Nov 29, 2013
Apr 18, 2013
Because the first time wasn’t fun enough, we decided to do it again. Chopped Dinner Party Part 2.
Same rules applied but this time we added the dessert round. I was a little intimidated since I don’t do dessert but lately I’ve been teaching myself some more and more dessert techniques.
APPETIZER BASKET: Mini Cucumbers, Wild Blueberry Jam, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavored Pop Tarts and Python. (That’s right….python).
I’m not a big sweets person and I cannot stand chocolate chip cookie dough and especially as a pop tart. I cringed. I’ll admit that I may have taken the easy way out on those because I toasted them lightly in a pan and used them as bread crumbs on top of a salad of arugula and mini cumbers.
|Blueberry jam cooking down and pop tarts toasting|
The blueberry jam was quite yummy and it wasn’t as sweet as I was scared it would be. I cooked it down and ended up making a vinaigrette with it. I’ve never even eaten python let along cooked with it. I didn’t think you could get enough meat. But apparently you can get some decent sized filets. It was a white meat but I didn’t realize how tough it could be. This was something that needed tenderizing. I threw a bunch of spices on them and sautéed them up. (I don’t even remember what I put on there). I was thrilled with the salad. It had a nice balance of sweet, salty, peppery and freshness. The python had a nice flavor but was a bit chewy. I wish I got a picture of it but my sons (who are 5 and 2) couldn’t get enough of the python.
ENTRÉE BASKET: Kangaroo Loin, Chard, Smoked Gouda, and Caramels.
I was a little excited to see this basket. I’ve never eaten kangaroo but I was excited to try it and cook with it. I knew it was a lean meat and I couldn’t over cook it. Again, I can’t remember what the spices where that I put on it but it wasn’t too much because I had a great idea for a sauce. I seared it and cooked it medium rare. Unwrapping those damn caramels took the most time. I tossed a bunch of those with some bourbon and butter in a pot and let them melt and cook together. I shredded the chard while I tried to figure out what to do with the smoked Gouda. Then it hit me. Cheesy Chard. I made a simple béchamel, grated the Gouda and blended them together with some nutmeg. I realized that I needed a starch. I grabbed the corn meal and whipped up a quick polenta with a little of the left over smoked Gouda and Parmesan cheese. The dish came together pretty well. I just wish I had a texture contrast. Everything was creamy. But the big hit of that plate was the Cheesy Chard. Everyone ended up getting seconds and some even had thirds.
DESSERT BASKET: Birch Beer, Peppermint Patties, Complete Red Velvet Cake and Gorgonzola Flavored Crackers.
What the hell were my friends smoking when they picked with one out?!?!
|Red Velvet Cake|
I decided to start unwrapping, opening and tasting everything. WOW! That Red Velvet Cake was really sweet. While I tried to get a plan together I started with the obvious. I chopped up some patties and threw them in a pot with the Birch Beer and let it reduce down. I starred at the Cake and Crackers what seemed like half my time and then a light went off. I grabbed a blender. I threw about half the cake – frosting and all – into the blender with some milk, eggs and a little flour. Crepe batter! What goes with cheese? Fresh fruit. And this cheese came with its own added texture. I crumbled the crackers and mixed them with fresh strawberries and ricotta. I rolled the crepes with the filling and topped it with the Peppermint Patty/Birch Beer sauce and grated some more Peppermint Patty on top. I tasted each ingredient as I was cooking. Individually they were awesome. I’ll admit the sauce was OK. But the crepe (which my friends still call a stroke of genius) was the highlight of the whole night.
Are there some things I would do differently? Yes. But I still wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I didn’t get chopped!
And Yes! Expect a Part 3 in the near future! J
Mar 30, 2013
Mar 9, 2013
Jul 30, 2012
We’re more than half way through summer and how many bar-b-ques have you gone to by now? Getting tired of the usual burgers, hot dogs, steaks and sausage? The next time you want to change things up a little, I have the perfect thing. Lamb!! I love grilling lamb and this is a great way to grill lamb for a party. So easy and flavorful, and fun to eat….who doesn’t love a good kabob?
1 boneless leg of lamb, about 3-4 pounds
8 cloves garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup whole peppercorns
1 bottle dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
To make your life easier, make sure you buy boneless leg of leg. You can ask your butcher to debone it for you or you can do it yourself. Dice up the lamb into 2 inch cubes. Be sure to make sure that the cubes are as close in size as possible so they will cook evenly.
Prepare a large zip bag that can hold everything. I highly suggest the 2 ½ gallon bags. I love these bags for marinating and even brining. But be sure to put the bag on a platter so if there’s a leak it won’t be all over your fridge.
Rough chop the garlic.
Take the rosemary and thyme and with the back of your knife, bruise the herbs to release the oils.
