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Happy Thanksgiving!

A happiest of days to all of our A Michelin and A Mom readers. As you know, the Canadians (me) have already celebrated Thanksgiving way back in October. This year I brined my turkey (my brother insisted) and created a port, butter and shallot glaze that turned the turkey a delicious colour (a deep bordeaux). I kept the sides simple and traditional as I was cooking in my rustic kitchen at our cabin. Our guests and neighbors ate heartily and barely had room for the Caramel Apple Pie.

What does a Michelin Star Chef crave on Thanksgiving? A turkey cooked to perfection by his lovely wife (my sister-in-law!). This year, in Southern California, they are hosting her family for tonight’s big dinner after Jason caters a private dinner in the city. Wouldn’t you love a proper chef to come in and make the dinner for you?

Stay tuned next week when Chef Jason delivers a full report of the past two weeks working with two charities in L.A. He has been cooking for the stars and in the process helping kids get access to healthy foods and access to arts programs – my daughter really wanted to fly herself to L.A. to help her Uncle Jay!

We have much to be thankful for!

Do you have a special Thanksgiving dish you love to cook? Please share it with us in the comments below.


Kabocha Squash or Japanese Pumpkin

I know it is a little early to be thinking fall or maybe we just don’t want to admit summer has come and gone so quickly? Fall is such a spectacular time of year (depending on where you live it is a little more spectacular) and the product you start to find at the market just screams full bold flavors and the Kabocha Squash is a perfect example of these flavors. Sunday morning I was up early and off to the La Jolla Market as I usually do, I was a little more excited than usual as the week before I had met a farmer that was selling fresh dates from Indio, CA (just outside Palm Springs) and they were just simply perfect, but this is for another time, stay tuned 😉
As I was walking around the market admiring the beautiful tomatoes I stumbled across a booth that had Kabocha Squash and I think I even let out a little yelp of excitement, had a quick chat with the farmer and then off I went with my 5lb Squash.
One of my favorite soups is a squash, and this is the squash to make it with, but I was even a little more excited about making this recipe for I had just received in the mail from my good friend Mr. Tim Burton from Maplewood Farms in Medora, Indiana a bottle of Bourbon Ale infused Maple Syrup. (a creation he created with Goose Island Brewery in Chicago). This was going to some how make it into the squash soup.
Over the years in this industry I have had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing individuals that share such a passion for their product that they grow, harvest and create. This passion challenges you even more to respect and create the best dish you possibly can. As you will see in this recipe there are really only 5 ingredients, I want to let the main ingredients shine with out masking their flavors. Each one of the ingredients is there to support the main ingredient in this case the Kabocha Squash. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

5lb Squash Peeled, seeds removed and rough chopped
1 Small Onion peeled and chopped
1 Quart Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup (get your hands on Tim’s Syrup it is so worth it, you can buy on line)
Crème fraiche
(You can add a few pieces of bacon to this recipe and it creates a nice hint of smokiness, Beautiful)

Pre-heat oven to 450 F
Toss squash and onion in a little oil and seasoning place in oven and cook for about 30 mins the squash will start to brown this is good. Add the Maple Syrup 5 mins before squash is cooked.
In a large pot heat the chicken stock and add the squash right out of the oven, cook for 5 mins
Place mixture in blender and puree until smooth, pass through a fine mesh strainer
At this point you have the base and the soup can be stored in the fridge until needed.
To serve heat the soup and add desired about of crème fraiche and a little stock if the soup is to thick.

Garnish with a few croutons for crunch, I used a squaw bread crouton, works very well with this soup.

Amy’s Wine Picks

Chef McLeod’s Kabocha squash soup is a perfect dish for a brisk fall evening. I have selected wines that have warm flavors to complement the change of the season.

