On this week’s “Chef Artois”, it’s a French affair at Lapinou

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On “Chef Artois”—a new culinary miniseries hosted by Pay Chen—we’re inviting diners back inside Toronto’s best restaurants. On this show, top chefs won’t be doing the cooking, though. Instead, diners are donning aprons and letting chefs judge their culinary skills. Tonight’s episode takes us to Lapinou, a darling French restaurant located on a lively stretch of King West.

Lapinou’s kitchen is helmed by Jamie Ullrich, a chef known for combining French cooking techniques with fresh-from-the-farm Ontario ingredients. It’s hard to pigeonhole Ullrich’s neo-bistro fare, but think French classics with contemporary Canadian flair. Today, Ullrich will be challenging two home cooks—Ashley Hassard and Danton Lamar—to make one of his signature dishes: garganelli pasta infused with tomato vines.

The recipe seems simple—it’s just four ingredients: pasta, tomatoes, basil and gouda—but don’t let the straightforwardness fool you. This is not an easy recipe to recreate. According to Ullrich, “the fewer ingredients, the more difficult the dish because you need to get maximum flavor out of each ingredient.”   

Each week, Ullrich drives out to a small Markham farm to buy organic cherry tomatoes with the leaves still clinging to their stems. He then blanches and purees the leaves, and then passes the stems through a juicer. The chlorophyll is what gives the garganelli (a handmade, cigar-shaped pasta) its green colouring. The noodles are then topped in a sauce made from the very same tomatoes that once clung to those vines. This Canadian twist on pasta pomodoro, which swaps out parmesan for a nutty Ontario gouda, proves that a few simple ingredients can make for a memorable, flavour-packed plate. 

Ullrich’s  garganelli has much in common with Stella Artois, which is also made with just four ingredients: hops, barley, yeast and water. A pint of Stella paired with a bowl of this handmade pasta makes for a winning combination. Stella’s floral hops echo the fragrant basil, accentuating the verdant notes in both the beer and pasta. The gentle malt sweetness, meanwhile, balances the acidity from fresh tomatoes, while the delicate bitterness of the beer cuts through the cheese’s richness. 

With 60 minutes on the clock, contestants Hassard and Lamar step up to the chopping block and the flurry of pasta making begins. Who will triumph and be named the next Chef Artois? Will one of the home cooks buckle under the pressure of being judged by a top chef with a Michelin pedigree? Click the play below button to find out.

This bite-sized series—episodes are a satisfying 12 minutes long—was created in support of Rally for Restaurants, an initiative founded by Stella Artois to help support the restaurant industry as it rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic. In each weekly episode, two home cooks will step inside the kitchen of a Toronto restaurant to compete for the title of Chef Artois and win a $1,000 prize pack.

How to Make Lapinou’s Tomato Stem Garganelli 

Recipe is for a single portion. 

Pasta Ingredients 

  • 190 grams all-purpose flour
  • 20 grams semolina
  • 10 grams salt
  • 60 grams tomato leaf puree
  • 1 large egg

Cherry Tomato Sauce Ingredients 

  • 150 grams vine ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 15 grams confit onions
  • 10 grams pickled ramps (or garlic)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 25 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Mountain Oak three-year-old gouda (or parmesan)
  • 2-3 basil leaves
  • Salt to taste

The recipe

  1. First, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is warming, pluck the tomatoes and tomato leaves off the tomato stems. Toss the leaves into the boiling water for 30 seconds to blanche them. Quickly remove the tomato leaves and put them into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Once they’re cool, remove from the bath and gently squeeze the leaves to remove any excess water. 
  2. Pass the tomato stems through a juicer. Chef Ullrich says that “If you don’t have a juicer, you can replace the stem juice with cold water. Pasta is all about percentages, so if you get the math right, the rest will work out.” For this recipe, Ullrich says the golden ratio is 1.5 times the amount of liquid to blanched leaves. 
  3. In a high-speed blender make a puree out of the blanched leaves and stem juice (or water). 
  4. To make the dough, set up a mixing bowl with dough hook. Place the semolina, flour and salt inside the bowl. Then, whisk the eggs with the tomato leaf puree. Turn the mixer on and then slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Leave the mixer to knead for five minutes. (This can also be done in a food processor, but kneading must be done by hand after all the ingredients are incorporated into an evenly mixed dough.)
  5. Remove the dough and cover with a towel. Let rest for 30 minutes. 
  6. Once dough is rested, roll it out through a pasta roller until 2 millimetres thick. Cut the sheets into four-by-four centimetre squares. 
  7. Using a garganelli board and wooden dowel roll out the pasta. Let dry out for 30 minutes. Ullrich says he rolls out 125 grams of pasta per portion, but if you don’t want to be so precise, that’s okay, too. 
  8. Now it’s time to get saucy. Place an olive oil-slicked frying pan on a medium high heat. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and toss them into the hot oil. It will sizzle, so be careful. 
  9. After 30 seconds of cooking, add the pickled ramps (or garlic), onions and chili flakes. Cook until tomatoes start to break down. This should only take two to three minutes. 
  10. Deglaze with white wine and continue simmering until the sauce has reduced in volume by half. Remove from heat.
  11. Now it’s time to cook up the pasta. Drop the garganelli in boiling water. It should boil for just under two minutes. Always check for doneness (i.e., eat a noodle) before straining. 
  12. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and put back on the heat. Once hot, turn off the burner and fold in the butter. Keep mixing until the butter emulsified. Chef Ullrich recommends adding a few splashes of pasta water if your sauce is too thick. Finally, season with salt.
  13. Place pasta in a bowl and garnish with grated gouda (or parmesan) and basil.