Add the garlic, herbs, Dijon, peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of salt to the marinating bag. Then add the lamb cubes to the bag and carefully pour the entire bottle of wine in as well. Seal the bag, trying to rid of as much air as possible. Massage the lamb with all the marinades. Really make sure that everything gets evenly distributed.
Marinate in the fridge for 4-24 hours. Overnight is best, but no less than 4 hours.
When about ready to grill, take the skewers and put them in water for about 15-30 minutes. This will keep them from torching on the grill.
Drain the lamb from the marinade. Dispose of the marinade – it’s done its job. Pick off any peppercorns or herbs that may have stuck to the lamb. Dry with paper towels. Make sure that the meat is dry or it won’t sear nicely.
I suggest skewering the meat separate from the vegetables. Meat and vegetables take different times to cook. If you put them together, you’ll have overdone meat or raw vegies. I like to do zucchini, mushrooms, red peppers and red onions with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and dry oregano. They pair well with the lamb.
After you skewer the lamb, sprinkle a pinch of salt on all the lamb kabobs and set aside in room temperature for a max of 30 minutes before getting ready to cook.
I prefer to grill on charcoal. There’s nothing like it. I find that gas grills can’t provide the heat and flavor that charcoal provides.
Cook the lamb kabobs for about 3-4 minutes on one side and 2-3 minutes on the second. You want to have that nice sear on the outside and still medium-rare on the inside. Let your meat rest for 10 minutes before serving.
|Elizabeth and my son Max|
My sons love lamb. I made these kabobs for a small gathering this weekend and our friend’s 1 ½ year old daughter could not get enough of the lamb either. J Kids want good food too!!! The hardest part is getting that 1st bite in. After that, you’ll be surprised how much they’ll be open to it.
Jul 12, 2012
Have you been looking for that perfect side to bring to a Bar-B-Que? You don’t want to bring anything with mayo-based if it’s going to be sitting outside for some time. You want it to be healthy. You want it to be easy. You don’t want to spend a lot of time or money on it. You want more than 2 servings out of it. You want it pair with just about anything. Bonus, if it can be served cold or at room temperature. Look no further!! Here’s the perfect side dish!! And it’s better the next day. This is one of my favorite things to make. Hope it will be yours too.
(This is also a great recipe to perfect your knife skills. J )
1 medium eggplant
1 large zucchini or 2 small zucchinis
1 cup Quinoa
2 cups water
1 English cucumber
1 small red onion
2 vine ripe tomatoes or 1 batch grape tomatoes
8 oz. Greek feta
½ cup + ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper
3 sprigs fresh oregano
3 sprigs fresh mint
2 sprigs fresh dill
Preheat oven 400°.
Roasting: Peel the eggplant. Dice the eggplant and zucchini in large dice – about a ¼ -½ inch in size. (Note: When dicing all the vegetables make sure they are all the same size. Consider that the eggplant and zucchini will shrink a little when cooking. )
Toss cubes with the ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and a couple good pinches of salt. Lie out cubes on a baking sheet and roast in the top rack of the oven for 30 minutes.
Make the Quinoa: (I’ve made this with couscous and orzo too, both great substitutes).
Be sure to rinse the Quinoa before cooking. Put the Quinoa and the 2 cups water in a pot. Bring to boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce to simmer. Simmer until all the water is absorbed and the grain is translucent and there’s a ring around the grain is viable (that’s called the ‘germ ring’), about 10-15 minutes.
Start dicing the rest of the vegetables. It’s your choice whether to peel the cucumber. I like to leave the skin on – it adds more color - but definitely seed the cucumber. I find that a spoon does a great job channeling all the seeds out. Dice the cucumber. Dice the red onion. If you’re using the large tomatoes, seed that as well. The seeds will water down your final product and it won’t be pleasant to eat. Dice the meat of the tomato. But if you’re using the grape tomatoes, depending on their size, half or quarter them. (As a Jersey Girl, I like to use Jersey vine ripe tomatoes – preferably from my own garden, that is when the deer don’t gobble them all up, but that’s another story.)
Toss the cucumber, red onion and tomato in a large bowl with some salt. (I’m a true believer of ‘season-as-you-go’ to create layers and make sure that everything is seasoned properly. Nothing is worse than bland food. )
When eggplant and zucchini are done roasting and the Quinoa is fully cooked toss together with the cucumber, red onion and tomato. Crumble the feta and mix that in.
Make the dressing: Mix together the ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup of Balsamic vinegar, about ½ tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Pour the dressing over the Quinoa mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to 24 hours – preferably overnight.
Right before serving, chop up the fresh oregano, fresh mint and fresh dill and mix in Quinoa salad. (If you do it too early, the fresh herbs will get muddled and the fresh flavors will get lost.)
I love pairing this salad with some smoked ribs, grilled shrimp or even just a quick salmon to make it even healthier.
