S2E8 (Pressure) – Steak

Employment Update: I am officially putting out the request for any and all assistance in finding a job. Because I am getting soooo sick of resumes and cover letters. Any assistance, tips and connections are welcomed. Since my last post: 1 Job Application, 4 E-mails, Yet another rejection e-mail…

After losing the team challenge, the Red team was sent into the pressure test. However, only two chefs (as picked by the team captain) had to compete to keep their spot. Esther picked Max and Christine for this “honor.” The challenge was to cook three pieces of steak rare, medium, and well done.

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Christine undercooked her well done steak but got the other two steaks perfectly done, and Max was slightly off on each one. As a result, Max was sent home.

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This challenge is probably the most difficult that I have encountered. I have never really cooked much steak and I certainly have not done it to a specified level of doneness. In the past, I’ve just cooked it until I thought it might be ready and then cut through the middle to figure it out from there. I knew that that was not an actual culinary technique so I sought out advice for how to do this properly (without having to poke the steak repeatedly with a thermometer). I found this extremely helpful resource, which I used (in addition to the picture on the right) as a guide: How to Cook Perfect Filet Mignon.

I brought the steaks to room temperature, and seasoned them with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, Pepper, Thyme and Oregano. During this time, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees and also preheated my cast iron skillet on the stove. When the steaks were ready to cook, I put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and let it heat up. Then, I put the steaks in the skillet and let them all sear on that side for 3 minutes. I flipped them and let them sear for another 3 minutes on the other side. With 2 minutes left on the stove top, I put a pat of butter on top of each steak to keep it moist.

At this point, I pulled off the rare steak and let it rest. I then put the skillet with the other two steaks into the oven. After 3 minutes in the oven, I pulled out the medium steak and let it rest as well. I gave the last steak 4 more minutes in the oven before I took it out to let rest.

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Overall, for my first time making steak without the help of a meat thermometer and not cutting into the steak to check the color, I thought the steaks turned out pretty well. The rare steak turned out perfect and it was definitely the easiest one to do well. The medium steak needed a little more time in the oven. Just by looks, it was more red than pink in the middle but I felt that the texture of the steak was more on the medium side. The well done steak also got pretty close but there was still some pink left in the middle. I was slightly off on each but I now know in the future what needs to be done. (However, that sentiment probably would not have saved me during this elimination). Overall though, the seasoning on the steaks was great and they all stayed moist and delicious regardless of the temperature.

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S2E8 (Team) – Sausage Sandwiches

Employment Update: Well the dream job did not work out and now I am back to square one. It is really disappointing but I am getting back at it and trying my best to find the next dream job. Since my last post: 7 Applications, 8 E-mails.

For this episode’s team challenge, the chefs were split into a red team and blue team and given the task of making sausage sandwiches with a topping for 101 bikers. The main catch being that they had to make their sausages from scratch. The Blue team made a Spicy Italian Pork Sausage with Caramelized Onions and Molasses, and the Red team made a Beer Soaked Sausage Patty with Drunken Onion and Pepper Relish.

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The Red team had the most issues during the prep phase, having problems with the texture of the meat and the casings. They eventually decided to do patties instead and this allowed them to get an early lead. The Blue team’s sausage was deemed to be too sweet initially but they were able to adjust on the fly by adding the spiciness of banana peppers. This balanced out the flavors of their dish, and ultimately, gave them the win.

For my rendition of the challenge, I decided to push the boundaries a bit and create a mediterranean style sausage sandwich. My topping was sweet and spicy roasted artichoke, red peppers and onions. And my sausage was an uncased pork and feta sausage. I do not have a meat grinder or the ability to case the sausage so I had to cheat a little bit, but I definitely tried to do as much of the work from scratch as I could.

First, I created the topping. I prepped the artichoke heart, using this video as a guide: How to remove artichoke hearts. Then, I finely chopped up the artichoke heart and sliced up about 1/2 of a red bell pepper and  1/4 of a red onion. Next, I made the sweet and spicy sauce by mixing equal parts of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and honey mustard with a few dashes of thai red chili sauce, and salt and pepper. I whisked this together and then drizzled it over the chopped vegetables. (Picture below shows the topping before going into the oven). I mixed this all in order to coat the vegetables and then put them into a 350 degree oven until they were tender.

