S2E12 (Team) – Three-Course Menu

Employment Update: 10 Follow-Up E-mails, Way too much waiting to hear back form interviews…

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.31.18 PM

This week’s team challenge had the Red Team (led by Giusseppe) and the Blue Team (led by Tracy) conceptualize and create a three-course meal (an appetizer, an entree and a dessert) to impress the judges’ mothers. Each team captain was given two minutes to determine the mothers’ likes and dislikes to help guide their teams. From what they showed on the episode, here is the information that the chefs were given:

  • Joe’s Mom loves fish and vegetables
  • Gordon’s Mom does not like Sea Bass or Tuna
  • Gordon’s Mom and Joe’s Mom love fresh pasta (Graham’s Mom says it’s just “fine”)
  • Joe’s Mom loves fruit tarts (Gordon’s Mom does not)

I’m sure the mothers gave more direction than that but that was all the producers decided to show the viewer. The Red Team served a Mixed Green Salad with Crispy Polenta, Spaghetti Carbonara, and Apple Pie.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.39.48 PM   Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.44.42 PM   Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.48.55 PM

The Blue Team served Carrot Ginger Soup, Pan Seared Turbot with Caramelized Fennel, and Poached Pear with Mascarpone.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.39.38 PM   Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.44.25 PM   Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.49.24 PM

Even though the Blue Team took a risk serving the fish, they served the best entree and dessert and won the overall challenge. This sent the Red Team into the pressure test.

Since the instructions for the challenge were so vague, I decided to just try out some recipes for the appetizer and dessert portions, and use the entree portion to incorporate the mothers’ likes and dislikes. The menu I decided on was as follows:

  • Brussel Sprout, Pomegranate, Avocado and Orange Salad
  • Lamb with Kale and Butternut Squash Pasta in a Garlic, White Wine Butter Sauce
  • Beignets with Raspberry and Chocolate Dipping Sauces

Appetizer

The brussel sprout salad idea came from this recipe: Brussel Sprout Pomegranate Citrus Salad. It was a decent amount of prep work (this tutorial helped with the pomegranate though) but the result was great. It was really fresh and light, but you have to like the texture of pomegranate seeds to enjoy the dish.

image

Entree

For the entree, I knew that I wanted to do a fresh pasta since that was one of the few things all of the mothers seemed to like. (And I have a pretty decent recipe that I have used before on this blog). I found some nice kale and butternut squash at the store so I thought that I could incorporate that into a really nice dish. The first thing I did was roast the squash using this recipe: Simple Roasted Butternut Squash. I let it cool and then cut it into cubes. Then, I prepped the kale (using this as a tutorial since I’d never worked with it before).

Next, I started to prepare the sauce. I put 6 tablespoons of butter, 4 cloves of garlic (minced) and 1/4 of a yellow onion (finely chopped) into a pan, cooking it until the onions were translucent. I then added 3/4 of a cup of white wine, 1 tablespoon of sage, 1/2 a tablespoon of thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and a splash of half-and-half. I let that all cook together for a few minutes and then added the kale into the sauce. I covered this and let it cook for a few minutes until the kale cooked down. I then added in the butternut squash and pasta (once it was cooked through in boiling water), and let that cook together for a few minutes until the lamb was done.

image   image

For the lamb, I simply followed this recipe: Basic Sear-Roasted Lamb Loin Chops. Overall, this dish worked really well. The pasta got a little overcooked and the kale was still a little chewy, but the flavors were great. The lamb was cooked perfectly and all the components tasted great together. I would definitely do this again, but I’d cook the kale before adding it into the sauce and I’d make the noodles thicker or boil them less.

image

Dessert

For dessert, I decided that I wanted to try and make beignets using this recipe: French Quarter Beignets. I followed the recipe completely and made Chocolate and Raspberry Dipping Sauces to go with them. I pretty much followed all of the recipes, with a couple exceptions. We experimented with the sugars that coated the beignets, ultimately coming up with 4 different variations: powdered sugar, granulated sugar, plain, and brown sugar with cinnamon. I also didn’t have enough raspberries for the sauce so I supplemented with blueberries and pomegranate seeds. I also used lemon juice instead of orange juice, which was great because it definitely added some more tang to the sauce.

image   image

Overall, the beignets turned out great. My favorite was definitely the granulated sugar with the raspberry-blueberry-pomegranate dipping sauce, but they were all very tasty. The only thing was that the recipe made SO MANY beignets. We decided to freeze about half of them, and according to this recipe, they can be reheated by simply putting them into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. I have no idea how they will work out but I’ll definitely let you all know.

Also, as a bonus recipe, I recently tried my hand at these: Homemade Fig Newtons. They turned out great but the dough is VERY difficult to work with. While the results are great (I mean seriously delicious!), the hassle is probably not really worth it. 

image

Note: The Pressure Test challenge that followed this Team challenge was a repeat test: the chefs were asked to make a perfect eggs benedict in 30 minutes. Giuseppe, Derrick and Alejandra were the chefs that had to compete in this challenge, and Giuseppe was ultimately sent home for plating severely undercooked eggs. I do not repeat challenges on this blog but here is my attempt from Season 1: S1E12 – Semi-Final 2.

