Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gold Medal Plates Saskatoon

What a foodie fantastic evening! Ten chefs outdid themselves with wonderful creations and, I'm proud to say, every one of them filled their menu with Saskatchewan ingredients - from pickerel cheeks to wild boar belly, from lentils to wild rice cracker, from black pansy syrup to pea shoot foam.

I had the wonderful opportunity of sitting on the judge's panel. A tough decision, to be sure, but the clear winner was Chef Dan Walker of Wizceria, a restaurant in Saskatoon's Broadway district. Here are pictures of the winners with mouth-watering descriptions by fellow judge, the food and wine writer James Chatto.

Taking the gold medal by a unanimous decision of the judges was Chef Dan Walker of Weczeria Food and Wine in Saskatoon, by far the smallest restaurant in the competition. His strip of wild boar belly was perfectly textured – crisp where it needed to be, unctuous elsewhere, and richly flavoured. An almost undetectable scattering of crumbled pecans added an extra dimension. Beneath the belly we found some pulled leg meat from the boar, moist and sapid from a well-seasoned marinade. Two purées – one of carrot, the other of jerusalem artichoke – were delightfully lightweight but also full of flavour, matched by crisps made from the same vegetables. Two soft, pan-fried potato gnocchi were exemplary in texture and useful for mopping up a finishing flourish of green herbal oil. The winning wine was a great match – a wine that has already captured gold elsewhere in this year’s campaign – Rockpile 2008 from Road 13 winery in the Okanagan

The silver medal was awarded to Chef Ryan Marquis of the Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon. Front-and-centre on his plate stood a hen’s egg shell filled with a spectacularly luxe foie gras crème brûlée that many of the judges deemed to be the single most delicious item of the evening. Beside it stood a big square-cut slab of smoked pork belly with a maple molasses glaze and more dots of the black, deeply flavoured glaze decorated the plate. A stripe of parsnip purée and a crisp parsnip chip represented the vegetable kingdom. Chef’s wine choice worked well – the awesome 2008 Nota Bene from Black Hills winery in the Okanagan, British Columbia.

Our bronze medallist was Chef Anthony McCarthy of the Saskatoon Club. He braised Berkshire pig cheeks to the point of tenderness and sauced them with the braising liquid and a pork demi-glace made from the pig’s bones. The lean meat stood beside a small and elegant pirozhki filled with a purée of semi-dehydrated Prairie Sensation apples, touched by a subtle hint of black truffle. A fava bean purée added lovely colour to the plate and a delicate apple cider cream picked up the flavour of the pirozhki. Chef had twisted a very crisp, lightweight strip of crackling into the Q of a pig’s tail and the dish was finished with a couple of perfect little golden chanterelles foraged in the Whitefox area by a gentleman called Lorne Terry. “Call it ‘pork and beans,’” said McCarthy. So we did. The wine was a good match – the dry, aromatic 2008 Pinot Blanc from Peller Estates in B.C.’s Okanagan valley.

This was the first Gold Medal Plates chef's competition held in Saskatoon, and it raised the most money in the history of Gold Medal Plates - $400,000 for elite athletes. Way to go S'toon!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Soup Week 43 - Lentil Carrot Bacon

Grandma Lou's lentils in another pot of soup. I must admit that I accidentally burnt the soup (of course, who would burn soup on purpose?). To overcome the burnt taste, we added bacon, carmelized onions and honey. Not bad!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prairie Feast Book Review

Author Shelley Leedahl had nice things to say about my book. Read the full review online.

“Prairie Feast: a writer’s journey home for dinner” is a literary, culinary, and, dare I say a cultural tour de force... I ate up her every word.

Another lovely review was published in the Edmonton Journal. Read it, too!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Soup Week 42 - Grandma Lou's Lentils

Grandma Lou is a good cook, and she has the lentils to prove it.

Grandma Lou (aka Louise McDougall) farms with her family near Moose Jaw. They have packaged their lentils, chickpeas and flax under the label of Grandma Lou's, complete with recipes.

I made Grandma Lou's lentil soup, but since I can't stand to follow recipes, I substituted chanterelle mushrooms for the potatoes and instead of celery, I used carrots (orange and yellow), then spiced it with a bit of cumin. Voila - délicieux!

Check out Grandma Lou's website for purchasing information.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dine local with a local celebrity

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate is pairing up local chefs, local celebrities, local farmers, local food and YOU for a super new idea called Dining with a Star. And yes, it will be recorded for future broadcast. (But of course, no one gets voted off the dining table.)

The first event is November 7 at Regina’s Creek in Cathedral Bistro. Savour Life Magazine editor CJ Katz (the celebrity) is pairing with Martin Snow and Ricardo Rodriguez (the chefs). Food supplied by Clear Creek Organics.

See the SOD website for all 15 events as they are posted. Tickets are $100/person and can be purchased by calling Marion McBride at 306-543-8732 or at the restaurant in question.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Soup Week 41 - Chicken Coconut

While moving into my new house, I discovered a can of coconut milk which I believe has been in my pantry for a very long time. So, rather than move it, I made it the basis for a lovely soup with the leftovers of my Thanksgiving chicken.

1 can coconut milk (2 cups)
3 cups chicken broth (homemade)
1 handful of leftover chicken
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 chopped banana peppers (from my garden)
2 cups chopped chanterelle mushrooms (local, of course)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 small leek, finely sliced (farmer's market)
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Put everything in the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer until it's cooked and yummy (I simmered it with the lid on about one hour). Remove lemon before serving.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

No sour grapes

Yes, we do have a vendange in Saskatchewan! I spent a wonderful hour in the sunshine this afternoon picking grapes. My friend, David, who lives on the next block, invited me over to pick his grapevine. We popped them into the freezer and this winter, he'll juice them and I'll make grape jelly. But I saved a few perfect bunches just to eat...

Now I'll have to try my hand at making dolmades with the grape leaves, that Middle Eastern equivalent to the cabbage roll.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The First Thanksgiving... my new house! It was a potluck, so I can't say it was entirely local fare. And since one family member is gluten-free, rice does apprear on the table in various forms.

The locally-produced items on this menu include a big fat chicken, coleslaw, carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese and a jar of cranberry jelly. (Thanks for the jelly, Judith!) Who knows... that squeeze tube of senf from Germany could well have Saskatchewan mustard in it, too.

Since I married a fellow from Wisconsin, we celebrate two Thanksgivings. I'm already planning the next one, which I'm quite sure will include a Saskatchewan cherry pie.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Moving in...

We've finally moved into our new kitchen (and new house) just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. This year, I'm giving thanks for a husband who can do fine things with wood!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Soup Week 40 - Potato Leek Corn Chowder

...with crumbled bacon. Rats, forgot to take a picture again.