S2E13 (Mystery Box) – Scallops

Employment Update: 15 Follow-up e-mails which were all promptly ignored

This week’s mystery box contained some hand-dived scallops along with the unique combination of bananas, papaya, peas, lime, jalapeño, red onion, eggs, a croissant, pecans, cauliflower, parmesan, avocado, corn, cilantro, arugula, cinnamon, pancetta, and brandy.

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The top three consisted of Christian (Scallop Succotash), Adrien (Trio of Scallops) and Ben (Scallops and Bananas). Adrien’s Trio of Scallops won over Ben’s risky combination of scallops and bananas.

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Mystery Box challenges are always my favorite. I really enjoy trying to find creative ways to incorporate as many of the ingredients as possible. And this was no different. I decided to do just a classic seared scallop (by using the incomparable Chrissy Teigen’s Perfect Scallop tutorial as a guide, of course) with a cauliflower-avocado mash and mixed vegetables with pancetta.

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For the avocado and cauliflower mash, I used this recipe as a guide: Garlic Parmesan Avocado Cauliflower Mash. I stuck mostly to the recipe with the seasoning being the main exception. I steamed 4 cloves of garlic along with the cauliflower that I mashed up with it. I also used a decent amount of salt and pepper for flavor and thoroughly mashed the avocado up to give the whole component a nice light green color.

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For the mixed vegetables, I first cooked the peas and corn separately. There were no fresh peas at the store so I had to simply steam the frozen variety in the microwave. But I was able to get fresh corn, which I cut off the cob and boiled for a few minutes in salted water. I then sautéed 1/2 of a jalapeño (finely chopped), 3 cloves of garlic (minced), 1/4 of a red onion (chopped), and 10 cilantro leaves (finely chopped) in some olive oil, butter, and the juice of a lime. I wanted to put the pancetta into the mix at this time, but I forgot until later in the process because I was distracted but the numerous other components that were going on at the same time. But if you are doing this yourself, definitely put the pancetta in now. I cooked this together for a few minutes until the onions were translucent and then added in the corn and peas with some salt and pepper. This all cooked together for several minutes until the rest of the components were complete.

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I plated the dish with the avocado-cauliflower mash on the bottom, followed by the scallops and topped by the mixed vegetables with pancetta. Each component tasted good but I was disappointed with several things. First, I was only able to get frozen scallops, and as much as I tried, I could not for the life of me get them dry enough. They did not sear very well as a result. Also, since I forgot the pancetta until the end, it did not give a lot of flavor to the vegetables and did not get crispy the way I wanted. I think this dish has the potential to be very good but I executed poorly and didn’t have that great of ingredients. This is a fairly healthy and nice dish. I will definitely try this again but I will need to get more high-quality ingredients to make it worth it.

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S1E3 (Boot Camp: Skills Test + Cooking Challenge) – Onions and Eggs

This Week’s Employment Status: 7 Job Applications, 10 Unanswered E-mails/Phone Calls, 2 Rejection E-mails, 0 Prospects

To begin my MasterChef adventure, I skipped the audition rounds and jumped right into the very first challenge episode: the first boot camp. Contestants were first asked to slice and dice (literally) a truckload of onions in order to demonstrate their knife skills. After eliminating the contestants that managed to confuse their own fingers for onions or thought cutting onions in half classified as a coarse chop, we got to the real cooking challenge: making a dish that showcases a perfectly cooked single egg.

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So for my first dish, I decided to combine the two challenges and make a really great meal that showcased onions and a perfectly cooked egg. When I think onions, I think of French Onion Soup. And I have always wanted to try poaching an egg. So combining the two seemed to be the logical choice.

I have never made either dish so I needed some assistance. I looked at these recipes for help:

Tyler Florence’s French Onion Soup

How to Poach an Egg

But, as my rules stipulate, I have to make the dish my own, which I decided to do through herbs, spices, and, of course, bacon. So here’s what I used to get one very generous serving of soup:

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  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 1 Medium Onion, Sliced
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced (Full Disclosure: I LOVE garlic so I alway put 2-3 times the amount that a normal recipe would call for. So if you do not share my love of garlic, you may want to minimize this amount)
  • 2 Strips of Thick-Cut Bacon
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Teaspoon of Sambal Oelek Chili Paste
  • 1 Teaspoon of Thyme
  • Pinch each of Cumin, Basil, Oregano, and Crushed Red Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 Cup of Red Wine
  • 1 Tablespoon of Flour
  • 2 Cups of Beef Broth
  • 2 Thin Slices of Baguette
  • 1.5 Ounces of Gouda
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • 0.5 Ounces of Parmesan
  • Hot Sauce

And here’s the steps you need to recreate this dish for yourself:

1) Heat butter and olive oil in a medium pot. Add sliced onion, minced garlic, chopped bacon and all the herbs and spices to the pot. Cook until onions are soft and caramelized (like the second picture below).

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2) Add the red wine. Simmer until the wine has evaporated. Take out bay leaf. Sprinkle flour over onions and stir to mix. Cook for a few minutes until the flour is cooked.

3) Add beef broth. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Additional salt and pepper to taste. (Finished soup below).

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4) While soup is simmering, preheat the broiler and prep the cheesy croutons. Cut a couple thin slices of baguette and place on a cookie sheet. Brush with garlic olive oil and cover with gouda (or cheese of your choice). Broil 3-5 minutes until golden brown. (See finished cheesy croutons below).

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5) Now it’s time to poach the egg. Fill a pot with 2-3 inches of water and heat until it is barely boiling. Add a tablespoon of vinegar at this point. (This is key – I tried it the first time without the vinegar and the egg white went everywhere). Break the egg into a ramekin or small cup and then gently transfer the egg into the hot water. Use a spoon to move the egg white around the yolk. Turn off the heat, cover and let set for 3-4 minutes until the egg white is done.

6) While egg is poaching, arrange croutons on top of soup. When done, transfer egg using a slotted spoon and place on top of cheesy croutons. Sprinkle with pepper, hot sauce and parmesan cheese. Finished product is below.

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Overall, I would say the dish was a success. It tasted great but the presentation could have been better. It was pretty easy but it took over an hour and I needed two eggs to get the poaching right. Given that fact, I probably never would have made my way to the top 14. But I’m going to choose to ignore that fact and solider on. Stay tuned for my next MasterChef endeavor.

But until then, here’s a bonus egg and onion dish that I straight up stole from Chrissy Teigen’s blog: So Delushious. I did a Caprese version for breakfast today with Tomato, Mozarella, Fresh Basil, Garlic, Onion, Balsalmic Vinegar, and Olive Oil. See her blog for instructions but here are the before and after pics from my attempt:

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