It was the bold, local flavours Andrea Carlson encountered while working at Vancouver Island's legendary Sooke Harbour House – feather boa kelp, fuki, wild ginger – that inspired her to become the passionate chef she is today. "Every day we'd go out into nature to create a new menu. It transformed my attitude toward cooking and how I was going to express myself through food," she says. A decade later, Carlson still draws on those early experiences at her new Vancouver restaurant, Burdock & Co., where she serves idiosyncratic vegetable– focused dishes not soon forgotten.
Like all eight-month-olds, though, Burdock & Co. is a demanding baby that doesn't give Carlson much private time. So, on her rare nights off, she looks forward to cooking at home with her partner, Kevin Bismanis, the architect who designed the restaurant. On these occasions, each makes a surprise dish for the other. For Carlson's next offering, she'll be serving up these ethereal dumplings with chestnuts in a buttery sauce. (Don't tell Bismanis.)
Ready time: 1 hour 50 minutes
1 1/2 pounds squash (ideally Marina di Chioggia or kabocha ), roasted, puréed and hung in a cheesecloth to drain
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white wine
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 bay leaf
10 tbsp unsalted butter
20 chestnuts, peeled, blanched and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup bitter greens (dandelion, green radicchio or cardoon stem, thinly sliced)
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, thinly sliced
8 tbsp aged sheep or cow cheese (Parmesan or Gruyère-style), grated or shaved
Mix the puréed squash, flour, salt and eggs by hand or with an electric mixer. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil and drop dumpling batter into the water a tablespoon at a time, working quickly by pushing the dough off the spoon with your finger or dropping it out of a piping bag and cutting it with a knife. Avoid overcrowding by working in batches. Cook the dumplings for a minute after they float to the surface of the water, then remove with a sieve to a parchment-paper-lined tray. Drizzle with olive oil to avoid sticking and repeat until all the dough is cooked.
Make a reduction by combining the wine, shallot, peppercorns and bay leaf in a small saucepan and simmering over medium-low until reduced by half. Strain out the solids and discard; set the liquid aside.
Heat 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When foamy, add chestnuts and cook until the butter and chestnuts are lightly coloured (a few minutes). Add the wine reduction and cooked squash dumplings and season with salt and pepper. Heat for 2 minutes, keeping the pan moving. Add all the greens and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to melt. Just before serving, top with the cheese and, if desired, add curls shaved from the flesh of a raw squash with a vegetable peeler.