Most people don’t mess around with their traditional family recipes on Christmas Day but if you are planning an evening around the table leading up to the big day or gathering a few friends for an intimate New Year’s dinner, Chef Jason Conway has a special menu just for you!

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MENU
WILD MUSHROOM PHYLOS WITH A BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAPLE PUREE
PORK LOIN STUFFED WITH PANCETTA AND ROSEMARY
CARAMELIZED PEARS WITH COFFEE-INFUSED MARSCAPONE CHEESE

“Let the ingredients speak for themselves. I like to think of my cooking as earthy and honest. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to over complicate. I believe in good ingredients that speak for themselves. Almost all of my recipes are developed and respect what we have to bring to the table locally. At Christmas you don’t want to be faced with a lot of fuss but you want to make your guests feel special. I think this memorable menu is worth a few extra minutes in the kitchen. Some preparations can be done a day ahead but the Pork Roast is prime right out of the oven.”

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Jason Conway

WILD MUSHROOM PHYLOS WITH A BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAPLE PUREE

FILLING

  • 4 cups of mushrooms (a variety)
  • 1 cup of onion
  • 1 cup of red pepper
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 box of phylo pastry

PUREE

  • 3 cups of butternut squash
  • 2 Tbsp of butter
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup

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In a hot pan sauté the onion, mushrooms and peppers. I say a hot pan because you want to sear and caramelize the veg not boil them in their juices. Add the cream and let it reduce until the cream thickens. Finish with parmesan, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out one sheet of phylo, brush with melted butter, to help it stick together. Lay a second sheet on top, brush with butter then a third. Cut the sheet into 4 even strips. Place a spoon full of filling at the bottom of the strip, then fold into a triangle following the length of the strip. Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes. Watch closely.

For the puree I steam the squash until it’s tender, add butter, maple and salt and pepper to taste. Then mash or us a handle mixer until it’s smooth.

To assemble I make a smear (yes it’s called a smear) of squash on the plate, two phylo per person and top with a salad of arugula dressed with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

PORK LOIN STUFFED WITH PANCETTA AND ROSEMARY

  • 1 cup of celery
  • 1 cup of onion
  • 1 1/2 of pancetta or bacon
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh rosemary
  • 3 cups of mashed potato
  • 1 loaf of French bread or gluten free bread
  • Dijon mustard
  • Chicken stock
  • Butcher twine
  • I picked a pork loin that can easily feed 8 to 10 people

STUFFING
Render the bacon. Sauté the celery and onion in the bacon fat.

Cube up the bread and mix with the mash potato then add the celery, onion and bacon. Add a little chicken stock to help bind the mix together. Just a little at a time.

To prepare the pork there are a couple of ways to stuff it. You could make a deep slice length wise then stuff or you can do what I did and make a slice from the top about an inch deep cutting length wise following around the loin until you have a flat piece of pork, I then cover the loin with plastic wrap and pound it flatter with a meat tenderizer. Next, take the stuffing and cover the surface of the loin while packing it flat. Now roll it like a cinnamon roll with the crease at the bottom. The easiest way to tie the loin so it doesn’t fall apart is to wrap the twine and tie knots every 2 inches. Sear to keep in the juices, brush with Dijon mustard and salt and pepper then slow roast at 350° F unwrapped with a little water in the pan for about 1.5 hours. Serve with your favourite sides.

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CARAMELIZED PEARS WITH COFFEE-INFUSED MARSCAPONE CHEESE

  • 2.5 cups of marscapone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of coffee
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 boca pears
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of whipping cream

Whisk together the marscapone cheese, coffee and the sugar. You could also add some Baileys or a dark rum if you wish. It is Christmas after all.

Sauté the pears in the butter until they are tender, add brown sugar and let it melt together and add whipping cream and reduce until the sauce thickens. Then let cool.
You also have the option to us banana or apple instead of pears. To present I used a martini glass and did layers of pear and cheese. You could garnish with a wafer cookie or sliced almonds, it’s entirely up to you.

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Jason’s first dish is rich with the earthiness of mushroom. Fortunately mushrooms are very easy to pair with wines as well as other beverages. The key to harmonious pairings of food and beverage is matching the textures as well as the flavours of each. Mushrooms = robust earthiness as well as the savoury taste the Japanese refer to as Umami. For the white wine lovers, I would suggest either an unoaked or lightly oaked chardonnay. Locally we have an amazing grape varietal that would be an excellent stand-in for chardonnay in this regard; L’Acadie. If you prefer drinking a red, I would suggest a local Marechal Foch or an inexpensive Pinot Noir, both of which have earthy qualities that match the mushrooms. For a beer drinker, you can’t go wrong with a Brown Ale beer. Either a traditional Brown Ale from Britain or a local brew, like Garrison’s Nut Brown Ale.

Jason’s roast pork loin also presents a myriad of options to pair with. While pork loin is generally lean as far as pork fat goes, there are rich flavours here. A wine that is somewhat light on body with moderate to higher acidity works wonderfully. I suggest an off-dry Riesling for white wine. Red wine could be a Pinot Noir, as in the first dish, or a local such as the Jost Vineyards Coastal Red. To be fair, there are several local red wines that would work well with pork loin. For an apple cider enthusiast, a dry cider would work favourably here. Try Bulwark’s Hopped Cider with its refreshing crisp finish. Hops are in the beer/food universe, what acidity is to the wine/food universe – they refresh the palate. So if you choose a beer, I suggest a slightly hopped or Red Ale beer. Uncle Leo’s IPA or Tatamagouche Brewing Co. Hippie Dippie Pale Ale are both a confident choice. So too, would be Tata’s Butcher Block Red or Leo’s Red.

For the dessert, I would suggest Domaine de Grand Pre’s Pomme d’Or Liqueur. Think of it as like Bailey’s Irish Cream but with the predominant flavour of apple. The sweetness as well as creamy texture will go hand in hand, or have a little fun with a twist on the classic cocktail, the Brandy Alexander. Make it a Maple Alexander. Two parts light cream with one and half parts brandy and half measure maple wine from Devonian Coast Wineries. Shake on ice and strain into small cocktail glass with a light dusting of nutmeg.

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