Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

Brian’s cooking is seasonal, inventive and smart, but in no way unapproachable or fussy. When he is coaxed out of the kitchen and starts talking about food, his passion and knowledge are instantly recognizable.

"Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen". Thanks

Tony Aspler, Wine writer

“Chef Brian Henry puts one hundred percent of his energy into going all the way.”

Birgit Moenke, Editor Stir Media Read More Reviews

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Gastronomically yours,

June 6th, 2016

The smell of spring or why your piss stinks!

 

I love the aromas produced by foods being prepared in a kitchen. One of these favorite culinary induced aromas I can only smell in the bathroom. It is the smell of metabolized compounds found in asparagus. These sulphur based compounds give our urine a distinct perfume within 20 minutes of ingesting this member of the daffodil family.

Asparagus!

Asparagus!

The effect of eating asparagus on our urine has been of curiosity and study since the 1700’s. Most recently a study published in 2010 found that while almost everyone who eats asparagus produces the aromatic asparagus-urine only 22% of the population has the autosomal genes required to smell them. This trait is unique to asparagus as these compounds originate in asparagusic. The aromatic producing elements of asparagus are more concentrated in young asparagus are more present in young asparagus, with the observation that the smell is more pronounced after eating young asparagus.

Another food study in the 1700’s saw the cross breeding of Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria chiloensis which lead to the creation of the cultivar more commonly known as the common garden strawberry.

These naturally sweet aromatic orbs are related to the rose family and have been used for centuries in the kitchen but also in cosmetic applications and of course the perfume industry. The strawberry is the first fruit to ripen and be harvested in the Kawartha’s. Their flavor can be influenced by weather and this year’s hot dry spring should produce exceptionally sweeter fruits than usual.

Asparagus and strawberries have a number of similar traits. They are both related to flowers; make great companion plants, they require human hands to harvest them, and are only available locally in season for a short period of time. Pick up both of these ingredients at farmers markets and grocery stores throughout our region while still in season and try them together in this week’s recipe that will welcome the delicious aromas of summer into our homes. The many textures and flavors of this salad are best served with barbecued chicken to making it a satisfying meal.

Asparagus and Strawberry Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

2 tbsp. lemon juice

4 cups arugula

1 tbsp.  Honey

3 tbsp.  Balsamic vinegar

 

Method:

In a medium sized bowl combine the asparagus and half of the olive oil together and toss it until the asparagus is evenly coated with the oil. Cook the asparagus for 2-3 minutes in either a preheated oven or barbeque at around 400 °f. Once cooked remove asparagus from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl.

Place about a cup of arugula onto four dinner plates. Top the arugula with the strawberries and asparagus.  Lightly drizzle each salad with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

 

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Grilled asparagus dusted with The Spice Co.’s Italian Scallion and crumbled feta cheese!

order online at www.chefbrianhenry.com

order online at www.chefbrianhenry.com

Asparagus Flowers

Freshly harvested asparagus is truly a thing of beauty with contrasting hues of purple and blue that look like frosting on the tips of the plants rich green stems is spectacular.  I prefer the new crops of asparagus that provide stalks that are about the size of your baby finger which in my opinion is the best size to work with as they are quite firm but not too woody like the larger stalks tend to be. Asparagus is a perennial member of the lily family is relatively expensive compared to other vegetables as it can only be harvested by hand. Early harvested asparagus is sweet and juicy and can contain up to 4% sugar. This natural sugar content is most noticeable within the first 24 hours after the stems have been harvested. After that asparagus like other vegetables will begin to consume this sugar for its continued growth and survival. If stored for too long or exposed to light and warm temperatures the asparagus will start to loose its moisture and sweetness. Prolonged storage will see the entire stem grow more fibrous as the plant will consume itself for survival. Some of the effects of storing asparagus can be minimized by simply treating the asparagus like fresh cut flowers. By simply cutting an inch off of  the bottom of  your asparagus and standing them in sugar water your asparagus will hold well in the refrigerator for a few days if need be.

The formation of lignin or the woody fibrous texture found in the lower portion of asparagus has been dealt with in the same manner for centuries by cooks who simply bend the asparagus stalk end to end. This stress causes the asparagus to snap on the border between the tough and tender parts of the stalk.

Asparagus  contains asparagusic acid which is a substance high in sulphur and is classified as a relative of methanethiol. Methanethiol is one of the active ingredients in skunk spray. Within half an hour of eating asparagus our digestive system turns the sulphur into methanethiol. This derivative of asparagusic acid ends up in our urine releasing an aromatic odor. Almost all individuals produce this odorous compound after eating asparagus, but oddly enough only about 40% of us have the autosomal genes required to smell it.

As with most things in life I like to keep my food simple and allow for the natural flavours to come forward and speak for themselves. This is why I chose to simply sauté my asparagus for this week’s recipe.

 

Sautéed Asparagus

Ingredients:

1 pound of asparagus cleaned

One quarter pound shiitake mushrooms

2-3 tbsp. butter at room temperature

Juice of one lemon or a splash white wine

Salt and pepper

Method:

Over medium-high heat, pre-heat a sauté pan. Add the butter and swirl it around the pan. Add the asparagus and shiitakes. Keep your sauté pan moving constantly. Sauté means to jump so keep things hopping. After two to three minutes has passed remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon juice and let it simmer for about a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Gastronomically yours,

April 14th, 2015

Barbecue Blues

There was a point this past winter when I stopped going outside except for necessities

and more wood for the wood stove and the recent spring weather sees me doing much of the same.

This extended hibernation of self has changed my eating habits as my barbecue has not been used since early January.

If your barbecue has been dormant for a while a spring tune up is in order before you fire it up again.

