Elizabeth Baird has been singing the praises of Canadian cuisine for over 30 years. The former food editor of Canadian Living magazine and bestselling cookbook author has been gently reminding us that our own country has much to offer the culinary world. In addition to promoting Canadian food, she’s long been a supporter of Canadian chefs. Baird has introduced us to the best and brightest in Canadian food over her long and illustrious career.
When longtime friend and Formac publisher James Lorimer approached Baird and asked her to help with a “little job,” she took on the challenge of wading through more than 30 cookbooks containing some of the greatest Maritime recipes published in the last 25 years. The result was Best Recipes of the Maritime Provinces. Baird used her extensive knowledge of flavours, techniques and regional fare to pare the list down to 400 recipes that she felt were most representative of the region.
The task was more than just a matter of numbers. Imagine having to choose the one best chowder or fish cake recipe from among all the regional favorites. The idea would make a lesser woman tremble. This icon of Canadian cuisine took it on and succeeded.
One of the biggest trends in food in the last few years is the return to the use of fresh, local ingredients. One might argue that Maritimers have the rest of the country at a bit of a disadvantage here. Most of us can only dream of having the kind of seafood they have available in their backyard. And generations of Atlantic cooks have learned to make use of these beautiful ingredients to create simple, elegant and stunningly delicious food.
Baird’s next challenge was to take these recipes, some of which are over three decades old, and edit them for consistency in measurement and techniques.
She chose recipes she felt Canadian cooks would most enjoy preparing themselves. Baird has always been about making great food accessible to the everyday cook.
Best Recipes of the Maritime Provinces features a mix of old and new, from Atlantic peasant fare such as Rappie, an Acadian dish featuring grated potatoes, to modern dishes written for a new food-sophisticated audience.
You’ll also see outstanding seafood dishes like Salmon à la King with Sweet Peas, Leeks and Chopped Egg. This Maritime twist on Chicken à la King makes a glamorous main course.
But Maritimers don’t just serve seafood. A restaurant in P.E.I., Seasons in Thyme, contributed their specialty, Season’s Cranberry-Glazed Chicken. Surprisingly easy, this entrée will have everyone at the table raving for more.
Introductions to the recipes were mostly taken from their original books to allow us to hear the voice of the author and enjoy the story of how they came to be created. It is clear that this is a collaborative effort involving Baird, the original recipe writers, and the food producers of the region, both past and present.
Ms. Baird’s love of the Atlantic Region and of Canada is evident in every page of her latest project. In this book she invites us to get to know the cooks who created these wonderful recipes, to hear their stories about life, family and food and, in the end, to make some of these recipes our own.
Best Recipes of the Maritime Provinces: The best tasting recipes from home cooks and leading chefs, edited by Elizabeth Baird (Formac, 2012, $29.95)
Freelance writer Jennifer Gagel works as a research assistant at London Public Library, and as a business analyst for Cunningham MacGregor & Associates. Contact email@example.com.
Season’s Cranberry-Glazed Chicken
4 chicken breasts, skin on and wishbone attached
12 leaves fresh sage or basil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp (40 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
½ tbsp (8 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely diced shallots
¼ cup (50 mL) whole cranberries
½ tbsp (8 mL) finely chopped orange zest
¼ cup (50 mL) white wine
2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Pat chicken breasts dry. Gently lift the skin and slide 3 herb leaves under each so they lie flat between the skin and the breast. Season breasts with salt and pepper.
Place a sauté pan or deep skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Place the breasts in the pan, skin side down, and cook approximately 3 to 5 minutes, until skin is golden. Turn and cook an additional 3 minutes. Remove breasts and finish off in a 350°F (180°C) oven until juices run clear, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to rest 4 to 6 minutes before carving. Drizzle with Seasons’ Cranberry Glaze.
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté approximately 1½ minutes, being careful not to brown. Add cranberries, zest and white wine, then reduce by half. Add stock and boil to reduce by two-thirds. Swirl in butter with a small whisk and season with salt and pepper.
Salmon à la King with Sweet Peas, Leeks and Chopped Egg
1 package frozen puff pastry shells or vol-au-vents
3 large eggs
3 tbsp (40 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) sliced white of leek
¼ cup (50 mL) all-purpose flour
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) white pepper
¼ cup (50 mL) white wine
1 cup (250 mL) cold milk
¼ cup (50 mL) heavy cream (35% mf)
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh dill or tarragon
1½ pound (750 g) fresh salmon fillet, skinned and cut into bite-sized chunks
½ cup (125 mL) frozen peas
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish
Prepare the puff pastry shells as directed on the package. (They can be made ahead of time and warmed in the oven just prior to serving.)
Boil the eggs in water for 10 minutes and cool under running water. Peel the eggs and then cut them in half, removing the yolks. Chop the whites coarsely and set aside. Grate the egg yolks through the finer holes of a grater and set aside.
Heat butter in a sauté pan and cook the leeks for a few minutes until they wilt and soften. Add the flour, salt and pepper and mix well. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the wine, stirring very well. This will form a sticky-looking paste as the wine heats. Cook this for 3 minutes and then add the milk, whisking as the milk heats. Whisk in the cream, nutmeg and dill. Cook the sauce for a few minutes and then add the peas and cubed salmon. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, gently stirring a few times. Fold in the reserved chopped egg white.
Ladle the salmon mixture into the warm pastry shells. Pile it high and don’t worry if extra sauce spills over onto the plate. Use a teaspoon to sprinkle some grated egg yolk over top and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill.