In the glow of gleaming stainless steel and spotless countertops, Chef Rolf Gunther moves around his kitchen with practiced ease — fast, efficient movements of a long-established chef setting to work prepping the evening's meal.
There isn't much time to chat for in-demand chefs like the Rim Rock Café's Chef Rolf, especially on American Thanksgiving weekend in Whistler. And there's no chance of it letting up for weeks to come.
But he has taken the time to prepare a special appetizer this weekend, to kick off the Pique's special holiday series: The 12 Appies of Christmas.
It's a lobster potato tier, which looks light and refreshing... and oh so decadent.
"It's a classic French combination," says Chef Rolf, on the lobster and potato combo.
And the perfect fit for one of Whistler's favourites, the Rim Rock Café. The tier is going to appear on the special five course New Year's menu. But Chef Rolf provides the inside scoop so it can be prepared at home too.
When asked what his favourite thing to eat over the holiday season is, Chef Rolf shrugs: "Oh, you know, I'm working over the holidays."
On quick reflection, the German-born chef who has lived in Whistler since 1976, adds the Austrian dessert "Linzer Torte."
Because, everyone has their holiday favourites that remind them of home.
At the Bearfoot Bistro, award-winning chef Melissa Craig has also prepared a festive creation. She's chosen a parfait with duck liver, picking duck because it reminds her of holiday food.
The parfait is on Bearfoot's mouthwatering menu and Chef Melissa will be running it in her tasting menu too, her daily creation of five different dishes, depending on how she feels when she wakes up in the morning. Let's just say, for those who haven't experienced the Bearfoot yet, that Chef Melissa always feels like taking your taste buds to new and heady heights.
She too is gearing up for non-stop work over the holiday period, Whistler's crunch time. So, when asked what her favourite thing to eat over the holiday season is, she's says: "Something anyone cooks for me!"
It's a good point, though she's provided the recipe for her parfait, to bring a little of the Bearfoot's indulgence into your home.
Chef Norm Strim has also had a busy weekend, not cooking in high-end restaurants like the Rimrock and the Bearfoot, but rather selling bottles of his Whistler balsamic reductions at Bizarre Bazaar.
Crowds flocked to his table this past weekend, looking to stock up on their fast-disappearing bottles, and the curious looking to see what all the fuss was about, trying a sample, and quickly learning why Nonna Pia's has become a local success story.
While people dipped fresh artisan bread into the reduction at the bazaar, Chef Norm has some creative ways to turn his Whistler-made balsamic reductions into holiday lifesavers. Like his stuffed radicchio appetizer.
"Radicchio is a member of the chicory family (bitter lettuces)," says Chef Norm. "I especially like this recipe because the sweet acidity of our reductions paired with the slightly bitterness of the radicchio is a match made in heaven. It also helps that melted cheese and prosciutto with anything is a topper on any dish."
And his favourite holiday food?
Egg nog. "And anything that you can mix with it."
So, Cheers! Bottoms up! Salute! Cin Cin! L'chaim! Slainte!
Here's a little help for your kitchen.
The Rim Rock Cafe's Lobster Potato Tier
Ingredients as needed per person to be served
1 medium size shallot
1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon,
1/2 tsp grainy mustard,
3 tsps. Champagne vinegar
Combine together then add one ounce of olive oil, two ounces of vegetable or grape seed oil (optional flavour) and emulsify in blender or hand mixer. Squeeze half a lemon at the end and salt and pepper to taste. Makes enough for four people.
Cook sliced potatoes between parchment paper with coarse salt and butter. Poach and chill lobster tails and slice into medallions. Thinly slice radishes. Assemble into a tier. Drizzle creamy tarragon dressing. Garnish to taste.
The Bearfoot Bistro's Duck Liver and Foie Gras Parfait
Ingredients as needed per person to be served
- 300 g Grade A foie gras
- 100 g duck liver
- 18 g salt
- 2 g nitrate salt
- 220 g whole eggs (about 3 1/2 eggs)
- 300 g unsalted butter
- 100 g minced shallot
- 3 cloves garlic
- 15 springs thyme
- 150 g port
- 150 g sherry
Place all ingredients for the reduction in a pot and reduce until a syrupy consistency, strain and set aside. Temper all the other ingredients to room temperature, this is a very important step. Preheat an oven to 250 degrees and place a water bath in it to heat up. In a blender puree the foie gras, duck liver and eggs with the reduction, slowly add the melted butter and emulsify, finishing with the nitrate salt. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and pour into terrine moulds. Bake in the water bath until just set, this should take one hour to 1.5 hours. Let cool 24 hours and serve with toasted brioche and fruits.
Nonna Pia's Stuffed Radicchio with Balsamic Reduction
- 8-12 full leaves of radicchio
- 100 g thinly sliced prosciutto salami
- 200 g Gorgonzola
- 200 g smoked Gouda
- 200 g Asiago
- 1 cup Nonna Pia's Classic Reduction
Remove core from radicchio with a knife and gently peel leaves off ensuring the leaves do not break or split. Blanch radicchio leaves in boiling water until they slightly soften and are pliable (20-30 seconds each) and set aside to cool and dry. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form filling... Lay two pieces of salami flat overlapping each other, place 1 tsp of gorgonzola, 1 tsp of smoked gouda and 1 tsp of asiago in the centre and roll as if rolling sushi. Lay radicchio leaf flat and place roll inside. Close leaf around roll similar to a cabbage roll, ensure good closure so cheese does not leak when melted. Place stuffed radicchios on baking tray with parchment paper. Place tray in oven and bake for 15 minutes. In a saucepan, place reduction and heat to a simmer. Remove tray from oven and place two to four stuffed radicchio on small plate, drizzle with warm reduction and serve.