Nick Lees: Chef Sonny Sung’s alternative four-course Christmas dinner

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Taiwanese-born chef Sonny Sung, who developed his remarkable skills while working in kitchens in Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland, is telling friends not to give up on Christmas dinner.


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“A number of people have told me inflation is such this Christmas that the cost of a dinner for a family and friends is bit over the top,” says Sung, who until recently was the Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group’s corporate chef and ran the group’s Bistecca Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Alberta’s first high-end Italian Steakhouse.

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“There is a feeling inflation is going to be brought under control soon and celebrating with family and friends in the not-too-distant future might be worth waiting for financially.

“But I have been thinking back to my earlier years when my parents thought I should become a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. I loved the idea of ​​creating my own food dishes and my heart told me that should be my chosen course.


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“I believe this is now the right time for many people to experiment in their kitchens and create sumptuous meals that cost way less than they might think.”

Sung, hailed as one of North America’s top chefs, studied classic French cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and worked at major international restaurants and hotels.

He is also a member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Bailliage du Canada, a prestigious international society whose members represent more than 75 countries and he is a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC), Canada’s federally chartered professional chefs’ organization.

Sung is now working at La Ronde revolving restaurant at the Chateau Lacombe Hotel and kept himself busy during the COVID pandemic by teaching at NAIT, writing a cookbook, creating special functions and hosting private dinners.


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On Friday I received a note from him saying: “Here’s an alternative four-course Christmas dinner for eight people that doesn’t cost a fortune, just $281.32. Some of your readers may want to try it.”

Chef Sonny Sung says many people have told him a dinner for a gathering of eight friends and relatives might be too much for many this year because of inflation.  (Supplied photo/Nick Lees)
Chef Sonny Sung says many people have told him a dinner for a gathering of eight friends and relatives might be too much for many this year because of inflation. (Supplied photo/Nick Lees)

First course: Baked spicy prawns

With smoked cranberries, beurre blanc, baby green salad.

Ingredients: 3 lb prawns, 5 prawns per person (can be bought at Costco) – $38; 1 cup dried cranberries – $2; 1 lb mixed greens – $5; 1 lb. salted butter – $5; A bottle of white wine – $10, 1 tbsp diced yellow onion, sea ​​salt/pepper to taste

Place dried cranberries on a grill pan and place over an indirect fire using hickory for smoke flavour. Cook at about 300 degrees, with the grill closed for about 30 minutes.

Heat the sautee pan to medium. Add 1 tsp butter, and add the prawns into the hot pan, sear for one minute on each side. Add yellow onions to the prawns and cranberries.


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Stir a couple of seconds, and add 1 cup of white wine to cook off the alcohol, seasoning with salted and pepper. Now chop butter into small pieces and add to the sautée pan. It must be melted all together. Arrange a plate with the prawns and willow, and top with baby greens.

Total: $60 for eight people.

Second course: Duck Bolognese

With herb-tomato sauce, grated parmigiano-reggiano and potato gnocchi.

You can buy frozen gnocchi, 3 lb from the Italian Center Shop for only $27. Four whole ducks from Superstore ($23 x 4) – $92. You must divide the duck breast for $50 to go to the third courses; One can tomato $8.25 from Italian Center shop;

Debone the duck breasts for the third course.

Using the thigh and leg meat only if you can, chop the meat finely in a food processor. Remove from the food processor.


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Heat olive oil in a frypan to medium, add the ground duck, 2 oz chopped fine shallots, 2 oz garlic powder, 1 tbsp black pepper and 2 cups red wine.

Cook the alcohol for about 10 minutes, then add one liter of good tomato sauce and 2 cups of chicken stock; bring to simmer for about 30 minutes; Taste with seasoning, salt/pepper, until tender.

Total: $77.25 for 8 dinners.

Third Course: Smoked Duck Breast

With green peppercorn cranberries jus, burnt Brussel sprouts, extra virgin olive oil and savory pancetta bread pudding.

Ingredients: Eight duck breasts – $50; 2kg Brussel sprouts – $15; green peppercorn – $10; cranberry juice – $4.95. Two baguettes from Costco – $6.87.

For the savory bread pudding, chop the baguettes into small pieces, add 2 cups chicken stock, 1 1/2 cups cream, add seasoning with salted pepper, 2 tbsp garlic powder, 2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme, 1 cup small pieces butter. Mix well and place into large ramekin dish, baking in oven about 45 minutes to an hour.


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For the green peppercorn cranberry willow a small pot heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive and toast the green peppercorns for about a minute. Add the cranberries to the pot and bring to a simmer for about 6 to 8 minutes, seasoning with salt/pepper. Mix 2 tbsp cornstarch and 2 tbsp of water well, then add to thicken the sauce.

For the burnt Brussels sprouts cut the haft and bottom stem and wash the Brussels sprouts, make sure they are dry, and place them in the steel standbowl. Add 1 tbsp salt/pepper and 1 oz of extra virgin olive oil. Heat a Sauté pan to medium, add the pancetta cut into small pieces, stir for2 minutes. Add the Brussels sprout into pancetta, stir well, and place in oven. Cook until golden brown and soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.


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Cook the duck breast on medium heat. The skin goes down first until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then turn to the other side, cooking until golden brown and done to medium.

Total $86.82 for eight people.

Fourth Course: Italian Panettone pudding with berries compote

Buy one Panettone bread from the Italian Center Shop

Ingredients: 1 each whole cake, $34; 1-liter cream, $5.25; 1 cup soft butter, $3; 1/2 cup brown sugar, $2; 1 tbsp vanilla extract, $5; 1kg frozen mixed berries from Costco, $8.

Procedure: Cut small panettone pieces and place them in a stand steel bowl. Add cream, sugar, and butter. Mix well with vanilla, place into the large ramekin and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Check with a bamboo stick in the center — when it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Let it cool.

How to make berries: Bring a small pot and add frozen berries, 1 cup of sugar, place the stove heat to medium heat, and bring to a boil for about 5 to 7 minutes. When berries start to soften and have a nice citrus taste, just sweet enough, set aside to cool down, and serve on top of the panettone.

Total $57.25 for eight people.

Cost for each course for eight people: $60 for eight people’s first course; $77.25 for a second; $86.82 for the third; $57.25 for fourth; Total cost: $281.32

bon appetit!



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