Chef Interviews
Bill Jones
by Kate Zimmerman for the Weekend Post, Table Talk

Students who attended Chef Bill Jones’ class recently at the Merridale Estate Cidery in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley are likely to be as frisky as rabbits this Valentine’s Day. Jones, 46, most recently the author of Chef’s Salad (Whitecap, $22.95), teamed up with Urban Peasant James Barber to teach a class in the pair’s cooking series, this one focused on aphrodisiacs. Among the ingredients tossed about were oysters, truffles, leeks, chocolate and, wouldjabelieve, wasabi? The Post verbally undressed Jones’s strategies for an adults-only Q & A. When it comes to aphrodisiacs, timing is everything, the Vancouver Island chef said  — which is why the Post has given you time to get the groceries for his oyster recipe before Feb. 14. That’d be Monday.

How do aphrodisiacs work?

There’s a couple of different sides to them. There’s the scientific, rational side, and that really relies on the effects that these foods have on your body. And the other side is more like the artistic, almost emotional side — the sensual, visual impact of the food.

What constitutes a ‘scientific’ aphrodisiac?

A lot of the research has spun off from the pharmaceutical and medical world where they look at things like mushrooms and oysters. For example, a famous mushroom on the West Coast is the pine (or ‘matsutake’) mushroom and it’s a very famous aphrodisiac in Japan. There are components of the mushroom that actually help smooth out the arterial linings of your body and, by doing so, they increase blood flow. And we all know that increased blood flow in sexual activity is a good thing. I’m trying to be vague here.

Do you need to pile the aphrodisiacs on, or will one do as well as five?

It depends on the person, and maybe how good your imagination is. The most popular one would probably be oysters. They’re a very sensual food and it’s almost an intimate act, eating the oyster, so it almost leads into that whole aphrodisiac state of mind.

Another famous one might be truffles — that’s based on the aroma. (Truffle hunters) use the female pigs particularly because the truffle smell mimics that of the male pheromones of the pig. They taste good, too, but that’s one of the reasons that they think that truffles are aphrodisiacs.

Name five aphrodisiacs that work and one that is impossible to screw up.

If you’re not a very good cook, the simplest would be oysters, except you have to open them. But you could still use things like smoked oysters, so if you can open a can, you’re okay. Chocolate. Wasabi. And garlic. And in the herb family, the two most popular ones would be rosemary and lavender. A lot of these don’t even have to be cooked. You could use a chocolate bar, just add spicy foods to the menu, and something like coffee … keeping you awake, I guess, would be the point there.

What is the least sexy food?

I would have to say that if asparagus is an amazingly sexy food, then canned asparagus would be the abuse of food.

Can a salad be an aphrodisiac?

It definitely can contain things that are aphrodisiacs. Mustard greens would boost your circulation and definitely be an aphrodisiac.

What is the secret to making a great salad?

Chef’s trickery is not a huge part of a salad because there’s no faking it. You have to have fresh ingredients and, in season, those are from local farmers. Whatever your palate likes can be put into a salad. It’s like a blank canvas for expression — there are lots of possibilities.

Your perfect last meal: what would it be?

I’m such a mushroom fan that it would have to be one of my favourite things, a very simple Italian pasta, made with nothing but diced mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, and a bit of Parmesan cheese. And perhaps a bit of rosemary or sage.  It’s so simple but it’s always very satisfying, particularly when made with wild mushrooms.

Bill Jones’ Pumpkin Seed Crusted Oysters
with Sweet Chili Dressing
over Curried Peanut Coleslaw

Coleslaw:
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp hot water
1 tsp sugar  (or honey)
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 head cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
one-half cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

Sweet Chili Dressing:
1 tsp chili paste (or hot sauce, to taste)
2 tbsp honey
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tbsp mayonnaise (or sour cream)

Oysters:
1 cup cornmeal  (or bread crumbs)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) cheese
1 tbsp chopped parsley (or cilantro)
3 tbsp chopped toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
12 large oysters, shucked

  1. Place the mayonnaise, peanut butter, vinegar, hot water, sugar, ginger and cilantro in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth, season with salt and pepper. Add the cabbage, carrots and onion to the dressing and toss well to mix. Chill until needed. Toss coleslaw again and garnish with chopped peanuts just before serving.

  2. Combine the chili paste, honey, lemon juice and zest, and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and set aside.

  3. Combine the cornmeal, Parmesan cheese, pumpkin seeds and parsley on a plate. Season well with salt and pepper and stir well to mix.

  4. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat until very hot. Cook the oysters (in batches of 6) until crispy and golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel and keep warm.

  5. Transfer the coleslaw to a serving platter or plates, leaving the liquid behind. Place the oysters on top and drizzle with the sweet chili sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately. Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as appetizers.

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