30 December 2006

Prince Edward Island Smoked Salmon Pasta

If you have been following More Than Burnt Toast you will know I started a bi-weekly feature to highlight Canadian Chefs a few months back. Other commitments slowed my progress down, but now we are back in full force to bring you all that Canada has to offer!!! Through your TV networks, or perhaps on other blogs, or even just right here on More Than Burnt Toast you may have heard of some of our Canadian chefs. For those of you who haven't, I hope you will find it interesting to see what our chefs are up to, a little about their history and how they came to love what they do. For the next few months I will continue to feature one of our Canadian chefs bi-weekly. There will be some chefs you have heard of and adore and some lesser known who are up and coming. Some are not even chefs at all, but just Canadians who are passionate about what they do!!As the twelfth installment in my Canadian Chef series I introduce you to:

Michael Smith

Born in Canada Chef Michael Smith grew up in the province of Prince Edward Island. He is presently the host of Chef at Home as well as his latest series Chef Abroad. If you browse these pages you will notice I have mentioned this Canadian culinary star many times but this will be the first time he has been featured on my Canadian Chef Series. Michael has been cooking professionally for over twenty years with a diverse and impressive culinary background behind him. He is an honours graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, and his career has taken him around the globe where he paid his dues from stints in a Michelin three-star restaurant in London to South America, the Caribbean, North America and some of Manhattan's finest kitchens. Michael is known for his support of young Canadian chefs and the growing Canadian Cuisine movement.

His rise to fame as a household name started in Prince Edward Island’s now famous country inn, The Inn at Bay Fortune, which was known for his fresh, contemporary approach. This utlimately led to his first television series The Inn Chef. The series featured Smith as he took viewers inside the inn’s real-life country kitchen.

From there Michael opened his own restaurant, Maple, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It quickly became recognized as one of the top venues in the country for Canadian Cuisine. In the fall of 2001, Smith left Maple to focus on his new Food Network Canada series Chef at Large where he travels to meet other skilled chefs, investigates their amazing and diverse kitchens and documents their unique and challenging worlds.

Perhaps his most challenging initiative to date has been the shift he has made from his identity as a professional chef in world renowned restaurants to home cook both at home and on his television series Chef at Home. He says in an interview with Ivy Knight, "My son was born and I realized I only knew this small part about cooking, which is fine dining. I had to learn about health and nutrition. It's had a profound effect on me. I crave simplicity now." Chef At Home features a behind-the-scenes peak at Smith’s kitchen in his home on Prince Edward Island and how he cooks for his family and friends. One of the things we can appreciate most about the approach that Smith takes is the fact that he repeatedly invites and encourages would-be chefs to experiment and get creative in the kitchen, with both quantities and ingredients alike. As he states from the beginning a recipe is merely a guideline to follow. It's what you do with it that makes it your own. I love this philosophy of cooking which encourages your own creativity in the kitchen.

His latest show Chef Abroad takes viewers around the world and behind the scenes with a glimpse into the fast-paced hidden world of chefs, cooks and cuisine that most of us only get to dream about. Whether it is documenting the tension of pulling off a dinner for the Prince of Jordan or chronicling how chefs prepare delectable meals in the frozen Arctic Chef Abroad reveals new food frontiers.
His lateste show

Smith has authored four cookbooks to date. Open Kitchen: A Chef's Day at The Inn At Bay Fortune, published in 1998, took the bronze medal at Cuisine Canada’s Cookbook Award that same year. He followed that with The Inn Chef a year later. His highly anticipated third cookbook, based on his new series, Chef at Home, hit the shelves in the fall of 2005 and earlier this year followed up with the second in the series with The Best of Chef at Home.

