cheaply, it is incredible how delicious the food is in Malaysia. The markets and food stalls are incredibly busy thus ensuring the quality and freshness. We will most definitely be heading back in the future.  We also plan to include Kuala Lumpur and a destination trip to Australia next time. There was so much to see and explore it was impossible to visit everything in one trip, I can't wait to go back! 





Sunday, 4 September 2011

Long live Charcuterie - An Introduction to Charcuterie

Charcuterie is an ancient art that dates back to the beginnings of recorded history. In modern times, the art and knowledge has been lost to many great chefs. For some, however, the keeping with the old ways has become a (fun) challenge. Modern interpretations require experience, culinary skill and a great deal of time and patience.





I know this sounds like a black art – in some ways it is - but we are talking about some mouth watering eats!

This is a wonderful video that really speaks to the tradition and heritage of Charcuterie. It profiles the Kocurek family on their adventure in creating world class charcuterie. Enjoy!


Please visit: www.kocurekfamilycharcuteire.com for more information. For information on the creator of this wonderful documentary please visit: www.christianremde.com

Charcuterie is derived from the term 'chair cuit,' which translates to mean 'cooked meat.' Charcuterie is considered by some to be the art and science of making cooked meat preparations - with emphasis on pork. This ancient art, whose origins date back some 6,000 years, became popular during the Roman Empire when cuisine started to become sophisticated. The art really hit its stride in France during the Middle Ages when charcuterie came into its own. Shops began to specialize in these meat preparations – known as charcuterie - and the people who owned and operated these shops were referred to as 'charcutiers.' They were skilled individuals who not only had to possess the talent to season and cook moist and delicious foods, but they also had to present it in a way that was appealing to customers who passed by or entered their shop. Charcutiers enjoyed great popularity and their customers were always interested to see the new creations being prepared.


This is a video from Marben at one of their butchery classes held at their restaurant. Thanks to www.spotlighttoronto.com

Charcuterie has spread throughout the world and is known by many different names. Different cultures have their own interpretation of charcuterie - Asians, Germans, English, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese and the French.

I am happy to have experienced many of these different varieties and strongly encourage you all to go to a good local butcher, specialty store or even a restaurant like The Black Hoof and ask to try something new.

Long live the art and science of meat preparation - long live Charcuterie!






Thursday, 1 September 2011

In searching for memories of cucina della nonna, we visit Briscola restaurant

To say the competition for food dominance in Little Italy is cutt-throat is an understatement.  Rising from the ashes of Cinq 01, the newly formed partnership between Ink Entertainment’s Charles Khabouth and Amber’s Toufik Sarwa have combined like a phoenix rising from the ashes to form Briscola restaurant. At its helm, an up and coming Chef Sean Reeve takes us on a journey of good hearty Italian cuisine. I can say with confidence that there is a new contender and others should take notice. 





The atmosphere has a bistro meets lounge feel. The music keeps the good vibes going throughout the evening. If I closed my eyes, I would swear that it was just like being at home, chilling, listening to my own music collection.  What can I say? Great minds and all…

The menu relies on traditional Italian favourites borrowing from classic comfort food “nonna” style, but with a few twists. Nothing on the menu seems out of place, and there is something to satisfy most if not all tastes.



Katie, our server, was the consummate professional, cheerful and knowledgeable when it came to the menu and ingredients. She gave us great recommendations, and steered us through a wonderful meal. A big thanks goes to Katie!



Now let’s get to the food... The burrata with oven scorched tomatoes and aged balsamic (think mozzarella taken to the extreme)  was up to bat first, and it hit a home run on the first pitch.  The burrata’s delicate flavour accompanied by the sweet scorched tomatoes and lightly dressed arugula help to propel this dish and made it a star. This is a dish worth ordering again - it’s really that good! The arugula was perfectly dressed. They use their own olive oil and balsamic vinegar throughout the menu and happily you can purchase some as a small take away memory of a good meal eaten. This salad wipes away bad memories or poorly executed traditional caprese salads that I have had the unfortunate luck of experiencing, I just loved it!

