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Chirping about “happy chickens” and “cheeky cocktails” in a delightful English accent, Peter Hughes, the executive chef at Bighorn Lodge in Revelstoke, B.C., makes his art seem a lark. But when you taste his food, you’ll know he’s all business.
“I don’t try to fuss with the food too much,” he says. “I don’t mess around with foams and jellies. I use really good ingredients. I know every chef says that, but I mean it.” Those ingredients include local handmade sausages and cheeses from Granville Island, Okanagan wines, local organic meat that he meets personally to ensure the animals are “happy” and mushrooms collected in Bighorn’s backyard. (Where exactly, however, is a secret more highly guarded than any pow stash.)
Formerly the chef to rock stars David Bowie, James Brown, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and more, Hughes has now landed his dream job at Bighorn—a 15,000 square-foot Euro-style chalet on the slopes of Revelstoke. The lodge houses a heli pad (accessed by Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing), cinema room, spa, gym, eight guest rooms, indoor jet-flow exercise pool, outdoor Jacuzzi for 16 guests and a state-of-the-art kitchen with its own teppanyaki table. Hughes also has a cookbook, “The Mountain Chef,” coming out soon.
Mini Boeuf Bourguignon Pies
Makes enough filling for 20 mini pies, enough to feed a family of four twice over. (Boeuf Bourguignon will keep really well in the freezer for up to three months.)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 4 hours (considerably less with the help of a pressure cooker)
2 sheets pre-rolled frozen puff pastry
1 egg for glazing
3.5 lbs diced chuck steak or shin of beef cut into approx 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup quartered chestnut or field mushrooms
1 cup finely diced smoked bacon (lardons)
1/2 cup of finely diced carrot
1/2 cup of finely diced celery
1/2 cup of finely diced leek (white part only)
1/2 cup of finely diced fennel bulb
1/2 cup of finely diced shallots
1 tbsp butter
1 bottle of good quality red wine (buy two bottles, as its essential to feel French whilst cooking Bouef Bourguignon, and you will need a whole bottle for this recipe!)
1 pint good chicken stock (home-made preferably but stock cubes made into a pint with water is fine)
1 sprig each of thyme, rosemary and bay tied with kitchen string (this is a classic bouquet garni and will be removed before eating. The string can be tied to the saucepan handle to avoid “fishing” later)
1 bulb of fresh garlic (at Bighorn we use elephant garlic, as the flavour is sensational and the large cloves make peeling easy)
1 tbsp of tomato puree/paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 jar cocktail onions rinsed and soaked in cold water before adding to the finished Bouguignon 1 hour before serving.
In a large mixing bowl season the beef with flour, salt and pepper and set aside whilst you prep your vegetables. Finely chop all the vegetable ingredients and smoked bacon and sweat gently in a heavy bottomed saucepan until translucent. Remove from saucepan and keep in a bowl to add later. In the same saucepan you cooked the vegetables in, add the seasoned beef and sear whilst stirring continuously to get some good color on the meat. (Remember color is flavour and will make a big difference to the final result.)
After 10 minutes pour in the wine and marry all the remaining ingredients together in the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and stir religiously every 10 minutes for the first half an hour to avoid a sticky disappointment!
Once the gravy has started to thicken and the beef starts to become tender, stir occasionally (this dish is a labor of love and the more you care for it the more you will be rewarded in the finished article) and turn the heat down further until a gentle simmer can be sustained in the pan for a further two or three hours, depending on the size of your beef (pardon the expression).
Towards the end, add the small soaked cocktail onions and simmer for 30 minutes more. Total time simmering should be no more than three and a half hours, but if the beef still seems a little tough, then simmer gently for longer.
Meanwhile, in a preheated fan-assisted oven at 350 F, cook pre-cut oval or round mini discs of pre-rolled frozen puff pastry on parchment paper or silpat baking sheet, glazed with eggwash until golden in color. Allow to cool slightly. (These can be pre-made and will keep at room temperature for up to a week in airtight containers.)
Take a sharp serrated knife and cut the pastry shapes horizontally to create tops and bottoms. Spoon in some of the Bourguignon and top with a lid. Serve with beer and smiles or assemble as a main course with mashed potatoes (more on that subject later) and some fresh steamed vegetables and a glass of something red!