Well, it sure didn’t taste like “pub” food ….
I’m talking about the dinner that Chef Will Edsell cooked for our latest Go Cooking session. Buttery, flakey pastries stuffed with fresh local vegetables, spaghetti squash with a Bolognese sauce and summer berry Napoleons with Madagascar vanilla gelato — not your usual fish and chips, chicken wings or even Welsh rarebit (not that there’s anything wrong with those choices!). But Edsell, the Chef at the Queen’s Head Pub on Burlington’s Brant Street, has definitely upped the “pub grub” ante by choosing fresh seasonal ingredients and treating them creatively and sensibly. No razzle dazzle or exotic, mysterious condiments here. Just good, simple fresh food, intelligently conceived and artfully prepared.
The Queen’s Head is one of Burlington’s most venerable institutions. The building itself was constructed in the 1840’s as the Queen’s Hotel and its mahogany lined interior has a real historical cachet. For many years it served as a downtown neighbourhood pub, serving typical pub fare and you can still get comestibles such as bangers and mash, fish and chips, half price wings (on Tuesdays), ribs and curry. But now, the venue also has WIFI, an incredibly busy and bustling patio and a locavore inspired menu created by Chef Will who came on board in 2011.
In the way of so many chefs, Edsell has had a peripatetic career. Born in Halifax, he grew up on the east coast, helping to raise livestock and grow produce on the family’s hobby farm. His career as a chef took wing when he moved to Ontario at the age of 16 and started to participate in every high school culinary program that was offered. He later attended George Brown College for his more formal education. He worked at several restaurants in the downtown core of Burlington before joining the Queen’s Head as Executive Chef.
His menu for our Go Cooking session was a preview of one of his menus for ATaste of Burlington (http://www.tasteofburlington.ca/index.php/sample-page/queens-head-pub/) which will be winding up its summer session on August 5th. The food was wonderful, but one of things that we always try to do at Go Cooking is to find chefs who can teach, as well as cook. Edsell was great — articulate and patient — answering all of our guests questions and demonstrating his skills with clear instructions. As a complete klutz with phyllo pastry, for instance, (mine always ends up in horrid messy little pieces) I was fascinated to watch him butter and fold the pastry shells for each little pocket of veggies, not worrying about little rips or tears. I also have never cooked spaghetti squash — his tip was to choose a squash that was ripe but not too yellow on the outside — to get the best “stringy”, spaghetti-like interior. It was also an inspired choice for a summer supper — a lighter and fresher choice with the Bolognese sauce than an actual bowl of pasta.
But I’m going to leave you with his recipe for the dessert. Don’t be overwhelmed — it looks long, but it’s really three separate elements that can be done ahead and assembled at the last minute. And the result is truly splendid. I should also add that Peter Kline, our sommelier, from Bacchus Sommelier Services, served a wonderful port with this dessert: a 2006 Pedroncelli Four Grapes Vintage Port from Sonoma County, California. (LCBO 204487) It had just enough sweetness and spice to complement the ice cream and berries, but was neither syrupy nor cloying. And at $16.05 a bottle, the price is certainly right.
The recipe served 24, so unless you’re feeding a crowd, you will have to do some arithmetic.
Summer Berry Napoleon with Madagascar Vanilla Gelato
Chef Will Edsell, Queen’s Head Pub
1 pint each – raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries
1 sheet puff pastry (8″ by 11″)
6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1) In a mixer whisk egg yolks and sugar until they become a pale yellow and slightly thickened.
2) In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk and vanilla bean which has been split lengthwise.
3) Heat mixture over medium low heat until it simmers. Before it boils, remove it from the heat.
4) Remove the vanilla bean, but leave as many seeds as possible in the milk/cream mix.
5) Slowly add the warm milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture while whisking in order to temper the eggs.
6) Transfer to a saucepan and continue to cook on medium low heat until mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to fridge to cool.
7) At this point, you can either transfer the mixture to a home ice cream maker then follow the directions given with that, or put in a stainless steel pan. If you choose the latter method, you need a good chunk of time.
8) Place the pan in the freezer and in increments timed to 20 minutes, remove from the freezer and quickly churn with a rubber spatula, then return to the freezer.
9) This process must be repeated for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours until mixture resembles a dense ice cream. Then let it set for 30 additional minutes.
1) In a small saucepan, over medium heat, cook all berries with sugar until much of the liquid has seeped out and created a syrup.
2) Remove from heat, set aside and serve at room temperature.
1) Cut puff pastry into 1 and a half to 2 inch squares. (Don’t have to be exact.) Bake squares at 450 degrees F until pastry has risen and is golden brown. Remove from heat.
Place 1 square of pastry on a plate, press down and top with half tbsp. of berry mixture. Repeat with 2 more layers of puff pastry and 1 of berry mixture. While pastry is still warm, top with a scoop of vanilla gelato and serve.
These are really the chef’s instructions: Be very careful when adding the warm milk mixture to the egg yolks. If it is too hot you will end up with scrambled eggs in milk. The chef used a Kitchen Aid® mixer to whisk the egg yolks and sugar, and a home ice cream maker to make the gelato. The vanilla bean was from Madagascar — as is most vanilla, apparently. The chef also noted that you could make homemade puff pastry if you had quite a lot of time. I found the frozen puff pastry was just fine and this dessert is totally amazing.