York Region chefs cook up recipes for hosting backyard dinner

Tuesday Jul 26th, 2016


Content Via Aurora Banner

With your backyard beckoning you outside during the summer, chances are you will be inviting family and friends for an outdoor meal at some point over the next few weeks.

Sure, you could take the easy route and throw some burgers and hot dogs, or even a steak, on the barbecue.

But what if you want to kick it up a notch and make your meal more special for your guests?

We asked five local chefs to each give us a recipe for holding an outdoor dinner party for eight to 10 people.

 Jimmy Comfort of Baldwins in Aurora offered his favourite drink recipe from the restaurant’s cocktail list.

Tim Pettigrew of Newmarket’s Ground Burger Bar gave us his recipe for a delicious appetizer.

Christopher Waye of the Smokery Kitchen and Bar in Whitchurch-Stouffville, provided a recipe for a mouth watering meat dish, while Christina Minotti of King’s Pine Farms Orchard paired it with a delectable side dish.

And what’s a dinner party without something sweet on which to end? That’s where Rebecca Pinga of Newmarket’s G & D Baking Co., comes in with her scrumptious dessert.


Jimmy Comfort’s favourite drink on his menu:

Yellow Bird

In a cocktail glass filled with ice, combine

1/2 oz dark rum

1/2 oz banana liqueur

1/3 cup pineapple juice

1/3 cup orange juice

top with drizzle of Galliano liqueur


Tim Pettigrew’s Grilled Jerk Chicken and

Halloumi Satay

Jerk Marinade

1 tbsp allspice

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp fennel seed

1 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp oregano

2 tbsp minced garlic

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 jalapenos, minced

2 tbsp black pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tsp salt

Blend all ingredients together in blender till smooth, keep in fridge until ready to use. (Will keep 4-6 days.)


2 lb boneless/skinless chicken breast

1 red onion

1-2 red pepper

1-1/2 lb Halloumi cheese

2-3 limes

1 L vanilla yogurt

10 bamboo or metal skewers (if using bamboo, soak them in water overnight to keep them from burning)

Cube chicken into bite size pieces and place in bowl, cover chicken with jerk marinade, cover and let marinate over night.

Cut onion, red pepper, and Halloumi cheese into bite size portions, skewer all ingredients onto sticks, alternating chicken (3pc) onion, (2pc), red pepper (2pc), halloumi cheese (2pc). Once you have your desired arrangement on the sticks, it’s time to hit the grill. Be sure your barbecue is at high heat. Sear all sides of your skewers to get uniform grill marks around them. Turn heat down to medium and finish cooking till chicken is fully cooked. Serve with wedges of fresh lime and bowl of vanilla yogurt for dipping. Enjoy!


Christopher Waye’s Bone-in Lamb Shoulder BBQ

5 lb bone-in lamb shoulder

3 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp cracked black pepper

2 cloves fresh garlic

2 tsp mustard powder

1 tbsp coriander

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp kosher salt

Bone-in lamb shoulder is a wonderful, inexpensive and flavourful cut of lamb that is extremely tender when cooked properly. If your guests are not interested in lamb then a pork shoulder can be substituted with the same results. I have served this roast with everything from boiled potatoes and cabbage to a build your own taco stand. Also the recipe can be scaled up with another shoulder quite easily making this recipe versatile and reasonably easy to prepare.

Begin by combining spices in a spice mill or coffee grinder. If you don’t have one then a blender will do the same job.  

Generously rub the entire shoulder with the spice rub and allow to sit until the roast comes to room temperature, roughly 30 minutes. Rubbing the meat can be done the night before to maximize the flavour.

While waiting for the roast to come to temperature preheat your barbecue to 450 C.  Make sure you are cooking on a clean and well-oiled grill.   

Sear the shoulder on all sides roughly one to two minutes a side. The natural fat of the shoulder will cause some flare-ups so move the shoulder around the grill until you have a lovely colour and seared crust. It should not be burnt, just caramelized.

Transfer the shoulder to a shallow baking tray lined with tin foil. Create a small bowl with the foil and add a cup of liquid (stock, water, beer, wine, your choice).  Cover the roast with a loose foil tent.  

Cook for 2-4 hours at 180-200 C. Check every hour and add liquid if necessary. Lamb is finished when it is fork tender.  

(Optional) Add some apple wood chips to the barbecue in a tin foil package. This will add a complex layer of flavour to an already excellent rub.

Once lamb is completed, transfer to a cutting board and loosely cover with foil. Allow the meat to rest for 30 to 45 minutes so the natural juice can be reincorporated. Pull the shoulder apart keeping large pieces intact.

Serve with mint and fresh lemon.


Christina Minotti’s Potato Salad with Apple Twist

3-4 lbs of potatoes

12 celery stalks (chopped into slices)

1 1/2 -2 small red onions (diced)

4 honey crisp apples (shredded)

1 cup mayonnaise

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp white granulated sugar

1/2 tsp parsley

2 large carrots (shredded)

salt, pepper and garlic to taste

2 tbsp apple cider

Chop potatoes into cubes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add potatoes, cook until tender approximately

10-15 minutes. Drain and cool.

In a large bowl combine mayonnaise and olive oil, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and granulated sugar whisk until combined.

Next add your cool potatoes, celery, red onions, shredded carrots, shredded apples, apple cider, salt pepper, garlic to taste and parsley.

Mix until all is combined.

Chill for about 1 hour before serving.


Rebecca Pinga’s Mixed Berry Shortcakes

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

3/4 tsp salt

7 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup cold whipping cream, plus extra for brushing

2-1/2 pints mixed berries

Strawberry Caramel Sauce

1-1/4 cup fresh strawberry puree (3/4 lb of fruit, pureed in a blender or food processor. Then strained to remove any seeds)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1-1/2 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut butter into small pieces using either a pastry blender or two knives, and cut butter into dry ingredients until you get pea size pieces of butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze this mixture for 10 minutes. Make a well in the centre and pour in cream. Gently mix dough together with a wooden spoon or your hands. Don’t over mix. You want it to look shaggy.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll out to 1-inch thick. Use a 3-inch circle cutter to cut out 10 biscuits. Place biscuits on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush tops with whipping cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the strawberry caramel sauce. Place 1⁄2 cup water and 3⁄4 cup of sugar into a deep pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir and do not walk away. When the mixture reaches a deep amber colour (after about 10 minutes), slowly add the fruit puree, whisking constantly until all the sugar is dissolved. Be careful because this mixture is hot and bubbly.

Allow caramel to simmer and reduce slightly. It will thicken more as it cools. Transfer to another bowl, cover with plastic wrap and reserve till later.

Whip cream until thickened. Then add 2 tbsp sugar to a mixing bowl and whisk on high till you get stiff whipped cream. Slice cooled shortcakes horizontally and put the bases cut side up on the serving plates. Divide remaining berries among the 10 bases. Drizzle berries evenly with caramel sauce and top with whipped cream. Any remaining cream can be served alongside shortcakes. Serve immediately

Preparing the shortcakes, caramel sauce and berries ahead of time can be a real time saver.

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