Thursday, 26 November 2015

Chicken Sandwich with Jerk and Honey

Living in Toronto means being exposed to all kinds of culinary disciplines. I was fortunate to cook with many chefs and cooks of different cultural backgrounds and they taught me so much about their gastronomic heritages they brought from home. I have also been blessed with incredibly curious taste buds and have never ever turned down anything that I was offered to try. Although my culinary training 
was strictly based on French cookery, I find myself being tremendously influenced by other cuisines that I have been exposed to over the years of adventurous eating. 

This recipe was born in my kitchen on a chilly winter evening. I was craving something hearty, flavourful and soulful. And this dish hit the spot masterfully. I labeled it "my emergency TLC sandwich". Crispy buttered bread sweetened by a touch of honey to balance out perfectly cooked chicken, spiced with jerk sauce. Warm flavours of allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and garlic - all traditionally used to make Jamaican Jerk sauce, caress your tongue with surprisingly sensual bites. It's that sweet torture for your taste palettes. It is spicy yet not overpowering so you can enjoy every single bite. I like to finish this dish in the oven, wrapped in foil paper because it helps to crisp up your bread and for all the flavours in the sandwich to marry together and reach their full tasty potential. Unwrapping it is like opening a present sent to you with love. It is fragrant, satisfying and filled with happiness... 


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 4 buns of your choice (I prefer Kaiser rolls), 1 bell pepper, some butter, 3 tbsp honey, 2 tsp. Jerk sauce (mild or hot, your choice), 2 tsp. lime juice, 1 tomato, sliced, 2 tbsp. chopped parsley, 4 sheets of foil paper. 


Season your chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Sear in a frying pan for 5 min on each side. Preheat the oven to F400 and bake for 10 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then cut up in strips. 

In the frying pan where you seared the chicken, add julienned bell pepper and sauté for few minutes. To that add your chicken, jerk sauce, 2 tbsp. honey and some lime juice. Finish with some parsley. Turn off the heat.

Cut your bread rolls open and add some butter and a touch of honey to both sides of your bun. Add your chicken/bell pepper mixture and a slice of tomato. Top with the top part of the bun and wrap it tightly in foil paper. 

When ready to eat, preheat your oven to F450 and bake in foil for 10 minutes. Can be made the night before.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Football Sunday Chicken Wings

My husband Victor loves football. He starts talking about his football Sunday early on Saturday, he impatiently waits for the first game to start (almost as impatiently as kids wait for Christmas), he talks about all the players as if they were his buddies and as soon as the first game starts, he turns up the volume of our TV set to the max. Therefore, Sundays are all about football in our household. Football is not my favourite sport, but I love tailgating food and it's not an uncommon occurrence for us to have a little tailgating party of our own. Chicken wings are definitely at the top of my favourite comfort foods list. It's satisfying, saucy and I love the fact that I can eat them with my hands. There is something so liberating about not having to use any utensils. Maybe it just brings out that wild side that we are taught to suppress when we are taught to eat with forks and knives?
My chicken wings recipe has earned quite the reputation. My family loves it, my friends love it and most importantly, Victor loves it. It makes crunchy, crispy wings and a devilishly good sauce that is sweet, tangy, spicy and buttery. It coats every wing enveloping it in luscious, sizzling, savoury lava of flavour. Intense aromas of hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, herbes de Provence, honey, mixed with refreshing lime juice, glistened with rich butter, create that unmistakable signature taste that will beat any restaurant that is known to make "the best wings in town." It will delicately tease and play with all of your senses, leaving them satisfied and excited. Serve your chicken wings with something else that you can eat with your hands. Like French fries. Just to intensify the satisfying practice of eating with hands. Get messy, enjoy the company and have a healthful salad on Monday. In other words, live a little. It's worth it.


1 pound of small split chicken wings. 1/2 cup of your favourite hot sauce, 1/2 cup of butter, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp. honey, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional), a pinch of chilli flakes, a pinch of herbes de provence.


Mix all the ingredients (except chicken wings) in a small pot and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. 

Toss wings in some flour and bake at 400F for 40 min. Turn them once.

When wings are done, pour sauce over them and let sit for 10 minutes.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Coq Au Vin With Pearl Onions and Pinot Gris

Coq Au Vin is one of those recipes that can seem complex and intimidating. For many people it is the first thing they think about when they think of French cuisine. The truth is that neither Coq Au Vin or French cuisine have to be complicated or frightening. And there are as many variations of Coq Au Vin as there are cooks who make it. There is only one rule that you cannot forego and that's the two main ingredients you must use in order to make it - chicken and wine. What parts of chicken you use or what wine you soak it in - is entirely up to you.

