• Where can I find your recipes?
    Visit chefmichaelsmith.com for a comprehensive selection of my regularly-updated favourites, sign up for my newsletter to receive a seasonally inspired recipe weekly, browse lentils.ca for lots of my favourite ingredients or click over to foodnetwork.ca for Chef Michael’s Kitchen, Chef at Home and lots more!
  • Where can I find a recipe for XYZ?
    If it’s not my recipe, I suggest you do what we do every day in the test kitchen: Google it!
  • I can’t eat XYZ. Do you have any recipes that don’t include it?
    I’m sure I do, just put your sleuthing hat on and click through the suggested recipe sites below:
    chefmichaelsmith.com            foodnetwork.ca            lentils.ca
  • Where can I buy Old Bay seasoning?  
    Old Bay is a classic Chesapeake blend of herbs and spices that I love to use with seafood. Once upon a time it was not commonly available in Canada, but some larger supermarket chains carry it nowadays. If you can’t find it at your local stores, your best bet is to get Amazon to ship you some.
  • How do you make your homemade vanilla extract?  
    I don’t. I have tried (even on Chef at Home once) but I just can’t make it as delicious as the pure vanilla extract at the supermarket. What you see is actually my store-bought stuff poured over vanilla beans for added flavour.
  • I’m planning a dinner party, what should I cook?  
    I suggest you consider a blend of familiar favourites (so you’re not too stressed out about trying something new.) I also think it’s fair game to consider asking your friends to bring a side dish or two and to even find a real scratch-baked bakery and pick up a spectacular show stopper for dessert. When the party asks if you made it you can say “No, but I made it happen!”
  • I love your bread recipe but I need help with it…  
    There are so many variables that it’s hard to know which ones may be creating difficulties for you. Double check that your yeast is not old and dead (add a small spoonful to a glass of warm water and leave it for a few minutes, if it’s bubbling then it’s alive) and keep in mind that sometimes you just need to try again to get the hang of it. Remember too that thousands of home cooks have had tremendous success with this bread and you can too!
  • Your recipes often call for a “stick” of butter…how much is that?
    A “stick” is 1/2 cup of butter, or 1/4 of the standard 1 lb (454 g) block of butter.Depending on your supermarket, you may be able to find 4 sticks of butter wrapped in foil then packed in a box. These are almost always more expensive  –  an easily avoidable cost. Simply take a standard 1 lb block of butter and cut it lengthwise into 4 sticks. Wrap each individually in plastic wrap or foil then refrigerate or freeze as normal.Having sticks rather than blocks of butter makes it easy to measure. 1 stick is 8 tablespoons, so if you mark the butter lightly with a knife into 1/8 squares, you’ll be poised to quickly measure out exactly how much you need, whether 1 tablespoon or 3/4 of a cup.
  • Do you have a recipe for gluten-free bread? Can I adapt your bread recipes and make them gluten free?
    I don’t and you can’t. Here’s why. Simply stated since time immortal true bread has relied on the elasticity of gluten to rise and expand, and without  gluten dough just doesn’t work the same. You can approximate but you can never duplicate. It might look like bread but the taste and texture are often disappointing. For that reason I prefer to stay away from gluten-free bread. I think it’s unfair to suggest that you can have the same bread experience without gluten. You just can’t. I understand and appreciate the very serious issue of gluten-intolerance though, it’s truly challenging to live with. Fortunately your ability to eat real food is not affected. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, meat and fish are all fair game. You do have to avoid processed food but really you should be doing that anyway.
  • I love asparagus but have always been curious about a certain, ahem, pungent side effect. Can you shed any light on this, ahem, phenomena?
    Asparagus contains  asparagusic acid, which on its own doesn’t smell. The trouble comes 15-30 minutes after eating when your body starts breaking it down into smaller sulfurous compounds.  But, like most questions involving restroom  activities, there’s no simple answer to understanding why asparagus makes urine uniquely pungent. It turns out this is a matter of biology on not just one, but two levels.
    If you take a quick poll of your friends and family, you may find that not everyone knows what you’re talking about. Why? Because not everyone produces the  odorous compound, nor can everyone detect it.  That means you can fall into 1 of 4  categories:

    • Producer + Detector
    • Producer + Non-Dectector
    • Non-Producer + Detector
    • Non-Producer  + Non-Dectector

    You might find it difficult finding volunteers to conduct your own study, but fret not. It’s on the minds, and noses, of the  scientific community at the University of Delaware.

