Recipe share with Dana McCauley

Dana McCauleyRecipe Share is a weekly feature on where we profile culinary experts or public figures in Canada who have a passion for cooking.  Each individual answers a set of questions and shares one of their favourite recipes with our community. 

This week we are chatting with Dana McCauley. Dana is the Director, Innovation and Product Development, at Janes Family Foods. Before joining Janes in spring 2010, Dana owned her own consulting firm and appeared often on morning shows such as Canada AM and Breakfast Television as a food trend expert. She is also a judge on the FoodNetwork Canada/Global original reality TV show Recipe to Riches which premiered in October 2011 and became an instant hit. You can keep up with Dana’s thoughts on innovation and food trends by following her on Twitter: @danamccauley or by connecting with her on Facebook.

What did you have for breakfast today? Eggs Benedict with champagne and orange juice…oh, wait!  No. That was in my dreams before I woke up! Tim Horton’s coffee and a fist full of Mary’s gluten free crackers.

What is your specialty dish: Tough one! I like to think I make many things very well but I do think my homemade pizza is pretty darn fine.

What is something you can’t cook? I make horrible coffee!

Your can’t-live-without kitchen tool/appliance? A good chef’s knife

Your secret ingredient: No secret – when it comes to ingredients, freshness is king in my kitchen and quality is queen.

Who taught you to cook? I grew up in a house where one grandmother lived with us full time and another came for extended visits in the summer. Both were good farmhouse-style cooks and I basically hung at their elbows, soaking it all in. It wasn’t until after chef school when I joined Canadian Living’s test kitchen that I actually learned how to measure properly. Before that I had always cooked – and baked! – by feel.

What is your favourite restaurant? Pangaea Restaurant in Toronto, naturally! (I’m married to executive chef and co-owner Martin Kouprie.)

How do you unwind? I love to read fiction (my university degree is in English Literature) and I do a lot of geeky things like play scrabble and do crossword puzzles. In the summer I puddle around in my veggie and flower gardens as much as I can. I’m also a very bad but enthusiastic tennis and squash player.

What would be your last meal on earth? I’m tempted to put something really fancy down here but truthfully it seems best to take a trip down memory lane for one’s last meal so I’m going to say: my Baba’s cold potato and Swiss chard borscht; my grandmother’s Swiss steak; my husband Martin’s squab with sunflower seed encrusted polenta and my own butter tarts for dessert. Huge meal, I know! But it has to last me for all of eternity, right?
What is your favourite beverage?:  I drink mostly water but I do love my vino, especially champagne!

What is the best advice you ever received? To try new things. If I had stuck to what I know and what I had been taught, there’s no way I’d be doing the work I do today.

What is your philosophy in the kitchen? If you can read, you can cook!

Guilty pleasure? Veuve Cliquot Rose Champagne – good for celebrating and consoling!

Comfort food? Cheese!

What is your least favourite food? I really could do without eating sea urchin ever again.

What is your favourite cookbook? Now, that’s just a crazy question – who could choose just one?

Who is your favourite food writer or blogger? So many to choose from! I think M.F.K. Fisher deserves a nod here since her books really inspired me when I was a young person contemplating going to chef school.

Tell us about the best meal you ever had: I’ve been fortunate to have had many, many fantastic meals so it’s difficult to isolate one in particular. I do remember a wonderful breakfast that was served to me at about 3 am local time when I landed in Cochin, India. It included tiny little dosas served with toasted coconut chutney. I’d been traveling for over 24 hours but this meal was so good and made me so excited to explore India that I hardly slept waiting for the day to break so that I could go out and explore.

What is your greatest culinary achievement? I was very proud to be the top student in my class in year one of my program at the Stratford Chefs School but I think that’s topped by the warmth I feel whenever someone says that one of my recipes is their family’s favourite.

What’s next on your must-try list? I want to make homemade crumpets.

If you could have anyone cook for you who would you choose and why? Escoffier. I’d love to see how his technique was expressed by his hands. All classically trained chefs cite him as an influence but because he cooked before photography, we don’t really know what his food looked like.

Please tell us a little bit about the recipe you are sharing and why: My butter tart recipe. After all, if it’s good enough to sustain my sweet tooth through eternity, others might like it, too!

Thank you Dana for letting us peek into your life today! We can't wait to try your tarts!