Top pick: Chardonnay. It will accentuate the buttery flavors of the soup. I am partial to French Burgundy, because I prefer a Chardonnay that expresses terroir and hasn’t been masked with over-the-top oak treatment. But there are some Burgundian-style producers in California that are allowing the grape to show its true colors. Some affordable examples are Talbott and Au Bon Climat.

Playing it safe: Pinot Noir. Typical aromas for Pinot Noir include red fruit of cherries, strawberries, and cranberries, violets, tomato leaf, cured meats and black tea. It is a perfect fall wine and will complement the roasted onions. Try Cold Heaven Cellars from Santa Barbara County.

Off the beaten track: Beaujolais. Typical aromas for Gamay include strawberry, black cherry, pear drop, bubblegum, violets, banana and crushed granite. I recommend serving it slightly chilled. It will bring out the naturally sweet flavors of the Kabocha squash. Try Jean Paul Brun Morgon Terres Dorées, $19.99.

Amy Payne

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Lamb, Summer Squash

From my experiences most individuals love lamb or hate lamb, there are very few that are on the fence. Most individuals find the flavor to strong or gamey. There are a couple of factors that lead to strong flavored meat, one is age and the other is what the animal has been fed. Grain fed creates a much fattier lamb and this will cause a much stronger flavor, grass fed creates a much leaner lamb and not as strong. The most popular time of year for lamb is spring (with the bulk of availability between May and June) when you can get a young animal, that is grass fed and delicious. But don’t be fooled the demand is so high that you are probably buying an older animal that was grain fed. My advice to everyone is to have a great butcher that you can trust, there is no better friend than a trusted butcher.
I wanted to use summer squash with my lamb dish, (pretty classic accompniament for lamb think of ratatouille) and I decided not to cook the squash but to marinate and serve at room temperature, not only did I use the vegetable but I decided to use the blossom, yes delicious especially stuffed with ricotta dipped in tempura batter and fried amazing flavor and texture.
So for all the Lamb haters I challenge you to find a trusted butcher and ask them a few questions before purchasing your lamb. How old was the animal, and was it grass or grain fed. If you find a nice young grass fed lamb go for it and I bet you will change your mind on the flavor of lamb.
The best lamb dish I ever had was in Provence at Edouard Loubet’s 2 michelin star restaurant. Simple Lamb Rack and Lamb Jus with a hint of thyme.

Amy’s Wine Picks

Top pick: Australian Shiraz. For me, Syrah and lamb is a classic pairing that will never get old. Despite what Yellow Tail did for Australia’s image for quality wine internationally, they make some great juice. The Barossa Valley is home to some of the oldest pre-phylloxera Syrah vines in the world. (The root louse that attacked vineyards in the late 19th century). Why it works? The aromas of black pepper adds a new element to the dish and the tannins break down the protein. Some of my favorite producers are Henry’s Drive, d’Arenberg, Elderton and Mollydooker.

Playing it safe: Argentinian Malbec. Malbec took Merlot’s place in the market after Sideways ruined its reputation. Think about it – purple hue, lush, velvety palate, and aromas of boysenberry and dark chocolate. Many wine producers from around the world are investing in the Mendoza region – Paul Hobbs and Mouton Rothschild to name a few. It is a crowd pleaser and usually a steal for the price. Some of my favorite producers are Añoro, Terrazas de los Andes and Luca.

Off the beaten track: Rosé Champagne. Trust me on this one. Instead of explaining myself, I will use my favorite wine quote to demonstrate.

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”
~Lily Bollinger

Some of my favorite producers that won’t break the bank are Leclerc Briant, Egly-Ouriet, Duval Leroy and Jacquesson. But the way to my heart is through La Grande Dame, by Veuve Clicquot.
Amy Payne

Sockeye Salmon

Growing up on Vancouver Island, on the West Coast of Canada, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have access to amazing seafood. It just did not mean that much to me, as I had “better” things to do with my time – sports, girls, sleep, hanging with buddies (not necessarily in that order). Now 25 years later I wish I would have paid a little more attention to the trips to Goldstream park in the Fall with my Dad to watch the spawning salmon. I was content being with my dad and really did not care so much about the amazing spectacle that was happening right in front of my eyes; of course hind sight is 20/20. Even though my dad explained the process of spawning salmon to me over and over, I didn’t really understand nor did I really care about this wonder of nature. Goldstream Park is home to Chum, and in some years Coho, Chinook and Spring Salmon.

