Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Canadian Food Hero: Chef Craig Flinn

Full disclosure: I've known Craig since high school in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, when we sang together in the choir. He's a funny, easy-going guy with a rich, deep singing voice. But for today's Canadian Food Experience assignment - to choose our Canadian food hero - I chose Chef Craig Flinn because his dedication to cooking with fresh, seasonal, local food and celebrating Canada's rich, varied culinary heritage was my first real exposure to slow food. His first cookbook, Fresh & Local, remains one of my favourites after years of use, and his other books get regular use in my kitchen at home. If you're visiting Halifax, his trio of restaurants on Barrington Street - Chives Canadian Bistro, Ciboulette Cafe, and newly-opened lunch spot Two Doors Down - are an absolute must. While Craig is one of Nova Scotia's culinary stars, he's not as well known as he really ought to be outside of the Maritimes. Let's change that.
photo courtesy of Chef Craig Flinn (via his Facebook feed)

A few relevant links:
With his permission, I am sharing two of Chef Flinn's recipes today. (Thanks Craig!)

The first is his maple balsamic syrup, from his first cookbook, Fresh & Local (page 179). At Chives, it's used as a garnish and to add an extra sumthin'-sumthin' to a diverse range of dishes. At my place, we love it with olive oil and fresh-baked bread, substituted for regular balsalmic vinegar on salads, or drizzled over vanilla ice cream and strawberries from the garden.
Adding the maple syrup after reducing the balsamic vinegar - I always double the recipe.
2 cups (500 mL) cooking-grade balsamic vinegar (nothing too expensive)  
1 cup (250 mL) amber (Grade B) maple syrup 
In a saucepan, reduce vinegar by one-half. Add maple syrup and reduce by one-third. Cool completely and store in a food-safe garnishing bottle (available from a good kitchen supply store) or a used mustard bottle. The syrup should have the same consistency as loose molasses and can be adjusted by adding a few drops of water or reducing a little more over high heat. Yields 1 2/3 cups.
Seriously, try it with strawberries and ice cream.
The second recipe is from his newest cookbook, Fresh & Frugal, a book I love and heartily recommend to anyone who thinks that slow food is an unaffordable luxury. I don't have access to the glorious fresh seafood that Craig often uses, so instead I'll share his Venison Goulash inspired by the humble Hungarian comfort food (page 84, only $1.75 per serving, and suitable for the slow cooker). Instead of venison or beef, I'll add a Prairie twist by using bison (I bought it at Real Deal Meats) and serving on fresh wheat pasta. Since bison is often a bit tougher than beef, it works really well for a stewed dish like this - although this particular cut (top sirloin) is a bit more expensive and really didn't need to be stewed at all to be tender.

  • 2 lbs (900 g) sliced onions  

  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil 

  • 2 lbs (900 g) cubed venison stew meat (such as shoulder or butt) 

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) paprika (Hungarian or smoked)

  • 1/2 tsp (3 mL) cayenne pepper or chili flakes

  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) cumin

  • 1 tsp (5 mL) brown sugar 

  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced 

  • 1 ripe red tomato, diced 

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) beef broth, water or red wine 
Place a large braising pot with a tight-fitting lid over high heat and saute the onions in the oil until slightly brown in colour (about 10 minutes). Add all the remaining ingredients and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover with the lid; cook for 15 minutes until the vegetables look limp and have released their water. Uncover the pot and cook the goulash until the onions are melted and the venison is tender, about 3 hours. It may be necessary to add a little liquid from time to time, depending on the rate of reduction.Serve the goulash with buttered noodles, steamed rice, or potato. Serves 6 to 8.
I don't actually have a braising pot yet (oh Santa...) so I used the method for slow cooker braising described by theKitchn. I also upped the proportions a bit, with 3 pounds each of onions and bison and everything else rounded up appropriately. I chopped the onions in quarters instead of slicing them (and set aside the skins for my dyepot), browned them in my trusty cast-iron skillet and transferred them to my slow cooker. Then I browned the cubed bison, added all the remaining ingredients, simmered until the veggies had gone limp, and threw everything into my slow cooker on low for 6 hours, with the lid off for the last 2 hours so the sauce could reduce down.
The red onions after browning in the skillet over high heat.
This photo smelled so delicious. Cubed bison over high heat in the skillet.
Sugar and spice will make this extra nice.
Everything but the onions in the skillet over low heat.
The rest of the ingredients join the onions in the slow cooker.
After four hours in the slow cooker.
Presenting: Bison Goulash on buttered linguini!
This post is part of the Canadian Food Experience project (also on Facebook) proposed by my friend Valerie Lugonja, who is a board member of Slow Food Edmonton. The project began June 7th, 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us. 

No comments:

Post a Comment