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Next, I created the sausage. After much research, I decided to use this recipe as a guide since it was designed to be a patty instead of encased: Simple homemade sausage patties. I made several changes to the recipe though to make it my own:

  • Doubled the amount of garlic, because garlic is the best thing ever
  • Added 1 slice of finely chopped bacon to add some additional fat since the ground pork I was using was very lean
  • Added oregano and crushed red pepper for additional flavor
  • Added some feta crumbles to keep the sausage moist and add to the mediterranean feel

I made thin, long patties to fit best on the hoagie buns that I got for this challenge. (I originally was going to make these from scratch using this recipe: Garlic Hoagie Rolls, but I just didn’t have enough time today.)

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When both components were finished, I lightly toasted the hoagie bun and then layered on the sausage and topping. Overall, the sandwich was great. The sausage was moist and perfectly spiced. The feta and bacon melded perfectly with the sausage and gave it great flavor. And the topping paired with the sausage really well. The only thing that I would have done differently was to make a little more of the sweet and spicy sauce. The vegetables soaked up the sauce, which gave them great flavor, but it left the sandwich as a whole a bit dry. I should have made more to drizzle on after the fact and maybe buttered the hoagie rolls to make it less dry as well. All in all though, this was a great sandwich that would work for breakfast or lunch and it is definitely something that I will try again soon.

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S2E7 (Elimination) – Dessert

Employment Update: 1 Interview, 3 E-mails, Lots of impatient waiting to hear about my dream job! 

For this week’s elimination challenge, Adrien was able to select which ingredient he would be making a dessert with and which ingredient the rest of the contestants would need to make a dessert with. He chose nuts for himself and coffee for everyone else.

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Tracy (Espresso Chocolate Cake) and Esther (Coffee Cheesecake) were declared the top 2 and became team captains for the next challenge.

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Jennie (Coffee Infused Tart), Max (Torte du Crepes) and Alvin (Coffee Filled Beignets) landed in the bottom 3 with Alvin being the contestant sent home.

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Based on my rules, I had to make a dessert featuring coffee. After spending A LOT of time researching in order to find a unique coffee-based dessert, I settled on making Caramelized Coffee Flan. As I had never made flan before, I decided to stick directly to the recipe and it turned out great. Final product is below.

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The flan was great! The coffee flavor was subtle and yummy but the texture of flan is not everyone’s cup of tea. While I did not serve it this way, I think it would have been great with some fresh strawberries (or other fruit), which would have cut the richness of the dish. I think this would have played well with the judges, but even though the recipe was fairly simple, I have no idea how I would have been able to produce it within the time frame since it needs to cook for 55 minutes and chill for 8 hours. Overall though, the dessert was a hit.

S2E7 (Mystery Box) – Lamb

Employment Update: 4 Interviews, 6 Rejection E-mails, 10 E-mails and LinkedIn messages 

This week’s mystery box challenge asked the contestants to create a dish including some of the following ingredients: Rack of New Zealand Lamb, Peaches, Romanesco Cauliflower, Fava Beans, Feta, White Rice, Thai Chili Peppers, Tarragon, Créme Fraîche, Pie Crust, Heavy Cream, Eggs, Walnuts, Mollasses, and Blood Oranges.

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Jennifer struggled again with this challenge and she was declared to have the worst dish of the challenge, having plated raw lamb for the judges.

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Alejandra (Curried Rack of Lamb), Adrien (Farmers Market Lamb) and Tracy (Sweet and Salty Lamb and Feta) though had the judges’ favorite dishes with Adrien winning the chance to select the focus of the next challenge.

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Before I get started on my rendition of the challenge, I first want to apologize for the long delay between posts. Between the holidays and job stuff, I have been slacking a bit. But while I have been slacking on challenges, I have definitely not been slacking on cooking. Since everyone in my family likes to cook (as well as eat and drink), my dad came up with the idea of creating a fun eating and drinking tradition on the days leading up to Christmas, which he dubbed Bill’s 5 Days of Christmas. The basic idea is to have a special drink and appetizer pairing on each of the five days before Christmas Eve. It was really great fun and all of my cooking energies were redirected into assisting with that. For those of you interested in how it all turned out, I have posted the pictures of each of the five different pairings below (Fruit cake with port, Pigs and Apples in Blankets with Brown Ale and Red Wine, Pork and Pear Chutney with Pomegranate Mimosas, Candied Bacon with Bloody Marys, and Shrimp with Mojitos).