By simply giving your BBQ a good cleaning and inspecting all of its components you can avoid flare-ups

and any nerve wracking explosive starts

which are usually linked to the gas line being blocked.

 

BBQ Cooking Classes offered year round!!

BBQ Cooking Classes offered year round!!

 

Warning signs of a gas blockage include any of the following; the burner doesn’t light,

the burner flames are yellow or you’ve lost your eyebrows during ignition.

These problems are often caused by insects that have taken up residence in the metal

venturi tubes of the barbecue that carry the gas from the tank to the burners.

Using a venturi brush something akin to a bottle-brush you can easily clean the bugs out

of the venturi tubes along with any other accumulated debris.

Using the venturi brush proceed to clean the tube out an inch at a time using it to pull any cobwebs and

debris out of the gas line, otherwise you will compact any rubbish solidly into the line.

After the tubes are cleaned out you will need to do a soapy water test on the gas line and its connectors to ensure there are no gas leaks.

Repair or replace any defected parts that you may find immediately.

Clean all metal parts within the firebox with a metal brush to ensure that all of the burner ports are also

free of debris and blockages which a heavy duty wet/dry vacuum may assist greatly with.

Do not make any modifications to your system.

COMING SOON! Check out our line of products! The Spice Co. for all your cooking needs!

COMING SOON! Check out our line of products! The Spice Co. for all your cooking needs!

 

 

 

Now you will need to gently fire up your barbecue and preheat it over a low flame as you do not need to re-temper

any of its metal components which may cause it to warp or bend. Use a damp cloth and set of long handled tongs to

wipe the grilling surface clean of any excess dirt and metal brush bristles.

Now is the perfect time to start grilling steaks before the summer rush and their prices start to increase with the demands of summer.

Try brushing your meats with the following recipe for a rich smoky barbecue sauce that is slightly spicy

and sweetened with maple syrup and is a great barbecue sauce to use on whatever foods you choose to grill.

 

Smokey Maple BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup chilli sauce

¼ cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. water

2 tbsp. butter

½ tsp chipotle powder or 2 chipotle pepper in adobo, seeded

 

Method:

Combine all of the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes. Let the sauce cool down before using an immersion blender or food processor, to puree the mixture. Store sauce in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Ted Reader, King of the Q originally posted this image

Ted Reader, King of the Q originally posted this image

Gastronomically yours,

March 29th, 2015

How to Ham it up!

A ham is the rear leg of a hog, which is preserved by a variety of combined methods

such as wet or dry salting, smoking and drying, it is one of the oldest cuts of cured meats produced by modern society

with almost every country in the world utilizing regionally inspired preparation methods.

The moveable feast of Easter will see many people consuming ham but there is much to consider when purchasing a ham.

Laterality is the individual orientation of preference to what side of one’s body we show a personal inclination for.

More simply are we left or right handed. Estimates indicate 85% of the animal kingdom

is right side dominant which includes our hands, eyes, ears and feet.

When purchasing a ham it should be acquired from the left hind leg of a pig as they tend to be right side dominant.

It has been observed that because of this lateral trait,

pigs scratch themselves more often with their right hind leg,

causing the muscles to work more resulting in a tougher ham with less fat.

A Picnic Ham is not a true ham as it is cut from the upper part of the foreleg and contains a portion of the shoulder,

but they are cured in the same manner as a proper ham, making it taste just like ham.

Traditionally hams are cured with salt and sugar to remove excess blood and moisture.

They are then rinsed and hung to dry and further age. Some find their way into a smoke house where

they are hung over a variety of smoldering hardwood coals to develop a rich flavour and naturally colour the hams exterior.

This process can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months.

In North America many boneless or shaped hams are simply processed bits of meat

that have been mechanically shaped and held together with processed ingredients that work as adhesives,

their added smoky flavour comes from flavoured liquid that is sprayed on or injected into these hams.

A bone-in ham can be purchased whole or halved from either the shank (foot) end, or from the butt (hip) end.

Whole hams will weigh at an average of 12-14 lbs. To decide on how much ham you need to feed your guests,

I suggest 1/2 pound of bone-in ham per guest which allows everyone to have plenty to eat,

with enough left over for sandwiches and the ham bone will be in the soup pot for a hearty Split Pea Soup.

When it comes to preparing the ham you will need to remove the ham from the refrigerator

and let it come to room temperature for one hour before heating it in the oven.

If and only if you are using a salt cured ham boil it for 15-20 minutes in a pot of water

before heating it in the oven to remove the excess salt. Discard water

Don’t be a cheap bastard and save the water for soup because it will taste like shit!

When heating a fully cooked ham we must keep it moist as you want it heated through but do not want to

dry it out so place the ham on a roasting rack, add half an inch of water to the bottom of the pan and

over the pan tightly with aluminum foil and cook at 350°F for 15 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature of the ham reaches 165°F.

To glaze your ham, simply raise the temperature of your oven to 400°F for the last 15-20 minutes of

cooking and liberally brush your ham with a glaze of anything sweet a couple of times.

Once the ham is cooked, let it rest for 15 minutes before you carve it to minimize moisture loss.

 

Chef Brian Henry offers Pig Roasts and other whole animal Roasting

Chef Brian Henry offers Pig Roasts and other whole animal Roasting

Gastronomically yours,

March 24th, 2015

Feeling Hot Hot Hot!

 

Tomatoes originated in the desert regions along the west coast of South America.

Their appearance was comparable to an over-sized

grape or berry and was known as a tomatl which is Aztec for “plump fruit”.

Tomatoes were later domesticated in Mexico where it was eventually subjugated by early European explorers.

Compared to today’s domesticated varieties the tomato has grown to immense proportions as it is

considered to be the second most consumed vegetable in North America even though it is botanically classified as a fruit.

