quick fire dinner

A bit of instant messaging banter with my head cheerleader and chief strategist, Sherri, who happens to be vacationing in Florence, got me thinking about when and how I should be preparing for the potential call to represent Winnipeg and Stoney Point in Season 2 of MasterChef Canada.  Something I have not yet tackled is cooking with a stopwatch.  The television series has time limits on each of its challenges – usually just 60 minutes!  Anyone who has seen me in action in the kitchen can attest the sight is comparable to a whirlwind – but some of my favourite kitchen tools help me steal a few seconds here and there to truly multitask.  As we know ‘a watched pot never boils’, yet an untended browning butter easily burns!

Sherri suggested brilliant ideas for this blog sparked from her culinary adventures across Tuscany.  Yet, her initial suggestion about the pressure test kept niggling away in my mind.  I had seen an episode of Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals on the weekend and I was determined to be able to replicate his efforts in a similar amount of time. 

Gorgeous greek chicken with herby vegetable couscous & tzatziki : Fresh Mediterranean flavours

Gorgeous Greek chicken with herby vegetable couscous & tzatziki

I stopped and picked up the required groceries and swiftly sped home as I was scheduled to attend a Fringe Festival event in less than two hours.  As soon as I arrived, I cleared the kitchen island and dug out the pantry staples – or at least what I thought were staples!  It seems I do not stock couscous any longer – yet Isreali couscous was found deep in my baking and bulk food drawer.  Realizing I missed picking up peas (I was distracted in helping another shopper find tzatziki), I surveyed the freezer and decided spinach would be a suitably Greek-inspired substitute.  I set off in a flurry of activity [boiling the couscous, frying the chicken breasts, making homemade tzatziki (What? No garlic? I’ll fix that!), and pulsing the medley of peppers].  The platter was prepared and prepped for its photo shoot by 5:36 pm.  A glance over to the grocery bill to realize I paid at 4:48 pm.  Not too bad considering the commute home and search for non-existent ingredients.  Now, if only my right-hand man, Eric, was in town to deal with the aftermath!

guest post – trusted guinea pig

IMG_2289Claude is a marvel, a delight and a law unto himself.  Even apart from being one of my favourite people – he is the consummate host.  Everything is impeccable, and yet it is still comfortable such that I don’t panic when the dinner party is at my house.  I suspect this is partly why it’s been so fun to throw a few curve balls at Claude through the MasterChef preparatory social events.  I’m allowed to admit to finding this fun because it still didn’t throw Claude off stride.  Green papaya?  Perfect – modernized slaws are a Claude specialty.  Kalamansi?  No problem – dressing it is.  (I still think it would have been interesting in the pana cotta, although I did adore the grapefruit and vanilla bean version.  And, as a side note, the kalamansi G&Ts is a worthwhile endeavour.)  Beef heart… a little pause, perhaps, but promptly off to trimming and prepping for rouladen, dill pickle and all.

I’ve been asked what I consider Claude’s specialties to be.  Instantly, I thought of champagne grape jelly, oven-hot pretzels, and themes of piquant salads and interesting cocktails… and then I stopped and realized I couldn’t think of any other dish I’ve had twice at Claude’s.  I admire his zest for trying new recipes and his skill at making them so deliciously (really with only one exception, and fresh sardines in Winnipeg are a bit of a challenge), and I am honoured to be a trusted guinea pig.

– Rachel L.

kumquats and green papaya

What would be a fun way to challenge Claude?  I know… drop a few mystery ingredients on him just before he starts to cook Sunday night scrabble dinner.  Claude is planning ahi tuna and roasted red peppers.  Rachel brings kumquats and green papaya.  What to do?


First off, he juices the kumquats as a base for what will become a sweet tangy dressing over a green papaya slaw.  Add apples,  kohlrabi, red chills, fish sauce and sesame oil.  Fresh and lovely to accompany sesame seed encrusted seared tuna.  All as if it were part of a master plan.

What is interesting to me is the apprehension before the ingredients appear.  “How am I supposed to plan?” he says.  “Can you find out what Rachel is bringing?”.  The unknown feeds the anxiety, but in true style, the fearlessness take over and we dine like royalty.


masterchef adventure

The website is being set up for friends, family, and supporters to watch and participate in Claude’s adventure.   Please share your stories, comments and tweets about Claude to show your encouragement and support.

Claude is auditioning for MasterChef Canada, a competitive cooking game show.  Auditions are underway for Season 2 and Claude is gearing up for the adventure.  http://www.ctv.ca/MasterChefCanada.aspx


When asked:  “Why do you have what it takes to be the next MasterChef”, Claude says: “I have what it takes to be the next MasterChef Canada because of my outlook on life in the kitchen. I think MasterChef is an opportunity for me to think quickly on my feet and show Canada that cooking good and interesting food is accessible with some imagination, creativity and hard work. I am motivated in the kitchen to provide my guests with a good experience which in turn drives me to explore new techniques and ingredients. I must confess there are some culinary misses – but happily, they are fewer than the masterpieces.”

When asked:  “What has been your greatest achievement in the kitchen so far?”, Claude says: “My greatest culinary achievement was catering the New Year’s Eve wedding rehearsal dinner for my sister-in-law, Julie, and her husband, Paul.  This might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but it was in downtown Toronto and I live in Winnipeg.  The event went off perfectly with an array of finger foods such as mini-toutières, lamb-stuffed grapeleaves, seven-layer salmon stacks, pork, chicken sausage rolls, gougères, iced J and P sugar cookies, and blue-cheese truffles.”

When asked:  “In one word, how would you describe yourself in the kitchen?”:  Claude says: “Fearless”.