Michele Genest lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where she writes The Boreal Chef cooking column for Yukon, North of Ordinary Magazine. Her big enthusiasm is to find new ways to cook with northern ingredients, whether they live and grow wild in the boreal forest or its lakes and rivers, or are cultivated in northern gardens. She often wanders out of the north to explore ingredients and techniques from other cuisines, bring them back to the Yukon and create some great north-south kitchen mash-ups.
Why did you decide to partner up with Greenpeace?
Greenpeace is doing vital work raising awareness of and appreciation for the boreal forest as a key habitat for all manner of life. I especially like their approach to the forest as a cultural landscape that includes the people who live here, first and foremost Indigenous people, but newcomers as well. As someone who lives here, I appreciate Greenpeace’s boreal forest campaign, and wanted to help in the best way I can — through food. I don’t know if people generally think of the forest as a source of delicious wild foods, but my hope is that through these videos we’ve made together the forest will seem not just miles and miles of endless trees, but a source of beautiful sustenance.”
What inspires you to cook ingredients from the boreal forest?
When I first arrived in the North 25 years ago I got to know and love the boreal forest by going berry picking with friends. Those early experiences led to more foraging excursions into the woods, and as my knowledge grew so did my appreciation for this beautiful place. Creating and sharing dishes and recipes made with the foods of the boreal forest helps me connect to the land and to the people who live here. I love it.
Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce
3 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
2½ cups (600 mL) mixed wild mushrooms, chopped
8 to 10 dried morel mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (15 mL) soya sauce
¼ cup (60 mL) cognac or Calvados
1½ cups (350 mL) almond milk
2 Tbsp of flour
Heat olive oil in a cast iron frying pan over medium heat. When oil is sizzling, add mushrooms. Squeeze excess water out of dried morels, chop and add to the pan. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring. When mushrooms are just beginning to turn golden brown, add garlic. Stir in soya sauce, followed by the cognac. Cook until cognac has reduced by half, sprinkle 2 Tbsp of flour over top of the mushrooms, mix thoroughly and cook for 2 minutes before stirring in almond milk. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes, being careful not to let it boil over. Pour finished sauce over pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil.
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from The Boreal Gourmet, Adventures in Northern Cooking, by Michele Genest. Harbour Publishing, 2010.