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Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home: Week 8


Posted by : Dan Clapson, Mon, May 07 2012

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I am tired. For the past two weeks, I have been traveling across Canada. First to Vancouver (as mentioned in last week’s post), then a side trip to Seattle, followed by Ottawa and, finally, Montreal. Along the way I ate some amazing food, met some fantastic people and had an all around great experience.


A couple highlights from the Eastern leg of my cross-Canada adventures include meeting current Top Chef Canada cheftestant, Jonathan Korecki (pictured) at his restaurant Side Door Kitchen in Ottawa and having brunch in Montreal with one of last season’s competitors, Derek Bocking.

The downside to two weeks of traveling is the fact that you I dine out a lot, you I drink more beer and wine than you I probably should. By the time I finally get back home, I need a few days ‘stay-cation’ just to unwind.

So, what’s my point here in relation to this week’s challenge? The fact that I needed some alone time. I didn’t care what I had to make this particular week, I wanted to make it just for myself, in my own home and my own kitchen!


My assigned dish for this week, Jonathan’s winning pulled pork and tofu lettuce wraps, proved to be a nice, light dinner. It was just what I needed, considering that my stomach was still processing the amazing, but rich and buttery, meal I had at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal on Thursday evening. Pulled pork is most definitely one of my favourite things to make, so I was looking forward to putting a bit of an Asian twist on it.

One of the best things about pulled pork is that it requires little to no attention in the first stage. If you have a slow cooker, a pork shoulder, some spices and an onion, you’re pretty much good to go. I popped the pork into my slow cooker late Saturday evening then fell asleep on the couch watching random episode reruns on Food Network Canada (shameless plug, I know…).


When I awoke in the morning, my apartment had the lovely aroma of slow roasted pork. Before making the barbeque sauce and other components for the dish, I had some of the pork with over easy eggs and bacon. Breakfast of champions!

I decided to use soy, mango, fresh ginger and sriracha in the barbeque sauce for a more exotic boost. Sriracha is one of those things that’s pretty much delicious with anything, aside from cheesecake I guesss…Anyway, after the sauce had simmered on the stove, I pureed it and poured the liquid goodness over the pulled pork and kept the whole mixture warm on the stove.

The mango gave the pulled pork a nice sweetness and the sriracha left a little bit of heat on my tongue. To balance the heat, I made a quick slaw with grated pickled daikon radish, carrots and cilantro. Rolling up the pork and slaw into a butter lettuce leaf was definitely a recipe for delicious success! Out of all the challenges thus far, I would have to say that this one was the easiest and, had I been in a ‘hosting a party’ mood, perfect for spring-time dinner party!

In the end, I did decide to share my dinner with my parrot. He’s much more low maintenance than a typical dinner guest (or human). He doesn’t drink wine and only wants to eat lettuce. Although, the dinner table conversation was less than engaging, to say the least…

Alright, now that is eight challenges down, only five to go!



 Butter Lettuce Wraps with Mango Barbeque Pulled Pork, Tofu and Daikon Slaw 

Serves 5-6
Total prep time…9 hours

What you’ll need…
Pulled Pork:
• 1 pork shoulder (approx. 3 pounds)
• 1 yellow onion (loosely chopped)
• 3 cloves garlic
• 3 thai green chilis (halved, seeds removed)
• 1 cup beer
• salt and pepper

Mango Soy Barbeque Sauce:
• 1 yellow onion (finely chopped)
• 2 garlic cloves
• 1 mango (peeled, chopped 1” cubed)
• 1 cup ketchup
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup rice vinegar
• 2 TBSP soy sauce
• 2 TBSP hoisin sauce
• 1 TBSP fresh ginger
• 1 TBSP lemon juice
• 1 TBSP sriracha
• 2 TSP chili powder
• salt and pepper

Daikon Slaw:
• 2 cups white vinegar
• 1 TBSP salt
• 1 TBSP sugar
• 1 cup daikon radish (peeled and grated)
• ½ cup carrots (peeled and grated)
• 1 bunch cilantro (loosely chopped)
• 1 lemon (zest and juice)
• 2 TSP sugar

• 1 block firm tofu (thinly sliced and optional, only if you have vegetarians in attendance)
• I head butter lettuce (leaves separated and washed)

Pulled Pork:
Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Turn to low heat and cook for a minimum of 8 hours. Pierce with a fork and the pork should just fall apart. Continue scraping with a fork, or pull meat with hands to separate. Place the pulled pork with some of the leftover juice in the slow cooker into a bowl and set aside for now.
Mango Soy Barbeque Sauce:
Cook the onions on medium-high heat with some olive oil in a large pan under they become transluscent, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients to the pan and stir to combine.  Let the mixture come to a simmer, reduce to low heat and continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once done cooking, let cool slightly then puree in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper if desired (though the sauce should already be quite salty from the soy and hoisin.).

Daikon Slaw:
Combine the first three ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Place the daikon in a medium-sized bowl and pour the hot vinegar mixture over top. Let sit for ten minutes, then strain. Place the daikon back in the bowl with remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Place the pork into a large pan and cover liberally with barbeque sauce. Stir until evenly coated. Once barbeque pork is nice and hot transfer to a serving bowl (do the same with the thinly sliced tofu if you’re making the vegetarian alternative). Place the butter lettuce leaves and daikon slaw in serving bowls as well. Serve on table or large platter and let guests build the lettuce wraps themselves! Yum!


 Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.   



Posted: by Dan Clapson

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