Hothouse tomatoes grown in Ontario are pesticide ansd GMO free!

Hothouse tomatoes grown in Ontario are pesticide and GMO free!

Tomatoes contain huge amounts of glutamic acid and sulphur compounds.

These properties are more commonly found in meats and give tomatoes their beefy flavour.

This makes pairing tomatoes with meat a natural choice and they are often used to give vegetarian preparations a meaty flavour component without the meat.

There are other factors that affect the flavour of tomatoes. One being the different components found inside the tomato.

A tomato is made up of four separate types of tissue.

The cuticle or skin which is often removed before cooking surrounds the fruit wall which contains the most sugar and amino acids. The fruit wall encapsulates the seed jelly which is high in citric acid.

In the center of the tomato we find the pith.

Remove any one of these four parts of a tomatoes anatomy and you will change the overall flavour of a recipe that calls for tomatoes.  As well tomatoes that are left to ripen on the vine naturally contain more sugars and acid compared to store bought tomatoes that are picked green and forced to ripen during transport by spraying them with ethylene gas.

The month of March is when we can see Ontario hothouse grown tomatoes arrive in the produce aisles. Ontario is home to about 65% of Canada’s hothouse based agriculture. Most of Ontario’s greenhouses or hothouses use beneficial insects to control pests making most hothouse vegetables pesticide-free. Also it is notable that Hot House Producers belong to the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association which assures us that no genetically modified plants grown in Ontario greenhouses and the tomatoes are vine ripened without chemicals..

Ontario hothouse growers produce most of Canada's hothouse foods in a sustainable environment

Ontario hothouse growers produce most of Canada’s hothouse foods in a sustainable environment

Most importantly how a tomato tastes depends on how we store them. Tomatoes should never be refrigerated as their fresh flavour is destroyed by cold temperatures. When a tomato is subjected to temperatures below 13 °c they suffer damage to their internal components. This results in tomatoes that have a mealy texture and loss of flavor due to cold-damaged flavor producing enzymes.

Grab some Ontario grown hothouse tomatoes and try cooking them in the following recipe as their firm constitution makes them great for frying.

 

Pan Fried Parmesan Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

3 – 4 hothouse tomatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick

¼ cup minced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tbsp. cooking oil

 

Method:

Set up a breading station using three bowls; one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs and in the third one combine together the breadcrumbs and cheese.

Dip the tomato slices one at a time in the flour, dusting off the excess. Then dip it in egg letting excess drip off. And then dip the tomato into the breading mixture. Repeat until all slices are breaded.

Fry the breaded tomato slices in a preheated pan over medium heat in the cooking oil with the onions and garlic for about a minute or two per side, until they are golden brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper, serve immediately.

Gastronomically yours,

March 8th, 2015

Maple Wine at Home
Mead often makes one think of mythical times, strange creatures and folklore.

The term honeymoon and its practice are still common in today’s weddings.

This term comes from the custom of drinking fermented honey based beverages for a moon or month after your wedding.

It was believed that this practice ensured the birth of a son.
Mead is traditionally made from honey and water that has been fermented with yeast.

This alcoholic beverage is considered to be the godfather of fermented beverages.

Its discovery dates back to 7000 BC and are believed to have originated in China.
Mead is sometimes called honey wine as its alcohol content can range from 4-12% by volume.

Melomel is mead made with the addition of fruit or fruit juice and may also contain spices.

A Pyment is mead produced with the addition of grapes or grape juice which can also be spiced up into a Hippocras.

Sack mead is stronger tasting mead which contains much more honey than regular mead.

Williams-Sonoma Homemade Mead Kit is available on-line

Williams-Sonoma Homemade Mead Kit is available on-line

The warmer weather has got me thinking about the upcoming maple syrup season and everything you can make with maple syrup.

Maple sugaring has been an early spring tradition in eastern Canada ever since the native peoples of the Eastern Woodlands discovered that maple sap cooked over an open fire produces a sweet sugar.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup

Maple wine can be made in the same manner as mead.

All that is different is that we use maple syrup instead of honey and it is usually ready to drink in half the time that it takes to make the traditionally honey laced mead.
Maple wine will become crystal clear with a delicate amber color within 60 days. Mead takes about 100 days to clarify.

If you choose to bottle the maple wine before it is clear, it will clarify in the bottles as the sediment settles.
Maple Wine at Home
Ingredients:

7 litres maple syrup

5 teaspoons yeast nutrient

15 grams white wine yeast

20 litres of cold water

Procedure:
Dissolve the yeast nutrient in some hot water. Gently hydrate the wine yeast in warm water. Mix the maple syrup with cold water in a large open container. Pour the dissolved yeast and yeast nutrients, into a glass carboy and pour in the watered down syrup. Use a blow off tube for the first four days to allow the rapidly produced gasses to escape. After which you should switch the blow off tube for a water trap. After about 60 days, when the maple wine is crystal clear and you can bottle your maple wine. I tend to use yeast nutrient and plenty of yeast for starter, when making maple wine, mead or ginger beer so that the fermentation happens rapidly. This quickly produces a high alcohol content and kills off any unwanted bacteria.

Maple Icewine available at banffgifts.ca

Maple Icewine available at banffgifts.ca

 

 

 

Looking for a new freezer? We sell upright freezers that are designed and built exclusively for the All-Natural Food Council of North America. For details please conact me at thechef@chefbrianhenry.com

Looking for a new freezer? We sell upright freezers that are designed and built exclusively for the All-Natural Food Council of North America. For details please conact me at thechef@chefbrianhenry.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

March 7th, 2015

Liquid Gold Rush

When the nights are below freezing and the days are mild you can be sure of some things,

like the coming of spring, the deadline for filing your tax returns and a new season of local harvesting.

