Atelier Restaurant, Ottawa

Bread & Butter, Atelier Style
We've been meaning to visit this restaurant for some time.  They've been opened a couple of years, and there's been lots of buzz.  "12 courses, 9 wines, 4 hours."  To be honest, the time flew by, really - considering that we were in the restaurant long enough to drive to Montreal, and back.  It was worth every minute, to allow Chef Lepine and his crew, the time to create his plated gems.  Now, on with the food!  (I won't comment on the wine pairings, or this will end up being a novella - I will say that Steve Robinson as Sommelier was simply the best!  He is incredibly knowledgeable and personable.)

Smokey and the Bay Leaf:  mackerel, fried mackerel spine, homemade pickle puree, bay leaf gelée cubes (and foam, if I remember correctly), savoury lentils.  While not my favourite dish of the evening (not a fan of mackerel), it was beautifully prepared and presented.  The fried mackerel spine was actually quite delicious and stirred memories of eating fried smelts as a child, spines and all.  With me, you can never go wrong with the earthy goodness lentils bring to the table.

Smokey and The Bay Leaf

The Red Carpet:  perfect spheres of orange and basil served on a ribbon of beet purée gelée.  What I thought was feta, was actually dehydrated and crumbled walnut oil.  What appeared to be croutons, were melt in your mouth cubes of toffee textured dehydrated orange juice.  There was also a delectably crunchy shoelace-sized strand of beet, running beside the hills and valleys of the beet gelée.

The Red Carpet

Angry Octopus:  sous-vide octopus, bacon, olives, celeriac purée, braised tomato and lemon zest.  This was the 'salty' course.  The texture of the octopus was wonderful.  It's been a year since I have had the chance to eat fresh octopus, and these pieces didn't disappoint.  If you've never had octopus, perhaps you can't appreciate the texture.  It's firm, yet tender, chewy, but not rubbery.  It may have a bit of an identity crisis in this regard.  You can try and figure it out for yourself, I just know I love it.

Angry Octopus

(Enter your name twice) Pumpkin Eater:  a one bite treat of curried pumpkin, a square of lemongrass 'sponge', some dehydrated coconut milk and chopped pumpkin seeds.  There was a wonderful aroma that came from the fresh kaffir lime leaf that was clamped to the spoon.  I love the heady, citrony smell you get with kaffir lime leaf.  Not a favourite for everyone, but oh so exotic.  Had I been alone, and the restaurant darker, I might have rubbed the leaf behind my ear.  Ahem.  Sorry...

Pumpkin Bite

Yukhoe:  beef tartare, dehydrated sesame oil, yucca (cassava) chips, enokitake (I think) mushrooms, pine nuts and sesame seeds.  At first waft, I thought it was tuna tartare - the smells were all so familiar.  Hearing it was beef was a pleasant surprise.  The texture of the beef was wonderful - little cubes of melt in your mouth carnivorous joy.  Mmmm.

Yukhoe (Korean Beef Tartare)

Duck:  a pierogi of duck confit and goat cheese served with sunchoke, sweet potato purée, fried leeks, sour cream, caramelized onion purée and topped with a slice of black truffle.  This course was another favourite of mine.  The combination of the duck confit and the goat cheese was divine.  The sweet potato and sunchoke was a nice foil to the tangy goat cheese and sour cream.  Only complaint?  Could you make them a little bigger please??

Duck and Goat Cheese Pierogi

Frosty Vineyard:  the palate cleanser course consisted of frozen green and red grapes, chocolate streusel 'soil', aloe vera 'ice' and blue cheese branches.  These were my favourite - they're made of cheese, why wouldn't I love them!

Frosty Vineyard

Dillusional Mushrooms:  mushroom two ways - sauteed and served on a swipe of dill with a prosciutto wafer;  next, cream of mushroom encapsulated in a sphere of dill, on top of prosciutto crumbs, dill flowers and a square of black garlic purée.  Can't say I would ever think of putting dill and mushrooms together, but glad that I have now had it.  Most excellent combination of flavours.  I must warn of the surprise texture/temperature/flavour of the mushroom ball.  I managed to get it onto the fork and  into my mouth without piercing the dill membrane (not so successful on the beet course with the orange sphere) and it literally exploded in my mouth with the slightest amount pressure applied.  Caught me a bit off guard.  But, once I got over the shock of the sensation, the mushroom was actually quite tasty.  Something you just have to try for yourself.