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Now on to my MasterChef challenge! I decided to make a Walnut, Feta and Tarragon crusted rack of lamb with sweet and spicy cauliflower. My side dish was inspired by a delicious sweet and spicy roasted cauliflower dish that I once had at Ox, my favorite restaurant in Portland. I had no idea how to make it but I felt like I had the ingredients in the mystery box to do it.

I first made the sauce for the cauliflower. In a sauce pan, I cooked 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 slice of finely chopped yellow onion, and 1 finely chopped small orange habanero (my substitute for the thai red chili) in some olive oil. After a couple minutes of cooking, I added 1/4 cup of pinot grigio and the juice of 1/2 an orange. I let that cook down for a few minutes and then added 6.5 ounces of canned peaches (without the syrup). I had to substitute both the blood orange and fresh peaches due to availability issues but I think this same recipe would work well with any combination that you can get. I then added a pinch each of salt, pepper and ground ginger as well as a few dashes of thai red chili sauce. While it was cooking, I used a large fork to mash up the peaches, which I did until the sauce was, more or less, a smooth consistency. Finally, in a large baking dish, I drizzled olive oil, salt, pepper, and the sweet and spicy sauce over the cauliflower (1 head the regular kind because I couldn’t get any romanesco). I tossed this whole mixture in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture twice in order to completely coat the cauliflower with the sauce.

The pictures below show the cauliflower dish before and after baking. Overall, this was wonderful! It was a little too spicy for my mom but I thought it was really flavorful. It started out as sweet and finished spicy. And while the habanero taste grew as you ate the dish, it never got to be too much for me or my dad and brother. This is definitely a unique and delicious twist on classic roasted cauliflower and I definitely recommend trying it out (as long as you’re not a spice wuss).

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For the lamb, I first had to make the crust, which I did by finely chopping the walnuts and tarragon and mixing the feta in until everything was evenly combined (see below). I then browned the rack on all sides in a cast iron skillet.

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Then, I put the rack on a lined baking sheet, where I spread some greek yogurt (my substitute for créme fraîche) on the fat side of the rack and then pushed the crust into lamb and yogurt. I put this into a 400 degree oven until it was medium rare and the crust was golden (about 20-25 minutes). The pictures below show the rack before and after cooking.

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Finally, I sliced the lamb and served it on a bed of the sweet and spicy cauliflower. The entire dish was really delicious. The crust didn’t stay on the lamb as well as I would have wanted and there some fatty parts of the lamb that were really difficult to eat. But overall, I think everything worked really well, especially since it was a pretty out there dish. It was definitely a great meal for Christmas Eve Eve, and I will definitely be making the cauliflower again soon.

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S2E6 (Pressure) – Ravioli

Employment Update: Scheduled 2 more interviews, Received another rejection e-mail

Having lost the previous team challenge, the blue team was put into a pressure test where they had to make a simple homemade ravioli with a spinach and ricotta filling in a butter sauce.

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The bottom three were Esther, Jennifer and Tony, with Tony ultimately being the contestant who was sent home.

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For my rendition of the challenge, I used this recipe as a guide: Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli Recipe. I pretty much followed it but I changed a few things up. First, I sautéed the spinach in some olive oil with garlic and shallots instead of boiling it to add some more flavor. I still strained it before mixing it with the rest of the filling ingredients in order to get the excess liquid out (which was definitely a necessary step).

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I also had to add a significant amount of water to the dough in order to get it to come together and the amount of effort I had to put in to get the dough to work made it end up a little tough. I had a pretty hard time getting the dough thin enough as a result (which meant that I did not get enough ravioli out of the dough in order to use the amount of filling that I made based on the recipe). No worries though – my mom had the brilliant idea of using the excess filling to make a spinach pie that is baking as we speak.

I used a small round cup this time around to get perfectly shaped ravioli, which made the ravioli look so much more professional than the last time I attempted it. I definitely recommend using this technique. I just wish that I had been able to get the dough thin enough to make more delicate.

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For the butter sauce, I used this recipe instead of the one given in the recipe above: Sage Brown Butter Sauce. It worked pretty well but I had to use dried sage instead of fresh. As a result, I think the proportions were slightly off so I ended up straining the sauce to make sure the finished dish didn’t get overwhelmed by it. After the ravioli were boiled, I put them straight into the butter sauce and allowed them to cook on low for a few minutes to let the flavors marry. Then, I garnished them with some shredded parmesan cheese.

