Browsing all articles tagged with cheese

Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home, Week Eleven

Oh Kraft Dinner…I’m sure all of the remaining contestants were very happy to cook with macaroni in the quick fire challenge this past week.

I’m sure everyone can admit that there’s a box of prepackaged mac ‘n cheese lurking in their cupboards. Yes, definitely a guilty pleasure for many a Canadian.

Many of the chefs’ creations seemed interesting, but David’s winning dish from this challenge, the ‘Mac ‘n Cheese Grilled Cheese’, looked like a guilty pleasure on a plate. A sandwich that would be most fitting for the late night (post-party) weekend crowd no doubt. The mac ‘n cheese grilled cheese sandwich won by a landslide in my poll this week, which I was definitely ok with!

Since I didn’t have the time constraints of a quick fire challenge, or six cameras recording my every move, I decided to make some mac ‘n cheese from scratch. The ingredients for the grilled cheese sandwich itself were fairly simple, so I decided to go with a cheese with some flavour.

The grocery store just down the road from me has the largest selection of cheese in the city, so I knew I would be able to find something perfect there.  After perusing the aisles, I finally settled on a double smoked cheddar cheese. Once I started to grate the cheese, it had the most amazing smell.

It took all my will power to need eat the majority of the cheddar before I cooked with it.

If you’ve never made mac ‘n cheese at home before, I would encourage trying to. It takes about 15-20 minutes maximum and you always end up with a big bowl of cheesy goodness. Now, I’m not saying you should make this all the time (everything in moderation), but the next time it’s a grey and rainy day outside, I suggest trying to whip up a batch yourself! What I do not recommend, however, is leaving a bowl of the freshly made mac ‘n cheese unsupervised on a counter. You may discover your pet trying to sneak a bite behind your back (like my parrot, Baub, pictured!). Trust no one!

To make the asparagus relish, I just did a quick pickling of some asparagus spears and red onion. Since relish is generally fairly fine in texture, I used my magic bullet to get a nice mince on the vegetables. Man, what can’t a magic bullet do? A food processor would have worked just as well, but the bullet was already plugged in on the counter. It was almost like it was just waiting to help me out…I let the vegetables sit in a pot pickling liquid for about ten minutes, then I strained them, mixed them with some grainy mustard and black pepper, and let the, let’s call it ‘cheat’, relish chill in the fridge.

To see the final recipe for the mac ‘n cheese grilled cheese sandwich with asparagus relish and to see a picture of my parrot trying to eat my food, head over to here!

Last, but not least, a photo of myself with the restaurant version of my Top Chef Canada recreation at Charcut this past Monday night! Now that’s a sandwich!


Blue Cheese & Honey Risotto with Roasted Scallions

What you’ll need…

5 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegetarians)

2 TBSP butter

1 yellow onion (chopped)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

2 cups arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine

1 TBSP honey

1/2 bulb roasted garlic (chopped)

1/2 blue cheese (cubed)

2 bunches scallions (trimmed)

olive oil

salt and pepper

I used to be afraid of risotto. Maybe it was the risotto disaster of 2007, an emotionally scarring event that left me with a pan of mush, and three unhappy dinner guests. I try not to bring it up anymore…too painful. Anyway, after significant culinary counselling, I have conquered my rice demons. My first risotto venture for this site was this one, which I made last summer. A bit odd, I admit, but tasty nonetheless. I enjoy a good risotto once in awhile, when I have the time to focus and stir. The time you put into this dish is always worth the wait when you finally put it on the table. If you’re wondering about the blue cheese/honey combo…trust me…it works!

Start by preheating your oven to high broil. Then, place the chicken stock in a small pot and let come to a simmer on medium-high heat. Once it starts to bubble, turn to low heat so the broth stays nice and hot! Next, melt the butter in a large pan. Add-in the onion and garlic to let cook on medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the onions start to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Now, add the arborio rice, again, stirring regularly, and let cook for a few minutes.

Time for the liquid additions…Pour in the white wine. Stir frequently, and once the wine is almost completely absorbed, you can start ladling in the broth, what until the liquid is absorbed, then repeating the process, all the while stirring like a crazy man/woman. This process will last approximately 20 minutes.

Amidst your busy schedule stirring, we’re going to quickly roast some scallions. Place the greens into a small, prepared baking dish. Drizzle with some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, then pop into the oven for 12-15 minutes. Turning once halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside.

Once your risotto rice has reached that nice al dente bite (again, about 20 minutes or so), add the honey, blue cheese, and roasted garlic to the pan. Still stirring, always stirring, until the cheese has melted and blended into the mixture. Finally, add a good helping of ground black pepper, and salt if you think you need some, but you probably won’t.

