Labour Day Menu

By / Food / August 30th, 2011 / 1

The long Labour Day weekend inspires picnics in the park, neighbourhood parties, lazy mornings at the cottage, a dip in the lake, and a good book in the hammock under the tree.

I am giddy, light-hearted and mirthful. As summer winds down, I warm to the idea of inviting guests over to bask in the rays of Mother Earth’s affection. I long to commune with friends. I want to hear our laughter fill the night sky, I want to see our joy bounce off the sharp edges of the crystal stars.

The Labour Day menu is simple, easy and breezy.

Michael’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip
Serves 6 as an appetizer

My brother-in-law Michael Flanigan created this dish using a Le Creuset casserole I gave to him for Christmas. He returned the favour by giving me this addictive Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe, which my niece calls “Crack Dip.” There are many buffalo chicken dip recipes floating around. This one is the keeper and perfect for watching the evening game on the tube.

2 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup red onion, minced
1 lb cooked boneless chicken fillets, shredded
1 cup ranch dressing
2 containers cream cheese, softened at room temperature (250 ml)
3/4 cup Buffalo Wing Sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
Tortilla chips & sliced celery for dipping

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In large saucepan, heat canola oil. Sauté onions until soft. Add chicken, ranch dressing, cream cheese and wing sauce. Stir until cream cheese melts and is heated through. Add 1 cup cheddar cheese. Stir until melted.

Cover a baking dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese and gorgonzola cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips and celery.

Serve with a lip-smacking Canadian beer.

Roast Chicken
Serves 4 to 6

When it comes to cooking for company, I usually opt for a roasted dish. Roast chicken is particularly versatile because you can serve it as is, or shred the meat and make yummy dishes like Chicken Lo Mein, pulled chicken sandwiches, or chicken salad.

4 lb roasting chicken
2 tsp butter, softened
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
2 shallots, peeled & minced
1 lemon, quartered
Few sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a small bowl, combine butter, thyme, paprika, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and shallots. Rub mixture under and over skin.

Tie legs together with string. Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Put lemon in cavity of chicken with a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Roast at 350˚F for 60 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450˚F and roast for 15 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer registers 165˚F. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Serve with a citrusy California Chardonnay.

Chicken Lo Mein
Serves 4

Rather than send for Chinese takeout, try this easy Chicken Lo Mein dish, using the leftover Roasted Chicken. You can vary the vegetables depending on what you have on hand.

1 cup shredded chicken
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp canola oil

Lo Mein Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp chili garlic paste (optional)
1 tsp sugar

1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets, steamed until crisp-tender
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger root

250 g linguine, cooked

In a small bowl, toss chicken with 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Set aside.

Make Lo Mein Sauce: In another small bowl mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, chicken broth, rice vinegar, sesame oil, chili garlic paste and sugar. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tbsp canola oil. Add mushrooms and onions, stir-fry until mushrooms are cooked through and onions are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken; stir-fry until chicken is heated through, about 1 minute.

Add steamed broccoli; cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger; stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate; keep warm.

Add remaining 1 tbsp canola oil to skillet. Add cooked linguine; stir-fry until heated through, about 1 minute. Add chicken/vegetable mixture to wok. Stir in Lo Mein sauce. Heat through, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.

I am always partial to a lychee-flavoured Alsatian Gewürztraminer with Chinese cuisine.

Grilled Chicken and Sweet Red Pepper Stacks with Classic Vinaigrette
Serves 4

You can add other grilled vegetables to the stack such as zucchini, asparagus and eggplant. The vinaigrette is made with cider vinegar but you can use balsamic or champagne vinegar instead.

4 chicken breast fillets, pounded to even thickness
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and cut into quarters
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Classic Vinaigrette
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 large basil leaves, chopped, for garnish

Preheat the barbecue grill.

Place the chicken and red pepper in a glass or ceramic bowl and pour 2 tbsp olive oil over all. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the cider vinegar, mustard and salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.

Grill chicken and peppers until chicken registers 160˚F on a meat thermometer and peppers are lightly charred. Transfer to a platter, cover and let rest about 10 minutes.

To assemble, place one chicken fillet on each of four plates. Top each with a pepper quarter. Spoon dressing over and around each stack. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve warm.

This dish pairs well with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Grilled Flank Steak with Chili Rub and Black Bean, Corn and Mango Salad
Serves 4

Flank steak is an excellent and versatile cut of meat that needs just a fast sear on the barbecue and a quick rest before arriving at the table in all its juicy glory. Be sure to cut it into thin slices, against the grain for maximum tenderness. The salad can be varied with different types of beans, hot peppers and fruit, such as kidney beans, corn, habaneros and pineapple.

2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 1/2 pound flank steak
2 tsp olive oil
Warm tortillas

Preheat the barbecue grill.

In a small bowl, combine the chilli powder, coriander, sugar, salt and pepper.

Pat the steak with the olive oil and then the spice mixture. Grill for about 6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 130˚F for medium rare.

Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes, tented with foil. Slice and serve with warm tortillas and Black Bean Salad.

Black Bean, Corn and Mango Salad
Serves 4

1 can black beans (540 ml), drained and rinsed
1 can white corn (341 ml), drained
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp red onion, minced
1 mango, peeled and diced

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp sugar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced, for garnish

In a medium bowl, combine the beans, corn, jalapeno pepper, red onion and mango.

In a separate bowl, whisk the vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour over bean mixture. Marinate in refrigerator for one hour before serving.

A good quality California Merlot works wonders with this dish.

Grilled Steak and Shropshire Blue Cheese Salad with Black Grapes, Pecans and White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 4

I have not always liked blue cheese, and in fact, I’m still very fussy about the type of blue cheese that goes on my plate. For the most part, I favour Gorgonzola, but recently while shopping at my local supermarket, a nice lady in a starched red apron handed me a tiny cup containing a dollop of orange cheese and a single black grape. And suddenly I was in love with creamy and mellow Shropshire, an orange-coloured cheese with ribbons of blue that melts in the mouth. This is a simple recipe that solves the problem of how to divvy up two steaks among four guests.

1 bag field greens
2 cups seedless black grapes, halved
1 cup Shropshire blue cheese
1 cup pecan pieces
2 rib eye steaks, grilled to medium rare and thinly sliced
White Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Divide field greens, grapes, cheese, and pecans among four plates.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar with salt. Whisk in olive oil. Spoon over salad. Top with steak.

Blue cheese has a lot of flavour, so I would pair this dish with a full-bodied Malbec or a spicy Shiraz.


Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

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