chefx

chefx This last week has been a revelation to me.

Seriously.

I discovered that I love to cook.  I know you must be wondering … what is she talking about?  Of course she loves to cook … doesn’t she write this blog and bake just about every night?

But that’s the thing.  I bake.  I’ve pretty much completely stopped cooking anything more difficult than a poached egg on vegetables.  I don’t know when I stopped loving pottering away in the kitchen … but at some point in the last 3 years, I have.

And no matter how much I love the look of a recipe … I just haven’t been able to get myself excited enough to want to get all the ingredients and start the process of cooking.

Ever feel that way?

And then … about 10 days ago, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Jeff Heaton, the owner of ChefX sent me an email asking if I’d be interested in testing out the first official week of their program.  They would provide me with a free sample box: 2 chef inspired meals, recipe cards, all the ingredients (save the staples: oil, salt, pepper, eggs), enough food for 2 people … with leftovers.  In exchange, I’d blog about it.

I figured … it was kind of a win-win.  I mean, I’d have to cook again, but I was willing to do that in order to give it a shot.

Last week’s box featured both Marysol Foucault’s (Edgar) lemony leek lamb with sautéed zucchini and yoghurt, and The Urban Element‘s pan-seared chicken breast with tomato caper vinaigrette and celeriac mash.

Both sounded pretty darn delicious.  The question remained … would I be able to re-create these dishes?

The answer.  A simple yes.

The beauty of ChefX is that you not only have a large cooler delivered with all the necessary ingredients, you’re also provided with a recipe card – bright colours, clear instructions, pictures of mis-en-place and ingredients to demonstrate what you will need and what steps to follow when cooking.

PanSearedChickenTomatoCapers_V3_650px

As you can see, the recipe cards are broken down into level of difficulty, estimated time, and kitchen tools required.

the ChefX box

I made the Urban Element’s pan-seared chicken breast dish after work on Monday.  A very relaxed 45 minutes after I started cooking, the man-friend and I sat down to probably the tastiest chicken I have ever cooked.  We both liked the celeriac mash, but it was the tomato caper vinaigrette that really brought the dish to another level.  It was the perfect level of acidity and sweetness and thickened perfectly.  It was a dish that the man-friend and I would happily make again.  Heck – I have some chicken breasts in the freezer I can’t wait to pan-sear.

pan-seared chicken breast

I waited until Wednesday to make Marysol’s lemony leek lamb with sautéed zucchini and yoghurt.  I will admit that it took me longer than the estimated 55 minutes to make this one – but within 65 minutes the man-friend and I tucked into rich meatballs (which according to the recipe should have yielded 8 – I got 13), perfectly sautéed zucchini, a spicy gremolata, and a lemony greek yoghurt.  I can honestly say this is probably a recipe I wouldn’t have made otherwise (lamb isn’t my to-go ingredient), but I’m glad I did.  It reminded me that I love the mixing of ingredients and flavours.  It also showed me a few new simple tricks to create something delicious without any stress.

lemony leek lamb

Now you might wonder … why should you consider ChefX.

1.  If you love to eat out, but don’t love what it does to your wallet (or your waistline).

2.  If you love to cook, but are stuck in a rut.

3.  If you like to watch what you eat, but still want to eat well.  .

4.  If you hate wasted food.  You get what you need.  Seriously – they packed me a small pack of sugar.

5.  It allows you to see what inspires some of the best chefs in our city.

6.  You love to cook, but are famished when you get home.  It’s quick and painless.

Oh … and in case you’re wondering … I enjoyed my experience so much I signed up for this week.  The Wellington Gastropub has created a salmon dish that sounds just about right … and The Urban Element‘s roasted squash soup is sure to warm me right up!

A little Q & A with Jeff … aka. additional information:

The cost per week for 2 meals in portions for 2 people is $59 (taxes and delivery costs included).  Bigger family?  No problem!  ChefX is still an option.  Cost for 4 people is $99, and the cost for 6 people is $139 per week.