Scoop the risotto onto the plate, top with some of those roasted scallions, and serve. I recommend that you also suggest to your dinner guests that a round of golf claps are in order for making a successful batch of risotto. Enjoy!

Serves 4-5

Total cook time…30-35 min



Gravy and Cheese Curds, Je T’aime: Spotlight on Poutine in Calgary, Alberta

When Montreal is a little further than a hop, skip, and a jump away, a poutine fan can certainly have a hard time fulfilling those cravings. Are you a poutine-lover feeling unsatisfied in Calgary? Well, I’m here to make you feel better, or the Poutine Crawl is anyway…

Created and organized by local foodie, Karen Richards, the Poutine Crawl was an afternoon adventure into the magical land of potatoes, gravy, and cheese curds. Yes, this city-wide tour took participants to four local restaurants boasting some delicious styles of poutine. Forget the gravy boat, this was going to be a gravy battleship kind of experience. Keep in mind, this culinary excursion was not for the faint of heart, nor the small of stomach. Let the onslaught begin…

The tour started off at Alberta King of Subs. Nestled in the north-eastern quadrant of the city, this little shop has been dubbed a diamond in the rough by many of Calgary’s food critics.

Firstly, it’s known for it’s top-notch Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich (trust me, it’s hard to find a good one here), but, secondly, is also a poutine hot-spot. We were greeted with excitement by the staff, and were presented with four types of poutine: Chicken, Pepperoni, Montreal Smoked Meat, and Hot Dog.

Alberta King of Subs on Urbanspoon

I liked the pepperoni and the smoked meat variations, but wasn’t so crazy about the chicken or the hot dog. The same gravy was applied to each offering, which was good, as were the fries. Overall, a great start. Karen had handed out score sheets to fill out as we went along. I gave these guys a 7/10. After the poutines were eaten up, we piled back onto the bus and headed to stop #2, Brasserie Kensington.

If you read my post on Brasserie Kensington recently, you’ll remember that I had tried their breakfast poutine, so I was definitely excited to see what other styles I’d be offered today. They did not disappoint. We were served by a couple of the owners themselves, who, like the first destination, presented the group with four different flavours to try: Original, Foie Gras, Pork Hock, and Mushroom (vegetarian).

With the exception of the mushroom version, all of these alternatives were topped with the same home-made duck-based gravy. The addition of truffle oil made them all nice and rich tasting too, which was great. As the title implies, the mushroom poutine is made with, well… mushrooms. Surprisingly, it was my favourite. As always, Brasserie Kensington has some very delicious french fries, always well seasoned. 8.5/10.

Brasserie Kensington on Urbanspoon

Stop #3 brought us to a quaint little place, in the Mission area of city, called Bistro 2210. Their service was amazing. The bistro was definitely ready for an army of poutine-eaters! Each table was equipped with lots of napkins, forks, and a large paper (?!) for any severe poutine spillage. Yes, they were ready. Chef/owner Jason Armstrong cooked up two great dishes for us: Duck Confit and Duck Chili.

The portions were very generous, probably the most generous, actually, out of each of the four stops. The duck chili ‘poutine’ was more like chili cheese fries, but tasted delicious, and massive points for thinking outside the box (or the gravy boat if we’re sticking with some mild humour theme?). Delicious as the duck chili fries were, I could not stop eating the duck confit poutine. I easily had one whole dish to myself (keep in mind, this was our third stop!). The gravy was not as heavy as the past couple stops, and there was plenty of nice, tender duck meat to keep a guy happy. Needless to say, this was the best poutine I had throughout the afternoon. 9/10.


Bistro Twenty Two Ten on Urbanspoon

Finally, it was time for stop #4. By this point, I (and I assume most others) was quite full in the belly. When the bus pulled up to Laurier Lounge, I knew that everyone was in for a treat…

Read the rest of this piece on Food Network Canada’s site.


Roasted Apple & Brie Quiche

What you’ll need…

1 golden delicious apple

olive oil

1 red potato

1/2 yellow onion (sliced into half moons)

1 cup ground sausage (I used Spolumbo’s chicken sausage for a bit of a change.)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

2 TBSP sun-dried tomatoes (finely chopped)

3/4 cup half and half cream

5 eggs

2 TSB curry powder

salt & pepper

1 9″ pie shell, or 18 3″ mini-tart shells

1/2 cup brie cheese (rind removed, cubed)

Nothing like some quiche a brand new episode of Glee to really make one’s night complete. Did I actually just say that? Anyway, making a quiche is pretty simple, and almost always delicious, so I feel as though everyone should have the quiche-making skill under their belt. It’s not a piece of cake, but it is a piece of baked egg-y goodness.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Take the apple, core it, then halve it, and, finally, thinly slice it. Toss the pieces with a little olive oil and some salt & pepper, then place into a small baking dish. Cover with lid or tin foil. While you’re waiting for the oven to finish heating up, cut the potato into 1/2″ cubes and place into a small pot with some salted water. Let that come to a boil on medium-high heat and let bubble away for 10 minutes. Pop the apple slices into the oven now as well and let them roast for 15 minutes.

