Holiday entertaining doesn't have to be elaborate or exhausting. ?Sometimes the best meals consist of a just few delicious ingredients, ?simply prepared and served with an elegant flair. Ottawa at Home asked ?three of Ottawa's top chefs to share secrets from their home kitchens.
Chef Chris Deraiche of the Wellington Gastropub has developed a loyal following thanks to his emphasis on fresh, flavourful dishes composed of top-quality ingredients. At home, his philosophy is the same. He offers us a hearty chowder garnished with seared scallops and bacon lardons that is as attractive to look at as it is scrumptious.
"This is a great dish for entertaining because the chowder base can be made a day or two ahead and you can use either fish, chicken or vegetable stock," Chris explains. "You can also chop all the vegetables for the garnish a day ahead and cook the diced bacon before your guests arrive. Then, all that's left is to sear the scallops at the last minute." He notes that this dish is best served in shallow bowls so the scallops are highlighted in each serving.
Chef Chris Deraiche's Bacon ?and Celery Root Chowder? with Scallops
½ cup bacon, diced
1 medium onion, medium diced
1 carrot, peeled, medium diced
½ leek, cleaned, sliced
½ fennel bulb, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ cup white wine
3 tbsp flour
6 cups chicken, fish, or vegetable stock
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
¼ cup heavy cream
2 cups celery root, peeled & diced
1 carrot, peeled & diced
½ leek, cleaned & sliced
½ cup finely sliced savoy cabbage or Brussels sprout leaves
2 tbsp canola oil
Cooked and diced bacon that has been set aside
1 lb fresh or thawed scallops
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp butter
Directions - Chowder base:
In a medium size pot, over medium heat, render bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pot and set aside, leaving fat in pot.
Sweat onion, carrot, leek, fennel, & garlic in bacon fat for a few minutes.
Add white wine and reduce until all the wine is almost gone.
Add flour and continue to cook, ?stirring, for a minute or two.
Whisk in stock, two cups at a time. ?Add thyme & tarragon. Simmer ?for 30 minutes over low heat.
Add heavy cream and a few shakes ?of Tabasco; simmer for an additional ?5 minutes.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside or chill if making ahead.
Add canola oil to a medium pot and on medium heat, sweat the celery root and carrots for about 5 minutes.
Add leeks and cabbage or Brussels sprouts and continue to sauté for ?2 minutes.
Add the chowder base and bacon.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.
Dab the scallops with paper towel to dry them. Season with salt and pepper.
In a sauté pan, heat canola oil over high heat until slightly smoking.
Working in batches, carefully place the scallops in the pan. Swirl the pan so the oil touches all the scallops. The scallops will only take about 2 minutes to cook. You want a nice, golden colour on the side you are cooking.
When the scallops have a nice golden crust add the butter and continue to cook for about 10 seconds, then flip the scallops over and baste with the melted butter for a few seconds.
Ladle chowder into four shallow bowls and garnish with the scallops.
Chef Caroline Ishii regularly dazzles diners at ZenKitchen, recently lauded as Ottawa's best new restaurant and one of the hottest tables in town. She offers up a healthy twist on a classic favourite - her vegan Shepherd's Pie contains no dairy, animal or fish products and is made with whole foods.
"I like this recipe because it is fairly easy to prepare. You can make it ahead and hold it in the oven while guests arrive, so you don't have to be preparing things at the last minute," explains Caroline.
Caroline suggests that by using individual oven-safe dishes you can elevate the presentation for special occasions.
Chef Caroline Ishii's Vegan ?Shepherd's Pie
6 medium potatoes, peeled and large diced
1/2 cup soymilk
1 medium onion, medium diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, small diced
2 carrots, small diced
¼ cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried herbs of your choice such as rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup organic tempeh, grated (see notes below)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Oil a medium sized oven-safe casserole dish or 4 individual serving-sized oven-safe dishes.
Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water and 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Then reduce to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the potatoes with a hand masher, adding slowly the soymilk, oil and salt to taste. The potatoes should be smooth and creamy.
Heat oil in a medium sauté pan. Sauté onions, garlic, celery and carrots until just soft (see notes below). Add herbs.
Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir gently to mix. Gradually add stock, stirring constantly. Continue to cook gently, stirring, to allow to liquid to thicken. Combine mixture with salt, pepper and tempeh in an oiled oven-safe medium casserole dish or several oven-safe individual dishes, pressing down firmly.
Spoon mashed potatoes over tempeh-vegetable mixture, smoothing top flat.
Use the back of a fork to gently draw ridges along the top of the potatoes. Sprinkle paprika on top.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until potato topping is lightly browned. Serves 4.
Notes: Tempeh is a high-protein fermented soy cake made from whole soy beans. It is used often in Indonesian cuisine. It can be found in the freezer section of most health food stores; it will keep for about three weeks in the refrigerator or three months in the freezer. You can also add other vegetables to this recipe, such as chopped kale, corn niblets or diced sweet peppers, parsnips or squash.
Chef Derek Benitz co-owns two popular midtown restaurants - Benitz Bistro and b/Side Wine & Small Plates. As with his restaurant menus, Derek's cooking at home reflects his passion for classical French cuisine, reinterpreted in innovative, contemporary ways.
His Trout Meunière is a prime example. "The colour and flavours are appealing as most people enjoy a nice mild fish like trout with a rich butter sauce and sweet grapes. My own kids love this dish," says Derek. "What I particularly like is the seasonality of the tiny champagne grapes and the fact that the dish can be cooked quickly using just one pan, with easy to prepare accompaniments."
Derek recommends using a reputable purveyor such as Whalesbone to ensure the freshest fish and notes that the dish would be equally nice with pickerel. Champagne grapes can be found during fall and early winter at the ByWard Fruit Market.
Chef Derek Benitz's Rainbow Trout Meunière
4 rainbow trout fillets (6 oz each)
flour for dredging
1 pound green beans - blanched and shocked in ice water
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes - cubed and blanched
4 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons capers
3 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 cluster champagne grapes, for garnish
Dredge both sides of trout fillets in flour and shake off excess.
In a cast iron skillet melt 1 tbsp of butter with 4 tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat.
Pan fry trout, flesh side down, for 3 minutes; gently flip and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Gently remove and set to rest on paper towel; keep warm. Shake out excess oil from pan.
Add 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to the skillet. Sauté potatoes on high heat until golden brown. Set aside and keep warm.
Make sauce: In a pan on medium heat add 2 tbsp butter and shallots; let cook for three minutes. Add white wine, a squeeze of lemon, sprigs of thyme, capers.
Place sautéed potatoes in centre of plate. Top with blanched green beans and place trout fillet on top. Spoon sauce over all. Garnish with chives and champagne grapes. Serves 4.