The holidays have arrived just in time for Patrick Wiese. The Toronto-based, Chicago-born chef had all burners ﬁring this year as he competed on the ﬁrst season of Top Chef Canada
and continued his work as a personal chef to the stars and personality on the food show circuit.
“I’ve been so busy, it’ll be nice to go home and just breathe a little bit,” he says. “I haven’t seen my family in a couple years, so this holiday season will be a great reunion.” Wiese will be forced to relax, he says, because his mother refuses to let him in her kitchen. “That never works,” he laughs. “She tries, but I’ve got to be in the kitchen! I’ll just pour a glass of wine and help her chop stuff. That’s what the holiday season is about: taking a break, de-stressing, being with your family and friends who make you feel loved.”
Here in Toronto, Wiese likes to share his American roots with his local friends by celebrating Thanksgiving in November. “My tradition has been to have friends over and we decorate the tree. I have each friend bring an ornament so that every year we’re adding new ones,” he says. “We’re all cooking together in the kitchen, sharing wine and telling stories. Food really brings people together.”
“Putting up the Christmas tree is very big for me,” he says, explaining how, as a boy, “I would lie under the tree and stare up at the bulbs and fall asleep.” Then, he laughs, he’d sneak into the fridge in the middle of the night to ﬁnd his mother’s cheesecake and carefully cut off a little sliver.
Wiese admits that his style of communal cooking is tricky in his condo kitchen. “I’m a big guy, so to have other people in the kitchen, we have to stay focused and organized,” he says. “It sounds clinical but cleaning as you go really helps. Chop everything up ahead of time and put it in little containers so you can just go boom, boom, boom.” Thanks to a bit of planning, he says, “We’re still having fun, drinking wine, and telling stories as we go.”
Wiese’s family deﬁnes him, he says: “I’m Sicilian, Greek and German — lovers and ﬁghters! Plus, I was born on June 29, so I’m a Cancer: artistic, passionate and emotional. I put all that into my food.”
The most important quality to being a good cook, he says, is instinct. “For me, it’s always about my gut feeling. What am I trying to accomplish? What am I trying to do for my guests?” A lot of holiday hosts trip themselves up, he suggests, by trying too hard and forgetting to have fun.
“Some of my best dishes have been failures,” he says. During his stint at Village hotspot Fuzion, he once tried to reinvent the lasagna: “I tried different sauces and different meats, like caribou. It was trial-and-error, just going by instinct and trying to have fun with it.”
Wiese is always creating something fun and fresh. “Right now I’m making a stuffing for a show in Sarnia, and I’m putting in bacon and apples and smoked oysters, instead of the usual chicken stock and mushrooms and celery. I’m taking it to another level. You’re getting tart and sweet and smoky; it just adds a more interesting dynamic to the dish.”
“Take chances,” Wiese insists. “Instead of potatoes, why not turnips or rutabagas? My ex-husband would make dinner and put in mango salsa and Brussels sprouts and wild rice, and I’d be like, ‘What is this?’ But it had a really unique ﬂavour. Cooking is an adventure. Everything you do is an adventure and should be fun.”
To get you going in the kitchen this holiday season, Chef Wiese has created some exciting recipes that will feed your family and friends fabulously.
Apple cider bread stuffing with smoked oysters, apples and bacon
1 1/2 loaves (approximately 1 lb) crusty country-style white bread
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
6 tbsp butter (3/4 of a stick)
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup unfiltered apple cider
1/2 lb sliced bacon, chopped
1 1/2 cup chopped green apple (Fuji apples work, too)
1 container smoked oysters, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken stock, heated
Preheat oven to 375F. Cut bottom crust and short ends off bread; discard. Cut remaining bread (including crust) into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups, loosely packed). In large bowl, combine bread with oil, thyme and garlic; toss. Spread cubes out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally. Return to bowl.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add apple cider, bring to boil, and scrape up any bits that have stuck to skillet, then transfer to medium bowl. Sauté bacon in same skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to bowl with vegetables. Pour off all but 1 tbsp bacon fat from skillet. Add apples to bacon fat and saute 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly browned. Stir in oysters just long enough to combine flavours, about 1 minute, then add mixture to vegetables. Stir in chopped parsley.