This seasonal change in the weather makes the sap flow and represents the region’s premier crop harvest of Maple Syrup.

The sap is starting to flow from a freshly tapped maple tree

The sap is starting to flow from a freshly tapped maple tree

It usually takes about forty years before a Sugar Maple will reach the recommended tappable size of being 10 inches in diameter.

The tap hole is usually placed about waist high on the tree, and 3 to 4” from any previous taps.

It is bored 3″ into the sapwood. Larger trees may take numerous taps.

For every additional 8″ in diameter another tap hole may be added. A tree 26″ in diameter could have up to three taps.

I’ve been told that trees with lots of branches are better producers than those trees with smaller tops.

During the 4-6 week syrup season, a single tap hole can yield up to ten gallons of sap or about one quart of maple syrup.

After tapping the tree a metal spout called a spile is tapped snugly into the hole, and a bucket is hung from a hook on the spout.

A cover is put on the bucket to keep out rain, snow, and debris.

If a plastic tubing system is used to collect the sap, a plastic spout is tapped into the hole and is then connected to a network of tubes that creates a pipeline system.

When all of the trees have been tapped, the syrup producer is ready for the “first run,” this is when the sap first starts to flow. Sap flow requires freezing nights and warm days. These must alternate and be in a long enough series to allow the sap to move through the trees. Prolonged periods of either below freezing temperatures or days without freezing nights will stop the sap flow.

Maple sap comes from the tree as a clear, slightly sweet liquid that is approximately 98% water and 2% sugar. When the syrup is finished these ratios change to 33% water and 67% sugar.

Sap harvested in buckets

Sap harvested in buckets

When the bucket collection method is used, a sap-gathering tank is mounted on a sled or a wagon that is moved through the sugar bush as the sap is gathered.

Tractors are most regularly used, but sometimes teams of horses pull the sleds or wagons. Workers using large gathering pails collect the sap from each tree.

These pails are dumped into the gathering tank, which is then taken to a large sap storage tank at the sugarhouse, where it will be boiled down into maple syrup.

If the tubing system is being used, the sap drips from the tap hole into a section of tubing. This tubing eventually connects into a larger pipeline called a “mainline.”

The mainline carries the sap downhill to a sap storage tank either at the sugarhouse, or at a low spot where it can be collected easily and transported to the sugarhouse.

Maple syrup is traditionally made in a building called a sugarhouse or sugar shack.

This name comes from the time when most sap was actually turned into sugar.

Tapped Sugar Maple producing sap for maple syrup

Tapped Sugar Maple producing sap for maple syrup

 

It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when the drastic price reduction of cane sugar caused maple sugar sales to drop resulting in the production of the more profitable maple syrup.

Each sugarhouse contains an evaporator that is used to boil down the sap into syrup.

Evaporators are made up of one or more flat pans, which sit on a type of firebox.

Wood or oil, and sometimes gas is burned at the front end, and the flames are drawn along the underside of the pan,

heating and boiling the sap as it travels towards the back of the pan.

It takes about one bush cord of wood or sixty gallons of oil to boil down 800 gallons of sap into syrup.

Sugarhouses have a vent on their roofs, a cupola, which is opened to allow the steam of the boiling syrup to escape the building.

Steam rising from the cupola is a signal that maple syrup season is under way.

An evaporator pan is divided into partitions, so that the sap is continuously flowing through the pan.

Fresh sap enters at the back of the pan, where a float valve keeps the sap about an inch deep. As the sap boils the liquid becomes sweeter, and begins to move towards the front of the pan, traveling through the partitions and more fresh sap is allowed into the rear of the pan.

The syrup maker concentrates their attention to the front of the evaporator where the boiling sap is turning a golden colour as it approaches being maple syrup. The temperature of this boiling liquid must be checked regularly for when it reaches 7.5 °f above the boiling point of water, it has reached the proper density and has become maple syrup.

At this stage a valve on the front of the pan is opened and some of the finished boiling syrup is drawn off the pan and is filtered. After filtering, the syrup is bottled and is ready for a fresh pile of warm pancakes.

Last year I spent $200 on equipment and $60 on propane and was able to produce over 4-gallons of my own maple syrup. Considering that a gallon of syrup costs around $60 this is a very economical approach to enjoying maple syrup. The amount of work involved in making these 4-gallons was rather shocking and makes purchasing locally produced syrup seem like a bargain at $60 a gallon.

 

Homemade Maple Syrup

If you have a few sugar maple trees, you can make your own maple syrup. I strongly recommend not boiling sap inside your house.

You will need the following

Cordless drill with a 7/16” bit

Spigots and metal or plastic pails with lids. Felt syrup filter. Available at TSC stores

Large plastic pails for storing freshly gathered sap

Outdoor cooker with pot available at hardware stores

Full propane tank and a back up tank

Candy thermometer.

Clean glass jars that will seal for storing your syrup

 

How to make your own syrup

Be sure your trees are sugar maples

Drill a 7/16″ hole 3″ deep at waist height into unblemished bark. Drive the spigot in so that it is tight and cannot be pulled out by hand, but don’t over do it and split the tree. Hang your bucket on the hook of the spout. Be sure to cover the bucket with a lid.

Once the sap has started to run and you have enough in your buckets to fill your boiling pot two-thirds full, you are ready to fire up the burner. Do not overfill your pot, as it will boil over. As the water evaporates, add more sap to the pot. Do not have less than an inch of liquid in the pot as it may burn. You can add cold sap right into the boiling sap. It will take a lot of boiling to get it to become syrup. Remember that 40 gallons of sap make one gallon of maple syrup. Do not leave an accumulation of sap in the collecting buckets especially in warm weather, as the sap will sour. Keep the sap as cold as possible and boil it as soon as you can. Finished maple syrup will be 7.5 °f. above the temperature of boiling water at your elevation, check this with your candy thermometer. I like to use a hydrometer to tell me when my syrup is done. Proper syrup will weigh at least 11 pounds per gallon. Do not go beyond 11 1/4 pounds per gallon or it may form crystals in the bottom of the storage container.