Advertisements

S2E10 (Pressure) – Six Layer Cake

After losing the last challenge, the blue team was put into a pressure test. They were given 2 hours to make a cake with a minimum of six layers, with the losing chef being sent home.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.42.51 PM   Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.43.01 PM

Ben (Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting), Jennifer (Banana Split Cake) and Tracey (Chiffon Cake with Basil and Citrus) created the judges’ favorite layer cakes.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.52.15 PM   Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.55.59 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.55.15 PM

And Suzy (Ganache and Pecan), Esther (Lemon Raspberry), Christine (Apricot Berry) were in the bottom three. While all of them had significant issues, Esther was the one sent home.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.53.48 PM   Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.56.48 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.57.49 PM

I am not really a strong baker so I dreaded this challenge. I remember trying to make a layer cake one time when I was about ten for a family birthday. There was recipe in this Minnie Mouse children’s book that I thought I could make, but my attempt turned into a messy disaster. I’d like to say that this one worked out better but it most certainly did not.

I decided to make a miniature layer cake with layers of gingerbread and chocolate with stout and chocolate buttercream frosting. I used these recipes as guides:

The batter for both cakes turned out well but the disasters started as soon as they were put into the oven.

image

When I checked the cakes around 30 minutes in, the chocolate cakes were overflowing into the oven. Luckily, the gingerbread cakes were working well, but even then, I knew that I was going to have some issues. When the cakes were baked all the way through, the gingerbread was still holding together great but the chocolate had sunken into the middle and looked like a dark brown brick. I probably should have stopped there and just stuck with the gingerbread but I was determined to see this one through.

image   imageimage

I let the cakes cool and made both of the buttercream frostings. Both turned out well so I was feeling like I could maybe still turn this one around. But then, came the decorating…

image   image

While the chocolate cake looked hard on the outside, it was so moist on the inside that it was essentially falling apart in my hands. This should have been the time to chuck the idea of the chocolate, but I’m too stubborn for my own good apparently. I was able to get six layers stacked on top of each other with the stout buttercream between the layers, and while it was sort of uneven, it seemed like it might have a chance. But then I started frosting the cake…

image   image 

I think the weight of the frosting destroyed the chocolate layers, which made the whole cake completely unstable. I kept frosting and packing it all together until I was able to get it so it could at least stand up straight (with the help of some skewers) but it looked a total disaster. I went ahead and decorated it just like I would have had to do for the challenge. But it was such a lost cause. Even though all of the components tasted good and complemented each other well, I am sure that I would have been sent home for this atrocity. The good news is that I am not actually on the show though, so I will live to fight another day. Hopefully, I can turn this all around with my next challenge and I will definitely avoid making cakes again in the future.

image   image

S1E13 – Finale

Employment Update: 1 Job Application, 4 E-mails, 1 Phone Call

It has all come down to this for Season 1: Whitney vs. David in three rounds: Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert. The chefs were given two hours to impress the judges with three dishes, and they definitely did. However, Whitney impressed them a little more and took home the crown as the first MasterChef winner.

Round 1: Appetizer

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.04.25 PM   Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.06.03 PM

Round 2: Entrée

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.08.48 PM   Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.11.29 PM

Round 3: Dessert

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.14.53 PM   Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.15.48 PM

For my first course, I decided to do a seared scallop on a mini-tostada with mango salsa and avocado cream. I first made the mango salsa, which is a recipe that I have developed over the years. It is really simple. I just threw together 1 mango (diced), 2 medium tomatoes (diced), 1/2 of a small red onion (diced), 1 jalapeño (finely chopped), the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1 lime, 10 fresh cilantro leaves (finely chopped), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. I mixed it together and let it marinate in the fridge while I worked on the other components. (See finished product below).

20131111-193414.jpg

I fried a couple of corn tortillas (cut into fourths) in some vegetable oil for a couple minutes on each side. Then, for the avocado cream, I mixed 1 avocado, 2 tablespoons of sour cream, the juice of 1/2 a lime, 1 tablespoon of tomatillo salsa and a pinch each of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. I mixed it up as well as I could but, unfortunately, I do not currently have a food processor to get a nice, smooth consistency. It was a little lumpy, but it tasted good and that’s all that really matters.

   20131111-193425.jpg   20131111-193435.jpg

Finally, I seared the scallops, using this as a guide: The Perfect Scallop. I followed it exactly and the scallops came out perfectly as a result. The completed dish (below) was DELICIOUS! The flavors went together really well. It was kind of difficult to eat, but it was so good that I didn’t care. This is definitely one of the best things I’ve made this far.

