Cole Nicholson’s maple juniper beef tenderloin with chocolate-infused red wine jus and leek and potato mash

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Toronto regional finals for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chefs Competition where we saw Daniela Molettieri take the prize for her Filet of Veal Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, served with Butternut Squash and Roasted Hazelnut Puree.  Well Daniela’s was my second favourite dish that night – my most favourite being George Brown Chefs School representative Cole Nicholson’s Maple Juniper Venison Loin with Chocolate Infused Red Wine Jus, Leek and Potato Mash.  Fortunately for me, I was provided with the finalists’ recipes, adapted for the home cook and I set about recreating Cole’s dish this weekend, using a small beef tenderloin instead of venison.  On the night, Cole’s dish (as recreated by the Calphalon Culinary Centre chefs) was outstanding, though I couldn’t really taste the chocolate in the jus so I made that my goal.  The beef was easy to cook – for a short time on very high heat, then low and slow for the remainder of the cooking time.  Whilst the beef cooked, I prepared the jus and the mashed potatoes and because I only cooked just shy of a pound of meat, the whole thing from start to finish was ready in just over an hour. Not bad!

I really think I nailed the chocolatey jus….

Here’s the recipe – don’t panic – it looks way more complicated than it is!! Just be methodical with each step.

Yeah, it’s a bit of an extravagance for a Sunday lunch for two but oh wow. I will definitely be making this again – I forgot the liquid smoke in the potatoes at the last minute but would definitely add it next time. The chocolate jus was sweet without being cloying or overpowering and the potatoes creamy and fluffy.  The beef was cooked to perfection. Thank Cole for what I am sure will be appearing on a dinner party menu soon – it’s one of those dishes that looks and tastes like you spent way longer in the kitchen than you actually did!

I also had the opportunity to interview Cole via email and I asked him, out of interest what the top 3 restaurants on his “must eat at” list (anywhere in the world) are and why?  His first pick?  The French Laundry – Cole says it would be incredible to eat at the place that he reads about all the time and the place that he aspires to work at.  His second pick? The Fat Duck.  Cole’s pretty big into science and has a lot of respect for Heston Blumenthal’s approach to cooking.  Third on his “must eat” list is  Alinea, since he has always been interested in Grant Achatz and Alinea but after reading his book Life on the Line, he wants to eat there even more!  Unsurprisingly, given this “top 3” list, the chef Cole has the biggest admiration for is Thomas Keller.  Cole has had the opportunity to meet him and hear him speak when he was in Toronto a few years ago and this completely changed his whole mentality and approach to food.  Cole believes Keller’s whole approach to food and respect for ingredients and people is something to learn from.  The French Laundry cookbook is like his bible, not for the recipes necessarily, but for the philosophy and wisdom.

I was so interested to hear Cole’s responses about where he would like to eat, work and who he admires that for my Lee restaurant giveaway, I asked people to tell me where their top 3 “must eat” restaurants were.  The Fat Duck featured prominently in people’s responses, along with Alinea, Noma and Per Se while Le Chateaubriand in Paris got a few flags and there were a few nice Canadian shoutouts too – The Black Hoof, Vij’s and Charlie’s Burger to name but a few. I really enjoyed reading all your responses and, indeed, they made me add a few “must try” places to my own list 😉 picked the winner last night – congrats to Norm (whose choices were Noma, Momofuku Ko in New York and Rafa’s in Spain).  I hope you enjoy dinner at Lee!  I’ll get in touch with you via email very shortly 🙂

39 thoughts on “Cole Nicholson’s maple juniper beef tenderloin with chocolate-infused red wine jus and leek and potato mash”

  1. Chocolate, red wine, and meat go so well together, I can’t wait to try this! A dish perfect for a romantic valentine’s dinner I think 🙂

  2. Well Mr. Neil has a touch of a cold, so this was a rather extravagant Sunday treat to say the least.

    Loved the mash – which as Mardi knows, REALLY says something, coming from me! (Mash and me are not generally the best of friends.)

    Beef was perfectly cooked, though I would have preferred a bit more rare to suit my tastes. But the fact Mardi actually ate this, pink as it was, was a major coup in the Westminster Homestead, so I’m not saying anything. 😉

    I paired with a 2007 Thirty Bench Red from the Beamsville Bench VQA region, which was what Mardi used in the sauce as well. Classic Bordeaux/meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (if a little high on the CF versus Bordeaux).

  3. I’m intrigued by the chocolatey jus – It sounds and looks delicious! I covered the Almost Famous Chef Competition in Montreal a few years back – it was excited to see all these young chefs competing for the grand prize!

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  5. Can I make the jus ahead of time? Going to make for Easter (love the chocolate!!) and want to get as much prepared as possible beforehand! Thanks!

  6. Thinking about this again…I wonder if I should make the first part of the Jus early, but add the chocolate to the rewarmed jus on Sunday. What do you think?

  7. It was a success! I loved the meat. What a wonderful flavor with the maple syrup and juniper berries. And soooo easy as well! The potatoes I started to refer as the “There’s nothing wrong with those potatoes”!!!! They were that good! I will make those potatoes often!! The sauce worked with adding the chocolate when I rewarmed the jus before serving. I liked the flavor the chocolate added since it was slight and not overwelming at all. I am not sure I was in love with the jus, but I definitely enjoyed it! I think the meat would have been just as good with just a red wine and leek jus. But it was fun adding the element of chocolate into the Easter menu! Thanks so much for the recipe. I will definitely be doing this one often!


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