It seems like only yesterday I was tapping my foot impatiently waiting for the premiere episode of Top Chef Canada, season four. After 10 weeks of ups and downs, failed and successful culinary attempts, we were left with three gentlemen in the final episode. For me, it was a bit of a toss up for who was going to end up the winner, as I think all of the competitors had a roller coaster ride throughout the course of the season.
Terry Salmond, Rene Rodriguez and Rich Francis in the finale of Top Chef Canada.

All deserving to be part of the final three, creative dishes by all chefs flowed from the kitchen through to the Judges’ dinner table. Pickled blueberries, poblano bisque and a burnt onion ‘crunch’ were just a few of the many interesting components we saw.

Since this is the final Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home piece of the year, I think it’s only fitting that it ends on a sweet note: a take on Terry’s caramelized yogurt parfait & burnt onion crunch.
Terry’s dessert course: caramelized yogurt parfait and burnt onion crunch.

The biggest conversation piece in my group of friends (read: Top Chef Canada fanatics) during the finale was the burnt onion component that Terry Salmond topped off his yogurt parfait with in his dessert course. I mean, really? Burnt onion? Myself, along with a lot of other viewers I’d wager, were as perplexed as we all saw Ruth Reichl be on television.
Guest judge Ruth Reichl said of Terry’s dessert (after trying it): “I have to say I love this. This is absolutely in my wheelhouse.”

Nonetheless, after seeing the judges’ positive reaction to Terry’s deceptively simple dessert and especially towards the burnt onion portion, I thought I had better try something like this at home.

Not typically a fan of burnt anything, I made a concerted effort to leave my biases aside and fry the hell out of some diced onion. Once it was dark brown, verging on black, I patted the crispy little chunks dry with some paper towel and had a little taste. Not surprisingly, by themselves they taste very abrasive (note: I do not know how Terry prepared this component) so I mellowed them out a bit by mixing them with some graham crackers, and salt and pepper.

The result was a sweet, almost smoky crumble that definitely had the essence of onion in a mild way. What Terry said on the finale was right, it did taste a little like bitter peanut butter.
All in all, once it was used to top the layers of this yogurt parfait below, it did a great job of cutting the richness and sweetness of the berry compote and maple in my home version, which I’m sure was Terry’s goal with his much more refined offering.

And, with that ends another year of Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home. It’s always fun to get into the kitchen and get inspired by the great Canadian chefs that are showcased on the show.

Maple Yogurt Parfait with Vanilla Blueberry Compote and Burnt Onion Crumble
Yields: 4 servings
Total cook time: about 1 hour

Blueberry compote ingredients:
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup cane sugar
¼ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pinch ground cloves
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Maple sauce ingredients:
1 ½ cups good quality maple syrup

Burnt onion crumble ingredients:

1 cup canola oil
½ yellow onion, finely diced
¼ cup crushed graham crackers
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Honey yogurt ingredients:
2 ½ cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon liquid honey

Blueberry compote directions:
1.    Place the first 5 ingredients in a medium pan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
2.    Reduce to medium heat and let cook until berries breakdown and mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.
3.    In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water and add to pan. Let cook for 1 more minute. Blueberry mixture should thicken noticeably.
4.    Transfer to a bowl or container and let cool in the refrigerator.

Maple sauce directions:
1.    Place maple syrup in a small pot and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
2.    Cook until maple syrup reduces by a third, approximately 12-15 minutes.
3.    Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, the maple syrup should be quite thick, somewhat like a caramel sauce consistency.
4.    Set aside for now.

Burnt onion crumble directions:

1.    Heat canola oil in a medium pot on high heat until very hot.
2.    Working in 3 small batches, fry diced onion until on the verge of blackening, about 6-7 minutes per batch.
3.    Transfer each to paper towel to absorb any excess oil and cool.
4.    Combine ‘burnt’ onion with remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until a fine crumble forms.
5.    Spoon out into a small bowl and set aside for now.

Yogurt directions:
1.    Whisk yogurt and honey together in a medium bowl.
2.    Place into the refrigerator to stay cool until needed.

To assemble:
1. In 4 small glasses, pour in approximately ½ inch of maple sauce, followed by a 1” layer of yogurt, ½” layer of blueberry compote, and another ½” layer of yogurt.
2. If not serving immediately, place prepared parfaits in the fridge to stay cold.
3. When ready to serve, finish each parfait with a spoonful of burnt onion crumble.

4. Say this to your guests: “Don’t worry, it sounds weird, but it tastes delicious!”

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.