The fried olives with orange zest and parsley were up next. They came in a small shallow frying pan to enhance the rustic feel to the meal. The coating is technically perfect. It did not fall off or crumble as I half expected it would. The olives had a wonderful textural contrast that is highly addicting. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself subconsciously picking at them and popping them one, two even three at a time. The fried olives are truly a great accompaniment to any dinner or just to have with a drink at the bar.



























              

The tagliere del salumiere was served with homemade accompaniments and we asked for a bit of cheese into the mix. A traditional cheese plate is available in the desserts menu.  Upon request you can order it at the start of your meal. The cured meats included organic pancetta from Niagara, bresaola, coppa and salami. The cheese on the plate varied in texture and taste, today’s selection included a beautiful tiger blue, a goat’s milk triple cream brie and traditional Grana Padano. The homemade preserves - blackened honey, berry compote and macerated figs – made the dish unique and they paired perfectly with the cured meat and cheese selections. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed to learn that there meats are not cured in house. However, they are purchased faithfully from local vendors and from Italy. I am happy to hear that they are hung and dried in house for an extended period to intensify the flavours of the meat. Chef Reeve knows his charcuterie. The question will be asked, how did this charcuterie platter compare to the greats in Toronto? I would say it’s worth enjoying, there is care and thought put into the pairings and the homemade accompaniments make this unique to Briscola.

Tagliere del salumiere

The homemade preserves - blackened honey, berry compote and macerated figs
As many of my Twitter followers know, I am very particular when it comes to how I like my pasta and I almost never order pasta in a restaurant. I am picky for many reasons but I won’t get into that here. What I would like to say is, in all the years dining in Toronto. This is the very first pasta I have ordered and more importantly one of the only ones I would recommend to someone.  The bison bolognese pappardelle with buffalo milk ricotta was in one word…fantastic.


Bison bolognese pappardelle with buffalo milk ricotta

The flavour of the ground bison and the sauce with the fresh pasta cooked perfectly al dente made this dish a winner. If I ever crave pasta, I know where to go, Briscola. The only other times that I’ve ever been blown away by a pasta dish was in Italy. If I had to be critical, I would have liked the sauce to have a little more heat (spice). 



Just a few shots from the evening before we get to the main course.....


Chef Sean Reeve preping for a busy night at Briscola

Beautiful, stylish and elegant the decor of Briscola is a fusion of bistro and lounge.

Table settings ready for guests and some great food





Looking out to the front, the bar and some really nice decor define Briscola

Onto the entr├ęe – the 12 oz centre cut veal chop. Although I asked for the meat to be cooked medium rare, Chef Reeve insisted I try it medium as it would enhance the overall flavour – and I’m glad I listened because it tasted divine. The frenched veal chop is cooked wonderfully, tender, succulent and well seasoned. The marinated shitake mushrooms and mizuna in the rosemary balsamic reduction was extremely tasty. 

Note: I must come back for a visit as I have heard that the braised beef ribs are just as magnificently cooked, fall off the bone tender and full of flavour.  

12 oz. Veal Chop cooked to perfection, well seasoned and delicious

Although we were getting quite full, Katie highly recommended that we must try dessert. So we looked at the small yet confident choices laid out to tempt our sweet tooth. We chose the panettone bread pudding and salted caramel chocolate tart. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant to try the panettone as I read online that someone had said that, “it was dense and uninspired.” I beg to differ! 



Briscola's Panettone Bread Pudding is a must have!

Between the two desserts the panettone is a must have! It was served with dates, pistachio and a vanilla gelato. The bread pudding was luxurious and the fruit accompanying the pudding helped to cleanse the palate and added the perfect amount of acidity to counter the creaminess of the butterscotch sauce.  Divine!


Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart - Rich, Chocolatey and Dense!

The salted caramel chocolate tart was nice, but it’s a dessert best shared between two people as it was very rich. It was the complete opposite of the panettone, which was light, fluffy and not too sweet. The tart was dense, rich and after a few bites a tad too sweet. 
 

After dinner and walking off our delicious meal, I took the time to really reflect on the meal. Looking at the dishes as a whole, I smiled and said “yes!” what a great meal. The music, the ambience, the service and most importantly the food combined to make this a really enjoyable evening. I would recommend making reservations as it does get busy – especially on the weekend.




Briscola Restaurant
501 College Street
Toronto, ON