Thursday, September 3, 2015

Langdon Hall: A 13th Anniversary Weekend in Style

Among life's most sublime pleasures, a weekend away at Langdon Hall must be at the top of the list. Originally built as a Federal Revival mansion by the famous New York Astor family at the turn of the 20th-century, this Relais & Châteaux property is considered to be one of the top hotels in Canada. Just an hours drive from Toronto, I've been escaping to Langdon Hall since the early 90's and have spent many memorable weekends there with both friends and family, blissfully enjoying their spectacular spa, playing croquet on the crisp manicured lawns, relaxing in the tranquil secluded outdoor pool, exploring the impressive chef's kitchen garden, and of course indulging in the exceptional award-wining cuisine of the superbly talented Jason Bangerter — undeniably one of my favourite Canadian chefs. So with a 13th wedding anniversary to be celebrated in style, my husband and I escaped to Langdon Hall for two glorious days of decadent pleasures — lounging by the pool, reading books, and spa treatments by day, followed by billiards and martinis at cocktail hour and culminating with Chef Bangerter's sumptuous cuisine in Langdon's elegant dining room at twilght. With two glasses of champagne to launch our anniversary dinner, the evening was outstanding from the amuse-bouche to the special pâtisserie that were presented with a chocolate scrolled 'Happy Anniversary.' Heaven.

Langdon Hall dinner menu

Beautiful plump sweet roses

Taittinger Brut Champagne

Zymè di Celestino Gaspari Il Bianco 'From Black to White' 2013

2013 Cara Nord Conca de Barberà Negre 

Amuse-Bouche: Citrus and Grapefruit Gelée with Mint

Dressed Lobster with Bronze Fennel, Marigold, Grapefruit and Clay Pepper

White Asparagus with Duck Egg, Chive, Hazelnut and Caper Gribiche

Sablefish with Langdon Hall Pole Beans and Tomatoes with a Lemon Grass Lobster Cream

Venison with Swiss Chard, Summer Squash and Spiced Chocolate Sauce

A silver domed Cheese Trolley with assortment of local and international cheeses

Assiette de Fromage: (L to R) Warm Marcona almonds, Shropshire cheese, Stewed Fruit, Selles sur Cher goat cheese, Fried Croutons, Epoisses, and Bucheron goat cheese with pitcher of Truffle Honey

Glass of Tawny Port

A lovely finishing touch to a wonderful evening

Trout Salad With Buttermilk-Crème Fraiche Dressing
Serves 4 as entrée
Recipe courtesy Chef Bangerter

Chef Bangerter poaches the fish and serves it in bite-size portions nestled in Bibb lettuce leaves with fresh peas and radishes on a pool of dressing, but it can also be served as appetizer or entrée portions.

Poached Trout:
8 cups water
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, chopped
1 lemon, washed, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
Several stems dill, tarragon and/or flat-leaf parsley 
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 lb skin-on rainbow trout fillets, about 2

Buttermilk-Crème Fraiche Dressing:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup crème fraiche
1 tsp finely chopped dill
Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh lemon juice to taste

1 cup fresh peas in season, or frozen peas
1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
2 baby radishes, very thinly sliced 
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine water, wine, salt, onion, celery, carrot, lemon slices, bay leaf, thyme, herb stems and peppercorns, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes. Then strain, discarding the solids, and return the liquid to the pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Place the trout in a glass baking dish in one layer. Pour the poaching liquid over the fish to cover and fill dish. Quickly cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand until poached to desired doneness, about 10 to 15 minutes. Discard the poaching liquid and fish skin. Gently flake the fish with a fork and set aside.

For the dressing, in small bowl, whisk the buttermilk and crème fraiche until smooth. Add the dill, then season with salt, pepper and lemon, and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate, covered, if making ahead.

For the salad, bring small pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the peas, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the peas cooking. Once cool, drain and set aside. To serve, divide the lettuce among 4 plates or bowls. Divide the trout, peas and radishes evenly over each, then drizzle with Buttermilk-Crème Fraiche dressing. Sprinkle each with Maldon sea salt and pepper.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Arrabiata Sauce

Lean, light and delicious, these succulent Turkey Meatballs are made with a combination of ground turkey and turkey sausage for a heart-smart twist on the traditional Italian classic. The addition of garlic, grated parmesan cheese, fresh bread crumbs, egg and chopped Italian parsley take these little golden gems to another savoury level. Rolled into small bite size or golfball size balls, the easiest way to make them is to pinch out the desired amount and roll it into a ball between the palms of your hands. The meatballs are then paced on a parchment lined baking sheets and baked in the oven for about half an hour. 

In the meantime, a quick Arrabbiata Sauce can be prepared with sautéed onion, garlic, red wine, tomatoes, chopped fresh basil and a few teaspoons of dried chili flakes or Sriracha Sauce, for a little heat. Arrabbiato means 'angry' in Italian, due to the heat of the chili peppers, so it's up to you how 'angry' you like your sugo, or sauce. You can always say, "The devil made you do it!"

