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  • What Does Your Favourite Dip Say About You?

     dip recipes 

    Over here at Food Network Canada, we're firm believers that a party without an assortment of dips, is simply not a party worth attending. If you've found your way to the miraculous dip table and are scanning your options, the one(s) you choose may be saying something about your party personality. 


    Hummus: Over the past couple of years, this Middle Eastern staple appetizer has really exploded in popularity. What does this mean for you if this chickpea dip is your top choice? It means that you're delightfully trendy and chic, of course. Now fix your in-season accessories and head back onto the dance floor.

    Guacamole: You're sensible, reliable and fiercely loyal. Your friends can always count on you for everything from a ride to the airport to a ride home from the police station. Let your hair down and have some fun! Guacamole is a great start. 

    Salsa: Oh, good; you're here! Now the party can get started! From mild to super-spicy, you like to keep people guessing. Hanging out with you is always a wild ride, and your friends wouldn't have it any other way!

    Spinach Dip: This hearty dip is as classic as you are. You have an affinity for all things traditional and comforting, because if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Your ideal night is a quiet night in with a movie and close friends. 

    Crab Dip: You better hope everyone at that party is ready to get as wild and crazy as you are, because that's just your thing. You love hopping from bar to bar in search of a good time, and who can blame you? You're a hard-working perfectionist during the week and deserve to have some fun!






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  • Lavendar

    Whether it was the package of cupcakes to be used in the entree round, or the Parmesan that popped up for dessert, Chopped Canada this week had no shortage of awkward items that were to be used. Out of all of the ingredients that were pulled out of the baskets, I opted for one that I see chefs on television shows fail with most often: lavender.

    When used lightly, lavender can add a beautiful, floral sort of sweetness to dishes. However, when it’s overused it can taste like an old woman’s perfume. Even twice on this season’s Top Chef Canada, we’ve seen chefs make unsuccessful dishes with lavender. Recently, I saw it used in a chicken pot pie on a restaurant menu. Now, I can’t speak to the taste of this as I didn’t order it, but that is one combination I will likely never try at home!

    We’re going to keep things simple here because these little dried flowers can be extremely powerful. First - a simple syrup. If you like to mix your own cocktails at home, this is a perfect way to start experimenting with lavender, especially when it comes to gin or vodka and soda-based beverages. The great thing about playing with a simple syrup is that you can adjust it to your tastes, adding more or less as you see fit.
    Here, I’ve added the simple syrup to a homemade iced tea, but toss an ounce (or two) of vodka into the mix and a splash of soda and you’ve got yourself the perfect patio drink now that it’s finally warming up out there!

    For dessert, I made a cream that’s been infused with lavender. Again, since the temperature’s rising, this combination of macerated berries and fragrant, airy cream makes for an ideal spring or summer dessert. Try using this lavender chantilly cream to top citrus-forward desserts like lemon tarts or key lime pie.

    Lavender Simple Syrup 

    Yields: 1 cup
    Total cook time: 6 minutes


    Simple syrup ingredients: 

    1 cup water
    1 cup cane sugar
    2 teaspoons dried lavender


    Simple syrup directions:
    1.    Place all ingredients in a small pan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
    2.    Stir until sugar has completely dissolved.
    3.    Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
    4.    Pour through a fine mesh strainer and keep cool in the refrigerator to use as desired.

    Lemon Lavender Iced Tea 

    Yields: 4- 6 servings


    Iced tea ingredients:
    6 cups steeped and cooled black tea (like Orange Pekoe or Assam)
    ⅔ cup lavender simple syrup, more or less to taste
    4 tablespoons lemon juice


    Iced tea directions:
    1.    Place all ingredients in a pitcher and stir to combine.
    2.    Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


    Macerated Strawberries and Lavender Chantilly Cream 

    Yields: 4-6 servings

    Prep time: 1 hour


    Strawberries and cream ingredients:
    3 cups strawberries, quartered with tops trimmed
    ¼ cup sugar
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    2 cups whipping cream
    1 teaspoon dried lavender
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    ⅓ cup icing sugar

    Strawberries and cream directions:
    1.    Place first three ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to combine.
    2.    Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using. (Use within 1 day of preparing.)
    3.    Place cream and lavender in a small pot and heat on stove on medium heat until cream begins to steam, but is not boiling.
    4.    Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
    5.    Pour through a fine mesh strainer and place in the refrigerator until completely cooled, about 45 minutes.
    6.    Pour once more through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, add vanilla and icing sugar and whip using a whisk or a hand mixer until peaks form.
    7.    Chill cream in the fridge until ready to serve.

