[Wrapping up the East Coast By Taste series this week is the Feisty Chef! If you missed any of the posts, check the archived East Coast Guest Posts. Thanks once again to all the fabulous foodies and chefs who wrote so passionately about the theme for this month.]
By Renee Lavallee
When I embarked upon the crazy train that is my food career fifteen years ago, my philosophy of food was much different than it is now. It was foolish and silly, and I thought that my philosophy was the end all and be all of all things culinary. My, how things have changed! Fifteen years ago, I was influenced by “fluff”, as I now call it. It was bright, flashy and extravagant. I thought that incorporating as many ingredients as possible into a single dish was “cutting edge” and “fancy”. I thought that using the strangest ingredients possible was “nouveau”, and that my culinary savvy was something that only I, a twenty-something girl, possessed. How could I not be a great chef with all this? Did I not have many, many ring molds and squeeze bottles? Did I not think that Charlie Trotter, the great Chicago chef, was a god? I remember thinking that my first special was going to have people writing about me, and my culinary prowess (it was a ravioli of crab with banana and blue cheese). Needless to say, my chef at the time asked me if I had been smoking crack, as this cutting edge concoction was nothing more than a repulsive and repugnant dish. It has taken many years, many trips, much heartache and sweat to reach my current philosophy of food. It isn’t anything new; it isn’t cutting edge. I believe that it has taken me fifteen years to realize that all the fluff that we see on tv and read about in those glossy magazines, isn’t food. It is nothing more than a flash in the pan attitude that we, as consumers, believe in. What is my philosophy? Well, here it is: simplicity.
Simplicity to me is one or two keys ingredients that marry well together. They live together in harmony and bring out the best in each other. They are locally grow and cultivated, and cooked by local hands. They are paired with local wines, beers and spirits. Was fresh arugula not meant to live happily ever after with a sun kissed tomato? Did potatoes ever think they would spend the rest of their lives without bacon? Did a growler of Propeller Bitter not want to be with a slice of Old Growler? This is how I feel; a grown-up outlook on food.
This is a super simple soup that encompasses all my “simplicity” beliefs and uses local and seasonal products. Whip up a batch and enjoy the liquid goodness!
Roasted Onion & Parsley Root Soup
- 5 lbs white onions; thinly sliced
- 1 lb grated parsley root (or parsnip if you cannot find any!)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 5 qts. veal stock (or chicken stock)
- 1 cup brandy
- 2 cups good dry white wine
- 8 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 4 tbsp flour
1. Sweat onions and parsley root for 10 minutes over medium heat in butter & oil.
2. Add salt , sugar, bay leaves & thyme. Cook until “chestnut” brown.
3. Add flour & cook 3 minutes.
4. Add some hot stock, stir until incorporated & then remaining stock.
5. Finish with brandy & wine; cook 40 minutes.
6. Garnish with some Dragon’s Breath cheese!
My top 5 cookbooks…ever!
1. All “River Cafe” cookbooks…very simplistic, seasonal & unpretentious
2. A Year At Les Fougeres…I used to work with Charlie & Jennifer Part and they are the reason why I am who I am today
3. The Whole Beast: Nose To Tail Eating…Need I say more!
4. Moro..simple, flavourful Spanish cooking
5. L’Eau A La Bouche…the great restaurant in the Laurentiens where Anne Desjardins set the standards for local & seasonal cooking
Renee Lavallee is also known as the Feisty Chef. She’s a chef, mother, and crazy cheese lover.