Mushrooms Two Ways

Bison:  last of the savoury courses, they saved the best for last.  Bison, cooked sous-vide, then briefly pan seared so as to preserve the lovely pink colour and moist texture (as you can see, they did).  It was served on a bed of velvety smooth cauliflower purée (underneath which was hidden very thin slices of cauliflower crudo), roasted pearl onions, roasted leaves of brussel sprout, pea shoots - drizzled with a tarragon mayo.  The bison was supreme.  I can't add too much more here except to say, "Please, sir, I want some more".


iCup:  a layer of passionfruit and banana sorbet with a hidden chocolate surprise

Passion Fruit & Chocolate Dessert with Fruit Sauce filled Spoon (goes with dessert below).

Doughnuts Make You Smile:  an old fashioned doughnut hole, mango foam, cranberry syrup filled spoon and the most awesome disk of hazelnut praline topped with a frozen dollop of buttercream - rich, sweet, and a nice small bite (not a fan of desserts, but do SO appreciate the effort).

Doughnut Make you Smile

Menthol Cloud:  our last morsel for the evening - a pillowy cloud of mint flavoured candy floss

Menthol Cloud

Final Thoughts:  this was an amazing evening, and I must say, worth all the chatter.  The staff were great and we really enjoyed our peek into the kitchen.  They have eked out a place on the Ottawa culinary scene - from the 'Secret Club' looking exterior, to the mod (and comfy) furniture and the mega stainless steel wall which curves out of sight into the kitchen.  My apologies in advance if I got any of the dish components wrong - I was trying not to be a nuisance, yet still enjoy my dining experience, which I did, very much.  A+

Atelier on Urbanspoon

Panko Crusted Tilapia

Quick and easy.  I really love working with tilapia.  It's a very mild flavoured fish that holds together quite well when pan-searing.  I was shopping the other day and came across a large bag of panko - which I had to buy of course.  Did I have a recipe in mind?  Nope.  Just one of those things that I like to have in the pantry.  Ah, my tiny 'pantry', that is a discussion for another day.

I use egg whites rather than whole eggs for the breading because it adds some extra crunch.  Make sure when you're beating your egg whites, you add a pinch of salt.  It adds flavour and helps to loosen up the egg whites. 

Here's the dish:

2 tilapia filets
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning (a mixture of salt, garlic powder, oregano), mixed with bread crumbs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil for pan searing
1 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of good quality olive
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 servings of your favourite pasta

Preheat oven to 400F
Dip fish in egg whites, then into panko crumbs
Pan sear quickly over medium high heat until just browned
Place pan with fish into preheated oven, and cook for 8 minutes

Cook the pasta according to package directions - I have to say I'm really loving the Catelli Smart pasta.  Great flavour, without tasting heavy.  Yes, we try to eat healthy, but I don't like the taste/texture of whole wheat pasta.  Period.

Warm the olive oil over medium heat and gently saute the garlic.  Your goal here is to just flavour the olive oil, to toss with the pasta.  When the garlic starts to brown, remove the garlic slices from the oil.  You should now have a wonderfully, garlic scented oil for your pasta.

Off the heat, add the drained, hot, cooked pasta and the baby spinach to the warmed olive oil.  Plate up and enjoy!

Note:  I realize that sometimes the order of things in a recipe can seem a tad daunting.  Many times with a dish, it's all about timing.  Have all your ingredients ready, read the recipe through.  You can do it, really, you can.



Daring Kitchen - Souffle

My first!

November's challenge was souffle.  What a way to strike fear into the whisk of any cook - souffle.  Yikes!  This would be my first souffle - both eaten and cooked (yes, really).  It turned out so much better than I expected.  I ate three small ones...oops, I think I've said too much...I'm not sure why I ever waited so long to make one!

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Souffles as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided many of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate souffle recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I made the savoury souffle with following changes:  I used baby spinach in place of the watercress; I used 1/2 c of  low-fat medium cheddar and 1/4 c of grated Parmesan; I added 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper.

Here are the recipes - go forth boldly and cook!