    8.    To serve: place several generous spoonfuls of cream into a small bowl and top with macerated berries.


    Watch Chopped Canada Episode 16: For the Love of Cod
    Read Chopped Canada Mystery Solved: How to Cook with Dragon Fruit


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  • TCC-Episode-7-Hugh-Acheson

    Hugh Acheson (pictured left) is renowned as a Southern chef with acclaimed restaurants in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia, but he was born and raised in the True North - Ottawa to be exact.
    He's also been a judge on Top Chef south of the border for the past three seasons.
    He brought this experience to Top Chef Canada when he joined Lynn Crawford, Mark McEwan, and Lisa Ray to judge which chef's party canapes were worthy of a medieval royal feast in the latest episode, "Lords and Ladies at the Castle."

    Here are some questions Hugh answered for us so we can get to know him better!

    Q: When did you first discover your passion for cooking?
    A: In Ottawa, Canada when I should have been in doing my homework. I worked at a bunch of restaurants in high school and really developed a love of the industry.

    Q: If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing?
    A: Probably an architect. I love figuring out movement and systems.

    Q. What, if any, is the biggest difference you noticed between the American and Canadian chefs?
    A: Not much really. In Ottawa and Montreal people tend to eat better though, so maybe that translates to a better understanding of ingredients.

    Q: What is your favourite Canadian restaurant?
    A: I love what Grant is doing at Bar Isabel. I had a killer meal there about 6 months ago.

    Q: Who is your favourite Top Chef or Top Chef Canada competitor?
    A: Stephanie Cmar in season 11 of TC US. She is talented and funny as all get out.

    Q: What is your favourite type of cuisine?
    A: I am very enamoured with Korean food right now. But I like everything.

    Q. How do you think you would have performed during the archery challenge?
    A: I am a good shot.

    Q: What advice do you have for the remaining chefs?
    A: Cook what you know and take more time to get the food on the plate with style.





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  • Rich-Karine-TCC-Pickerel 

    This past week, I finally got the chance to meet Top Chef Canada’s Rich Francis. Doing a bit of travelling in Alberta, the chef came down to Calgary to join fellow Top Chef Canada chef Karine Moulin at her restaurant, Raw Bar, for a Top Chef Canada episode six viewing party. Rich chatted with a full room of folks about his time on the show, what it was like cooking off against Karine and the other competitors and all of that good stuff. Post-viewing, both chefs popped over to Charcut to see Pierre Lamielle. In a competition that can get so intense, it’s nice to see everyone playing nice together at the end of the day, isn’t it?
    One of the things that I love most about watching Rich on the series is from where he draws his inspiration. Being the first Aboriginal chef on the show and watching his intent to bring Aboriginal cuisine to the mainstream made him someone I've been rooting for since the premiere.

    Stepping into the kitchen with Rich to watch him recreate his pickerel dish from the "Restaurant Wars" episode was exciting. It’s one thing to see the chefs buzz around the kitchen on television, but like any sport, it’s much more captivating in real life.


    I couldn’t help but notice that this particular pickerel dish with confit fennel, potatoes and shellfish reduction (think bisque) is not completely in-line with his Aboriginal-focused cooking style. I asked Rich about this and he shared that "Restaurant Wars" was all about cooking to a theme and in his team’s case, a French leaning dining concept. Vying for the title of Top Chef Canada means having to be flexible and that can mean stepping outside something that’s ‘you’ for the sake of the competition. Although, the team didn’t fare too well at the end of the day, the pickerel dish was the only stand out on his side of the war.

    Rich's pickerel dish from the Top Chef Canada episode "Restaurant Wars."

    Since pickerel is the star of this dish, if I was going to remember one tip from being in the kitchen with Rich, it would be how to end up with a perfectly crispy skin on a fish fillet.
    After lightly flouring the fillets on all sides and seasoning with salt and pepper, we got a pan smoking hot, added some canola oil and began to fry the fish, skin side down.

