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Gluten Free Holiday Dinner with Chef Robin Wasicuna

During the summer months in our northern capital city, the food trucks come rolling out of their hibernation and set up camp to serve the hungry masses some amazing “fast food.” One of those trucks is run by Chef Robin Wasicuna and his wife Karen, Wise Guy Foods. Chef Robin serves up his takes on cholesterol raising, but damn tasty burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The summer before last, I was fortunate enough to devour some of those delicious piles of meaty goodness; such as the “I Haz Cheeseburger,” one of Chef Robin’s most popular (and now elusive) burgers: a giant patty of beef topped with cheese, and jammed between two grilled cheese sandwiches. If you have the pleasure to eat this burger, you will be thanking the Gods you have taste buds … and that your cardiologist is on call. Alas, I can no longer eat gluten, and Chef Robin now keeps this monster of a burger tucked away, to bring out for special events and on random days to tease his customers into coming back for more. Luckily for me though, this summer Wise Guys Foods started to serve up some Gluten Free options from time-to-time. Such as my favourite salad of the summer: a braised pork belly and kimchi salad. Thank You Robin.

But what does this have to do with my blog? This is a recipe sharing blog, not one where I review tasty places to eat. Well there is this little thing called Twitter (maybe you have heard of it…), where myself and Wise Guy Foods happen to update our own prospective goings on; and we both happened to follow one another. Then, back in August, Robin sent me a direct message stating he’d like to do some sort of Guest Blog on the site. I was immediately excited about the opportunity, and Robin and I hashed out a few ideas. Then those ideas became a bit more concrete with Robin suggesting a gluten free Thanksgiving meal. Sold. Unfortunately life gets in the way, and Kyle and I happened to be in the midst of a move and had a lot of family coming and going for visits – it was becoming a challenge finding a time when Robin and I could get together in the kitchen. We finally set a date for a weekend in September; which would have provided ample time to get this on the blog for Canadian Thanksgiving. However, the day before we were set to cook, Robin got a call for an amazing last minute opportunity: he was asked to represent NWT at the Canadian Chefs Conference – which was taking place in 2 days. Yikes. Needless to say we had to cancel. He did our territory proud out in Nova Scotia!

So we missed Canadian Thanksgiving. But we managed to get together last weekend after Kyle and I settled into our place, and cook up a holiday feast that’s free of gluten. Just in time for our friends south of the border to serve at their Thanksgiving tables – and you can tuck this away for Christmas or next year if you’re so inclined. Although, maybe everyone should take a lesson from my parents: Turkey is not just for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It’s a bird that should be cooked many times a year, whenever you’re heart desires.

When Chef Robin and I got together last weekend, I was getting very pumped up prior to him showing up. And nervous. I had never cooked with a chef before. And I’m just a humble home cook – I wasn’t sure my skills would be up to snuff. But I reminded myself this was not going to be a fine dining meal, filled with challenging techniques and hard to get ingredients. It was going to be a family-style meal, one that anyone with a little kitchen know-how could prepare at home; right in my comfort zone. Although I talked myself into this, I was still slightly awkward when Robin and his wife Karen arrived. After a quick introduction (we had never formally met prior to our cook day), we got right to work with prepping the meal so the turkey breast could get into the oven right away. But after a glass of wine and some chopping under our belts, I relaxed and the rest of the afternoon was a breeze of roasting, sauteing, and meal prep. We chatted about the joys and challenges of living in the North; about great food, restaurants, and chefs; and about our shared love of pork. Chef Robin discussed how he got into the food truck business, and how it provides him with a place to serve “real,” creative food to people. He let us in on future plans for a possible permanent shop, where he could make high-end pub food – such as delicious Con Fit Chicken Wings … I have been dreaming about those for a week now. Kyle ended up having to leave early for work, so he missed out on the meal (but we made him a plate that he thorougly enjoyed later). However, my sister-in-law and her girlfriend showed up for dinner, so we had a great Family Style meal with five of us sharing food and wine and stories. It was an awesome day, and I’m looking forward to cooking with Robin again.

Gluten Free Holiday Meal

Menu (Serves 6):

  • Cider Basted Roast Turkey Breast
  • Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
  • Pork Sausage Stuffing
  • Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Hash
  • Pumpkin Cake with Bourbon Compote and Maple Bourbon Frosting

 Note: Once we sat down to dinner we realized we didn’t make any gravy. Not that anything needed it – everything had tons of flavour, and the turkey was juicy from the cider baste. However, I have provided a quick, gluten-free pan gravy below in the event you would like to make one for your holiday meal. The recipe for the Pumpkin Cake will follow at a later date.