What else has Michael been up to? He is North America's first chef food ambassador. As the food ambassador to Prince Edward Island Chef Michael Smith is dedicated to promoting the island as a "foodie" destination and raising awareness for island-produced food. Smith's recipes are greatly influenced by local products and ingredients. He loves making food personal by knowing where it came from and the people behind every aspect of it. He tries to define Canadian cusine which is a hard thing to pinpoint. Most people have difficulty with the idea that Canada has a distinctive cuisine of its own.When we say French food, Spanish food, or Mexican food it is easy to define those by the ingredients used. What do you think of when we say “Canadian Cuisine”? The idea of ordering "Canadian" may have you scratching your head. So what defines Canadian cuisine anyway? Our great land is vast and diverse and Canadian cuisine varies from region to region, which makes it difficult to put a finger on a single defining element or idea.The cuisines of Canada are diverse, regional, fresh, local, and linked to the culture and history of the individual regions and the people living and working there from the east to the west coast.  Michael Smith does a very good job of definition with using fresh and local ingredients in his native Prince Edward Island where seafood and agriculture are the mainstay.

 Recently someone actually stole his identity and stirred up quite a ruckus with a Twitter page. Up until that point he had never tweeted. So he decided to start twittering. He says, "It was a bit of an eye opener and fascinating to see how many of you are in the twitterverse. I’m having fun with the whole thing and can be followed at @chefMICHAELsmth. Stay tuned I’m also in the process of launching my own Facebook page. Not bad for a guy who lives in rural Prince Edward Island. Were all so connected now"

Host of  Chef Abroad, Chef at Home, Chef at Large and The Inn Chef, Chef Michael Smith can be seen in more than 25 countries. He is an award-winning cookbook author, newspaper columnist, roving Canadian cuisine ambassador and home cook. What's next? He has devoted his career to helping Canadian families create simple, practical nutritious food "with or without a recipe". From what I have read he is now trying to center his life around his family and a more relaxed lifestyle in P.E.I while still promoting delicious home cooking and Canadian local ingredients with television and charitable connections.  Smith says his favorite role by far is Dad, at home with his partner Rachel where they make Green Eggs and Ham for their son Gabriel !

Watch for him at the Olympics in Vancouver in a a few months for the Winter Games, "I'm part of this large team of chefs that, on behalf of Canada, will be cooking a lot of great Canadian food for athletes from all over the world." We have still yet to hear more on what will be involved.

So where do you begin in choosing just one recipe from a chef who has had such a diverse and illustrious career? With recipes like Black Olive Stuffed Chicken Breast with a Pine Nut Risotto Cake, Rapini and Roast Garlic Basil Broth, Aged Cheddar Cheese Biscuits with Chive Scrambled Egg Stuffing, Brown Butter Hollandaise Sauce, from the Inn Chef to Bloody Mary Salmon, Drunken Pears in Crispy Cups with Goats Cheese Cream  or Three Chocolate Mousse Cups. Finally I chose to prepare a dish I found on the Internet inspired by Prince Edward Island and brought to you by Chef Michael Smith. This is one of the most popular dishes at Chef Smith's table. It reads. "His friends love its bright, familiar flavours and I love how easy it is to make. You can toss steaming, just cooked pasta with melting cream cheese to form an incredibly smooth luxurious sauce. The smoked salmon adds extravagance balanced by other familiar flavours like dill, lemon, onion, mustard and capers. A five star dish for sharing!"

The VERDICT: I had 2 helpings...that says it all!!!!!

**Prince Edward Island Smoked Salmon with Pasta and Simple Dill Cream Cheese Sauce**

1 lb penne or your favourite shaped pasta like bowties, long pastas like spaghetti don’t work as well
1 cup room temperature cream cheese
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 heaping spoonful of Dijon mustard
1/4 cup capers
8 ounces smoked salmon, or more
sprinkled sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Season it liberally with salt until tastes like a day at the beach on Prince Edward Island. As the pasta cooks it will absorb the salted water and become properly seasoned. Cook al dente, until the pasta is cooked through but still pleasantly chewy.

Scoop out some of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta but not quite all the way. Leave it a bit wet. Toss the pasta back into the pot along with a splash or two of the reserved water, perhaps a half-cup or so in total then immediately add the rest of the ingredients. While the pasta is still steaming hot it will easily melt the cream cheese and form a rich creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately.

You may also enjoy these other Chef Michael Smith recipes:

Frozen Butter Biscuits
Potato Fish Cakes
Salsa Salad
Spinach Greek Potato Salad with Feta Vinaigrette
Cheesy Potato Pie
Chocolate Chip Cookies

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