Salmon has had many problems over the years and most a result of human mistakes. For many years, the salmon population suffered due to bad fish farm practices on Northwest Vancouver Island (Campbell River). The young wild fish (Fry) had to swim through the fish farm areas as they headed back to sea; during which they were infected by sea lice which killed vast numbers of the young fish. Today, these practices are guided by stricter regulations and there has been a concerted effort to save the salmon population. I hope it’s not too late.

As a chef, the Sockeye Salmon season (about four months in late spring to early summer) is a special time because this fish reminds me of “home”. I am a big fan of Sockeye, because it is the most flavorful and flexible of all the salmon. The texture of Sockeye Salmon makes it perfect for grilling and smoking. I just had to use my new BBQ for this salmon recipe challenge, but you can easily create this recipe in your oven. What makes this recipe so tasty and easy is that all the ingredients are cooked together and the flavors are trapped inside the package that you create. There are so many flavor combinations you can create with this dish, so be creative! Hopefully this recipe will trigger you to discover and create delicious new dishes.

Next up on my reading list is a book that deals with the depletion of our wild fish stocks, Four Fish by Paul Greenberg. This link leads to a review of this book.

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Originating in Brittany, France, “crepe” is the French word for “pancake” and there is nothing more delicious than a beautiful paper thin crepe when it’s made right. Sweet or savoury….you pick! You can stuff a crepe with anything your heart desires and you will impress your friends by telling them they are homemade. I will always remember eating my first true French Crepe. It was January, 1999 and I was visiting Lyon, France to watch the Bocuse d’Or. The competition had ended and I had some free time to explore the beautiful city of Old Lyon. I stumbled upon a guy making crepes and there must have been 25 people waiting in line. I was excited and waited for my time to order – it was a perfect night for a warm crepe. Lyon can get a little chilly this time of year and I believe there was actually snow on the ground. When I moved to the front of the line, there was to be no ordering as there was one menu item, the classic Crepe Suzette and still to this day I remember the powerful flavors of this simple dish. Why did it taste better than other crepes I had enjoyed previously (not in France)? Was it because I was in Lyon, at the time regarded as the Food Capital of the world with more Michelin Starred restaurants than any other city in the world? Not entirely sure, but I will tell you that I had found new respect for this flat little pancake. I hope you find the time to make my quick and simple Crepe Recipe. Remember, if enjoy your time in the kitchen your dish will taste better, I promise!

A Postscript…
One of my favorite crepe cooking stories happened about 17 years ago in Oxford, England when I was working for 2 Michelin Starred Chef Raymond Blanc. We had just finished an extremely busy dinner service and my good friend Sat Baines and I were the last two in the kitchen when we saw Chef Blanc walk into the kitchen (this could be good or bad). Chef Blanc grabbed Sat and explained to him that he was extremely unhappy with the crepe recipe (we had a savory crepe dish of mushrooms, ham and and a great gruyere cheese) and we were going to fix it right now. Keep in mind, we usually started work at around 8am and it was now midnight. I was working in the pantry at the time and I just started to laugh (bad idea!) and Chef called me over to help as well. Chef Blanc was attempting to cook about 15 crepes at one time and things were not going to plan. All of a sudden Chef looked Sat in the eyes (Sat is a big strong guy…Chef Blanc not so big) and out of the blue challenged him to an arm wrestle! I fell to the ground in laughter! Out to the dining room we went and Chef Blanc politely asked a table of 2 if they would mind being the referee for this very important competition. The guests obliged. Needless to say, the match lasted about 2 seconds; Sat crushed Chef, but Chef was gracious in defeat, stood up shook Sat’s hand and left the restaurant. Sat and I were in complete disbelief that this actually just happened. We were left to clean up the mess of crepe batter and dirty pans after which we went out to celebrate as we usually did. We had yet another amazing story from our time in Oxford.

