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Watch & Learn – Candela turns tiny into terrific

Pulling inspiration and, more importantly, big flavours from a range of exotic countries, this Calgary chef is serving up small plates that customers find irresistible.

By Dan Clapson

The Calgary culinary scene is richer for having a chef like Rogelio Herrera. After opening the award-winning Alloy with co-owner Uri Heilik six years ago, the duo decided to work on a second venture and in September 2012, Candela was born. “We wanted a place that was going to be fun and with great food, a little bit less formal, but still [great],” says the chef.

His work at Candela is definitely — and purposely — a step away from the fine dining that Calgarians know and love about his sister restaurant, but the variety springing from a tapas-style environment like Candela’s lets Herrera be even more creative in his kitchen.

At the restaurant, Herrera uses his refined skills while playing with flavours from around the world to design an extensive menu of small plates. With the culinary world evolving and shifting dynamics year after year, it’s always hard to not get caught up in the next big thing. When it comes to his kitchen creations, Herrera is determined to remain timeless. “We don’t really follow trends. We follow with our hearts.”

Tip: You can make the lamb shanks two to three days in advance to save time the night of the dinner. Just reheat with the saved braising liquid a half hour before serving.

Chili Chocolate Pot de Crème with Sour Cherries

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 hours, 20 minutes (including chill time for pot de crème)

Makes: Serves 4

Ingredients for the pot de crème:

1 cup (250 mL) 70% dark chocolate chips

1¼ cup (312.5 mL) heavy cream

4 egg yolks, beaten

½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) Marash chilies

1 dash of salt

Method:

1. Heat chocolate in double boiler, whisk until melted, stir in sugar and heavy cream. 2. Beat a small amount of chocolate mixture into the bowl of beaten egg yolks. 3. Gradually add the egg and chocolate mixture back into the double boiler pan (this step should keep egg yolks from curdling when mixed into the main chocolate mixture). 4. Whisk and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stir in dash of salt. 5. Strain through a small sieve to remove any possible cooked egg lumps. 6. Pour into cups or glass ramekins. 7. Sprinkle the Marash chilies on top of the mix. Do not stir. 8. Chill until firm about 5 hours.

Ingredients for the sour cherry sauce:

2 cups (500 mL) pitted sour cherries (check at your local food specialty shop for sour cherries in their freezer section)

½ cup (125 mL) orange juice

¼ cup (62.5 mL) sugar

1 dash of salt

Method:

1. In a saucepan combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has reduced by a half. 2. Chill until needed.

Plating:

Pour some of the cherry sauce on top of the pot de crème and garnish with some whipped cream and a mint leaf.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Serves: Serves 4

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shank

4 lamb shanks

½ cup (125 mL) canola oil

1 cup (250 mL) diced yellow onion

1 head of celery (trimmed and diced)

2½ cups (625 mL) diced carrots 4 cloves garlic (minced)

1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste

2 cups (500 mL) red wine

4 cups (1 L) chicken stock

6 cups (1.5 L) diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tsp (5 mL) cumin

1 tsp (5 mL) smoked paprika

¼ tsp (1.25 mL) cinnamon

¼ tsp (1.25 mL) nutmeg

¼ tsp (1.25 mL) ground cloves

¼ tsp (1.25 mL) dried coriander

Salt and pepper (to taste)          

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 300° F (150° C). 2. Rub the lamb shanks well with salt and pepper, applying an even coat. 3. Lay shanks on a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake for 8 minutes at 300° F (150° C). 4. Remove from oven, place the baked shanks into a deep pan and set aside for now. 5. In a large pot, pour in the oil and start searing all the onions, celery and carrots on medium high heat for 5 minutes. 6. Add the garlic and tomato paste and continue to cook for 5 minutes. 7. Deglaze the pot with the wine and add chicken stock. 8. Add the tomatoes and remaining spices and let cook for 10 minutes. 8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 9. Pour the braising liquid into the deep pan with the lamb shanks, cover with foil. 10. Place in oven and braise for 3 hours (note: the meat should be tender but able to hold its form). 11. Remove the meat and allow to cool slightly on a rack. 12. Blend the sauce and strain. 13. Place shanks in deep serving dish, cover with strained sauce and serve.