Here are some hints from our hosts:
Will it rise? In our experience, savory souffles tend not to rise as much as the dessert variety. After much experimentation, we believe that this is due to the ratio of ‘filling’ ingredients to eggs – dessert souffles usually have much more egg white relative to the flavoring ingredients. For best results in a savory souffle, select ingredients with stronger flavor and low water content. We recommend no more than 2 oz/60g of ‘filling’ per egg to achieve maximum lift. See also below for our tip on beating the egg yolks to further improve lift.

Recipe size: If you want to make more than the recipe indicates, everything should work just fine –but don’t use a baking container that’s bigger than 2 (US) quarts (approximately 1.9 L/1.6 imperial quarts.) If you have more souffle than this, use two baking dishes.
Prepare everything beforehand and work briskly. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the whole recipe and prepare all your ingredients and equipment beforehand, rather than stopping to read each step as you go along. But don’t feel like you have to rush: souffles really are much more forgiving than they’re cracked up to be.

Use fresh eggs at room temperature. Cold eggs won’t whip up so well.

Use a clean mixing bowl and mixer blades for the egg whites. Even a little grease or detergent can interfere with the formation of air bubbles in the egg whites. Similarly, take care not to get any egg yolk in your egg whites when you separate the eggs. Egg yolks contain fat, which has the same bubble-destroying properties as grease and detergent.

Temper the egg yolks. Tempering the egg yolks means bringing them closer to the temperature of the souffle base before mixing them together. (If you add cold, or even room temperature egg yolks to the hot base, you run the risk of making scrambled egg…) The usual technique for tempering eggs involves mixing some of the (warm) base into the egg yolks, stirring thoroughly to disperse it before it starts to cook the eggs. Once the eggs are warmed up in this way, they can be safely added to the base. However, after multiple disappointing savory souffles using this method, we tried the technique of beating the yolks over a bath of warm water, as one does for a sabayon. This made all the difference in the world. The detailed instructions are included below in the watercress souffle recipe, but the approach can be applied to any savory souffle.

Make sure that the oven is pre-heated. The first few minutes are critical for making the souffle rise properly; make sure it’s up to the correct temperature and don’t leave the door open for too long when you put your souffle in.

Prepare your dishes thoroughly. Make sure that your souffle dish is thoroughly buttered and lined with crumbs, cheese, chocolate, etc as directed. This goes for the collar too if you’re using one (see below). The crumbs are really helpful in showing where you might have missed a spot – if they don’t stick to any area, be sure to patch it with more butter. Also, do make sure the top edge of your dish is clean by running your finger along the rim. Otherwise, souffle will burn in that spot and it can also interfere with the rise.

Keep the oven (mostly) closed during baking. It’s often said that souffle's will collapse if the oven door is opened during baking. That’s partly true – you should keep the oven closed as much as possible during baking – but in our experience you probably won’t ruin your souffle if you briefly open the oven to check on things, particularly near the end of cooking time.  In fact, one time after putting a souffle in the oven, we noticed we’d neglected to add the cheese. So we pulled it back out, threw in the cheese, stirred it around a bit and put it back. It came out just fine. Honestly, they are much more forgiving than their reputation would allow.

Ring around the collar. Adding a collar is purely optional and works best when you want to add height to your souffle dish. We’ve never needed one for dessert souffles which tend to be pretty stable, and only needed it for a savory souffle when we overfilled our ramekins. If you want to try this, you can find instructions at and

Equipment required: Soufflé dish (7-8 cups/1.5-2 quarts/1.6-2L), or a deep baking dish with relatively straight sides. You can also use small ramekin dishes (or oven-proof coffee cups!); these will cook significantly faster. Whisk (an electric mixer will make it a lot easier, but hand whisking is great exercise) Various measuring spoons (¼, ½ and 1 teaspoon; tablespoon) and/or kitchen scale Miscellaneous mixing bowls and pans, including a large bowl for beating the egg whites.

Watercress Soufflé
A Monkeyshines in the Kitchen recipe

2 Tbsp 1 oz/30g butter plus additional for the soufflé dish
3½ Tbsp (55 ml) 1 oz/30g plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup/8 fluid oz (240ml) milk ½ cup (120 ml)
2 oz/60g Parmesan cheese, finely grated plus additional for the soufflé dish
1 cup (250ml) 2 oz/60g finely chopped de-stemmed watercress (can substitute spinach) – about 1 large bunch (this measure is the leaves after they’ve been washed, de-stemmed, and chopped)
4 large eggs, separated ½ tsp (2½ ml) (3 gm)
(.1 oz) prepared mustard ¼ tsp (1¼ ml)
(1½ gm) (0.05 oz) cream of tartar*
Salt and pepper to taste
* If you can’t find cream of tartar, a dash (~ ½ tsp) of lemon juice can be substituted

