Roast Beef Tenderloin with Herbs & Garlic

IMG_9090Tenderloin of beef is a perfect go-to roast for special occasions. It is very easy to prepare, takes little time to roast, and carves beautifully. Yes, it is expensive, but when reserved for special occasions, is so worth it.

The tenderloin is the most tender of cuts. This muscle runs under the ribs next to the backbone of beef, and gets very little use, so remains tender. Even in an older animal who’s meat might be only be used for minced or stew, we try to reserve the tenderloin, which has amazing flavour, but is still tender. Unfortunately on-the-hoof aged tenderloin is hard to get (unless you raise beef).

The basic principal is that the more exercise a muscle gets, the more flavourful it is. So although very tender, the tenderloin benefits when treated to a rub or paste before roasting. Buy a roast that has had its fat and silver skin removed. It will have a long tip at one end, which you’ll be tying back to create a uniformly shaped roast. Continue reading

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

IMG_8930During a busy week in a restaurant kitchen, I was checking the walk-in cooler doing the order for the following week. I came across three big cauliflowers that for some reason hadn’t been used. As the weather was rainy and cool, I decided to roast all the cauliflower and make soup. It sold out the same day. So here it is, simple, nutritious, with the depth of flavour that roasting gives. Enjoy! Continue reading

Roasted Carrot & Apple Purée

IMG_8745Textures and colours have always been important to me when it comes to food. I’ve had two memorable meals that were so off the mark that they made hospital food look good. Both were served on plain white china. Just setting the mood.

The first was served in a small home eatery on one of the Gulf Islands. Dinner was sliced chicken breast, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Sounds great, yes? No added herbs, sauce, gremolata, or anything resembling colour or flavour, bland, bland, and bland. I could not believe that someone was proud to serve this to paying guests. Of course, maybe they weren’t. Maybe they didn’t care.

The second was at a major restaurant chain. We stopped in for a quick supper during a shopping trip. I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo, looking forward to a velvety sauce full of flavour. What I got: soft noodles smothered in a cream sauce. I couldn’t detect any cheese flavour at all. As well, there was nothing else on the plate, no sprinkling of herbs, not even a sprig of parsley. Disappointment prevailed.

When I plan a menu, I love to incorporate lots of colours and textures, as well as great taste. I’m happiest when I hear people exclaiming how beautiful it all looks, and then look forward to the silence as they all tuck in.

When planning a buffet, I like to have a purée of some sort as part of the mix, nothing soft and mushy, but something with deep, interesting flavours that is firm, as well as having a velvety texture. For an upcoming job, I want to have carrot purée tucked in amongst the other vegetable dishes, to compliment them in colour, but also that has enough flavour of its own, that people will go back to it for seconds.

So here’s what I’ve come up with. Continue reading

Oyster Mushrooms with Orzo

IMG_7538It seems like a funny time of year to be harvesting mushrooms, but I suppose as long as conditions are right, those little fungi are going to bloom! I’ve never been really confident on picking mushrooms, but there are a few that I know well, that are safe to eat. Oyster Mushrooms, Puff Balls, and Prince Mushrooms are so easy to identify in this region.

The oyster mushrooms were blooming all over a downed balsam-log. Mushrooms are the blooms of fungi that live in the ground, wood or organic matter (factoid).

There were about 8 feet of them, all over the top half of the log. I found them when they were perfect, the bugs and slugs hadn’t got to them, and they hadn’t started to dry out at the edges. A totally unexpected bounty! For dinner I made up a super easy orzo based risotto type dish. As we’d recently returned from travels, my pantry was quite depleted, but I had all I’d need to make an incredibly mushroomy dish.

I don’t expect that most people will stumble over an oyster mushroom laden log conveniently behind their chicken house, but if you do, harvest those beauties for your meal. If you don’t stumble over such a log, buy some at a grocery store. Continue reading

Herb Crusted Pork Roast

IMG_5394When my parents would visit my younger sister and I in our apartment in the late 70’s (returning to the city from their back-to-the-land adventures on Thetis Island) I would try to make a really sumptuous feast at least once during their visit.  I can remember buying a huge pork roast (in reality it was probably no more than four pounds) to serve one night.  I carefully sliced it through almost to the bone, every couple of inches, and stuffed it with nuts, herbs, and dried fruits.  There wasn’t a recipe to follow, it was just an idea I had.  I stuck garlic slices into it, and salt & peppered the fat.  I roasted it on low until the meat could be pulled from the bone.  I still have no idea what cut of pork it was, but its flavour holds fast in my memory.

Pork does so well when treated to a good crust or stuffing, or the both.  This herb & salt mix takes the humble pork butt roast to an amazing centerpiece.  The butt is full of flavour due to the lines of fat that run through it. The fat pulls the flavours in and through it.  Let it sit at room temperature for one hour after covering it with the seasoning.  It will give the pork a chance to take advantage of all you have offered it. Continue reading