Pour finished hot syrup through a felt syrup filter or strainer. Sediment will settle to the bottom of the jars and clearer syrup may be carefully poured off the top. I leave the sediment in my syrup, as it is a concentration of calcium and other minerals.

Pour the hot syrup into the clean, sterile canning jars and seal. Fill them full so that very little air will be in the jar. If laid on their side while cooling a better seal will result. Store syrup in a cool place. The freezer is ideal and properly prepared syrup will not freeze and a poor seal will not be as important when stored in a freezer.

If proper taping procedures are followed, tapping will not endanger the health and vitality of your trees as a healthy sugar maple can provide sap every year for a hundred years or more.

Gastronomically yours,

February 18th, 2015

I scream for Snow Cream

Watching the snow fall this morning I was reminded about a recipe that I learned to make when I was about six years old… Snow Cream. As a child, I was amazed how easy and fun it was to make dessert out of snow. I even began to believe that I could end world hunger with all of the snow that fell in my small Ontario town.
Friends of the family came to visit us from the South late one fall and as luck would have it we had an early snowstorm. Seizing the moment; one of our guests ventured outside with some bowls and collected as much snow as possible and quickly went to work stirring together some milk, sugar and vanilla. Then handful after handful I gradually added the snow while we took turns stirring the mixture. With short work we had created a couple of liters of Snow Cream that we drizzled with maple syrup.
Most people who have regular snowfalls and accumulations are the ones who have never heard of snow cream. This simple dessert seems to be more widely celebrated in the deep south of the United States a place not known for snow. It was not long ago that electricity was not a household item, making chest freezers more rare than the snow needed to make this recipe. So when it did snow in the south, this was an easy way to celebrate and make do with what you have.
The great thing about making snow cream is that it doesn’t require too many ingredients and those that it does can be found here locally. Naturally my milk and cream came from The Kawartha Dairy Company and my maple syrup came from Sugarvalley Farm who do farm gate sales in Indian River
The only advice that I give for the following recipe is to make sure the snow is clean. This goes beyond all the yellow snow jokes as you should only use fresh fallen snow, and be aware that it takes at least one to two hours for a fresh snowfall to clean the pollutants from the air, so use only snow that has fallen after that first cleansing snow.

View from the office this morning!

View from the office this morning!

Snow Cream
1/2 cup 35% heavy cream
½ cup 2% milk
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Kawartha Maple Syrup
6-8 litres of fresh fallen snow
Prepare an ice bath by filling an extra large mixing bowl with ice or snow half way. Set a slightly smaller bowl into the ice bath. Better yet, take your mixing bowl outside and set it in the snow. Combine the cream, milk, sugar, and in bowl and whisk together. Continue stirring while adding snow to the cream based mixture 1-2 cups at a time. The amount of snow needed will vary depending on the size of the snow crystals and the temperature of the snow. Stir in enough snow to make the cream mixture start to resemble ice cream in consistency. Garnish with crushed candy canes. Serve and eat immediately as Snow Cream is not to be stored for any period of time.

Riesling Snow Cream

1 cup 35% heavy cream
3 Tbsp. Sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup of Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine
6-8 liter’s of snow
Prepare an ice bath by filling an extra large bowl with ice half way. Set a slightly smaller bowl into the ice bath. Better yet, take your mixing bowl outside and set it in the snow. Combine the cream, sugar, and ice wine in bowl and whisk together. Continue stirring while adding snow to ice wine mixture 1-2 cups at a time. Stir in enough snow to make snow cream to an ice cream consistency. Serve and consume immediately.

Note: ALWAYS make sure the snow is clean. This goes beyond all those yellow snow jokes. Always use fresh fallen snow, but be aware that it takes at least one to two hours for a fresh snowfall to clean the pollutants from the air, therefore use only snow that has fallen after that first cleansing snow.

 

Out in the Cold

If you have had to spent extended periods of time out of doors the past few days chances are that your face and any other exposed areas of skin is probably feeling a bit sore and tender. This is because the extreme cold has damaged your skin by dehydrating it and causing it to oxidize. More specifically your exposed skin is being subjected to the sublimation process which is when we see the outer surface of our skin begin to freeze ever so slightly and the water molecules go directly from their solid state or ice to their gaseous state as a vapour without ever being in its liquid state. Simply put we are all feeling a little freezer burnt!
If you have ever found a forgotten tidbit of food in the freezer which was wrapped in haste and repeatedly tossed out of the way every time you went rooting through your freezer you may discover when you finally un-wrapped it that a portion of its surface may have been covered in ice crystals. This is the extreme effects of sublimation on foods that have been improperly frozen which when thawed leaves our food looking dry and shrivelled or somewhat burnt.

freezer brrrrrrrn

freezer brrrrrrrn

Food affected by freezer burn does not pose a threat to food safety or our health, it is will simply have some dry patches or have changed colour as the lack of moisture can cause reactions in pigmentation. By keeping the temperature of your freezer at a constant temperature of -18 °c or colder it will not only keep your frozen food safe it will lessen the effects of freezer burn. Foods located in an area of your freezer that are frequently exposed to temperature fluctuations like those near the door are at a greater risk of experiencing sublimation as well manual defrost freezers are better at preventing freezer burn than the self-defrosting freezers for the same reason..
When we venture outside in cold weather we tend to wrap ourselves up thoroughly and apply a protective layer of lotion on our skin to protect it which we can also do with our food. Properly wrapping our food is the first step in protecting it in the freezer. Vacuum packing your food with sealant machines are a popular method to use, while some choose to use self-sealing plastic bags which allow you to hug and squeeze the excess air out of the bag. Although plastic barriers are extremely effective at protecting food when they fail they fail miserably as the slightest puncture in the protective plastic allows the entire piece of food to be exposed to the effects of cold air. Traditional butcher paper is better for wrapping medium to larger pieces of food because it can effectively create a barrier between foods and the air, when they become punctured only the food at the puncture site will be at risk of developing freezer burn and can easily be trimmed off.
You can also slow the effects of freezer burn on your food by simply placing open, plastic containers partially filled with water in your freezer in addition to those used to make ice cubes to help maintain humidity.

