What do chefs love most? To be challenged.
And just recently I challenged three of Canada's top chefs, along with a well-known radio personality, to create a meal to honour the building of North America's first digital hospital.
The Humber River Hospital, currently being built in Toronto's west end, is set to open its doors in 2015, and when it does it's going to change patient care as we know it. Lean and green, it'll have cutting-edge technology that includes automated registration kiosks and patients accessing their hospital appointments from their iPads, smartphones or home computers.
Robots will be performing surgical procedures and patients will be able to access their records or order their meals from bedside computers. Even the beds will have special sensors that record basic vital signs that will instantly upload to a patient's chart.
That's just a smidge of what's coming and, although the hospital's not ready, interested parties from other countries have already been popping in to see what all the excitement is about.
The old Humber River hospital's in my neighbourhood and I recently learned of the new hospital being planned through some of the doctors and nurses there. Let's celebrate, I told hospital officials - let's organize a dinner to honour this new hospital and, at the same time, challenge some of the great chefs I know to create a meal reflective of the occasion.
Thus was born Harvest on the Humber, and thanks to the talents of such award-winning chefs as Robert Rainford, Ted Reader, Domenic Chiaramonte and radio personality John Moore, a small group of hospital patrons were treated to an exquisite evening of fun and fabulous food. Each chef created a part of the meal from their personal recipes, all the while sharing their culinary adventures with the guests.
Keeping everyone on their toes was master of ceremonies Frank Ferragine of Citytv and CityLine fame and, all in all, it was a delicious affair. Each dish was masterfully served in daring settings that added flair and substance to each mouthful.
Each of the chefs brought something unique and wonderful to the evening - Rainford's Grilled Fennel and Green Apple Soup, demonstrated by John Moore, was a delightful hit, presented in a tiny bathtub set on a floor tile. Rainford also created delicious Portobello Mushroom Napoleons made with beefsteak tomatoes and juicy portobello mushrooms layered between puff pastry and grilled red onion, again from his Born To Grill cookbook.
Ted Reader coupled this dish with his spectacular Duvel Planked Beef Wellington from his Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ and Chillin’ cookbook. And chef Domenic Chiaromonte, executive chef and co-owner of T2 Restaurant and C2 Catering Couture (C2 made the dishes for the evening guests) rounded out the meal with a show-stopping, interactive dessert made with layers of cake, chocolate mousse and caramel sauce.
Judging by all the happy smiles and rounds of applause, the dinner was deemed a rousing success. All for a humble burg hospital that promises to have the world's eyes on it when it rises up as North America's first fully digital hospital in 2015.
DUVEL PLANKED BEEF WELLINGTON
- 12- by 7-inch (30- by 18-cm) cedar plank, 1/2-inch (1-cm) thick, soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour
- Rolling pin
- 1 centre-cut beef tenderloin (about 2 1/2 lb/1.25 kg), silver skin and excess fat trimmed
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) freshly ground black pepper
- 2 (12 oz/330 mL) bottles Duvel Belgian Strong Golden Ale
- 4 large portobello mushroom caps
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 to 2 lb (750 g to 1 kg) thawed frozen puff pastry dough
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) cold water
- Prepared horseradish
Rub tenderloin with pepper, gently pressing to adhere. Place tenderloin in a self-sealing plastic bag and pour in 1 bottle of Duvel Belgian Strong Golden Ale. Seal bag, turning bag and gently massaging meat to evenly coat. Refrigerate and let marinate, turning occasionally to evenly marinate, for 24 hours. Place mushroom caps into a second self-sealing plastic bag and pour in one bottle of beer. Seal bag, refrigerate and let marinate for 24 hours.
Preheat grill to high (about 550F/280C). Drain tenderloin and mushroom caps, discarding leftover marinade, and pat dry with paper towels. Season to taste with kosher salt. Set aside. Place tenderloin on grill and cook for five to eight minutes, turning to sear all over (both sides and edges). Remove from grill and let cool completely.
