More than 500 people recently gathered at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the second annual Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle for a Cure.
The gala in support of breast and ovarian cancer research and education at Mount Sinai Hospital was presented by World MasterCard and hosted by American celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Actress Lisa Ray, the upcoming host of the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada, was the MC.
Sixty contestants were divided into six cooking teams, each lead by one of six Canadian participating celebrity chefs – Mark McEwan, Chuck Hughes, Lynn Crawford, Massimo Capra, David Rocco and Nadia G.
The culinary competition for the three-course menu was stiff, but McEwan and his team won the 2011 Chef’s Challenge. The real winner, however, was Mount Sinai. More than $1.17 million was raised for its breast and ovarian cancer programs.
The money will go to the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, both based at the hospital.
The gala, held by the Mount Sinai Hospital auxiliary, was co-chaired by Bonnie Bloomberg and Alison Jarvis.
The culinary contestants were the top 60 fundraisers. Kate Daniels raised the most money bringing in $44,500, with Lynda Waks a close second with $40,000. The live auction for items including kitchen appliances and luxury vacations brought in more than $165,600.
The Canadian chefs also donated additional time by contributing to two fine dining packages, with each chef preparing a dinner for six to eight people at his or her restaurant or in the top bidders’ homes. These packages went for around $20,000 each.
Another unusual silent auction item was the chance to judge the event with the panel of media culinary experts. Wak’s daughter, Marlee, 24, ended up becoming the fourth judge.
“She had a great time,” Lynda Waks told The CJN. “Bobby Flay put her on the spot, but she’s very poised.”
Waks, a culinary and baking arts student at George Brown College, said it was a “great evening, especially when you get to use your hobby.”
Daniels, who also is a cooking maven, said the evening was amazing. A highlight for her was icing a cake with Hughes. “He’s like a rock star. He was fun and enthusiastic. He made everyone feel relaxed.”
The following recipe for gnocci, Italian potato dumplings, prepared with mushrooms in a gourmet cheese sauce, is by restaurateur and cookbook author, Mark McEwan, Top Chef Canada’s head judge and the 2011 Chef’s Challenge winner. McEwan’s basic gnocchi recipe was on the Internet. The Mushroom and cheese gnocchi recipe comes from Great Food at Home (Penguin 2010) McEwan’s latest book is Fabrica: Great Italian Recipes Made Easy for Home (Penguin 2011)
GNOCCHI WITH GORGONZOLA SAUCE
2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup clarified butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. jalapeno purée, optional
small pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
On a heatproof tray, place potatoes in 400-degree preheated oven for about 1-1/4 hours. Potatoes should be very crusty but not burnt on the outside. Inside they should be fully cooked and quite dry. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop potatoes into a potato ricer, discarding the skin, and press.
Let potatoes cool to room temperature, then add egg, clarified butter, cheese, jalapeno, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Place potato mixture into stand mixer with two-thirds of the flour. Mix on medium high until flour is fully combined. Pinch the dough and feel for its moisture content – it should be quite dry and firm. Add the rest of the flour if you feel it is necessary to have the right consistency.
Meanwhile, have a pot of boiling water, seasoned with salt, ready for blanching.
Let dough rest for about five minutes. Then roll dough into a log. Form rolls about the width of your thumb, with flour on the cutting board to prevent sticking. With a knife, cut dough on a bias, into pieces about 1-1/2 inches long. Scoop gnocchi into boiling water. When they float to the surface, they are ready to pull out. Let them cool on a tray with olive oil to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Before adding sauce, thoroughly heat 2 large nonstick skillets over medium heat and grease them well with butter. Divide gnocchi evenly between them and fry until they brown on one side. Then turn and repeat. Remove from heat and set aside, keeping warm.
Mushrooms and Gorgonzola cream sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. minced onion
8 oz. chanterelles, larger ones sliced, or any brown mushroom
1 tsp. minced garlic
pinch each of salt and white pepper
2 tbsp. white wine
1 tsp. combined minced parsley, rosemary and sage
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups 35 per cent cream
2 oz. Gorgonzola or kosher blue cheese
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. minced chives
Clean mushrooms with a wet cloth or brush. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter, and when it begins to foam, add onions and mushrooms. When the mushrooms are soft, add garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze with wine. Wait one minute before adding the herbs. Cover pot loosely with lid and keep the mushroom mixture warm.
To make the sauce, heat oil in a deep saucepan and cook onions four to five minutes until they wilt. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Deglaze with wine. When the liquid becomes syrupy, add the cream. When the liquid begins to simmer, season it and then crumble cheese into the sauce. Stir until cheese incorporates into the sauce. Season again and add chives. Do not reduce.
Divide gnocchi between 4 bowls. Pour over sauce and mound the mushroom mixture on top. Sprinkle with herbs. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.