In this three-part series, we talk to some of the city’s best chefs to find out what they like to cook for their families
It seems that Vancouver’s most illustrious chefs aren’t that different than us. When it comes to home cooking, it turns out that three of Vancouver’s award-winning culinary stars—David Hawksworth of his award-winning eponymous restaurant as well as the more casual Nightingale; Rob Feenie of the Cactus Club Cafe and first Canadian chef to win Iron Chef America; and Mark Perrier, chef and co-proprietor of Osteria Savio Volpe and Pepino’s—also crave a pizza or sloppy burger once in awhile.
BCLiving sat down with these renowned chefs to ask them a few questions about their home cooking, fall meals and who inspires them. In this first of three parts, we speak with David Hawksworth and share his recipe for the perfect mushroom and truffle risotto (see below).
BCL: What are your go-to recipes at home?
Hawksworth: I love to fish so I serve a lot of seafood, especially salmon. My son’s favourite fall dish is salmon, lightly cured and cooked in the oven on low, served with peas and watercress.
BCL: In your opinion, what makes for a perfect fall meal?
Hawksworth: A good fall meal for me includes squash soup, charred root vegetables drizzled in a good olive oil to go along with some seafood.
BCL: Do you cook much differently at home than you do at your restaurants?
Hawksworth: At home, it is all about simplicity. It’s all about using the best possible products… they don’t have to be expensive, just fresh. I use the same techniques that I use at Hawksworth and Nightingale, except the dishes are prepared more simply. Some nights, I’ll grab some steaks and barbecue them or I’ll cook burgers for my son.
BCL: How do you like to entertain at home?
Hawksworth: Sunday nights, I love to have family and friends over. Often, there will be 12 people at my house. I like to cook either a salmon tataki salad, pizza cooked on our outdoor pizza oven, or grilled chicken breast. I’m a little classical when it comes to pizza, so often I’ll serve a margherita (tomatoes, cheese, basil) with chilis or a white-sauce pizza.
BCL: What are your five must-have ingredients in your pantry?
Hawksworth: Every cook needs a well-stocked kitchen. In my pantry, I always keep on hand amazing olive oil (my favourite is Frank Giustra’s Domenica Fiore), Maldon sea salt, the absolute best free-range eggs I can buy, Dijon mustard and canned albacore tuna.
BCL: Who was your main chef/cooking influence when you were growing up?
Hawksworth: My earliest mentors were my mother’s mom and my uncle on my dad’s side, who was a chef. At 19, I began working at Umberto’s where I really honed my skills by learning several different techniques and recipes.
The Perfect Mushroom and Truffle Risotto
- 1½ to 2 litres light chicken stock
- 250 g morel mushrooms, sliced in rings
- 250 g chanterelle mushrooms, whole or in half depending on the size
- 150 g oyster mushrooms, cut in big pieces
- 250 g Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 125 ml dry white wine
- 200 g Parmesan, finely grated (divided)
- 125 g butter (divided)
- 30 g lightly whipped heavy cream
- 30 ml vegetable oil (divided)
- 15 ml white or black truffle oil
- 15 g chives, chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- Salt to taste
COOKING THE RISOTTO
- Heat the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat up 15 ml of oil and 20 g of butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion and sweat for 2 minutes, until slightly translucent.
- Add the rice to the pot along with a pinch of salt and stir with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated with the oil and melted butter. This will allow the rice to get a slightly nutty aroma. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process. It's important to stir constantly, especially while the hot stock gets absorbed, to prevent scorching, and add the next ladle as soon as the rice is almost dry.
- Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 17 to 20 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy.
- If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn't done, you can finish the cooking using hot water. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring while it's absorbed.
- While the rice is cooking, heat up a large skillet or a cast-iron pan. Add the remaining oil and 30 g of butter. When the butter has melted and starts to foam, add the mushrooms. Cook and stir the mushrooms until lightly brown, approximately 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook an additional 3 minutes.
FINISHING AND ASSEMBLING THE RISOTTO
- Add the mushrooms to the cooked rice. Stir in half of the grated Parmesan, the remaining butter, the whipped cream, the truffle oil and chives. Check the seasoning and add salt if required.
- Ladle a generous spoonful of risotto into each bowl and garnish each plate with the remaining grated Parmesan.