Through the Kitchen Window

The very fact that you’re here, reading about food and cooking, tells me that you have a keen interest. If you’re anything like me, one of the searches you spend the most time on, is finding a great place to eat out where the ambience is friendly and welcoming and the food is so good you don’t find yourself merely saying: “I could make this at home.”

There’s a restaurant in Orangeville, Ontario that is just such a place. Run by the husband and wife team Chafic Harris and Diana DiGirolamo, Il Corso is as close as you get to Italian culinary heaven.

Il Corso is one of those places you just love to keep coming back to. Mostly because the food is always unfailingly good, but also because you never know just what Chef Harris will come up with for the daily specials.

I was there the other night and it’s that visit that triggered this column. I’m always wowed by Chef Harris’ inventiveness in the kitchen but this time was exceptionally so. For starters there was the appetizer: duck breast pan seared to perfection and topped with a sauce of dried fruits and cherry brandy. Served with a wedge of lemon to cut the sweetness, it was a perfect start to a memorable meal. It was followed by a light cream of asparagus soup that was actually chock full of tender green tidbits. Also outstanding. But the star of the evening was a surprise concoction. A grilled veal chop topped with a creamy bacon asiago sauce that was, not to overstate the fact, absolute heaven. As my dinner companion put it: “He must stay awake at night dreaming up these combinations!”

So, of course, I had to find out how he did it. Chafic is one of those great chefs who have no problem sharing his secrets. He was happy to oblige me with a recipe of sorts, saying only that the amounts were totally up to who was making it and for how many. So I did my best and came up with what I feel are close approximations for quantities and here it is:

Il Corso Veal in Creamy Asiago Sauce

The quantities in this recipe are estimates and based on two servings.
  • ½ lb. double smoked bacon, thinly sliced and diced
    Sauté till just starting to brown in a mixture of equal parts olive oil and butter
  • Add 2 tbsp. green peppercorns (quantity is discretionary depending on how spicy you like it)
  • Then add 2 cups of 35% cream and allow to reduce by about a third
  • Dissolve into the mixture a piece of a beef bouillon cube – I’d start with about a ¼ and taste it, they can be really salty

This is the point where Chef Harris is adamant. The sauce is complete now. I know, I know, there’s no asiago in it, but that’s the crucial step with this spectacular dish. Trust me on this one.

Grill your veal chop, and for this you want a nice cut at least an inch thick, grilled medium rare for best flavour. Set each chop on your service plate and then top them each with a good half cup of shredded asiago cheese. Coat liberally with the sauce and they’re ready to serve.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

The other night when I was there, Chafic served them with thick cut scalloped potatoes which just complemented the sauce and a mixture of carrots and zucchini that dressed up the plate nicely.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and I already have my reservation at Il Corso. Space is at a premium so there’s no such thing as booking too far in advance. It’s my hope that Chef Harris includes this wonderful entrée on his special Menu for Lovers.

Oh, and before I forget, the reasoning behind the cheese thing. Chafic says that if you add the asiago to the sauce and let it heat, it will break the sauce down and ruin it. Also, it will eventually, in the keeping warm phase, conglomerate in a thick gooey mess on the bottom of your pan. Sprinkling it over the chops then dousing it with the hot sauce gives it just the right “melted” texture but it still maintains its integrity and sharpness and is a great foil for the smokiness of the bacon. But don’t take my word for it . . . try it for yourself!!!

Diana and I discussed it at great length that night and decided that the same sauce and technique would also do well over grilled chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or ladled extravagantly over fresh pasta. Who am I kidding??? What we actually said was we’d eat it with spoons, straight out of a bowl with a chunk of crusty bread to follow it. I can’t wait to experiment!!!

If distance keeps you from enjoying Chafic’s talents in person, then make his recipe a part of your Valentine’s celebration at home. You won’t regret it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!