Grill mushroom caps, turning once, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Transfer, grill-side down, to paper towels and let cool completely. Slice mushroom caps into 1/4-inch (0.5-cm) strips.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry to rectangle about 6 in. (15 cm) longer and 4 in. (10 cm) wider than tenderloin, about 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) thick, working carefully to prevent tearing dough. Liberally brush tenderloin with mustard. Centre tenderloin on plank. Lay mushroom slices over top and edges of tenderloin, covering all of meat. Carefully pick up dough and centre over mushroom-topped tenderloin. Firmly press dough around meat, forming a tight seal against plank to enclose meat.
In a small bowl, lightly whisk egg and water, then evenly brush eggwash over entire surface of dough. Preheat grill to medium (350–450F/180–230C). Centre plank on grill. Close and plank-bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and flaky, and beef is cooked to medium rare (internal temperature of 135F/6°C). Remove from the grill, cover and tent loosely with aluminium foil and allow the beef to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick slices. Serve immediately with horseradish on the side.
Serves six to eight.
- Adapted from Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ and Chillin’ by Ted Reader (Fenn/McClelland and Stewart 2012).
GRILLED FENNEL AND GREEN APPLE SOUP
- 4 Granny Smith apples, cored and quartered
- 2 bulbs fennel, cut into thirds
- 2 shallots, halved
- 3 Tbsp. (45ml) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (125ml) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (60ml) cider vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups (1L0 vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/2 cup (125ml) white wine
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fire up your charcoal or preheat your gas grill. You need a medium-high grilling temp of around 350F (180C). Prep grill for cooking over direct heat.
Toss apples, fennel and shallots with oil in a large bowl until evenly coated. Grill apples, fennel and shallots over direct heat until lightly charred. Remove from grill. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then chop coarsely. Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan set over medium heat on grill, or side burner. Add apples, fennel and shallots. Cook, stirring often, until tender. Add cider vinegar and garlic. Simmer until slightly reduced. Add stock and white wine, then simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are very soft. Let cool slightly. Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer, discarding any solids. Reheat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 8 servings.
TIP: For a simple garnish, drizzle soup with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. If soup seems too thin, whisk a splash of 35% whipping cream and an egg yolk into warm soup. Do not allow soup to boil during reheating because it will cause egg to curdle.
- From Robert "Rainford's Born To Grill"
PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM NAPOLEONS
- 3 sheets frozen puff pastry dough, thawed for 10 minutes
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 Tbsp. (45ml) white sesame seeds
- 1 lb. (500g) ripe beefsteak tomatoes
- 1 medium red onion
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) balsamic vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 16 medium Portobello mushroom caps
- 1 cup (250ml) mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) prepared basil pesto
- 1 green onion, sliced
- Dash hot sauce
- 2 cups (500ml) baby spinach, shredded
- 16 slices fontina cheese
Fire up your charcoal grill and prep grill for cooking over indirect heat. You need a medium-high temperature of around 350F (180C). For gas grills, preheat grill to medium-high then turn off one burner to achieve indirect heat.
Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-in. (3mm) thickness. Using a 3-in. (8 cm) metal cookie cutter, cut each sheet of dough into 8 rounds. Place 24 rounds on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Brush rounds lightly with egg and sprinkle 8 of rounds with sesame seeds. Chill for 15 minutes.
Place baking sheet on grill over indirect heat and close lid. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from grill and cool completely. Meanwhile, use a mandoline slicer or very sharp knife to slice tomatoes and onion into 1/4-in. (6mm) thick rounds. Place tomato and onion slices on a baking sheet, brush lightly with 2 Tbsp. (30 m) oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place baking sheet on grill over direct heat. Grill tomatoes and onions for 2-3 minutes or until soft and nicely charred. Remove and set aside. Whisk together remaining oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic in a large bowl. Add mushroom caps and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place mushrooms on grill and cook for 10-12 minutes or until nicely charred. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, make special sauce by stirring together mayonnaise, pesto, green onion and hot sauce until well combined.
To assemble napoleons, lay out 8 plain puff pastry rounds. Top each with a little special sauce, some shredded spinach, a mushroom cap, an onion slice and a slice of cheese. Add a second plain puff pastry round to each stack, then layer with additional special sauce, another mushroom cap, another slice of cheese and a tomato slice. Cap each stack with a sesame seed puff pastry round. Carefully transfer napoleons to a baking sheet and place on grill over indirect heat. Close lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese just begins to melt. Serve immediately.
- From Robert "Rainford's Born To Grill"