Looking for a new freezer? Conact me at thechef@chefbrianhenry.com

Looking for a new freezer? Contact me at thechef@chefbrianhenry.com as we now have freezers available designed exclusively for the All-Natural Food Council of North America to properly preserve healthy, all-natural foods!

 
Humans have been freezing food for its preservation for centuries as it slows decomposition of foods while protecting them from bacteria and pathogens. Clarence Birdseye II made numerous fur trapping expeditions into Labrador where he learned about ice fishing and witnessed the effects of flash freezing food in the sub-zero climate of the region. Birdseye watched how observed people purposely freezing their food for long term storage which inspired him to invent the necessary equipment required to create an endless line of frozen foods and prepared meals.
It has been proven that freezing foods does not impair their nutritional values; these values are lowered by the cooking methods and cooling processes that foods endure prior to and after being frozen similar to fresh foods. It has also been proven that foods frozen for 3, 6 and 12 month intervals also showed that the duration of time food spent in the freezer did not change their nutritional content.

 

Looking for a new freezer?

Contact me at thechef@chefbrianhenry.com as we now have freezers available designed exclusively

for the All-Natural Food Council of North America to properly preserve healthy, all-natural foods!

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

February 14th, 2015

Bloody Valentine

This annual tradition of sending messages to our loved ones dates back to 269 AD.  It was around this time that Roman Emperor Claudius needed to recruit soldiers for his armies. Enlistment was down, and Claudius; a warring ruler blamed the declining recruitment on the men wanting to stay at home with their wives and families instead of going to war. Claudius’s solution to his dilemma was to ban weddings, hoping that this would cause boredom within in the male population and inspire men to want to go to war thus causing enlistment to go up.

Father Valentine was a member of the clergy who enjoyed performing marriage ceremonies. When Claudius banned marriages Father Valentine continued to conduct them in secrecy. Claudius classified weddings as “pagan rituals” and when he heard that Father Valentine was illegally performing wedding ceremonies Claudius imprisoned Father Valentine lest he denounce his Catholic faith.

Nothing says love like meat and go cook my dinner!

Nothing says love like meat and go cook my dinner!

While imprisoned Father Valentine befriended Claudius’s daughter and would spend long hours talking to her from his cell. Roman Emperor Claudius also known as Claudius the Cruel had had enough and ordered Father Valentine to be beaten and beheaded. One of Valentine’s final actions was to write a note to his jailer’s daughter. The note was signed “from your Valentine”. Shortly thereafter on February 14, 269 AD Father Valentine was executed. It wasn’t until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius marked February 14 the day to remember St. Valentine the patron saint of lovers and over time the day was marked with sending simple gifts, poems or messages.

During the height of prohibition, it is believed that on February 14, 1929 Chicago gangster Al Capone chose to send a Valentine’s message to George “Bugs” Moran. Capone had given orders for his men to take down the rival gangster by starting at the bottom and working their way up through the ranks until they got to Bugs himself. It is believed that these orders from Capone led to the “Valentine’s Day Massacre”.

Capone went into hiding for a while but when he returned home to Chicago; Capone was welcomed home by his family and friends. In his honor they held a feast. One of the dishes served at this feast was Chilled Pasta in Walnut Sauce, Al “Scarface” Capone’s favorite dish.

 

Al "Scarface" Capone got his scars as a young bartender after complimenting a lady on having a "nice ass". Her brother took a knife to Capone's face

Al “Scarface” Capone got his scars as a young bartender after complimenting a lady on having a “nice ass”. Her brother took a knife to Capone’s face

For the more adventuresome I recommend making your own pasta from scratch. Pasta dough does not traditionally contain eggs, unless you are making egg noodles. The following recipes are simple and produce pasta dough’s that can be rolled by hand or machine. The challenge will be cutting the noodle of your choice!

Chilled Rigatoni with Walnut Sauce

Ingredients

500 gr. Chopped walnuts

15 gr. Fresh oregano

10gr. Minced garlic

2 gr. Crushed chillies

150gr. Sultanas

1 bunch parsley

5gr. Salt

5gr. Pepper

250 gr. Grated Romano cheese

250 ml extra virgin olive oil

Method: In a 350f oven toast the walnut for 5-10 minutes. Allow the walnuts to cool down while gathering the remaining ingredients. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse sand-like texture.  Cover and refrigerate the Walnut Sauce for a day or two to let the flavors mellow. Cook 1kg of pasta, rigatoni is best. Drain the pasta and allow it to cool. Toss the pasta with the Walnut Sauce and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours before serving.

 

Traditional Semolina Pasta Dough

One pound semolina flour

Six ounces water

One ounce olive oil

One half teaspoon salt

Egg Pasta Dough

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons water

 

Method:

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, and add your wet ingredients. Stir your mixture until it is combined into a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for ten minutes. Using a pasta machine or by hand; roll the dough out to desired thinness. Use your pasta machine or a knife to cut into strips of desired width.