Portion sizes are large enough that there should be leftovers.

Wondering how quickly you need to cook these meals right?  Generally you can count on a shelf life of 5 days for the vacuum packaged meats.  Cook the more perishable ingredients (eg. seafood) sooner to be safe.  Or you can freeze the meat if you’re worried. All that to say – you basically have until Thursday to cook your meals.  Not bad for delivery!

The boxes are delivered every Sunday between 1 pm and 9 pm.  Not home?  No problem.  I wasn’t home last Sunday and so they left my box in the entrance of my apartment building (note: make sure you can trust your neighbours before making those arrangements!) … I got there and everything was still chilled.  All I had to do was put it away and wait until Monday night to start cooking!

The service is subscription based. Once you sign up, you’ll automatically be charged week by week.  HOWEVER … if a menu doesn’t sound quite right, you’re going away, or you just don’t feel like it – you can pause or cancel your subscription.

You get a cooler every week.  Which means … you store it for the week (ice packs can be left inside it) and come the following Sunday, return it to your delivery spot.  They will swap in the new, filled cooler for the old empty one.

What chefs are participating?  Every week one of the following chefs will create a dish.  Steve Wall, Supply & Demand.  Chris Deraiche, Wellington Gastropub.  Marysol Foucault, Edgar.  Chloe Berlanga, Whalesbone Oyster House & Elmdale Tavern.  Marc Lepine, Atelier.  Steve Mitton, Murray Street.  Marc Dorion, Town.  Patricia Larkin, Black Cat Bistro. Chris Lord, Union Local 613.  Matthew Shepheard, Marisposa Farm.

The Urban Element will be creating the second dish.

ps.  Sign up before 11:59pm Monday night and you can get a ChefX cooler Sunday November 3rd.  It’s never too late to give it a try ….

rhubarb beignets

This recipe is my ode to two people I heart.

Marysol Foucault (Edgar & Odile) and Patricia Larkin (aka Trish) (The Black Cat Bistro).

I heart them both.

Marysol will sometimes just send me a link to a blog or a recipe with a note that says “i thought of you”.  As a girl who loves loves LOVES food – especially baked goods – it’s like getting a virtual hug.

I’ve been hanging out with Trish a lot recently … she’s taught a few LCBO food events and I’ve been her assistant … I just heart being able to listen to her talk food and share her ideas and her tips to people.  Plus she shares her recipes (and is as equally in love with Downton Abbey as I am).  Loves it! 

So … you might wonder … how does a rhubarb beignet recipe become an ode to two people?

Easy!

Marysol introduced me to, and makes, the MOST INCREDIBLE lemon beignet in the ENTIRE world.  That’s right people.  Edgar, in Gatineau, Québec has the greatest lemon beignet in the entire world.  And Trish introduced me to, and makes this insanely amazing rhubarb curd.  Rhubarb AND curd … LOVES. LOVES. LOVES.  Absolutely brilliant.

I decided that since I heart the two things (and people) so much … I needed to combine them.

Hence … the rhubarb beignet.  A light fluffy cupcake, stuffed with rhubarb curd, bathed in lemon juice and coated in cinnamon sugar.

DEE-LISH.  Seriously tartly delicious.  With a hint of sweetness.  I am totally in love with this recipe.

The rhubarb recipe is thanks to Trish and the cupcake recipe is thanks to Marysol (she also shared it when she appeared on must.love.food. the *lemon* episode).

rhubarb curd

ingredients:

3 c. chopped rhubarb
3/4 c. sugar handful of strawberries or raspberries for colour (optional – I have also used cranberries)
juice from 1 lemon
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
7 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
pinch of salt

Place the rhubarb, juice of the lemon, sugar and water in a small pot and simmer gently until the rhubarb is soft.  Keep an eye on your saucepan and stir the fruit from time to time … the first time I made this, the heat was a little high and the fruit stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Once cooked down and thickened, remove from heat and blend into a smooth purée.

Whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt in a bowl that can be used for a double boiler (either a glass or metal bowl).  Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisking the egg mixture until warm.  Gradually add the rhubarb purée, stirring vigorously between each addition.

Once the consistency is rich and thick, remove from heat.  Put through a sieve immediately and cool with plastic wrap directly on top of the curd.  Set aside in the fridge while you bake the cupcakes.

Marysol’s basic cake recipe:
 
ingredients:
 
1 egg
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
  
Heat your oven to 350 F.  Spray your muffin tin with non-stick spray … no need to use cupcake liners for this recipe. 

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, using a whisk attachment, beat the egg, sugar and oil.  Start at a low-speed and increase the speed, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.  

In a measuring cup, mix the buttermilk and vanilla.  
 
Alternating between the flour and the milk mixtures, add them to the oil – egg – sugar batter (flour / milk / flour / milk / flour).
 
Increase the speed of the mixer once the flour is completely incorporated, creating a smooth batter.  Once smooth … stop mixing!

Spoon the batter into your muffin tins.  Bake for about 17 minutes for large cupcakes.

Once baked, remove the pan from the oven, and turn the muffins out onto a wire rack immediately.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Time to pull out your rhubarb curd.  This is when I spoon it into a squeeze bottle.  A piping bag works too.  Basically … you just want something with a tip that you can stick into the bottom of your cupcake, allowing you to fill the centre with rhubarb curd.

Once the cupcakes are full of rhubarb curd love (that’s right … rhubarb curd is LOVE) … you need to bathe them in fresh lemon juice (I used 2 lemons for this … obviously this depends on how much juice your lemons yield).  Marysol taught me that the *best* way to do this is to put your hand into the lemon juice (palm side down); wet it, and then pat the entire cupcake surface with your wet hand.  The perfect amount of lemon juice gets soaked up … without overly saturating the cupcake.

Then roll the *lemon juiced* cupcakes in some cinnamon sugar.  The sugar will hold thanks to that lemon juice … plus it adds an extra zing to the cupcakes.

I heart these beignets.  Actually … I LOVE them.  I purposely didn’t use up all my rhubarb … I need to be able to make another batch of curd soon.  It’s just too good to resist.

must.love.lemons.

I think at this point in our relationship we all know how I feel about lemons.

I love them.  I don’t just heart them … I.LOVE.LEMONS.  They make me happy.

Which is why … I very obviously could not do must.love.food. and not include an episode about lemons.

I found some other folks who love lemons … almost as much as I do.

Marysol.  You all know her.  And if you don’t actually know her … you know of her … or you know of Edgar … the greatest little café around … only to be joined by Odile … it’s equally stellar little sister.

I heart Marysol and her lemon beignets.

I actually believe that Marysol’s beignets are the stuff happiness is made from.  Totally, ridiculiously cheesey.  But oh so true.

Then there’s Michael. aka Twitch.  I called him Twitch during the filming of the show.  I couldn’t help it.

So I figured when I apporached Michael about being on the show that he would show me how to make his lemon poppyseed pancakes.  He did.

Plus he showed me how to make maple poached eggs.  Amazing? Heck YA!

We also have this bonus clip of him teaching me how he makes his grapefruit hollandaise sauce.  Equally amazing.  You’ll have noticed … I wasn’t whisking quite fast enough … it’s something I’m gonna have to work on me thinks…

Add to all of that some big boy bacon soaked in maple syrup … which is … (as said on the show) … “it’s like bacon went to heaven and was happy” … whatever that means!

This entire episode makes me happy.  I loved watching it.  I loved filming both segments.  I love love love lemons.  And Marysol and Michael too.

Remember to tune in to reruns on Wednesdays at 8 am and 4:30 pm, and on Saturdays at 1 pm.  RogersTV channel 22.