20131111-193452.jpg

For the entree, I found some great lamb at the store and decided to serve it with mashed potatoes, green beans and mushrooms in a garlic and thyme red wine sauce. Everything with this was really simple. For the mashed potatoes, I skinned and boiled the potatoes until they were cooked through. Then, I mashed them with milk, butter, salt and pepper until smooth. For the green beans and mushrooms, I mixed them with olive oil, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted them in a 400-degree oven until they were tender. For the sauce, I reduced some red wine by half with a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic. For the lamb, I seasoned it with salt and pepper, seared it on both sides and put it in a 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. The completed dish is below and it was really tasty. The red wine sauce could have been more flavorful but everything went together really well. And the lamb was tender and lovely.

20131111-193504.jpg

Finally, for the dessert, I decided to make pumpkin bread with chantilly cream, melted chocolate and caramel. I used these recipes to create the dish: Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread, Chantilly Cream, and Easy Caramel Sauce. While its not really a typical dessert, it was SO good! I love pumpkin and have been wanting to make some sort of pumpkin dessert for a while. This just sounded good to me today and I’m so glad I made it.

20131111-193515.jpg   20131111-193524.jpg

Every dish I made today was really good. I think they certainly could have been on par with David’s and Whitney’s dishes. The only thing is I’m not sure how well these dishes work in a progression. Perhaps, that is something I can work on during the next season of challenges. Season 1 has come to an end, and I have already learned so much and tried so many new things. I am excited to undertake the next season’s worth of challenges so stay tuned!

S1E11 (Pressure Test) – Chocolate Soufflé

Employment Status: Had a friend reach out to me about a potential opportunity and refer me to the employer, Am finally getting in the groove at work 

For the final pressure test of the season, Whitney and Sharone had to produce a perfect chocolate soufflé in just 90 minutes.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 12.22.13 PM   Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 12.23.12 PM

Whitney spent all of her time perfecting the batter and only had time to bake one soufflé (which she did with a hint of orange zest). Sharone, however, tinkered with several different recipes, and was pushed to the brink of the time limits. Because of this, his soufflé (which he seasoned with a bit of sea salt) did not cook all the way through, which ended up with him being sent home.

 Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 12.30.43 PM   Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 12.32.56 PM

As I have said before, I AM NOT A BAKER. So this challenge was particularly intimidating. I followed this recipe completely: Chocolate Soufflé. And I also used this helpful tutorial for beating the egg whites: How to Beat Egg Whites. I did not have my stand mixer, a double boiler or a proper ramekin so I had to get very creative when it came to creating this dish. Thankfully, everything worked out decently enough and I was able to turn out a somewhat respectable attempt. (See finished batter and baked soufflé  below).

20131103-204905.jpg   20131103-204912.jpg

For my first try, I’d say it turned out well. I had a hard time getting the egg whites to stiff peaks so I just added the egg whites at the soft peak stage. The soufflé rose well and it was light, airy and delightfully chocolatey. However, it did not look as good as it should have. I’m not sure if it was an egg white problem or my makeshift (way too big) ramekin that caused the issue, but I will definitely try again soon (once I have the right kitchen equipment,  of course). This is definitely a challenge that I could have gone home for, but thankfully, I am not actually in any competition and I will be able to rebound with my next dish.

S1E6 (Mystery Box) – Cupcakes

Employment Update: 1 Job Application, 3 New Opportunities, 4 E-mails, 2 Desperate LinkedIn Connection Requests

This week’s Mystery Box challenge was very straightforward: make one great cupcake in 45 minutes. You could use any ingredients provided on the table below – what they claimed to be anything that you could ever need to make a great cupcake.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 2.08.21 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 2.10.43 PM

A lot of people struggled with this challenge (even Tracey who claimed to be a fantastic baker). But Jake (Chocolate Lovers Delight), Whitney (Coconut), and Sharone (Hazelnut & Pistachio) were declared the top three. Sharone was declared the ultimate winner though.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 2.13.44 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 2.17.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 2.15.38 PM

For my cupcakes, I decided to do a Honey Banana Cupcake with Nutella-Chocolate Ganache. I am not really a baker so I just followed this recipe completely. The only thing I did a little differently was add a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to the cupcake batter. (See finished product below).

20131008-151034.jpg

The cupcakes turned out great! And they definitely took less than 45 minutes to make. The ganache I made never set up properly (probably because I got the proportions wrong with the half recipe). I was able to get it so it would sort of stay on top (see below) but it looked atrocious. So I decided to just quickly melt some chocolate with a smidge of cream and honey to B.S. a quick ganache-like topping, which I garnished with powdered sugar to add some sweetness. (The second image below would have been what I presented to the judges).

20131008-151042.jpg 20131008-151049.jpg

Seeing how poorly some of the other contestants did with this challenge, I think my cupcakes would have fared just fine (even with the ganache failure). The only problem was that I had to pay very close attention to the recipe. If I had actually been in this challenge, I’m not entirely sure that I would have been able to come up with the correct proportions without it. Looks like I’ll have to seriously practice my baking skills before trying to go on the show!