Combining food and mood is my specialty.
As we look forward to the lazy days of summer, long weekends and holidays, that we as Canadians languish over, it is impossible to negate the fact that spring cleaning is in order.
Spring is the time of hope and promise. As we dust off our bicycles and barbeques, tidy up our garages and lockers, and locate our weather beaten balcony pots, I am excited to get a garden ready and see the cycle of growth that the seasons ahead provide.
I love the fact that the spring flowers and cherry blossoms lure us out of hibernation to command their attention.
As the process of cleaning is cathartic, it is easy to let that president take hold and influence our menus and diets as we shed our layers.
The flavors of spring and the promise of summer’s vibrancy have always influenced my palate choices.
Food reflects mood, and the mood has gotten a whole lot lighter. People prepare for gatherings; family picnics, corporate barbeques, festivals, reunions and weddings.
I am inspired by the impact that food has on living on loving and on life.
I have always loved to entertain and be entertained. I think this alone is the major contributing fact to the evolution of my career as a chef.
Becoming a chef was not a turnkey process for me. I fell into it quite literally more than once. I knew how to cook and people around me needed to be cooked for. It was that simple. I cooked instinctively, never using recipes (only for baking). I figured it out, learned from mistakes, made improvements, refined my techniques and constantly sourced new ideas. That is still my modus operandi.
Being a chef, is sometimes an identity on to it’s own. There is an unprecedented work ethic; early mornings, late nights, mental strain, manual labor, sore feet and a satisfied sole. Let’s not forget that those who play with fire and sharp objects get burnt and cut. The call of duty is often not reflected by a handsome remuneration.
It is the pride of a job well done, the commitment to craft, and the instant gratification of pleasure smeared over the face of recipient who adores something as simple as what touches his tongue makes it worth most of what we endure.
I have been lucky. I have had an amazing, interesting career with challenges and rewards.
Every day is different.
My journey as a cook/chef began in a tree planting camp 1981 Fort St. John where I worked tree planting and our cook had to go, leaving 25 workers without prepared food.
I was nominated. I did my best, did what I could, given the circumstances, which satisfied the needs of most. I moved on. At that time, my passion was theatre, acting & costume design/ fashion. Prior to that, I had worked as a breakfast cook at a busy, trendy café called the Mongomery Café, so breakfasts were a natural.
I never thought FOOD, would take precedence. But, it was food that provided my subsistence…through work, life and play (which all melds together.)
My son was born in 1985 in Vancouver which is home. He has been my life force and motivation. He has been my favorite person and precious resource instrumental in my passion for life.
At every juncture I was lured back to food. I started working in film catering and soon became a chef who was busy all the time. I was the chef feeding the cast & crew of X-Files for 3 seasons. For the most part, I was an independent with my job, and home every night with occasional out of town stints.
I toured with Duran Duran and the Red Hot Chili Peppers feeding them across the nation.
My career evolved when I became a chef at a very high-end fishing/ ecotourism resort for a few years. In 2010 I started ChefLaura.ca
All of a sudden I have been a chef for 30 years!
I want to pour a little of my Celtic roots (Welsh & Irish), mix it with my Canadian Spirit, and sprinkle it with my Italian sensibilities to create the following summer evening menu for your sensory experience.
**(Follow me on FB, Instagram & Twitter)
**Soon I will be launching my own brand of seasonings!
Food is the bonding element of people…. I am simply the alchemist!
Savory Cheesecake topped with Blistered Tomatoes and Black Plumbs:
To be served on a bed of arugula, watercress & radicchio
Rack of Venison with a Blackberry Demi- Glaze
To be served with Seasonal Grilled Vegetables
Zinfandel Poached Pears drenched in a Romanoff Sauce
Non – stick cooking spray, for individual little pans
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup chopped almonds
1 cup Herbed cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons butter melted
1 tablespoon Maple syrup
Preheat the oven two 360°. Spray the bottom of the pans with nonstick spray.
Mix the cracker crumbs butter and pecans in a bowl until everything is coated evenly. Press and bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Cool.
Once they are completely cool spray the sides to the pans again and line with parchment paper.
Cheese cake mixture
8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon Orange zest
1 tablespoon of vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Add the cream cheese, goat’s cheese, heavy cream into a medium bowl and beat using an electric mixer. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Spoon the mixture on to the cool crusts and smooth the tops. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours when ready to serve, see and peel off the parchment.
For the topping, blister grape tomatoes in a hot, hot pan with a dash of oil. Slice a 2 figs & tossed into the pan with tomatoes just until they start to caramelized. Make your favorite exotic salad dress it and put the cheesecake off center.
Place a teaspoon of grape fig mixture on top of the cheesecake and serve.
Rack of Venison
1 – 1/2 lbs. Rack venison (available at a specialty butcher)
2 Tbsp. Dijon or grainy mustard
½ Tbsp. sea salt
1/4 Tbsp. Coarse black pepper
¼ Tbsp. Montreal spice
Make sure the rack is butchered Frenched! Remove any remaining silver skin. If you do not know what this means, have your butcher do this for you.
Using your hands, rub grainy or Dijon mustard.
Season with salt & pepper and a blend of herb de Provence.
(Leave out at room temp for a couple hours while you prepare the rest)
Preheat oven to 360 degrees
Sear both sides of the rack in a hot pan until browned.
Finish in oven for approximately 25 minutes (for med rare) or until desired temp.
Let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve with black berry demi.
Use a meat thermometer and guidelines for accuracy.
1 pint black fresh berries (puréed) **save a couple for each plate for garnish
Put puree through a sieve to remove most of the blackberry seeds.
Add the puree at the end
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme 6 to 8 stems fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Montréal steak spice
Place the above ingredients in cheesecloth and secure with twine.
1 ounce butter
½ cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped fennel
1/4 cup gluten free flour (this way all your guests can eat it)
5 cups beef stock
Heat the butter over medium heat in a saucepan and add the onions, celery and carrots.
Sauté them until they are translucent. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to form a paste. Cook for three or four minutes until the flower is lightly browned. Be careful not to burn it. Whisk in 3 cups of the beef stock. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then lowered to a simmer add the sachet of herbs. Reduce until total volume is about a third. Retrieve the sachet of herbs. Set aside. Remove from heat and pour through a mesh strainer. Add remaining 2 cups of beef stock and sachet and bring back to a boil and simmer for an hour or so. The liquid should be reduced by about half.
Remove from heat discard sachet. Strain for a final time.
Season to taste. Add the blackberry puree and spoon over the venison.
**The demi-glaze will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and frozen for several months.
4 Ripe Pears Cut in half & carefully remove pit using a small spoon or melon baller.
½ Bottle Zinfandel wine
Melt a small amount of butter, enough to coat the bottom of the pan & keep the pears from sticking. Remove from heat.
Place the pears cut side down in the pan and return to heat. Sear slightly, and pour wine into saucepan a bit at a time until the pears are ½ covered. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Keep over heat for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Remove, blot dry with paper towel and chill.
Brush a serving plate with some of the thickened wine glaze. Place pear gently on plate cut side up. Pour over Romanoff Sauce and garnish…. I love using hazelnuts.
Romanoff Sauce (Should be made in advance)
5 egg yolks beat until creamy 1 cup sugar beat in slowly 1/2 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau
Cook all of these ingredients together over heat in a double boiler. When custard coats spoon, take it off the heat. Cool.
1 heavy cream whip into soft peaks
When the custard is completely cool, fold in the whipped cream.