S1E12 – Semi-Final 2

Employment Update: Identified some potential opportunities that I plan to look into more this week, Got another rejection e-mail…

For the second semi-final head-to-head challenge, Lee and Whitney were asked to cook Eggs Benedict, Chicken Parmesan, and Cheesecake. They both took risks and put their own twist on each dish but Whitney came out as the overall victor.

Round 1: Eggs Benedict – Lee Wins

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Round 2: Chicken Parmesan – Whitney Wins

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Round 3: Cheesecake – Whitney Wins

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For my eggs benedict attempt, I decided to take the straightforward and traditional approach. The only thing I did differently was use real bacon instead of canadian bacon, because let’s be honest, real bacon is WAAAAAAY better. I also decided to try my hand at homemade english muffins by using this recipe: Homemade English Muffins. I used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour and I didn’t see any real difference. However, using the homemade version was definitely a good call, because they were delicious. I’m usually not that into english muffins but these totally changed my mind. (See below for finished product).

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I also used these tutorials for the hollandaise sauce: How to Clarify Butter and Hollandaise Recipe. I poached eggs for my first blog post so this was the one component I felt confident about. I used this tutorial the first time and it was hugely helpful: Easy Poached Eggs. Funnily enough, the hollandaise ended up working perfectly (see below) but it took me three eggs to get one perfectly poached one. And then when I was plating it, the damn thing slipped off the spoon and the yolk broke.  Looks like I’ll definitely need more practice with that!

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Regardless of the egg mishap, everything went together fantastically! I’m not usually a fan of eggs benedict but this was SO tasty.  Even though the flavors were great, the broken yolk would have been a major issue on the show. So I don’t think there’s any way I could have won this round. But it was still damn good for a home dish (see below).

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For the chicken parmesan, I decided to make my own sauce with fresh tomatoes. I roasted 5 medium, vine-ripened tomatoes (cleaned and cut in half) in the oven for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. When they were cool, I took the skins off and then crushed the tomatoes with my hands. While the tomatoes were roasting, I cooked a medium shallot (chopped), a stalk of celery (chopped) and 3 cloves of garlic (minced) in some olive oil until they were translucent. Then, I added the crushed tomatoes, a bay leaf and about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of brown sugar, cayenne pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. I let this simmer on low for about an hour and used this recipe as a guide for the rest of the dish: Chicken Parmesan. I served the finished chicken on a bed of pasta (see below) and it was great! It didn’t look like a restaurant-quality dish but it certainly tasted like it. It was a tad bit spicy, but overall it was very tasty.

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Finally, for the cheesecake, I used this as my base recipe: Classic Cheesecake Recipe. I followed this recipe completely (just made a smaller version), but I chose to freeze it instead of refrigerate it to speed the process up. Instead of the suggested sour cream topping, I decided to top the cheese cake with caramel and flambeed bananas. I used these recipes as guides: Easy Caramel Sauce Recipe and Martine’s Flambéed Bananas. (Finished components and the the compiled dish are below). Each component tasted fantastic! But the cheesecake was more tart than I had anticipated (I must have used more zest than I should have) and it didn’t pair as seamlessly with the bananas and caramel as I thought it would.

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Overall, everything worked out well but there was something slightly off with each dish. I don’t think I would have been in contention during this challenge but I tried a lot of new techniques that (mostly) worked out. It was a challenging day for sure, but it was a lot of fun trying new things.

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