  • How long are spices good for?
    There is no hard and fast rule of how long spices last. Without “best before” dates,  there is no way of knowing how old a spice is before you bought it. To test if a spice has gone stale, give it a sniff. If you can’t smell it, you  can’t taste it.  Keep them fresher for longer by storing spices in air-tight containers away from heat and sunlight. Aim to  buy whole spices when possible, as they don’t go stale as quickly as ground spices. You can grind-as-you-go using an inexpensive coffee bean grinder, reserved specifically for spices. They’re  inexpensive and widely available at  large retailers.
  • Is there a  particular  brand of spice you prefer?
    Here in the Test Kitchen, we stock our shelves with spices and herb from  Penzey’s  out of the US. A great Canadian company with an extensive selection of high-quality spices is  The  Silk Road Spice Merchant  based out of Calgary.  
  • I would love to make your Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart but it is too large for two people.  What is the time difference for using an individual ramekin (roughly 4″ diameter)? How long should I bake them at 350 degrees?
    I’ve  tried to make a smaller version of this recipe but it doesn’t turn out quite right.  The bacon gets quite thick on the top, and with a smaller version it’s much too thick and the proportions are off. I  suggest  making  the whole recipe  and enjoy the leftovers, share with friends or family, or freeze it for a later date.
  • I just saw your recipe, Potato Bacon  Cheddar Tart,  and liked the idea.  There is only one problem,  I don’t eat cheese.  Could I use cream and eggs as an alternative to replace the cheese?
    Sorry but this just wouldn’t be the same tart. Cheddar is one  of the key ingredients.
  • In the Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart recipe, you use 1 minced onion, 4 minced garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon minced thyme.  In the video, you do not say anything about these 3 ingredients.  Do you put some on each layer of potatoes?
    There are two different versions of this recipe floating around out there. The onion, garlic and optional favourite fresh herb (thyme is great but so are tarragon and rosemary) are mixed together and layered in between the layers of potatoes before it all gets sealed up by the bacon.
  • What is the best way to reheat the leftover portions of your Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart?
    A blast in the microwave is simple and effective. If you don’t have one, place it in an oven-safe dish, cover loosely with foil and reheat in a 350 °F (180 °C) oven until heated through.
  • What is the best  type of bacon to use for the Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart?
    I love thick-cut bacon and it’s what I typically cook with. However, for this recipe I use regular bacon to keep it from getting too thick where it overlaps.
  • How can I adapt the  Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart recipe to a cast-iron dutch oven?
    For years I used my trusty cast iron skillet to make this tart, and you can too. It’s best to line the bottom with parchment paper before you start laying in the bacon.
    Dutch ovens are  typically deeper than a skillet  which  might make it difficult to drape the pieces of bacon over the edge. If this is the case, employ a few sets of helping hands, promising the first slices in exchange. You might just have a line up of helpers!
  • I don’t have a pan like the one in the Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart video, can I use a large round cake pan?  Would it be better to rinse the bacon in cold water first to help with shrinkage?
    Absolutely you can use a cake pan instead. The bottom should first be lined before  arranging the bacon slices. No need to rinse the bacon, I’ve never had troubles using it straight  out of the package.
  • When making the Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart, I used a good cheese — old cheddar bought from Thornloe Cheese in Thornloe, Ontario and it seemed to liquify and seep out of the pie. When I drained the pie after it was done the liquid wasn’t just bacon fat, it  was yellow and you could smell the cheese. Now there was some cheese in the pie but not a lot. What did I do wrong? Did I use too much cheese?
    The older the cheese is (i.e. the more it’s been aged, not how long it’s been in your refrigerator), the more likely it is to break under heat. Try using a younger cheese; I’ve had success with medium aged cheddar.
  • I am curious about your aversion to eating raw eggs as an ingredient in dishes. I have several dressing recipes that call for an egg yolk. Is it just a personal preference?
    We all have certain aversions to various foods, sometimes logical, sometimes less so. In my case, I really don’t like raw egg yolks. Eggs over easy? No way! Salad dressing ingredient? Nope! I use mustard instead because it also contains the emulsifier lecathin which helps dressings stay smooth.
    This preference dates back to my cooking school days when the risk of salmonella was drilled into my head by multiple instructors. While that risk is still real it does not define every egg so feel free to enjoy them as you like…
  • Regarding the roast chicken with butternut squash and apples, do you cover it while it cooks, cover part of the way or not at all? Also, would you serve it as is or potatoes on the side? Is there any liquid produced from the chicken and veggies for a gravy?
    No need to cover this while it cooks, because covering it will prevent any browning/caramelization of the chicken, squash and apples. It’s completely up to your taste buds whether you serve it with potatoes/rice/dinner rolls on the side or as is. You could always add a couple chopped potatoes in with the squash and apples so it’s all roasted together. Shredding the chicken right in the pan over the veggies ensures you capture all the savoury drippings and juices. There’s enough to moisten everything, but I don’t think there would be enough to make a gravy.
  • When you place a chicken on veggies, do they get fatty from the chicken? How would you get rid of the fat from the veg?

    How fatty it gets depends entirely on how fatty the chicken is to begin with. All chickens will have some amount of fat on them. When I tested this recipe, I didn’t find it unpleasantly greasy, and capturing all the drippings is a key part of how this recipe was developed.
    The veggies will catch any drippings off the chicken as it cooks as well as while you’re shredding the chicken in the pan. What we really want to capture is the juice, however, it’s not possible to get the juice without the fat (at least not easily!). If you want to decrease the amount of fat on the vegetables, don’t shred the chicken on top of them. You will avoid the fat, but you will also miss out on the flavourful juices. If you want to avoid the fat on the vegetables all together, I suggest roasting the chicken and the veggies separately, although, this requires two pans and won’t have the same succulence or flavour.