S2E19 (Mystery Box) – Chicken

For the final mystery box challenge of the season, the contestants were asked to demonstrate how far they had come. They had to create a dish featuring chicken with an open pantry, just like one of the first challenges of the season. Jennifer struggled, turning in a dish with overcooked and undercooked components (Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Apples and Jalapeño). Christian (Bacon Wrapped Chicken with French Onion Sauce) and Adrien (Braised Chicken Thigh with Acorn Squash, Asparagus and Rice) created better dishes, but the judges only offered high praise for Adrien, who won the challenge.

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For this challenge, I decided to do an “empty the fridge” type of dish. While that’s not really what I usually do on this blog, I thought that I had ingredients on hand to do a great stuffed chicken breast with ratatouille and truffle-butter potatoes. For the chicken breast, I made the stuffing out of feta, chopped bacon, minced garlic, chopped yellow onions, thyme, oregano, and crushed red pepper. After mixing all of this together, I pounded out the chicken breast, spread the stuffing evenly over the top of the chicken and then rolled it all up so that the chicken totally enveloped the stuffing. I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika, and poured in enough chicken stock to cover the bottom of the baking dish. I baked this in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, spooning the broth over the top of the chicken every 15 minutes.

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While the chicken was cooking, I started making the sides. While I did not have the ingredients to make a traditional ratatouille, I certainly had enough to create my own version. I simply sautéed some chopped zucchini, chopped red onion, diced tomatoes, minced garlic, and chopped red bell pepper in some olive oil and butter. I let the vegetables cook together for a little bit. Then, I added a couple tablespoons of arrabiata sauce and seasoned the whole mixture with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, cumin, and cayenne pepper. I let this all cook together on low until the vegetables were tender and ready to serve.

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For the potatoes, I simply fried the slices in some butter for a couple minutes per side, sprinkled them with truffle salt and then popped them in the oven on a baking sheet until they were fork tender.

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The final component of the dish was the red wine reduction. When the chicken was finished, I took the broth from the bottom of the baking dish and poured it into a sauce pan. To this, I added an equal amount of red wine (in this case, a pinot noir that I had on hand), a tablespoon of honey, and the juice of 1/2 a lime. I let this simmer until it was reduced by half.

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I plated the chicken breast on a bed of the truffle potatoes and ratatouille with the red wine reduction spooned over top. Overall, the dish came together pretty well. The ratatouille and potatoes were delicious. I easily could have eaten just those and been perfectly content. The chicken, on the other hand, was just ok. The feta did not keep the chicken moist like other cheeses I have used in the past to make this dish. And the crushed red pepper was too strong, giving the stuffing, as a whole, a bit of an odd flavor. The red wine sauce was very strong. I let it reduce too far and I used a fairly cheap wine, so the overall flavor was much too sharp. While there are definitely some tweaks that need to be made to improve this dish, I do think that it could be refined into quite a delicious meal.

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S1E5 (Team Challenge) – Feed the Marines

Employment Status: 2 Job Applications, 8 E-mails, 1 Phone call

For this season’s first team challenge, the chefs were asked to feed 400 U.S. Marines with the two different teams serving one entree, two sides and one dessert each.

The Red Team made barbecue steak, potato gratin, roasted root vegetables and apple turnover (the first dish below), while the Blue Team made stuffed pork loin, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted corn and berry napoleon (the second dish). Even though the Red Team’s food was declared better overall, they underestimated the necessary portions and ran out of food. The Blue Team essentially won by default.

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Since I am obviously not going to feed 400 Marines, I decided to use this time to share some of my favorite recipes that could easily be scaled up to meet the needs of the challenge.

For the entree, I LOVE the Pioneer Woman’s Peach Whiskey Barbecue Chicken. I’ve made this dish multiple times and it is always a winner. I pretty much just follow the recipe (with the one exception being that I use breasts instead of thighs) so go there for instructions.

For the first side, I highly suggest my Mom’s mac-and-cheese recipe. I have adapted it over the years and made it my own and it is totally delicious. I had one friend even say that he thought he didn’t like mac-and-cheese… until he tried this. Even today, he says that this is the only mac-and-cheese he likes. If that doesn’t convince you how good this is, I don’t know what will. To make 4 servings of this awesome mac-and-cheese, this is what you’ll need:

  • 2 Cups of Uncooked Pasta (You can literally use any type of pasta for this but I prefer to use Penne, Orecchiette, or Fusilli)
  • 1/4 Cup of Butter
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Cup of Flour
  • 1-3/4 Cups of Milk
  • 4 Ounces each of Sharp Cheddar, Gouda, and Gruyere, Cubed
  • 4 Ounces of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
  • 2 Ounces Parmesan, Shredded
  • Seasoned Bread Crumbs

To make this dish:

  • Cook pasta as directed, drain and set aside.
  • Melt butter over medium heat (with salt, pepper, garlic powder and any other herbs and spices you like – I have been known to throw in Sambal Oelek or White Truffle Oil depending on my mood).
  • Blend in flour, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
  • Slowly stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.
  • Boil and stir for 1 minute. Turn down heat and stir in cubed cheese until melted.
  • Place pasta in casserole dish. Stir cheese sauce into pasta. Top with shredded cheese and seasoned bread crumbs
  • Bake uncovered for approximately 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

For the second side, I made this Tomato Zucchini Tart for a party recently and everyone loved it. It was time intensive but it was super easy with a mandolin slicer (which you can get fairly inexpensively at Target). You can also spice this up and add yellow squash and/or eggplant as well.

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I have to admit: dessert is not really my thing. A pastry chef, I am not. So I really only have one go-to dessert recipe that I can share with you. As an Ohio native and an Ohio State Alum, this, of course, is Buckeye Candies. The ingredients that you need to make around 36 pieces of candy are:

  • 1 Cup of Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 1/8 Cup of Butter, Softened
  • 2 Cups of Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Cups of Chocolate Chips
  • Toothpicks

Mix the peanut butter and butter until creamy then slowly beat in powdered sugar – just a 1/3 of a cup at a time or else powdered sugar will fly everywhere. Shape into small 1-inch balls, place toothpicks in the center of the candy and freeze for at least one hour. Melt chocolate chips using a double boiler and dip candies one-by-one into the chocolate. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

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I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. I’ll be back with another challenge soon.