1. Butter the soufflé dish(es) thoroughly, then grate a small amount of cheese in each dish and tap so that the sides are evenly coated with the cheese. Place the dish(es) in the refrigerator until needed (according to some sites, this helps the soufflé climb).
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350º F / 180º C / gas mark 4
3. Wash and chop the watercress if you haven’t already.
4. Finely grate the Parmesan cheese
5. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour to
make a roux. Cook 1 minute, then add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until just thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cheese and stir until it’s just melted. Remove from heat then add the watercress and salt and pepper.
6. In a larger pan, bring water to a gentle simmer. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl set just over this water until pale and slightly foamy – about 6 minutes. (I held the bowl just above the simmering water to be sure I didn’t cook the eggs)

7. Mix the egg yolks into the watercress sauce.
8. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks yet are still glossy.
9. Fold the egg whites into the sauce in 3 additions so that it’s evenly mixed, but you don’t lose too much volume.

10. Remove the soufflé dish from the refrigerator and spoon the mix into it. Use a spatula to even the tops of the soufflés and wipe off any spills.
11. Bake 25 minutes for small dishes or 40 minutes if using a large soufflé dish, then serve immediately.

It was muy delisioso!!!  Well done Monkeyshines :-)

Better hurry - souffle waits for no one!

Sunday Dinner - Braised

Collard Green Leaf

Sunday dinners for me are all about dishes that take a few hours to cook.  Most often the dishes I cook can be left unattended for a few hours so I can get caught up on my laundry (and sneak in a little gaming!).

This meal was created with some flavours from my youth in mind.  On Sundays, there was always a large pot of something simmering on the stove.  The scents would infuse the entire house, and rouse lazy teenagers out of bed, who were trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep in until 2pm.

This Sunday dinner consisted of braised oxtails, braised collard greens, baked acorn squash and mashed potatoes.

For the oxtails:
1.5 kg of oxtails, rinsed and drained
2 c chopped white onion
2 c chopped fresh tomatoes (canned are ok here, but fresh is best!)
2 tb tomato paste
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tb dried thyme
2 tb dried savoury
1 tb ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 tsp coarse salt
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Enough water or low sodium beef stock to cover the oxtails.

Oxtails ready for the pot
The last of our tomatoes from our garden this summer

- Preheat oven to 350F
- Place all ingredients into an oven-safe pot and add enough water or stock to cover the oxtails.
- Bring to a boil on top of the stove
- Cover and place the pot in the oven
- Let the oxtails simmer in the oven for 2 - 3 hours

The Simmering Pot of Goodness

I realize that 2 - 3 hours seems like a long time and is not very precise.  It depends on how large your oxtails are and how sinewy they are.  I usually do my first check after 2 hours, then every 30 minutes after that.  You are looking for a texture where you can take a fork to them and the meat comes very easily off the bone.  If you prefer your oxtails a little more 'toothsome' you can take them out sooner.

Collard Greens:
- 2 bunches of collard greens, ribs removed, cut into strips, washed
- 1 c low sodium chicken stock
- 1 white onion, thinly sliced
- 2 oz piece of smoked turkey or ham hock (optional)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil

Rib taken out, washed, chopped and ready for the pot

- Place a large pot on the stove over med-hi heat
- Add onion and saute about 4 minutes, just until translucent, but not coloured
- Add the collard greens, the stock and the smoked meat, if using
- Stir to coat the greens in the liquid and onions
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat until it is very gently simmering
- Let simmer for 2 or more hours

Again, times here are general as it depends on how young your collards are.  I have cooked them for as little as 2 - 1/2 hours and as much as 4 hours and they have not turned to mush.  The texture at the end will still have a little bite to it and the sliced onions will almost have dissolved.  (A Southern touch here, is to add a splash of red wine vinegar).

For the Acorn Squash;
- 1 acorn squash, halved and seeds scooped out
- Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon (to taste) and add a small amount of butter
- Place in a roasting pan, flesh side up, with about 1/4 c of water and cover with aluminum foil
- Bake in a 400F oven for about 40 minutes or until tender

From our garden

Dinner is served!