 

 Here Comes the Bride 

The exchanging of nuptials throughout society carries many traditions. From the ring to the veil and the colour of the brides dress all of these traditions have a story behind them which evolved over time depending on many historical influences.

Wheat and grains are considered to be symbols of fertility. Wheat sheaths would commonly be used in wedding ceremonies and their grains were tossed in the air over the newly wedded couples heads to promote fertility.  As the world evolved we discovered how to use wheat to bake wedding cakes. Some cultures then began to take pieces of the cake and drop crumbs over the bride and groom.

When the price of grains began to rise, people switched to throwing confetti and rice at the newlyweds.  The novelty of confetti quickly faded as it is impossible to clean up the mess it leaves behind.

Controversially I have heard many people on many occasions claim that you should not to throw rice at your wedding because the birds will eat it and explode. If this urban myth were true we would be able to watch wild life shows on migrating birds stopping off for a nosh in patches of wild rice fields and then the poor unsuspecting birds would explode on film. There would be large groups of angry people trying to stop the senseless cruelty of the systematic self-inflicted genocide committed by birds of the world. We would be hanging bird sized rice cookers from trees in an attempt to reverse the damage caused by years of rice emissions around the world. People have stopped throwing rice at weddings because it hurts and rice on the church steps is the equivalent of marbles on the church steps.

Photo Credit www.quericavida.com

Photo Credit www.quericavida.com

Rice is the seeds harvested from aquatic plants that are members of the grass family. Globally this grain provides the human race with almost 20% of our daily caloric intake.

Manomin is the Ojibway word for wild rice that can be found growing in small lakes and slow-flowing streams of central North America. Wild rice and corn are the only cereal crops native to North America.

Almost always sold as a dried whole grain, Manomin is easily digestible, high in fibre and has double the protein of brown rice and like other rice varieties contains no gluten.

James Whetung owner of Black Duck Wild Rice harvests manomin in and around Curve Lake using canoes or an air boat to lightly glide into the rice stands for harvesting as they do not harm the rice plants or their sensitive surrounding soil.  Black Duck Wild Rice is wind winnowed and gently roasted, giving it a delicate nutty aroma. It tastes even better after meeting James and listening to his stories and the legacy of manomin and his Anishinabek heritage.

This truly local and regionally defined grain is available year round and can be found at The Whetung Center in Curve Lake. I recommend trying it in the following recipe.

 

Black Duck Wild Rice

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup diced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup each of diced carrot and celery

1 cup wild rice

1 2/3 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup dried cranberries

½ cup slivered almonds toasted

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives

 

Preparation:

In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, carrot and celery together until softened. Add rice and cook for about two minutes while continuing to stir the mixture.

Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until most of the rice has split open, about 40 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and almonds and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe can be served hot or cold.  Refrigerated it will last for up to three days.


 

 

You calling me a Wise Guy?

Father Valentine was martyred after being beaten and beheaded by order of Roman Emperor Claudius on February 14, 269 AD. The story kinda goes like this… Claudius the Cruel was a warring ruler who was recruiting soldiers for his armies. Enlistment  was down, and Claudius blamed this on the men wanting to stay at home with their wives and families. So in a moment of Emperor enlightenment Claudius banned weddings, hoping that the men would over time

become bored and want to go to war thus causing enlistment to go up.

Father Valentine enjoyed performing the marriage ceremonies so much that even when Claudius banned marriages Father Valentine conducted them in secrecy. Claudius got word of the newly classified “pagan rituals” taking place, and had the Father imprisoned lest he denounce his Catholic faith.

One of his final acts was to write a note to his jailer’s daughter, who had befriended him. The note was signed “from your Valentine”. It wasn’t until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius marked February 14 the day to remember St. Valentine the patron saint of lovers and over time the day was marked with sending simple gifts, poems or messages.

During the height of prohibition, it is believed that on February 14,1929 Chicago gangster Al Capone sent a Valentine message to George “Bugs” Moran. Capone had given orders for his men to take down the rival gangster by starting at the bottom and working their way up through the ranks until they got to Bugs himself.

It is believed that these orders from Capone led to the “Valentine’s Day Massacre”..  It is also believed that Al Capone was relaxing in his Palm Beach, Florida home at the time of this murder mystery.

So what has all of this got to do with food? Well when Al Capone returned home to Chicago he was welcomed home by his family and friends. In his honor they held a feast. One of the dishes served at this feast was Chilled Pasta in Walnut Sauce, Al “Scarface” Capone’s favorite dish.

No one was ever convicted in the “Valentine’s Day Massacre” however Capone was finally charged with tax evasion and other petty crimes leading to his conviction and serving a seven year sentence on “the Rock”. I wonder what prison food was like back in the dirty thirties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

February 13th, 2015

Superstitions of the Kitchen for Friday the 13th

 

A Baker’s Dozen

This term simply means thirteen, rarely but at times fourteen. The phrase originated in England when bakers were regulated by a trade guild known as The Worshipful Company of Bakers. One such regulation known as the “Assize of Bread and Ale” was to regulate the price of bread according to the price of wheat. Therefore bakers would add an extra loaf, or roll to ensure that they were over the regulated weight, thus sparing them the possibility of being fined by the trade guild for selling there wares under weight.

Documentation shows that during the reign of Henry II (1148-89) these laws came into existence. Henry III revived this law in 1266, with the maximum penalty being public flogging for the selling of under weight bread. I must include a disclaimer here, as I’m not related to either of the aforementioned Henrys nor do I fancy myself as a baker.

Friday the 13th... photo credit architectureideas.info

Friday the 13th… photo credit architectureideas.info

Ironically this seems to be the only place where superstitions regarding the number thirteen are accepted. The vast majority of nations and religions view the number thirteen as a bad omen. This thinking has many buildings pretending not to have a 13th floor, just as many cities do not have a 13th St.