Bread cubes and vegetable mixture can be made one day ahead. Store bread at room temperature, and chill vegetable mixture.
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish.
Stir vegetable mixture into bread cubes. Add broth and stir to combine. Transfer to baking dish and cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, 25 minutes. Uncover; bake until top starts to brown, about 25 minutes longer.
Beet and goat cheese terrine with roasted walnut vinaigrette
This light, fresh terrine is a snap to prepare. If you don’t have a Japanese mandolin for slicing the beets, slice them by hand with a sharp knife.
Beet and goat cheese terrine
3 large beets (about 1 1/2 lb)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup watercress
2 tbsp walnut pieces
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 lb soft goat cheese (at room temperature)
roasted walnut vinaigrette and watercress salad
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp roasted walnut oil
1 bunch watercress, washed, dried and torn into pieces
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Place beets in foil in small baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap beets tightly and bake for 2 hours, or until tender when pierced with sharp paring knife. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice thinly with Japanese mandolin.
Put basil, watercress, walnut pieces, garlic, Parmesan and some freshly cracked black pepper in food processor. Pulse to chop. With machine on, drizzle in olive oil. Puree until smooth, then add goat cheese; stir to combine with rubber spatula. If mixture separates, put it in fridge for 10 minutes and then continue stirring. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled.
Line a 7 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap so wrap overhangs. Layer one third of beet slices in bottom in overlapping rows. Using a tablespoon, spread half the goat cheese mixture onto beets. Top with another third of beets, then spread on remaining goat cheese. Top with remaining beets. Cover with overhanging plastic wrap and press down the top. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours.
To make vinaigrette, put garlic, mustard and vinegar in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, drizzle in walnut oil until combined.
Put watercress in medium-sized bowl and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss.
Run sharp paring knife along sides of terrine. Place large platter upside down over terrine and flip to unmould. Remove plastic wrap.
With sharp knife, slice terrine into 3/4-inch slices. Serve each terrine slice on bed of watercress salad.
Chicken and olive ragout with Dijon potatoes
Chicken and olive ragout
4 strips bacon, chopped
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1 tbsp butter, if necessary
4 carrots, chopped
1/2 cup minced shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 large red pepper, diced
3/4 cup mixed black and green olives
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups whipping cream, warmed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Chopped fresh parsley and/or thyme, for garnish
In large pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tbsp bacon fat, reserving excess fat. Add chicken to pot in batches, and brown on all sides. Add more reserved bacon fat between batches as necessary. Set chicken aside.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining bacon fat or butter. Add carrots, shallots, garlic, thyme, pepper and salt and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, for one minute. Gradually pour in wine and stock, stirring. Bring to boil over medium heat, scraping up any bits on bottom of pot. Boil, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Add chicken and any accumulated juices to pot with red pepper, olives and mustard. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside and sauce is thickened. Crumble reserved bacon and stir into sauce. Check and adjust seasoning as necessary. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare Dijon potatoes. Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. In large pot, cover potatoes with cold water and bring to boil. Season water with salt. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and return to pot over low heat for 1 minute to dry, shaking pot so they don’t stick to bottom. Remove from heat and mash potatoes, then gradually mash in cream and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon potatoes around edge of buttered, shallow 12- to 16-cup casserole dish, leaving room for chicken in centre and ensuring potatoes do not extend above edge of dish.
Preheat oven to 350F. Spoon chicken ragout into centre of potatoes. Cover with foil and bake until potatoes and chicken are heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes longer, or until potatoes are browned and sauce is bubbling.
Let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with herbs before serving.
Mom’s holiday cheesecake
4 graham crackers (4 3/4 x 2 1/2-inch), crumbled
1/3 cup slivered almonds
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
24 oz cream cheese, softened
7 1/2 oz marshmallow fluff
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp flour
Preheat oven to 350F with rack in middle. Invert bottom of springform pan (to make it easier to slide cake off bottom) and lock it on side. Pulse graham crackers, almonds and sugar in food processor until finely ground, then transfer to bowl. Stir in butter until combined. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan. Bake crust 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature (in pan), about 15 minutes. Leave oven on.
In large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, fluff, eggs, vanilla and flour until smooth, then pour into pie shell. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off heat and allow cheesecake to cool in oven 1 hour with door cracked. Remove to wire rack and cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.