When we were passing through Port Aux Basque this summer, I danced a jig when I heard that Chef Pauline Gillam had time to meet with me. She leads the team at St. Christopher’s Hotel in Port aux Basque, Newfoundland. She also loves to feature traditional dishes like Fish & Brewis and Jigg’s Dinner. Pauline’s even created a Moose Meatball Pasta with a Wild Mushroom sauce. “All Newfoundland food is pretty simple and easy to cook. We just use what we have—fish, meat, potatoes and berries.” The inventive chef adds, “Newfoundlander’s don’t go by the book. A dash of this and a dash of that—that’s what makes the taste!”
A popular dish at the hotel is Cod au Gratin. Pauline boils some codfish—not too long—and drains it, saving some of the water. She then makes a roux (melted butter and flour) adding some water the fish was cooked in along with salt, pepper and grated cheddar cheese. Out comes a casserole dish; in goes some thick sauce, a layer of fish, more sauce, a layer of breadcrumbs and a handful of grated cheese. (The breadcrumbs keeps the cheese from disappearing into the casserole.) Bake until it bubbles. I love it when someone gives me a recipe with a little of this and a handful of that. Do you have any favourites you can share?
Over on Prince Edward Island, Chef Michael Smith and businessman Alan MacPhee staged a gourmet BBQ in a huge field four years ago. One thousand people paid $29 to roam around and gobble up 75 gallons of seafood chowder, 1,000 hand-cut strip loin steaks, 500 pounds of potatoes, and a million calories that oozed from strawberry/rhubarb shortcakes served with real whipped cream.
Called “The Village Feast,” the event raised funds for the local food bank and money to build a cookhouse in a Kenyan village. Smith and his colleagues schemed, begged, borrowed, and ran hard with a great idea. Now in its fourth year, it’s even more successful. “It’s all about people helping people. Sometimes the only thing holding us back is gumption—a motivated community can achieve just about anything. Besides, everyone loves a grilled steak,” he adds. Pretty impressive, eh?
Below you’ll find Michael’s gravy recipe that’s used at The Village Feast. He adds, “In a fancy restaurant this would be called a sauce, but in a sunny field full of farmers and fishermen we know better.”
Remember, if you know a chef who has a tale to tell and is willing to share a recipe, let me know!
Figgy Duff and Molasses Coady (Pauline Gillam)
2 C breadcrumbs made from bread crusts (see below)
Water to soak bread
1 C raisins
½ C molasses
¼ C butter, melted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp hot water
½ C all purpose flour
1 tsp each of ginger, allspice and cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
Soak dry crusts in enough water to soften. Drain and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Crumble. Grease a 4 C pudding mold or Bundt pan. Mix together bread, raisins, molasses and butter. Combine baking soda and water and add to crumb mixture; mix well. Sift together the rest of the ingredients and stir into mixture. Pour into greased mold. Cover with greased tinfoil and fold tightly around mold. Place mold in a large pot. Add boiling water to halfway up sides of pudding mold. Cover and steam for 2 hours.
Serve hot with Molasses Coady which is made by simmering 1C molasses, ¼ C water, ¼ C butter, 1 tbsp vinegar for 10 minutes.
Shiitake Mushroom Gravy for Grilled Steaks (Michael Smith)
1 thinly sliced onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tbsp butter
1 Cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ C red wine
1 C rich beef or chicken stock
½ C heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper to taste
In a sauce pot over medium heat gently brown the onions and garlic in the butter. Add mushrooms; cook for a few minutes until heated through. Sprinkle in flour and stir until it dissolves. Add wine, beef stock and cream. Simmer until sauce thickens. Stir in fresh thyme. Taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Photos by Sandra Phinney