Superstitions of the table dictate that if you have a baker’s dozen of bakers sitting down to dinner together it would be deemed unlucky. In fact the belief is that one of the thirteen would die within the year.

More precisely there were thirteen apostles who celebrated the Last Supper It was here that the treachery of Judas was discovered. Thus when thirteen people gather at a table to eat, it is believed that one is a traitor and potentially a hanged-traitor at that.

As the story goes, the menu at the last supper was relatively simple, bread and wine. Bread, is considered by some to be the staff of life. Yet when turned upside down it signifies death.

As for the wine, to spill some on the table is an honor to the gods, it signifies ones gratitude with hopes of reward but try not to consume the last drop of wine in the bottle as it symbolizes poverty and all things associated with it.

Another superstition of the table is that when one capsizes the saltcellar you must quickly gather a few of the misplaced grains and toss it over your shoulder. The sharing of salt at the beginning of a meal between guests represents friendship. The spilling of salt represents a disagreement in friendship.

From here in when you come to my house for dinner we will be mindful as to count heads, as well we will dine on a zero-carb, salt-free menu, and there shall be plenty of wine stains in the table cloth.

 

Gastronomically yours,

December 4th, 2014

Zen and the Art of Marshmallow Roasting

 

Roasting marshmallows isn’t just a summer time treat, as you can make them indoors too!

The technique is quite simple: find yourself some oversized skewers, impale one or two marshmallows on one end, position yourself at the opposite and hold the marshmallow over a fire. The trick lies in getting your tasty treat cooked to your preferred taste, this seemingly simple challenge is similar in ordering a med-rare steak in some restaurants.

Getting the outside sugars to caramelize to our discerning palates, while swatting mosquitoes can produce some interesting results. From the Chicago-style being burnt on the outside and blue-rare in the middle to the perfectly cooked foie gras-style of a golden crust with a gooey molten centre.

The basic concept for making S’mores is to create a toasted marshmallow sandwich; this creation showed up in the 60’s and traditionally one uses graham crackers and chocolate. For the next fireside gathering try setting up a buffet for the kids, using After Eight’s, cookies, caramel or cut-up chocolate bars and pieces of sliced fruit. Better yet get ice-cream cones, fill it with roasted marshmallows and set up an assortment of toppings. The night time games of hide and seek or flashlight tag that follows tends to be super charged with the kiddie-crack effects of a sugar high.

Another unique summer time event is watching thunderstorms and the inevitable power outage that ensues. For this I like to keep a bag of mini-marshmallows and wooden skewers on hand as one can ride out the storm by roasting away over the candles and watch the lightning with cottage comfort food.

Now as the early days of winter have arrived we have moved our marshmallow roasting indoors using our wood-fired Heartland cook-stove.

The Marsh Mallow was originally a confection made from the mucilaginous root of the Althae officinalis, a relative of the common Mallow but resembles the Hollyhock. Today’s commercially produced Marshmallows are made from sugar and Gum Arabic and starch.

Roasting safely on an open fire

Roasting safely on an open fire

smore2

 

The first marshmallows were made as a medical confectionery for treating sore throats in ancient Egypt.

They were produced from the mucilaginous sap and roots of the common Musk Mallow plant which were boiled with honey and dried. The result was something akin to a honey flavoured sponge. Recipes evolved to include spices, herbs and colours from natural sources.

French confectioner’s discovered that the Musk Mallow sap could be whipped into a lighter texture as air bubbles became trapped within the sticky mass and further enhanced this by incorporating meringue into the recipe. Modern industrialization saw the recipe for of marshmallows change into a simple blend of sugar, gelatin and cornstarch. Today the Musk Mallow plant is considered to be an invasive weed while its ornamental cousin, the Hollyhock enjoys its ornamental limelight.

If you’re stuck for ideas for what to do for Valentine’s Day why not make up a batch of marshmallows and serve them for dessert. You can serve them with chocolate, graham crackers and candles to produce tableside S’mores. The following recipe is easy to use and can include Canadian sugar extracted from sugar beets.

Be aware that this recipe can make a sticky mess out of your kitchen if not approached with care. Keep plenty of warm water on hand to clean up any spills as you go. Make sure that you dust everything with icing sugar that you don’t want coated with marshmallow.

 

All smore'd up

All smore’d up

Marshmallows

 

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. powdered gelatin

½ cup cold water, divided

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup icing sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Food colouring optional

 

Method:

In a small bowl, whisk together the gelatin and half of the water. In a medium sized, stainless steel sauce pan, combine the granulated sugar and the remaining ¼ cup of water. Whisk this over medium –low heat until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Whisk the dissolved gelatin into the sugar water and quickly bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and allow it to boil for 2-3 minutes. Do not leave the pot unattended as its contents will double in size and easily boil over.

smore4

Remove the pot from the stove and transfer its contents into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the contents at a low speed setting for 2-3 minutes. Add the vanilla, salt and a couple of drops of food colouring if you choose. Increase the speed on your mixer to maximum and let it run for 8-10 minutes. At which time you should have a large sticky white mass of something that looks like shiny icing and smells like marshmallows.

Liberally dust your work space with icing sugar and pour the marshmallow mixture onto the sugar coated area. Let the mixture rest for about five minutes before completely dusting its surface with more icing sugar. Gently push the dough out until it reaches a thickness of about 1 inch. You can now cut out the marshmallows with a knife or cookie cutters and transfer them to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Let the marshmallows sit out for 45-minutes before serving. Marshmallows will store in a sealed air-tight container for 3-5 days. Yeilds: 30-40 marshmallows.

Rasi says you know they are good when they are sticky!

Rasi says you know they are good when they are sticky!

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Chef Brian for Hire
The Spice Co.