As the Executive Chef for three restaurants – Annabelle’s Kitchen, as well as Blink and Bar Annabelle, Chris Dewling is a busy man. Though only open a short time, Annabelle’s Kitchen in Calgary’s Garrison Woods community, has a focus on homemade Italian food that is approachable and well priced, starring pasta made fresh in-house, with great pizza, and appetizers.
Chef’s favourite dish at Annabelle’s is a classic pepperoni and mushroom pizza, though made with a mushroom duxelle and feta cheese on top for a stand-out expression, but he cheerfully acknowledges his love of a wintertime classic (it’s still winter, right?) of ravioli with squash and brown butter.
As for sourcing the best ingredients, Chef Dewling points out, “Calgary is the home of many great Italian markets. They have a fantastic selection of cured meats, Italian cheeses, flours, canned tomatoes, etc. to help with any meal or occasion you are planning.”
Though for the home cook he says, “A basic motto for Italian cooking is to keep recipes simplistic and saucy, while not cheaping out on the ingredients. And don’t forget to open that bottle of Brunello!” Hear hear!
Chef Dewling’s Eggplant Parmesan is pure comfort food and easier to make than you might expect!
300 g shallots, sliced thin
2/3 cup (150 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1.2 Kg red cherry tomatoes
To taste salt
1.5 Kg (about 4 medium) eggplants, sliced 1 cm thick
45 g Kosher salt, for curing
800 g fresh mozzarella, grated
300 g Grana Padano or Parmesan, grated
Fresh basil, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350º F and grease a 9” square baking dish.
- Start tomato fondue by sweating the sliced shallots in olive oil over medium heat for 10 minutes then add whole cherry tomatoes. Simmer on low heat until the tomatoes burst open. Simmer for another 10 minutes and adjust seasoning. Puree in blender and set aside.
- While making the fondue, salt the sliced eggplant for 30 minutes over a wire rack. Rinse well and dry on a clean cloth.
- In the greased dish, begin layering as follows: I cup tomato fondue, eggplant slices, slightly overlapping, 1/3 of the grated mozzarella, and 50 g of the Parmesan. Repeat 3 times.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Add 150 g of the remaining Parmesan on top and bake for a further 5 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve with the remaining tomato fondue and some fresh torn basil.