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Paul Shufelt’s comfort food with a contemporary twist

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French technique, Swiss training, Alberta ingredients and a contemporary sensibility set Chef Paul Shufelt apart from the herd. 

By Kate Zimmerman

 

A dishwashing gig at 16 launched Chef Paul Shufelt on a career that’s taken him from the Eastern Townships in Quebec to Europe to Edmonton, where he oversees seven restaurants for the Century Hospitality Group, a $20 million organization.

He grew up on a property outside Montreal, where his mother raised chickens and ducks and had a massive garden. Shufelt remembers her forever at the stove, making pies, preserves, and delicious meals for her only child.

“Lots of comfort food – nothing very fancy, just simple food, but at the same time, she loved it. She knew her recipes by heart and made them time and time again. Same thing with both my grandmothers.”

“I think what sets us apart [at Century Hospitality Group] is we’re ‘contemporary comfort’,” he says. “I rely on that French cooking background and my skillset, but we peel away some of the pretentiousness and work with approachable ingredients — and local ingredients, whenever we can. We take classic dishes and turn them on their head and have some fun with them.”

Like Shufelt’s recipe for Bacon Cheeseburger Perogies. “Taking the ingredients of North America’s most classic food, a bacon cheeseburger, and incorporating them into the filling just seemed like a whimsical twist on an otherwise straightforward dish.”

Chef Paul’s top tips to make the most of comfort foods

  • Up your game. Nothing says comfort more than game. Think duck and venison for a truly fall menu.
  • Find new twists. Take the comfort dishes of old and add your own twists to make them more contemporary.
  • Look for perfect pairings. Comfort foods need the right vegetable pairings like corn, squash and pumpkin paired with game.

Recipe

Bacon Cheeseburger Perogies

Perogie Filling

1 lb (454 g) lean ground beef, cooked, and drained of fat

2 cups (500 mL) mashed potatoes, seasoned, buttered and creamed

6 slices bacon, julienned

½ cup (125 mL) minced shallots

1 tbsp (15 mL) salt

2 cups (500 mL) cheddar

1. Prepare the ground beef and the potatoes. I prefer to cook the potatoes for the filling and the dough together, then separating the quantities when it comes time to mash them. You want to season and cream the potatoes for the filling because you want the flavour, whereas for the dough, you are more interested in the starch, water content and texture of the potatoes when added to the dough. 2. Sauté the sliced bacon in a frying pan, adding the shallots near the end, just to soften them without browning, set aside and preserve the fat. 3. Now combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands until evenly distributed. Now that your filling is ready, you can prepare your dough.

Perogie Dough

4 cups (1 litre by volume or 550 g by weight) flour

1 cup (250 mL) homogenized milk

1 cup (250 mL) potatoes, plain, cooked, mashed

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1 egg

¼ cup (60 mL) milk

1. In a mixer, combine the four ingredients and mix until evenly combined. 2. Place the dough on a flour dusted counter and begin to roll out to 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.

Using a round cookie or pastry cutter, cut the dough into round portions. 3. Now whisk to combine the egg and milk to prepare an egg wash. Place a generous tablespoon of the filling in the centre of the dough rounds. Brush the dough edges with the egg wash, and fold the dough over, pinching the two folds together, using your fingers or a fork, if you prefer. 4. At this point, you can cook these right away, or can freeze them on a tray, or drop them right in a pot of boiling water when you are ready to enjoy them. I prefer to boil mine for 3-4 minutes,  finish them in a frying pan with some clarified butter until they caramelize, and then with some caramelized onions and some more bacon and sour cream.