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Overall, the dish was ok. The filling was really good but the pasta dough was so thick that you didn’t get that nice flavor as much as you should have. In the future, I really think that I need to (1) be careful about not overworking the dough and (2) get a pasta roller that is able to get the pasta thin enough to not overwhelm the filling. If I can get that figured out, I think I’ll be able to put out some really quality ravioli. While my ravioli was certainly not great, I do think that I would have been safe in this challenge given that I did not turn out anything that tasted bad (unlike the bottom three).

S2E6 (Team) – Five-Course Meal

Employment Update: I wrapped up my position with Churchill Downs and have moved back in with my parents. (Whomp. Whomp…) I am back to the full-time job search, AKA as the worst thing ever, but there have been some exciting things happening and I have been pretty productive recently. Since my last post (sorry – I know it’s been a while): 2 phone interviews, 20+ e-mails and LinkedIn messages, and 5 job applications. 

This week’s team challenge had the two teams catering a five-course meal for 350 office workers in the building that included a soup, a salad, pizza, a special entree and dessert.

The Blue Team produced Chicken Chili, Seasonal Salad with Blue Cheese and Nuts, Arugula and Bruschetta Pizza, Beef Hamburgers and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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The Red Team produced Chicken Orzo, Watermelon Salad with Cucumber and Feta, White Pizza, Cheesy Lasagna and Fresh Berries with Cream.

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The Blue Team had several issues with their service (including running out of food) so the Red Team was declared the winner. Since I am not going to be cooking a five-course meal for 350 people anytime soon, I decided to use this challenge as an excuse to try some recipes that I have been wanting to take a stab at.

For the soup portion, I wanted to try Giada de Laurentiis’s Italian Wedding Soup Recipe. I followed the recipe completely and it was so simple and tasty. If I did it again, I might try adding some other types of vegetables and seasonings to give it a more complex flavor but this is a great recipe for a straightforward, delightful dish.

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The salad course was where I decided to get a little adventurous. I saw this recipe a while ago and I knew that I wanted to try it: Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette. I had not planned on making any changes to this recipe but my grocery store had other plans. It did not have golden beets, microgreens, ruby red grapefruit, valencia oranges or blood red oranges. So I had to improvise. I kept the roasted beets (all red), mixed greens, fennel and mustard vinaigrette, but everything else was different. I used mango, navel orange, and pomelo on the salad and eliminated the pistachios all together (because I do NOT enjoy nuts in my food). While it was nothing like what I had originally set off to make, it was really delicious! This was my dad’s favorite dish of them all and it was definitely one of the best from my point of view as well. It’s a really unique and flavorful dish, and it looks totally beautiful with all of the bright colors of the fruit and vegetables. It is something that I will definitely do again when I want to impress people at a dinner party.

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The pizza course was another one that I decided to have some fun with. I saw a recipe for Brussel Sprout and Bacon Pizza recently, and given how much I love both ingredients, I knew that I had to try it. I pretty much followed the recipe, but it called for A LOT of resting time for the dough (both in the refrigerator and at room temperature). I was way too impatient (and hungry) to wait so I skipped most of the resting time and the dough was still wonderful. I’m sure it would probably have been better if I had followed the recipe exactly… but if you can get really tasty dough in half the time (or less), why the hell not? Overall, the dish really surprised me. It was unique but still tasted just like a pizza, a REALLY good pizza but pizza nonetheless. This was one of my Mom’s favorite dishes of the day and it is definitely one that I want to make again. I think it would also be really good (and a little more unique) to substitute the tomato sauce for a barbecue sauce or garlic cream sauce to switch up the overall flavor. (I’ll let you know how that goes when I try it).

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For the entree portion, I decided to make use of the leftover turkey from thanksgiving (don’t worry – I made this when the turkey was still good) and made a turkey pot pie using this recipe as a guide: Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie. I mostly followed the recipe with several key exceptions:

  • Substituted chicken with the leftover turkey
  • Used yellow and green onions instead of yellow and pearl onions
  • Added garlic and celery to the filling
  • Used all butter for the crust instead of vegetable shortening and butter
  • Added oregano, thyme, cumin, sage and red pepper flakes to the filling

The pot pie turned out great. The crust was flaky and delicious and the filling was super flavorful. It was a great dish and a wonderful way to utilize all the extra turkey from Thanksgiving.