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It’s Finished!

Lisa Futterman, a cheesemonger with Pastoral in Chicago, joined A Michelin and A Mom last week as our debut guest blogger. Lisa presented us with this challenge: track down Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk and create a “warm appetizer dish that celebrates the funk”.  The results? What did the Chef come up with? How about the Mom? Were they successful?

Kar I called a local cheese shop to inquire if they had Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk in stock, to which the answer was, “no, but we do have a triple cream, washed rind cheese from Quebec that would be a suitable substitute”. I picked it up and then made the mistake of going to Granville Island on a Saturday morning; however, I did leave with a big bag of fresh produce. I decided to make pizzas and only cheated a little bit, asking my brother if my combinations were going to work. Jason suggested I add arugula to my second pizza. I made the dough from scratch, using a blend of all-purpose flour and blended (wheat) flour. I roasted and used almost a full head of garlic for the first pizza and at the last minute decided to saute my pears in butter and brown sugar for the second pizza. I must admit I was nervous about how “stinky” the cheese was going to be. We are in the process of selling our house and I really didn’t want a lingering scent of cheese wafting through my home. I reluctantly cooked the pizza at home, and we were all surprised the cheese was not as odorous as expected.

We paired the pizzas with two Okanagan wines, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Gris. The latter was the clear winner, the Chardonnay was too heavy for the cheese, while the Pinot Gris was crisp and clear, cutting through the creaminess of the cheese. Everyone loved the results, including the kids! Actually, they were unbelievably delicious and we polished off both pizzas as we watched the start of the hockey game. Many thanks to our friends who were my taste testers, cheerleaders and allowed me to use this photo of their daughter thoroughly enjoying a slice of “stinky cheese pizza”! Find the recipes on our RECIPES page.

** For the Vancouverites, I picked up the Sauvagine cheese at Les Amis Du Fromage.

Pizza #1 Fresh mozzarella, asparagus, fingerling potatoes, roasted garlic, spring onions & sauvagine cheese.
Pizza#2 Sauteed pears, toasted walnuts, sauvagine cheese and fresh arugula.

Jay I am on my way to L.A. today to meet with Common Threads; we are creating change in the lives of kids! I will post my recipes tomorrow.

Pasta, Cheese & Royalty

Who knew making your own pasta noodles would be so easy? Easy enough for my 10 year old to do by himself. We used Jason’s “Egg Yolk Pasta” recipe and created our own version of the “Mushroom Sauce” Jason and Emilie made last week. Jason suggested I buy the Kitchen Aid attachment for pasta rolling, so we set out to find one. I had sticker shock at the $199.00 and wasn’t willing to make the investment just in case we were terrible pasta makers! I opted for the $29.99 one that attaches to your counter (I have a wooden butcher block style island and it fit perfectly). Our dough looked just like Uncle Jason’s (we had the ipad open to A Michelin and A Mom) and we rolled it out, using the fettucini cutter to make long, gorgeous ribbons of pasta. I left my son to it and he rolled and cut a mound of noodles. For the sauce, I cut the wine and stock down slightly and used shitake mushrooms as there were no morels at my local shops. My kids loved it and both cleaned their plates!

Did you read the post by our guest blogger, Lisa Futterman? I’ve already started calling the local and not-so-local cheese shops trying to track down a triple cream, washed rind cheese; and was warned that this was indeed a “stinky” cheese. I have a recipe in mind, but I’ll for sure have to cheat and ask Chef for a little help.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Royal Wedding – we are making cupcakes (fairy cakes) tonight and have dusted off our royal mugs. Are you marking the event by cooking or baking something special? Let us know with a comment below!