    After about 2 minutes, the skin was golden and crisp. The fish is good to flip when the skin moves away from the pan with ease. If it feels like it’s sticking, don't force it. Give it a little while longer. Rich also tossed a bit of butter into the pan when the fish was searing and used a spoon to baste the pickerel so it wouldn’t become dry.
    Pickerel is found easily enough in most of Ontario and Manitoba. If you’re in Saskatchewan, Walleye is equally plentiful and offers a similar taste and texture, but regardless of what fish fillet you’re deciding to cook up for dinner, this Top Chef-style tapenade will be a great finishing touch.


    Big thanks to Rich and Karine for recreating this delectable dish and for sharing the details on how to recreate it at home.

    Pan Seared Pickerel with Braised Fennel,  Confit Potatoes and Tapenade
    Yields: 6 servings
    Total cook time: 1 1/2 hours


    Tapenade ingredients:
    6 pitted cerignola olives
    6 pitted black olives
    3 sun-dried tomatoes
    2 anchovy fillets
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    salt and pepper, to taste

    Confit fingerling potatoes ingredients: 

    1 1/2 pounds of fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
    5 French shallots, halved lengthwise
    1/4 cup melted duck fat
    2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish
    1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme, for garnish

    Braised fennel ingredients:
    2 large fennel bulbs, rinsed clean
    4 tablespoons butter
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2 tablespoons anise-flavoured liqueur
    1/2 cup vegetable stock
    1/2 cup water
    2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
    Zest from 1 orange
    Juice from 1 lemon

    Pickerel ingredients:
    6 fillets of pickerel
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 cup white wine
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, dill, chives or your favourite mix of herbs)
    1 tablespoon cold butter
    Tapenade directions:

    1.    Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until a chunky paste forms.
    2.    Pour in the olive oil and pulse several more times.
    3.    Transfer to a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper.
    4.    Place in the refrigerator until ready to use. Will keep for up to 2 weeks.


    Confit fingerling potatoes directions:
    1.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F
    2.  In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, shallots, duck fat, and balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    3.  Spread the potato mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
    4.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Stir from time to time while baking.
    5.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley and thyme and plate as a side dish with the pickerel and braised fennel.

    Braised fennel directions:
    1. Cut the tops off the fennel bulbs, chop 2 tablespoons of the fronds and set aside.
    2. Slice the fennel bulbs in half, lengthwise, through the core. Then slice each half lengthwise into quarters (you should get eight pieces total out of each fennel bulb), leaving some of the core attached so the pieces don't fall apart as they cook.

    3. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and place the fennel pieces in the pan in a single layer. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the fennel pieces, without moving them, for at least 2 minutes.
    4. Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the fennel. Cook for another minute, turn the fennel pieces over and brown the other side. 

    5. When both sides of the fennel are nicely browned, add the anise liqueur to the pan. Increase the heat to medium high. The liquor should boil down quickly.
    6. When the liqueur is almost gone, add the stock and water.

    7. Bring the liquid to a boil.  Then reduce the heat down to low, cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
    8. Remove the cover, increase the heat to high and let the stock cook down until it's a glaze.

    9. Add the fennel fronds and most of the orange zest and combine gently.

    10. When ready to serve,  garnish with the rest of the zest and a few splashes of lemon juice.

    Pickerel directions:
    1.  Combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl or container that will fit the pickerel.
    2.  Preheat a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the oil.

    3.  Coat the fillets in the flour mixture and fry till golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

    4.  Remove from pan and place on paper towel until they are all done.

    5.  When all fillets are cooked, pour the wine and the lemon juice into the same pan to deglaze it.
    6.  Allow the liquid to reduce a bit (about 3 or 4 minutes) and add the chopped herbs and then add the cold butter.

    7.  Remove the pan from direct heat and swirl the pan until the butter melts and incorporates with the wine, lemon juice and herbs.

    8.  Plate the fillets and pour some of the sauce onto each fillet.

    9. Serve the pickerel with the potatoes and braised fennel. Garnish each plate with the tapenade.


    Dan Clapson 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. 














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  • Amazing Easter Recipes from Breakfast to Dessert

    Want to step up your game this Easter and serve up dishes that will totally blow your guests away? Check out our suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert! 



    Recipes from the video:

    Poppy Seed Buckwheat Crepes Recipe 

    Fresh Spring Veggie Pasta with Rustic Pancetta and Fresh Cheese Recipe 

    Apricot Pistachio BBQ Grilled Rack of Lamb Recipe 

    Floating Islands Recipe 






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