Chef Jason Durig's Roasted Beetroot & Pickled Fennel Salad Recipe

Max Restaurant at Park Place Lodge has a new chef. Jason Dirug is an enthusiastic and articulate guy passionate about his work. Born and raised in Squamish, BC, Jason has been working in kitchens since high school. “I come from a large European family – I'm half Italian and half Swiss and everyone in my family is into food and cooking. My mom still loves to cook and bake and my sister is a pastry chef.”

During high school, Jason worked in the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company in Squamish. After graduation, the chef told him to take a month off to enjoy his freedom because he wanted him to come back and apprentice under him for the next three years. From there Jason worked in a variety of places, including The Grouse Mountain Resorts, where he acquired experience with French fine dining and received his Red Seal from Vancouver Community College.

Jason spent the last two years travelling and working in kitchens in Switzerland. He was very impressed with their butchering techniques, and how different so many aspects of being a chef are in Europe. He enjoyed the interaction he had with the small family-run shops that he visited each day.

“As part of a chef’s day, you visit the bakery, the butcher, the cheese and produce shops in order to create your menu. It's a great way to get the creative process going, making things up as you go depending on what’s available. There are no huge restaurant supply conglomerates with trucks delivering your weekly supplies.”

Back in Canada, Jason took the summer off and started looking for a new and exciting place to live and work. “I love to ski and hunt and fish, and Fernie feels like home to me, surrounded by mountains and trees and water just like Squamish. It’s the perfect fit.”

Jason shared this recipe, which will be featured on the Park Place Lodge's Plated Christmas Dinner Menu.

Roasted Beetroot & Pickled Fennel Salad
With Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Roasted Beetroot
Assorted Baby Beetroot (yellow, red & candy cane) 4 of each
Fresh Garlic, 3 cloves sliced thin
Fresh Rosemary, 2-3 sprigs
Fresh Thyme, 2-3 sprigs
Salt, 1/2 tsp
Cracked Black Pepper, 1/2 tsp
Olive Oil, just enough to coat all the beets

Wash and clean beets, trim off any roots or leaves left behind. Roll out a sheet of aluminum foil about 12-15 inches long. Place beets on top of foil. Drizzle beets with olive oil; add sliced garlic, rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Roll beets around with palm of your hand to mix in the herbs and garlic. Place another sheet of aluminum foil on top. Crimp and fold all the edges to create a sealed pouch.

Bake for 30-45min at 375 degrees Celsius. You’ll know the beets are done when you can easily stick a toothpick into them. Let cool, peel, and slice into rounds or quarters.

Pickled Fennel

1 fennel bulb, core removed and shaved thin
Lemon Juice, 1 lemon squeezed
Salt 2 tsp
Sugar 1-2 tsp
Olive Oil, 1 tsp
Salt & White Pepper

Place thinly shaved fennel into a bowl with lemon juice and salt. Mix and let stand allowing the fennel to sweat. Once fennel has started to sweat and release some liquid, add the sugar, drain excess liquid. Add olive oil. Season to taste, and keep straining the liquid. (If fennel is still a bit salty, add a bit more sugar.)

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
2 Roasted Red Peppers, (you can use store bought ones, or as I prefer, roast your own)
White Balsamic Vinegar (or Xeres sherry vinegar) 2 tbsp.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 3-4 tbsp.
Garlic, 1/2 a clove
Shallots,1 small
Fresh Thyme, 2 sprigs
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Remove all skins and seeds from peppers. Place into a blender with the shallots and garlic. Add vinegar and salt and pepper, blend. Add olive oil and blend until semi-emulsified. Add fresh herbs and adjust vinegar and oils to preference.

Marinate sliced beets with vinaigrette. Take the pickled fennel and arrange onto the beets. Place some of your favourite greens (mine being arugula for this dish, but spinach and winter greens work well) around the plate. Drizzle more vinaigrette around the plate, use more or less depending on your taste.

Also try adding some shaved parmesan, goat cheese or seasoned croutons.