Assemble the turkey meatballs into 1-2" balls or as you prefer

Golden brown and cooked through, the turkey meatballs smell heavenly

Spaghettini with Turkey Meatballs
Serves 6-8

Turkey meatballs:
3/4 lb ground turkey

1/2 lb turkey sausage, casings removed

2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs

2 tsp minced garlic 
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 tbsp milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Spicy Arrabiata sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil 
1 cup chopped onion 
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine 
1 tbsp brown sugar 
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil 
1 small can tomato paste 
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more if you like
1/4 tsp ground black pepper 
2 large cans crushed tomatoes, drained, but save the juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish 

Pasta & Garnish:
1 500g box spaghettini or spaghetti
1 cup grated good quality Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the ground turkey and sausage meat, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a medium spoon, drop 1 to 2-inch size meatballs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and lightly browned. You should get about 24 to 30 meatballs, depending how big you want to make them. Once done, drain on paper towel and set aside.

While the meatballs are baking, begin to make Arrabiata sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, sugar, basil, red pepper flakes, tomato paste and black pepper, stirring to combine. Mix in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes. If you like a slightly runnier sauce, add some of the reserved tomato juice, and season to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. While the pasta is cooking, gently stir in the turkey meatballs with the Arrabiata sauce, and allow to simmer over low heat until ready to serve.

Once the pasta is al dente, drain in a colander then pour into a large warmed serving bowl or platter. Pour the Arrabiata sauce with the meatballs over the pasta and garnish with chopped parsley and grated fresh pecorino.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Nami Japanese Restaurant: The Best Sushi in Toronto

For over two decades, Nami has been a quiet escape in the heart of downtown Toronto, for the finest sushi, sashimi, made-to-order grilled meat, fish and seafood at the Robata Grill, and Sukiyaki — Japanese hot pot. Considered to be one of the city's finest authentic Japanese restaurants, Nami is a hidden gem. One of my favourite sushi restaurants for many years, Kimono-clad servers attend to guests in the main dining area, as well as private rice paper screened Tatami rooms which can be reserved for groups of eight people or more — a real treat. Peter oversees the Robata Grill and patiently and expertly prepares the most sublime grilled fish, seafood and succulent steamed mixed mushrooms you can imagine. The Sushi Bar is also a fabulous place to sit and watch the nigiri sushi and sashimi being hand prepared by a trio of expert sushi chefs — just remember to say "Gochisosama Deshita!", as you leave.

Grilled sardines, zucchini ad asparagus at Nami's robata grill

Nami's succulent black cod in a miso glaze

Monday, August 31, 2015

Grilled Shawarma-Spiced Chicken with Yogurt Sauce

The best shawarma is a product of patience. The technique, alluded to in the name of the dish itself — 'Shawarma' — derived from a Turkish word meaning 'turning,' is the traditional preparation method where meat, usually lamb or chicken, is built up on a vertical spit, then marinated at length and finally slowly roasted as juices drip down to coat and caramelize its exterior. Whether shawarma is piled high on a platter or wrapped up into a pita or Markouk, a popular Arabian bread, is a question of preference, but it's the succulent meat that's the undeniable star of this dish. Combining the traditional seasonings of this classic roadside 'flavour bomb', the following recipe is an easy and delicious BBQ version of this middle eastern classic.

Shawarma marinade of minced garlic, ground coriander, cumin, cardamom, cayenne, 
paprika, lemon juice and olive oil

Skinless chicken thighs marinating in shawarma mixture

Grilled Chicken Shawarma with Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4

2 lb chicken thighs or breasts, skinless and boneless (optional)
4 pita or naan breads
Cilantro, for garnish

1 large garlic clove, minced 
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground cardamon
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

Yoghurt Sauce:
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Combine all of the the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and using your hands, massage into the chicken, ensuring each piece is well coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. Combine the Yoghurt Sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix, the cover and frigate until required.

Heat an outdoor grill or BBQ to medium high. Place the chicken on the grill and cook one side for 4 to 5 minutes or until nicely charred, then turn and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and cover loosely with foil, setting it aside to rest for 5 minutes. While the chicken is resting, brush the pita or naan breads with a little vegetable oil and set on the grill until warmed through and lightly marked, then brush with melted butter or ghee to finish.

To Serve, arrange the chicken thighs sliced or whole on a platter with sliced grilled flatbreads and a bowl of Yoghurt Sauce.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Linguine with Marsala

Rich and aromatic, Mushroom Marsla Cream Sauce is a culinary chameleon. Served over sliced beef tenderloin for Steak Diane or tossed with chicken and pasta for a luscious Mushroom & Chicken Linguine, this silky sauce is among my favourite recipes. Any combination of wild and exotic mushrooms can be used: shiitake, chanterelles, morels, enoki, crimini or even button mushrooms. Sautéed with a tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a large skillet, seasoned with salt and pepper, and finished with a dash of cream, marsala wine and fresh thyme — the sauce is complete. Tossed with sliced chicken, or even served on it's own over pasta, this recipe is an absolute keeper!

