Toronto Cooks: Q&A with Amy Rosen

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Toronto has come a long way from the days when it was nicknamed “Hogtown”. In recent years, the city’s food and dining scene has rapidly expanded and flourished with internationally-acclaimed chefs, inventive restaurateurs, to pop-up diners and unique tasting events.

When we heard the news about Amy Rosen’s new book – Toronto Cooks: 100 Signature Recipes from The City’s Best Restaurants, we wouldn’t wait to get our hands on it. The book features an extensive collection of recipes from Toronto’s best restaurants and food purveyors (Momofuku, Richmond Station, The Grove, Pizzeria Libretto, and Jelly Modern, etc.), and is accompanied by beautifully illustrated portraits showcasing the diversity of Toronto’s kitchens and the people behind them.

We had Amy answer a few questions and provide us with one of the featured recipes from the book. We hope you will pick up a copy soon and get cooking. Enjoy!

What was the inspiration for this book?

The inspiration was the city itself. We’ve long-known Toronto to be a pleasant enough place to eat out, be it fancy celebration dinner or any rib-sticking ethnicity you can dream up. Whatever you wanted, there was something good to eat in every nook and neighbourhood. But suddenly, over the past five years, Toronto’s dining scene has became great — on an international level.

From your perspective what makes Toronto such an exciting place for food?

Creativity and cooking from the heart. A lot of young chefs took off to travel around the world, then they came home with new inspirations and techniques. They then cobbled their small restaurants together on a shoestring and starting whipping up a new type of cuisine that’s uniquely their own, mostly based on far-flung influences and the best ingredients (some of which they grow or forage on their own), and great relationships with farmers, butchers and cheesemongers. Creativity reigns supreme, and there’s a fluidity to the menus, which are often re-imagined each week or evening.

How did you do your research and did anything surprise you?

The research was easy. It simply involved me reaching out to the chefs of the restaurants I frequent and admire, and asking for a couple of recipes. The thing that surprised me was how many of them were eager to be part of a collaborative book. Very few egos in this city. Refreshing!

Anything else we should know?

You may notice that the book is as gorgeous as it is delicious, yet to my mind the photo shoot was a huge risk: We had a week to photograph all of the chef portraits and their plated dishes. This meant over a five-day period, a new chef showed up at the studio to get his/her portrait taken, and finish cooking and plating their recipes, every 45 minutes. If someone was late or someone forgot an ingredient, the whole schedule could have gone down the crapper. It’s a testament to their professionalism that it all went off without a hitch. And now they can all add “food stylist” to their resumes!

Ruby Watchco – Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Gremolata 

RecipeTorontoCooks

Ribs

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 beef short ribs (16 oz each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied
red wine
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves

Horseradish Gremolata

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
leaves, chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 orange
3 Tbsp freshly grated horseradish

Ribs: Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large, heavy-bottomed, ovenproof roasting pan, heat olive oil over high heat. Season ribs with salt and pepper to taste and sear for 15 minutes, or until deep brown all on sides. Transfer ribs to a plate and set aside. To the pan, add carrots, onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until browned. Stir in red wine, tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring mixture to a boil, return ribs to pan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in preheated oven for 2 hours, or until meat is very tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

Gremolata: In a small bowl, toss together parsley, lemon and orange zests, and horseradish until well combined.

To serve: Place one short rib on each serving plate, and top with a little of the pan juices and a small handful of the Horseradish Gremolata. Season generously with finishing salt and serve immediately.

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