I like to marinate my Coq Au Vin in my favourite wine which happens to be Pinot Gris. Because Pinot Gris is not as strong as red wine, I leave it in the fridge for 2 days. Then it soaks up all the wonderful fruity, crisp nuances of wine and releases it when it hits the hot, sizzling, flavourful duck fat melted in the skillet. I like to use pearl onions in this dish because they masterfully withstand the heat and don't fall apart. They create a lovely contrast to the rest of the vegetables that become soft and buttery. I always take the time to make it more French by putting together a bouquet garni (a small bundle of herbs tied together with a string). If you do not have all the required herbs on hand, add 1 tablespoon of Herbes de Provence. It will give your Coq Au Vin that wonderful earthy aroma that will complement your chicken superbly. Coq Au Vin is that comfort food you need on a chilly fall evening. It will gather your friends and family at the table and provoke some great conversations. Just make sure to have plenty of rustic bread and wine. Table cloth and fine china are optional. Laughter, good memories and bonding will happen regardless whether you have them or not.


 1 bottle of Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio), 2 celery stalks, 1 large carrot, 15 pearl onions, 3 cloves of garlc, 2 tbsp. of duck fat, 1 large chicken or 10 chicken thighs, 3 tbsp. four, bay leaf, 5 sprigs of thyme, some parsley, 1 pound of button mushrooms, 2 cups of chicken broth. salt, pepper to taste.


In a shallow dish place chicken, chopped into pieces. Add chopped celery, carrot, garlic and some pepper. Pour wine over chicken and vegetables and cover with a plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 days.

After 2 days, remove chicken from the marinate and pat it dry. Take out the vegetables and keep them aside. In a large pot melt the duck fat. Once heated, add chicken and sauté until brown on both sides. Fry chicken in two batches so you do not overcrowd the pot and the browning takes place. Remove the chicken and add vegetables that came from the marinade. Scrape all the bits that form at the bottom of your pot. Once the vegetables soften, add pearl onions and let them cook for another 5 minutes. Mix in the flour, stir till vegetables are coated. Whisk in the wine where the chicken was marinating and bring to simmer. Add your herbs, bay leaves, broth, chicken and stirring occasionally, cook for 40 minutes.

In a separate skillet sauté your button mushrooms till cooked. Add a sprig of thyme for extra flavour. 

Transfer the chicken to a plate. Remove the bouquet garni or the thyme sprigs from the sauce and let it simmer for another 10 minutes, till reduced. Season, return chicken to the sauce and add button mushrooms. Arrange in a serving platter, garnished with some thyme and parsley.


Cherry Cassis Clafoutis

Clafoutis is one of my favourite French desserts. It represents everything that French food stands for - it uses uncomplicated ingredients, it is elegant, it showcases ingredients that are abundantly found in the region of the dish's origin. In other words, it's perfect. Clafoutis originated in the south-central region of France called Limousin. Desserts with black cherries are long-established in that area and it is common not to take out their pits before using them in baked goods. The reason is the subtle woody flavour locked inside of the pit that gets released when being heated. It is that delicate almond-like essence that infuses the clafoutis with that "something something" that you can't identify but you know the dish is not as good without it.
I love to elevate my clafoutis by giving the cherries an overnight soak in some Cassis, a flavourful black currant French liqueur. I let my cherries "bathe" in that celestial juice for at least eight hours and the next morning they come out even more enhanced, plump and infused with aromatic, bottomless notes of Cassis. The combination is magical. Clafoutis is that happy ending to any meal. It is that last kiss, that overwhelming emotion after the curtain drops at the theater or that ideal summer morning somewhere in the midst of France, filled with sunshine, laughter and a light breeze playing in the heavy branches of cherry trees.

 2 cups of black cherries, 2/3 sugar, 1/5 cup Cassis, butter (enough to butter the pan), 1 cup of milk, 2/3 cup of flour, 1 tbsp. vanilla extract, 3 eggs, 1 teasp. lemon zest, a touch of salt, pinch of nutmeg.

Put cherries in a shallow dish and cover them with Cassis. Do not remove the pits. Let them soak overnight. Grease the baking pan and preheat the oven to F425. Remove your cherries from the soaking dish and place them in the greased pan. Add the rest of your ingredients to the blender and add 2 tbsp of Cassis where your cherries were soaking. Pour over cherries. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to F350 and bake for another 40 minutes.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Chef Clyde's Curry Chicken Salad

Chef Clyde Taffe is someone who many women would call "the perfect man". He is a great dresser, he has an exquisite taste in perfumery, he is a great conversationalist, a perfect gentleman, he adores his wife and children and... he loves to cook! However, Chef Taffe has one weakness and that weakness is everything that's made of sugar! To celebrate his past birthday he even hosted a desert party - all crafted in his kitchen and with his own hands! But wait, what woman does not like a divine sweet ending to a perfect meal?! Never mind, his weakness is his strength. One time Clyde and I had a friendly desert eating competition. He made this delightful desert with tropical fruit and condensed milk (which happens to be my weakness) and I thought that I had this one in the bag. Chef Taffe masterfully got ahead of me in our sugary competition but as a great gentleman that he is, he let me take the glorious wreath of victory. We both know that I did not deserve it.