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Finally, for dessert, I decided to try my hand at a homemade cake. I found this recipe: Spicy Chocolate Stout Cake and I knew I wanted to try it as soon as I saw that it called for Guinness (one of my favorite beers). For the batter, I kept everything the same except I added a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it a little more of a kick. I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea of the peanut butter frosting so I decided to switch that out to a Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting Recipe. It was more work because I had to make the salted caramel sauce but it was SOOOO worth it! I am honestly not all that into cake. I mean, it’s good, but I’d rather have almost anything else for dessert. I could eat this cake, though, all day long (which may prove to be an issue). The caramel frosting and the spicy chocolate went so well together. And it ranked in as one of my mom’s favorites as well.

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While it certainly took me a while to cook my way through this challenge, it was a lot of fun to try a lot of recipes that I have wanted to. They were all delicious but the ones that I want to have more of right now are the roasted beet salad and the brussel sprout and bacon pizza. In fact, I’m going to go have some more right now!

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S2E5 (Elimination) – French Cuisine

Employment Update: 1 Job Application, 2 E-mails, 2 LinkedIn Messages

Having won the mystery box challenge, Christian was able to select the type of European cuisine that the rest of the contestants had to create a dish for. He selected French cuisine.

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Derrick (Gougére) and Max (Poached Cod) had the best dishes and therefore became the team captains for the next challenge.

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The bottom three were Angel (Fruit Tart), Erryn (Beef Carpaccio) and Mark (Peppercorn Crusted Filet), with Angel and Mark being sent home.

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I honestly had no idea where to start with this one. I know next to nothing about french cooking but I knew I wanted to try and master a classic. I did some research and I just couldn’t decide between The Pioneer Woman’s Coq Au Vin or Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon. Since I am still working full time, I decided to stick to the 2 hour dish instead of the 6 hour one, but I will definitely attempt some Julia Child soon!

To make sure I made the classic french dish correctly, I stuck completely to the recipe. The pictures below show the different stages of the dish as I compiled it prior to putting it in the oven.

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The only thing I did differently from the recipe was make the noodles from scratch. I used my Mom’s egg noodle recipe. We usually use this recipe for chicken and noodles but I thought it would work well for this dish too. The ingredients I used to make the noodles were:

  • 3/4 Cups of Flour
  • Pinch each of Thyme, Oregano and Salt
  • 1 Egg Yolk, beaten
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Ice Water

The instructions I used to make the noodles were as follows. The pictures below show the finished noodles before and after cooking.

  • Stir flour, thyme, and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  • Make a small well in middle of bowl and put egg yolk and water in there. Stir until well blended.
  • Shape into ball. Place dough on lightly floured surface; flatten slightly.
  • Knead 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour to prevent sticking if necessary.
  • Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 15 minutes.
  • Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness or thinner on lightly floured surface. If dough is too elastic, let rest several minutes.
  • Let dough stand about 30 minutes to dry slightly.
  • Cut strips into desired length and width.
  • Boil in liquid until al dente. I usually use chicken stock but you can use any liquid you want.

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The final dish turned out great. (See below). The chicken was tender and the vegetables and sauce were delicious. I’m not sure what Coq Au Vin is supposed to taste like but this was FANTASTIC! The noodles were a little thick (I really need to get a pasta maker), but overall I’d say this dish is a winner, especially with the hodgepodge the contestants created in this challenge.

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S2E5 (Mystery Box) – Salmon

Employment Update: Identified several potential opportunities that I will apply to later this week

For the first mystery box challenge of the season, contestants had to create a dish using some of the following ingredients: salmon, strawberries, fennel, white asparagus, ricotta cheese, fingerling potatoes, pistachios, balsamic vinegar, fresh dill, noodles, bread, lemon, honey and puff pastry.

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Going against the typical grain of the mystery box challenge, the judges decided to announce that Ben made the worst dish of them all, having overcooked the salmon and prepared a “hideous” sauce to go with it.

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Suzy (Trio of Salmon), Christian (Pistachio Crusted Salmon), and Jennie (Savory Salmon Tart) won the judges’ praise for their dishes, with Christian being declared the ultimate winner of the challenge.

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I had never worked with fennel or white asparagus before so I knew I wanted to do a dish that featured both ingredients along with the salmon. I have also been wanting to try the “en papillotte” technique so I found a base recipe that I could tweak in order to make a great dish that used several of the mystery box ingredients. I mostly followed this recipe: Salmon and Fennel Baked in Parchment. The only thing I really changed was including 5 thin slices of shallot, 1 clove of garlic (coarsely chopped) and 2 pieces of asparagus (each cut in half lengthwise) under the salmon.