Cider Basted Roast Turkey Breast

Recipe provided by Chef Robin Wasicuna

1 4-5 lb turkey breast
Salt & Pepper
1 Tbsp dried Sage
1 large white onion
1-2 cups apple cider (alcoholic or non)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Season turkey breast liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the dried sage over the turkey breast. Slice the onion into 4 thick slices. Place the onions in a small roasting pan, and place the turkey breast over the oven. Pour about ¼ cup of the apple cider over the turkey.

Place the turkey breast in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes at 425°F; basting every 15 minutes with apple cider. Turn the temperature down to 350°F, and then continue to roast for another hour to 1.5 hours; basting every 15 minutes with additional cider. Remove from oven when temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove string.

Slice and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes

1 large sweet potato
3-5 white or Yukon gold potatoes (about 1.5lbs)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Scrub the potatoes – peel if desired (I did not peel them; gotta get your fiber anywhere when you’re gluten free!). Cut up all the potatoes in 1 inch chunks; place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl (rosemary through pepper) and stir to combine – using your hands for this is by far easier than a spoon. Evenly distribute the potato mixture to a large baking sheet.

Roast the potatoes at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Alternatively (if you’re not cooking this with the turkey breast), you could roast these for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a 425°F oven.

Sausage Stuffing

Recipe provided by Chef Robin Wasicuna

Note: Robin has provided his recipe to make sausage from scratch; alternatively, you could purchase 2 lbs of any regular pre-made pork sausage – but nothing hot or flavoured! Robin stated that this recipe was adapted from a Scottish family recipe of his wife’s. Karen informed us that she had never heard of bread stuffing until she had a holiday dinner at a friend’s house!

For the Sausage
2 lbs ground pork
½ cup red wine
4 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp fennel sit
2 Tbsp black pepper

Remaining Ingredients for Stuffing
1 large white onion
1 Tbsp dried sage
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

To Make Sausage: Mix all the sausage ingredients together in a large bowl (ground pork through 2 Tbsp black pepper). Once mixed, allow to sit at least 2 hours (ensure you refrigerate it).

To Make the Stuffing: Preheat oven to 350°F. Roughly chop the white onion – toss into a food processor or blender and puree. Combine the pureed onion, sausage meat, dried sage, salt & pepper in a large bowl. Pack into a loaf or cake pan. Bake in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan, slice, and serve.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Hash

Recipe provided by Chef Robin Wasicuna

Note: You will want to purchase a rasher of bacon for this (you’ll need about ½ lb) instead of using pre-sliced bacon. You want to taste the bacon in the hash!

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
1 small onion, diced
1 cup bacon, large diced
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp Sherry vinegar

Cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts. Peel apart all the layers of tender leaves and place them in a large bowl – set aside (you can save the tougher middle sections for another use).

Place the bacon and water in a heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook until bacon is cooked through and water has evaporated; approximately 5-10 minutes. Add onions to the pan. Saute everything until the onions are golden brown; approximately 5-8 minutes. Turn down heat to medium, add the Brussels sprouts leaves, butter, salt and pepper, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are soft and cooked through. Add the sherry vinegar, stir everything to combine, and remove from heat. Serve warm.

Pan-Dripping Gravy

Drippings from Cider Basted Turkey Breast
1 ½ cups chicken or turkey stock
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour or potato starch
salt & pepper

Discard solids from the pan the turkey was roasted in. If the pan you used can be heated on the stove top, place over a medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup of the chicken stock to the pan and scrape up as much of the bits off the pan as possible. (if the pan can not be placed on the stove, pour the ¼ cup of stock into the hot pan as soon as possible when it comes out of the oven; scrape up the flavour bits from the pan, and pour everything into a saucepan). Whisk in the rice flour or potato starch, then add the remaining stock. Bring everything to a light boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the gravy thickens. Have a taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warm.

Note: if you have a dry white wine, you could add this to the pan instead of the ¼ cup of chicken stock mentioned above; then add 1 ¼ cup of chicken stock for the remainder of the recipe.

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  1. #1 by Aunt Janice on November 6, 2012 - 10:12 am

    Gina – you have such fun! What an opportunity for you. Hope you settling into your new place. Janice

  2. #2 by Gorging George on November 6, 2012 - 2:49 pm

    Yes it was tons of fun. Settling in great – we have lots of room for guests now if you ever find yourself up north again!

  3. #3 by Chelsey on November 6, 2012 - 8:46 pm

    This all looks so delicious! I’ll have to test my cooking skills and try one…or more of the recipes!

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