Cremini mushrooms and fresh thyme picked from our garden

Red onion and minced garlic sautéed in olive oil and butter

The mushrooms are added and cooked until soft, about 5 minutes

Cream, Marsala and fresh thyme are added and simmered for a few minutes

Shredded chicken added to the sauce and simmered until warmed through, about 10 minutes

The sauce is slightly reduced and the flavours married

Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Linguine with Marsala
Serves 2

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or leftover cooked chicken)
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Marsala, or to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 linguine piccolo
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and fresh ground white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley 
2 tbsp chopped thyme

Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and cook the chicken, turning once until browned on both sides and fully cooked. Transfer to a plate and allow the chicken to cool. Once the chicken has cooled tear into bite-size strips.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and one table spoon of olive oil of butter in a frying pan, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Marsala wine, heavy cream and thyme are then added and cooked over medium heat for 8-10 minutes. The cooked chicken is then added to the sauce, and simmered until the sauce has thickened and the chicken warmed through.

When the noodles are ready, drain and toss back into the pot with 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushroom, chicken, and marsala sauce mixture and 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined. Serve the linguine in 2 warm pasta bowls and garnish with chopped Italian parsley, with a little extra cheese on the side for extra garnish.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Asian-Style Glazed Chicken Thighs

Spending a few minutes preparing a handful of simple ingredients for an easy and delicious Asian-inspired marinade gives this dish an enormous amount of flavour, plus a built-in sauce after the chicken is cooked. Just combine mirin, sake, soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, garlic, a little brown sugar and one red hot chilli in a large resealable plastic bag, add the chicken, and then let it marinate in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, pour the whole dish into a baking dish, place it in a preheated oven, and in 40 minutes you’ll have crispy, saucy, flavourful chicken with a thick tangy sauce that's gorgeous served with fragrant Jasmin rice or a cold Japanese soba noodle salad.

Asian-Style Glazed Chicken Thighs
Serves 6-8

1 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp sake
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
2-3 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in with skin

1 red chilli, finely diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

Mix all of ingredients together in a large bowl with the chicken thighs, and toss well to combine to coat all of the meat. Pour everything in a large resealable plastic bag and chill for at least 2 hours or even overnight. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the marinated chicken thighs on a large baking dish or tray and roast for 35-45 minutes, basting and turning them once with tongs. To serve, place the chicken thighs on a large serving platter and garnish with sliced green onion, chilli and sesame seeds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pommes Anna: Simple, Elegant & Delicious

Pommes Anna is a grand name for what is essentially a dish of sliced potatoes baked in a very large amount of melted butter. Four ingredients are all that is required — potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. This very simple classic French recipe is all in the preparation and presentation, and the use of very, very thinly sliced potatoes. And since the dish is inverted, it's important that the first layer of potatoes be attractively arranged.

A simple, elegant, decadent and outrageously delicious side dish, Pommes Anna was created in 19th-century Paris when Adolphe Dugléré, chef of the Café Anglais, created it for his favorite customer, the celebrated courtesan Anna Deslions. The legendary allure of Pommes Anna is a buttery, soft potato cake on the inside, and a crisp, golden buttery crust on the exterior. I find that two simple tricks help to achieve the perfect Pommes Anna — a nonstick ovenproof skillet ensures easy release every time, and a mandoline saves an awful lot of time. This classic French dish is sinfully delicious, quite addictive, and never fails to impress as the buttery golden potato cake literally melts in your mouth. 

Pommes Anna
Serves 8

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled - about 2 3/4 lb
6 tbsp butter or ghee, melted 
Coarse salt and ground pepper
fresh thyme 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice potatoes as thinly as possible. Don't place the sliced potatoes in water, as the starch is needed to bind the layers. 

Brush the bottom of an 8-inch cast-iron, or non-stick oven-proof skillet, with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter. Starting in the centre of the pan, arrange the potato slices in a circular pattern, overlapping the edges and leaving no spaces. Evenly brush with another 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter and season well with salt, pepper and fresh thyme if you wish. Repeat the layering process until all the potato slices have been used, then drizzle the remaining butter overtop. Be sure to press down firmly after each layer to pack the layers together.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat until the edges of the potatoes begin to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the oven, cover and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 35-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender, and the top is crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oven, pour off any excess butter, and let stand for 5 minutes. Using a small spatula, separate the potato edges from sides of pan. Then shake the pan and slide a spatula along the bottom to loosen the potatoes. Carefully invert the Pommes Anna onto a warm flat serving platter, garnish with fresh thyme or chopped parsley, and using a sharp knife, serve sliced into wedges.