Shortbread with a Twist

Kar I whipped up my cookies last week just before the “school run” so we could have something tasty to eat with our coffee on the long drive to our cabin. I love baking, it’s relaxing in a way and the end result sticks around a little longer than a meal. If you make enough cookies or a big enough cake, you’re enjoying your hard work for at least a couple of days. I was hoping Jay would read my mind and make cookies with a variety of nuts, some coconut, chocolate and cranberries. Do you have a recipe like this you want to share with us? In the end, Chef baked delicious shortbread covered in a dark chocolate and pine nuts. Read on to see the photo and get the recipe!

Jay My strength isn’t baking, but I do have a major weakness for anything sweet. I have always been fortunate enough to work with some of the best pastry chefs in the world. As a young cook, I was lucky enough to have a chef who instilled in me the importance of maintaining a knowledge in baking and pastry. This was Vincent Stufano, who to this day is my mentor, and he knew this knowledge would make for a stronger and more well rounded Chef. I was excited when Karlin challenged me to a cookie recipe. I pulled out the old faithful, the shortbread cookie. A recipe that is easy to remember (good one to keep in your back pocket) and suitable to add flavours to. A basic shortbread is 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part sugar; this will be your base from which to build your own combinations of flavours.

Jason’s Shortbread with Chocolate & Pine Nuts
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
pinch of salt
1/2 lb dark chocolate 62%
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden brown

Pre-heat oven to 350F.
Place butter and sugar into a a mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Add the orange zest and the pinch of salt. Add the flour in 3 stages, incorporating the flour completely each time. Once the flour has been incorporated, I like to roll out the cookie dough to about 3/8″ and cut out the desired shape. Once you have cut all the cookies place them on a tray and leave in the refrigerator for about 30 mins. Place your cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook for about 16 minutes. Cool.

Place the chocolate and cream in a microwavable container and warm until chocolate is melted, stirring to incorporate the cream. You will have a very smooth mixture. Once the pine nuts have cooled from toasting, crush them coarsely. Spread the chocolate mixture on top of the cookies to cover the entire surface and sprinkle with crushed pine nuts. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

** If you are going to store these cookies after baking, do not add the chocolate mixture and pine nuts until ready to serve. If you add the chocolate and pine nuts just before serving, you will have a much better cookie!

The chocolate mixture will keep very well in an air tight container as will the crushed pine nuts

My First Challenger

It was always my plan to accept reader challenges via our blog, but I didn’t expect to do so in the first week! On my photo of the epic meatloaf and egg sandwich covered in morel sauce, Emilie Zanger commented “that’s serious”, and said she’d love to have that sauce over pasta. I readily agreed to post such a recipe on our blog, but also challenged her to come up with her own recipe that we could share as well. Following a bit of bantering back and forth and trying to throw one another off their game, Emilie and I have come up with two versions of pasta with morel mushrooms. I knew Emilie would be formidable competition as she lives in one of the best food cities in the world and she knows some of the world’s best chefs; she definitely had a few tricks up her sleeve. Kudos to Emilie – her pasta dish looks awesome (second photo).

You can check out both of our recipes on our “Recipes” page and my sister will be trying out both on her family. I hope this challenge inspires you to get involved with A Michelin and A Mom – what do you want to see us cook?

Happy Easter!

Chef is up early, getting ready for an Easter brunch for 500 people! How does he pull that together? Check out A Michelin and A Mom all this week for new ideas, including an Anniversary dinner, coffee rituals, a guest blogger and our very own wine guy!
Keep the comments rolling in! You can post comments on every page of the site, at the bottom of each post. If you have photos, send those along too – we’ll get those up. Show us our recipes in action! You can also “share” A Michelin and A Mom via Facebook and Twitter, with a quick click at the bottom of each post.
Happy Easter everyone!