Four stainless steel bowls, each brimming with browned pine nuts, slices of grilled sausage, plump raisins and the pleasing deep green of steamed kale, reflect the glare from a photographer’s light as Christopher Macklon selects perfectly uniform Brussel sprouts for roasting.
The kitchen is warm, close, buzzing with energy. It’s a photo shoot and cooking demonstration rolled into one, and amid the clatter of baking trays & roasting pans the man behind the camera instructs Macklon to look his way. The boyish owner/operator of Whisk Catering complies; even tosses off an easy grin, but you can feel his real attention shift to the up-to-temperature oven.
“This is where you have to take time with the food,” explains Macklon, indicating the countertops of his Cloverdale townhouse groaning with carefully select and lovingly prepared ingredients. “This is my job, taking care of the details so the hosts of a party don’t have to. I like to take all the guesswork out of entertaining, allowing the hosts to really enjoy their company rather than having them stress about stuffing the turkey breast at the last minute.”
A little wrist action, a few deft movements with his chef’s knife and boneless, turkey breast stuffed with kale and hot Italian sausage -- complete with an orange- cranberry sauce -- are in the oven adding to the seasonal aromas of pepper, fig and sage. This is a caterer in full swing, a man in his element. “ A stuffed turkey breast like this is a great option for smaller groups or someone intimidated by the thought of roasting a whole bird. You get that great white meat that everyone loves and your not left eating turkey for weeks after,” says Macklon.
Chris Macklon 29, is the brainchild behind his thriving seven-year-old business Whisk Catering and his personal approach to entertaining is not unlike his private kitchen: tidy, practical but with strong hints of understated elegance.
This is my job, taking care of the details so the hosts of a party don’t have to.
The table is set with Whisk staples: linen napkins, china plates and plenty of silver! A long-time collector of vintage and antique dining accoutrements, Macklon loves food presentation almost as much as he loves its careful preparation.
“My philosophy around entertaining and food is that it can be delicious without being labour intensive. Simplicity is good. Flavour is everything.”
The photographer is angling for a final shot and, and without missing a beat, Christopher Macklon pushes back a lock of hair with his forearm, scoops hearty portions of bubbling Winter Fruit Crisp onto Victorian china plates, adds a dollop of crème fraiche and, turning to the camera, flashes a deeply satisfied smile.
WHISK HOLIDAY ENTERAINING TIPS from Christopher Macklon
• Don’t experiment with a new recipe when entertaining, especially on special occasions. There is often too much going on during these times and you may not be able to focus adequate attention to be successful. Prepare recipes that you like and you know your past guests have enjoyed.
• Be mindful of timing when it comes to cooking food. Vary dishes that can be done on the stovetop with dishes that must go in the oven to avoid crowding. For example cooking oven-roasted potatoes when planning to cook a whole turkey is not the best idea. Mashed potatoes on the stovetop should be your choice in this case.
• Like the Winter Fruit Crisp, prepare certain time-consuming dishes in advance, if possible. Once assembled store in the refrigerator or freezer and bake before serving.
• Keep hors d’oeuvres light, particularly during the festive season. Take advantage of simple items you can assemble such as artisanal cheeses, bowls of olives, or spiced nuts.
Kale and Sausage Stuffing
Wilted kale, hot Italian sausage, and golden raisins make a balanced, hearty mixture.
Makes about 3 cups
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces kale, tough stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
¼ cup water
¼ cup chopped golden raisins
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage, breaking up large pieces with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to a bowl/
- Add garlic to skillet. Cook until soft, about 1 minute. Add kale and water. Cook until kale wilys and is almost completely cooked, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels, squeezing out excess water.
- Add kale mixture, raisins, pine nuts, sage, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil to bowl with sausage. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a cutting board, and finely chop. Transfer to a bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Kale-and-Sausage-Stuffed Turkey Breast
This recipe is perfect for anyone who finds carving a whole bird daunting but still wants tender white meat and flavorful stuffing. How to Prep and Carve Turkey Breast.
2 hours 30 minutes
½ a boneless turkey breast (about 3 pounds), trimmed and butterflied
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Kale and Sausage Stuffing from Martha Stewart
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved if large
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove skin from turkeyl reserve.
- Place turkey breast, skinned side down, on a cutting board. Cover turkey with plastic wrap. Gently pound to an even thickness (about ¾ inch thick) using a meat mallet. Remove plastic. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spread stuffing over surface of breast in an even layer.
- Tightly roll turkey breast, starting from a short side, to enclose stuffing.
- Centre reserved skin over top of roast, and wrap turkey tightly, smoothing skin out over meat to remove any air pockets beneath skin.
- Using a few short lengths of kitchen twine, tie roast at 3 or 4 evenly spaced intervals to keep skin from coming loose. Rub oil over skin, and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Transfer turkey, seam side down, to a large roasting pan. Roast for 45 minutes.
- Season brussels sprouts with salt; add to pan. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey reaches 155 degrees, about 30 minutes more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board, and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with brussels sprouts.
Winter Fruit Crisp
The cooking time for the figs will vary dpending on how moist they are. The first step can be done up to six hours ahead.
3 and ½ cups dried Calimyrna figs (about 20 ounces)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon whole black peppercorn, wrapped in cheesecloth
2 whole cinnamon sticks
2 cups dry red wine
¾ cup dried cherries
4 Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
4 ripe but firm Bartlett pears (about 1 and ¾ pounds)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups Crisp topping (recipe follows)
Crème fraîche, whipped cream, or ice cream, for serving (optional)
- Cut tips of stems off figs; discard. Cut figs in half lengthwise if small or in quarters if large. Place in a small saucepan along with honey, sugar, wrapped peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and wine. Stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring gently occasionally, until figs are soft and liquid is reduced to about ¼ inch, about 30 minutes. Discard cinnamon and peppercorns. Stir in the cherries.
- Preheat oven to 375º F. Peel and core apples, and cut each into 16 wedges. Peel and core pears, and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place fruit in a 3 ½-quart oval gratin dish; sprinkle with lemon juice.
- Transfer fig mixture to gratin dish; mix well. Sprinkle topping evenly over the top. Transfer to oven; bake 30 minutes.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350º F, and continue baking until topping is brown and juices are bubbling. about 15 minutes more. If the top beginds to get too brown, cover it looselt with aluminum foil. Remove from oven. Serve warm with crème fraîche, whipped cream, or ice cream, as desired.