Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios

During the pandemic, many of us have found more time to explore our culinary spirits and discover that cooking is fun! While it has been great to get back to our local eateries this summer, fall just might be stirring up an appetite for more At Home Chef adventures. For the next several issues we are going to introduce you to some great home chefs. Jill Linquist, President of Raging Crow Distillery in North River brings her love for creating great food with a fall dinner menu full of fabulous fall flavours.

When COVID-19 arrived in March we were told to stay in our homes and to minimize our contact with others. Fortunately, throughout the summer we were slowly granted more freedom to socialize with others within our bubble while still generally practicing social distancing. Now the cooler weather will send us back into our kitchens and encourage many to further develop their newly-acquired pandemic cooking skills.

The fall is such a wonderful time of year for those of us who love to cook as is usually the time when menus shift to heartier meals that fill our kitchens with enticing aromas. There is also an amazing abundance of produce at our local farmers’ markets as well as from our own gardens. This makes the fall a perfect time to connect and socialize with friends over an elegant, yet simple to prepare, home-cooked dinner.

My suggested menu for a small, social gathering would be a fresh green salad presented in its own phyllo “bowl,” beef tenderloin in a mustard dill sauce, cauliflower parsnip puree (which I refer to as faux potatoes), green beans, roasted carrots and finished with a wonderful buttermilk panna cotta with caramel sauce. Most of these items can be prepared ahead of time and finished just prior to serving which will provide you the time to socialize with guests throughout the meal.
Be safe. Be social.

Phyllo Wrapped Salad Bowl
with Mustard Balsamic Dressing

Serves 6

Phyllo Wrapped Salad

3 sheets of phyllo pastry
Olive oil for brushing
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
3 heaping cups of mixed greens
1 cup of sprouts (optional)
2 ripe avocados peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup toasted pine nuts

Mustard Balsamic Dressing

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. To prepare the salad bowl, lay one sheet of phyllo dough on your work surface and lightly brush with olive oil and about a Tbsp of parmesan cheese. Cut the sheet in half lengthwise. Take the half sheet and fold lengthwise twice to create a band about 1 ½ inches wide. Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets.
  2. Lightly oil a six-cup muffin tin and fit a band of phyllo inside each cup lightly pressing it against the sides. Take six sheets of tin foil and crunch them into a ball and place in the centre of each phyllo ring.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 5 to 8 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven, take out the foil balls and let cool.
  4. For the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic. Slowly pour in the oil while continuously whisking. Season with salt and pepper and toss with salad greens.
  5. To serve, place one phyllo bowl on each plate and fill with dressed greens, avocado slices and sprouts, if using. Tongs are the best way to get the greens to stand up in the bowl. Arrange tomatoes around the bowl and sprinkle with pine nuts. A Balsamic glaze will add flair to the presentation.

Beef Tenderloin in Mushroom Dill Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
18 oz Cremini mushrooms, sliced ¼ in thick
¾ cup minced shallots
3 Tbsp Cognac
1 ¼ cup low salt beef broth
1 ½ Tbsp vegetable oil
6 – 6 oz beef tenderloin steaks about an inch thick
5 Tbsp sour cream
1 ½ Tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp minced fresh dill

Preparation

  1. Melt the butter in a 12 inch heavy duty skillet over Medium high heat. Add the mushrooms. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally until golden , about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallots and cook until softened about 3 minutes,. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the cognac stirring to deglaze the pan. Add the broth, bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Cover the skillet and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the steaks dry and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, sear the steaks until a dark crust forms about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the steaks, and cook about 5 minutes more for medium rare. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the steaks to a platter, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Scrape the mushroom mixture into the cast iron skillet. Add the sour cream and mustard, stirring until heated through. Stir in the dill.
  4. Transfer the steaks to plates, spoon the sauce over and serve. Garnish with fresh dill.

Cauliflower Parsnip Puree

Serves 6 – to accompany beef tenderloin

Ingredients

I head cauliflower florets
2 Parsnips peeled and put into small chunks
Milk
Salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add cauliflower and parsnips and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and puree using an immersion blender or place in a blender. Add a small amount of milk until the desired creamy texture is reached. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. The puree can be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Caramel Sauce

Serves 6

For the Sauce

¾ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp honey
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

Sauce Preparation

  1. Add the sugar, honey and ¼ cup water in a heavy duty saucepan and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally and washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and boil vigorously without stirring until golden in colour. If you have a candy thermometer is should read 350°F. Continue to hold for 5 or 10 minutes until the mixture is an even dark colour.
  2. Once completely amber coloured, lower the heat to a simmer and add the
    cream in a slow, think stream while whisking. Simmer for 3 minutes ,
    whisking occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Let cool to room temperature.

For the Panna Cottas

1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 ½ tsp unflavoured gelatine powder
cup sugar
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Panna Cotta Preparation

  1. Lightly spray six 6-8 oz. ramekins with cooking spray.
  2. Put the cream in a saucepan and sprinkle with the gelatine. Allow the gelatine to soften for about 5 minutes. Place the saucepan over low heat and whisk in the sugar until the gelatine and the sugar and completely dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Avoid simmering and remove from heat if you see bubbles. Off the heat, whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla and salt.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large measuring cup and divide among the prepared ramekins. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Serve the panna cottas with the caramel sauce in their ramekins or unmould.

The sauce and the panna cottas can be made one day ahead and refrigerated covered.