I am lucky to have spent years living in U.S./Canadian border cities—Buffalo, Detroit, and Seattle—all gateways to the stunning natural beauty of Canada’s waterways. And though Southern California is now home, come springtime we head north to beautiful British Columbia to cruise and absorb the beauty of our northern neighbor—and to indulge in some of Canada’s favorite foods.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is one of three Canadian Maritime provinces. Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, PEI is the smallest province in terms of both land area and population. But what is not small about PEI is its reputation throughout North America for outstanding mussels, which is made possible by PEI’s nutrient-rich waters and its unique climate and tidal patterns.
- 4 pounds mussels
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1½ cups dry white wine
- ¾ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Crusty bread, sliced or torn into pieces
Rinse the mussels under cold water. Pick them over, pulling off any beards and discarding any mussels that are open or broken. In a large lidded pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is transparent (3 to 5 minutes). Add the mussels, wine, and half of the parsley. Increase the heat to high and cover the pan. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and, with a large spoon, toss the mussels well. Re-cover the pot and cook until the mussels have opened (another 3 to 5 minutes). Add the remaining parsley, give the mussels a final toss, discard any unopened mussels, and divide the mussels and the broth among bowls. Serve the bread alongside.
Yield: 16 to 24 bars, depending on how you cut them
This classic British Columbia treat has become a coast-to-coast favorite, and it is easy to understand why with their three delicious layers of chewy chocolaty coconut, creamy custard, and sweet chocolate. Named after the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo, they are surprisingly simple to make. No baking required!
- ½ cup butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1¾ cup graham cracker crumbs (about 13 graham crackers)
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons vanilla instant pudding mix
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks
Line the bottom and two sides of an 8- or 9-inch pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving a 3- to 4- inch overhang on both sides. Butter the foil or parchment paper and the sides of the pan.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder. While whisking vigorously, slowly pour in the beaten egg. Return the mixture to the heat. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Then add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts. Stir until ingredients are well combined. Press mixture into the prepared pan.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap, place in freezer for 20 minutes or refrigerator for 40 minutes.
In a medium bowl use a mixer set on medium speed to whip together the butter, heavy cream, and instant pudding powder until smooth and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Stir in the powdered sugar and blend for about 1 minute until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Spread the mixture in an even layer over the chilled graham cracker base. Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for 15 minutes or refrigerator for 30 minutes.
In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the semisweet chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth and well combined. Spread the mixture in an even layer over the middle layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes until chocolate has set. Remove the bars from the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container or covered in the refrigerator.
Traditionally the middle (custard) layer is made with a custard powder that can be difficult to find in U.S. markets. If custard powder is available use 2 tablespoons custard powder in place of the vanilla instant pudding.
Poutine might just be Quebec’s signature food. Invented more than a half century ago, these messy and addictive piles of fries, cheese curds, and gravy are now popular across Canada and beyond. Although variations abound, the basic recipe remains simple:
In the order listed, pile on a plate:
- French fries (fresh and hot)
- Cheese curds (if unavailable, substitute torn, full-fat chunks of mozzarella cheese (not fresh mozzarella)
- Brown gravy
Serve with a generous supply of napkins!