Chef Taffe and I cooking.
Chef Clyde isn't only remarkable at making mouth-watering deserts. He also has a great deal of savoury dish recipes that can send your taste buds to places where the only thing that matters is the plate in front of you. Clyde's Curry Chicken Salad will do just that. It is so simple yet so tantalizing and satisfying. Tender chicken breast enveloped by creaminess of curried mayo, meets crunchy bites of celery and firm grapes, creating that luscious, unforgettable texture. My favourite part of the salad is a touch of mango chutney. That luminous, mysterious burst of fruity flavour mixed with other ingredients is a perfect marriage of aromas, textures and flavour profiles. This salad is what your dinner party guests will talk about the next morning. They will probably even dare to ask you for the recipe. I asked Chef Taffe to share it with me and his chivalry did not fail again. He told me it was mine to share with the world. So here it is...


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts poached, 1 cup green seedless grapes halved, half cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of mango chutney, 2 stalks of celery chopped, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon of curry powder.


Cube chicken breasts, add grapes, celery. Mix curry powder with mayonnaise, add mango chutney, salt and pepper. Combine curry/mayo mixture to the rest of your ingredients and mix. Let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Chef Russell's Mauritian Lamb Biryani

Photo by J Paul Deveau
My good friend Chef Russell Auckbaraullee, the owner and the executive chef of Penthouse Catering, must be one of the hardest working people in Toronto's food industry. When I met him he was just starting out his business that he would run from his small penthouse kitchen (hence the name, Penthouse Catering). Today he cooks for rich and famous, he has done many television appearances and I was fortunate to cook with him and have him cater my daughter's baby shower. We celebrated Sandrine's fast approaching arrival with some heavenly culinary creations, to say the least. To top that all off Russell happens to have quite a personality to go with his talent! Extraordinary food and entertainment! What more can you ask for?!

Chef Russell is a proud Mauritian and he loves paying tribute to his homeland. His cuisine is satisfying, elegant and has something that I like to call a "gastronomic je ne sais quoi". It is his signature that he puts on each and every meal he prepares. One of the dishes that perfectly demonstrates it is his Mauritian Lamb Biryani. A perfect ode to the beautiful island of Mauritius and it's multiculturalism. It has striking influences of African, Indian and Arabic fares and has that nostalgia calming effect that brings you home no matter where you your home is. It's that ideal culinary adventure led by captivating aromas of cardamom flirting with exotic saffron, spiced with green chilli peppers and a hint of cinnamon. It's an impeccable combination of spices that compliment tender, falling-off the-bone lamb chops and already fragrant basmati rice. This is that perfect dish to go to every time you need some TLC or you wish to take your taste buds on an adventure leading to the mammoth sensory pleasure.


 3 cups basmati rice, 1/4 cup cooking oil, 8 whole cloves, 4 black cardamom pods, 4 cinnamon sticks, 2 large onions, sliced thin, 1 tablespoon garlic paste, 2 spoons turmeric, 2 spoons coriander powder
3 spoons rose water, 1 tablespoon ginger paste, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves, 1 pound lamb chops, salt to taste, 3 tomatoes, chopped, 4 green chilli peppers, halved lengthwise, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 7 1/2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt,1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 onion, sliced, 1/2 teaspoon saffron.

Take the lamb and use half of the ingredients listed. To make the marinade start adding into a mixture bowl with the lamb - make sure to use half of these items from the ingredients list cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, cilantro, mint, turmeric, paprika, coriander powder, yogurt combine everything and massage well and allow to marinade over night or for 6 hours. 

Place basmati rice in a bowl with cold water until covered for 30 minutes, then drain
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat; fry the cloves, add half of cardamom pods, and half of the cinnamon sticks in the oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add half the onions; cook and stir until the onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir the garlic paste and ginger paste into the onion mixture; cook until the garlic and ginger is fragrant, about 1 minute more. Sprinkle half the cilantro and half mint over the mixture and cook 1 minute more.

Add the lamb chops to the skillet; season with salt. Cook and stir the lamb until the meat begins to brown, approx 5 minutes. Add the rest of other half of ingredients at this point.

Stir the tomatoes, green chilli peppers, and ground red pepper into the mixture; continue cooking until the oil begins to separate from the gravy, about 10 minutes. Add the yogurt and lemon juice; cover and cook until the lamb is tender, about 15 minutes. Add water as needed to keep the mixture from getting too dry.

Bring the rice, 7 1/2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan until the rice is nearly al dente 10 to 15 minutes; drain any excess water.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet; fry the sliced onion in the hot oil until lightly browned. Keep aside.
Layer about half the rice in the bottom of a deep pot with a lid. Spoon the lamb masala over the rice. Top with the remaining rice. Stir the saffron and warm water together in a small bowl; pour over the top layer of rice. Spread the fried onion over the lamb. Cover the pot with the lid and rag to seal and place the pot over low heat; cook until the rice is thoroughly cooked, about one hour.