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Overall, the dish turned out great (and it was SO simple to do). It could have used more salt though and I should have sliced the fennel much thinner. I’m not a huge fan of the taste of fennel and this dish definitely did not change my mind, but it did give a nice flavor to the other components. I certainly think I would have been safe in this round but I’m not sure I would have cracked the top three.

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S2E4 (Elimination Test) – Chicken

Employment Update: 1 Scheduled Phone Interview, 5 Job Applications, 3 LinkedIn Messages

24 contestants survived the apple slicing test and went on to the first cooking test of the season. To get the contestant field down to the Top 18, they had to create a great dish featuring chicken.

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Most individuals played it relatively safe – sticking to what they knew best. I cook with chicken all the time and have several go-to recipes. One of my favorites comes from Chrissy Teigen’s blog: Boursin and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breast. I follow the recipe for the most part but I have experimented with stuffing it with roasted red peppers, onions, and spinach in addition to the bacon and boursin. Wrapping it in prosciutto is something that I don’t always do. And I also bake it with chicken stock in the pan to keep the chicken moist. Below is a picture of one of my versions of this recipe.

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First, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at breaking down a chicken so I used this tutorial: How to Break Down a Chicken. It certainly wasn’t easy but I was able to do it and the tutorial was hugely helpful. Although pausing and playing a video on your computer when your hands are covered in chicken goop is certainly an interesting trick. I may have used my nose and elbow at various points in the process. Regardless, I broke down the chicken relatively easily and didn’t get any salmonella on my laptop. I’d say that’s a win.

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In addition to breaking down the whole chicken, I knew I wanted to try something that I’ve never done before but always wanted to: Crispy Fried Chicken. I followed the recipe completely and the chicken turned out great! Although the entire time I was making it, this is what I thought about: Shake that! 

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For my side dish, I had this idea to do a potato, spinach and red pepper cake, but I had no idea if it would actually work. I thinly sliced 1/2 a russet potato and 1/2 a red bell pepper. Then, I made a butter sauce with 4 tablespoon of butter, a finely grated shallot, 3 cloves of garlic (also finely grated), salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and oregano. Then, I layered them (potato first, followed by butter sauce, spinach and peppers) in a small round dish and baked it in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes (until the potatoes were tender). When it was done, I turned it out onto the plate. It wasn’t very pretty but it mostly stayed together and it tasted great.

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While everything was really tasty, it definitely did not look gourmet. I also should have done a sauce to go with the chicken because I ended up using honey mustard to dip my chicken in (which was delicious… don’t judge). I doubt this would have played well with the judges but it was a great dinner for tonight.

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S2E4 (Skills Test) – Apples

Employment Update: 5 Job Applications, 2 E-mails, 4 LinkedIn Messages

Another season of challenges begins with a straightforward skills test in which the contestants must prove their precision knife skills by skinning and thinly slicing granny smith apples.

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I have never had great knife skills, mostly because I’ve never really had great knives to work with. I did my best but my cuts were a little jagged. The slices were sufficient but definitely not perfect.

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Even though this was only a skills challenge, I decided that I wanted to make a dish with the apples I sliced, and nothing goes better with apples than pork. I have been wanting to attempt carnitas and thought that this would be the perfect excuse. So I made carnitas tacos with an apple slaw and tomatillo cream. I cut up just under 2 pounds of boneless pork loin in to large chunks and browned it in a pan with some olive oil and chopped red onion. Then, I put the Frontera carnitas sauce with a little over a cup of water in the pan. I simply covered the pan and let it cook for around 2 hours in a 325 degree oven. When the pork was done, I shredded it with a fork and let it simmer on low while I finished the rest of the dish.

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I used the granny smith apple that I had sliced before and julienned it. Then, I mixed it with some chopped fresh cilantro, the juice of 1/2 a lime and some salt and pepper. Next, I mixed some sour cream and tomatillo salsa to make the tomatillo cream, and thinly sliced a vine-ripened tomato.

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With everything complete, I compiled the dish by spreading the tomatillo cream on a corn tortilla and then layering on the tomatoes, apple slaw, and carnitas. Finally, I garnished it with quesadilla cheese and fresh cilantro. (See finished product below).

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The tacos were great! The carnitas mix was a little spicier than I’d anticipated but the apples paired perfectly with the pork. Aside from the dish being time consuming, it was really simple. And it would have worked well in a crock pot too.

I’m very excited to see what season 2 will bring. It definitely seems like the home cooks are a step up from last season so it will be interesting to see if I can keep up this time around.