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Coffee Talk with Chef Didier Leroy

One important element of mastering the art of cooking is knowing which ingredients to turn to—and coffee is the not-so-secret weapon of some of the world’s best chefs. The key? Figuring out just how to maximize its bold flavour. To celebrate our 100th anniversary, Master French Chef Didier Leroy has been brainstorming inventive ways to cook with coffee, and he’s got more than a few tricks of the trade to share. We caught up with Chef Leroy to get his expert take on the best ways to use coffee in the kitchen, spark your creativity with fresh recipes and, ultimately, “cook with love”.
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What can coffee add to a recipe?

Coffee is a great ingredient that can be used to add acidity and intensify flavours. For example, using coffee in my Eggs Benedict with Sabayon recipe really elevated the taste of the dish. It also brought a uniqueness to the sauce, which I think not many people have tried to do before.

What are some complementary flavours that go well with coffee in a recipe?

Cinnamon, star anise, even nutmeg for a béchamel sauce. Being creative is really about trying all kinds of different flavour combinations.

Can we incorporate used coffee grounds in our food?

Of course! Growing up in the 70s, we didn’t even have a garbage can in our kitchen. There was no need—we had to make use of everything. Today, we waste food while others don’t have enough. So if you have leftover coffee grounds, use them to infuse milk or cream, or to marinate meat or poultry.

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What's the best thing you have ever made with coffee in it?

I love cream puffs with custard cream. Usually, the cream is made with coffee extract, but if you use real coffee, it’s amazing. You start by infusing your milk with coffee and then incorporate the eggs, sugar and flour. Next, the liquid is filtered and slowly simmered until it becomes thick and full of flavour.

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What does home cooking mean to you?

Homemade cooking is all about saying “I love you” with food. You give people memories, even if you’re not the best cook. People always like their mom’s cooking best because she says “I love you” with her food.

What’s your favourite Van Houtte® coffee to use for cooking? What about to drink at home?

I like the Van Houtte® Original House Blend, but also the French Vanilla. And not just because it’s French!