Now, let’s caramelize some onions! Place the sliced onions in a medium-sized pan on medium-high heat and drizzle with some olive oil. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn colour, about 5 minutes or so. Reduce to low heat and continue to let the onions cook for another 8 to 10 minutes when they turn a nice, golden brown. Remove from pan and place into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Let cool.

In the same pan, add the sausage meat and cook on medium-high heat until it has cooked completely. Add to the same bowl as the onions. At this point, the potatoes should be cooked through and the apple slices can come out of the oven (leave the oven on though). These items can join the mixing bowl as well. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and cream to the bowl, and give everything a couple stirs.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, whisk, then pour into the mix. Also add the curry, a bit of salt, and a healthy amount of black pepper (I do like my pepper). Stir gently until everything has combined. Now, pour mixture into the pie shell, or portion evenly into mini-tart shells. Store any leftover egg mixture in the fridge to fry up for breakfast in the morning.

As a final touch, take the brie cheese cubes and sprinkle on top of the pie shell. If you’re making mini-quiches then 1 cube per tart is more than enough!

Pop into the oven and let bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Serves 5-6

Total cook time…40 min


Acorn Squash & Smoked Salmon Pasta

What you’ll need…

1 acorn squash

1/2 garlic bulb

olive oil

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup romano cheese

1 TSP tumeric

2 TSP yellow curry powder

salt & pepper

2 cups fresh spinach

1/2 cup macadamia nuts

1/4 pound smoked salmon (chopped, skin removed)

5 cups cooked pasta (I used ditali, but feel free to switch it up!)

Let it be known that the mighty tomato does not always rule in the land of pasta sauce! Don’t get me wrong, I have had/made/enjoyed plenty of tomato-based sauces on my noodles, but in times like these (and by these I, of course, mean winter) squash is a nice, hearty alternative.

Let’s start off by roasting the squash and garlic. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Slice the squash in half, scoop out the ‘guts’ and brush the halves with some olive oil. For the garlic, try and keep the 1/2 attached to the base and slice off the tip of the garlic bulb. Brush the top with a bit of olive oil as well and wrap up with some tin foil. Place the squash and the garlic on a medium-sized baking tray and let cook in the oven for 35 minutes.

While you’re waiting, feel free to watch an episode of 30 Rock or make a salad, or something…If you decide to make a salad, try out this dressing!

Once those 35 minutes are up, remove tray from oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so. Scoop out the flesh of the squash into a blender, and squeeze the roasted garlic in as well. Also add-in the cream, water, cheese, and spices then puree until smooth. Pour into a small pot and let the sauce come to a simmer on medium heat, about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Now it is time to assemble the pasta! Place all remaining ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Pour the squash sauce over top and mix gently with tongs (so you won’t. Portion out into pasta bowls and enjoy!

Sorry Tomato, you weren’t invited…

Serves 4

Total cook time…50 min


Home-made Parmesan Tomato Sauce & Gnocchi

What you’ll need…

3 large tomatoes (ripe!)

3 cloves garlic

1 onion

1 TBSP dried basil

1 TBSP dried oregano

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

1/2 cup fresh basil

salt & pepper

olive oil

2 packs of gnocchi (store-bought, or click here for an easy gnocchi recipe)

Making your own pasta sauce is so easy and so worth it. This is not a revolutionary recipe by any means, but instead, let it serve as a reminder that sometimes the simplest things can be the tastiest!

Place some olive oil in a large-sized pan and set it to medium-high heat. Chop your onion, garlic, and tomatoes then place them into the pan. Let them cook, the onions will soften and the tomatoes will start to release their juices, stir the mixture occasionally. After about 15 minutes, the sauce will have thickened, add in the cup of vegetable stock and the dried herbs, salt & pepper to taste. Let simmer for another 10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Why not chop your fresh basil while you’re waiting?

Gnocchi only takes a few minutes in boiling water to be ready (they’ll float to the top) so you can get them going when your sauce is just about ready. I add in the cheese right at the end, give the sauce a final stir, then you’re ready to plate. Strain the gnocchi, top with sauce and finish with the fresh basil! Italy would be so proud!

Serves 4

Total cook time…30 min

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