May 9, 2012
Usually when its spring time you think warmer weather, flowers, more sun, etc. But usually it’s rain, rain and more rain. It makes crave something comforting. Besides a good, simple roasted chicken, one of my favorite comfort foods is braised short ribs. It can be so elegant or so rustic. And the best part, they’re so easy, especially when you’re trying to occupy 2 young boys with cabin fever. This is definitely my 3 season meal – I just don’t see braising a heavy meat as a summer dish. I’ll take the short ribs to grill in the summer (that recipe will come soon enough J ).
2 tablespoons corn or canola oil
8 short ribs (approximately 5 lbs.)
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
6-8 sprigs of thyme, tied
2-3 bay leaves
Red pepper flakes, taste
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt & pepper, taste
Preheat oven 325°.
Season short ribs on all sides with salt & pepper.
Preheat cast iron, Dutch oven on medium high heat. Add the oil and brown short ribs on all sides in small batches. Do not over pack the pot or you’ll steam the ribs and you won’t get that yummy brown crust. Set aside the ribs once browned.
Reduce heat to medium and add diced onions and carrots to pot. Sauté until translucent and add chopped garlic. When fragrant add tomato paste and sauté until color depends a little, approximately 3-4 minutes. Add wine and beef broth, bring to boil.
Add thyme, bay leaves and red pepper flakes (if you like spicy, add more. If not, you can eliminate all together).
Return the short ribs to pot and add any juices that collected in pan from the short ribs. Reduce to simmer, cover with lid and place in heated oven. 45 minutes later, check on ribs and rotate. 45 minutes again, rotate ribs and make sure liquid did not reduce too much. If liquid falls below 1/3 of the height of the ribs, add more broth. Return to oven for last 45 minutes.
Take ribs out of pot and set aside. Pour the rest in a fat separator. Discard bay leaves and thyme bundle. Separate out most of the fat that accumulated, but keep some since fat is flavor. J
Pour reserved liquid and any onion, carrot and garlic chunks into a food processor. Process until smooth. Return liquid to pot, add brown sugar and sherry vinegar and reduce for about 10-15 minutes. You should end up with a smooth, sticky and a little bit runny glaze. While sauce is reducing, remove and discard the bones from the ribs and any gristle. Return cleaned ribs to reduced sauce.
Serve with Ricotta mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and caramelized mushrooms and don’t forget the sauce spooned over the top and garnish with chopped chives.
2 ½ pound of yellow potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2-6 tablespoons milk (depending on consistency)
1 cup ricotta
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt & pepper to taste
Clean and scrub potatoes and cut into large dice. Put in pot and fill with water with 3-4 tablespoons salt. Bring to boil. Checking potatoes, pierce with fork until it comes out of potato easily. Drain potatoes and put back into dry pot where the potatoes were just cooked in. Add butter, salt and pepper and mash with a potato masher. With this dish I like chucky mashed potatoes with the skins on. But if you prefer creamy, go ahead and run the potatoes thru a food mill or potato ricer for a more creamy texture. Add the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano and milk and stir with a spoon. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover and leave aside on stove. The hot pot will keep the potatoes warm until ready to serve.
1 ½ tablespoon butter
1 ½ tablespoon Olive Oil
1 shallot, diced
1 bunch of Hen of the Woods, julienned
1 bunch of Oyster mushrooms, julienned
6-8 Shitaki mushrooms, julienned
2 sprigs thyme
Preheat sauté pan on medium heat. Add butter and olive oil. Once butter is almost all melted add diced shallot and a pinch of salt. Once shallot becomes translucent add all the julienned mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium and sauté until all mushrooms have absorbed all the liquid and started to caramelize, approximately 10-12 minutes. Finely chop thyme and add to mushrooms. Add salt to taste.
Apr 5, 2012
Apr 3, 2012
I have a confession to make – I’m not a fan of the slow cooker. I think it steams food and doesn’t allow flavors to develop. I only use it for a handful of things. But I think I may have solved that problem….for this recipe at least….which was truly an accident the first time I made it.
I wanted something healthy, fulfilling and of course tastey for my family; and easy to make for me. I adore fennel – when eaten raw the beautiful, fresh licorice flavor really shines. But when cooked, the licorice flavor mellows and you’re left with a clean, sweetness that goes so nicely with almost anything. The best part of this meal is you feel like you’re eating a guilty pleasure without all the guilt.
Turkey & Fennel Meatballs
1 c. milk
1 potato roll
1 fennel/anise bulb, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 20oz pack of ground turkey
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt & pepper
1 28oz can of tomato sauce
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 450°.
Take the potato roll, rip into pieces put in small bowl and add milk to it to soak. (I find the potato roll adds extra body and a nice smoothness to the meatball than you would get with white bread or bread crumbs.)
|Make sure to cut out the core|
Heat medium sauté pan. Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to heated pan. Add diced onion and fennel, begin to sweat them out. (When dicing fennel, be sure to cut out the core – it can be tough to eat).
Add diced garlic. Once everything has turned translucent and fragrant, set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, combine turkey, eggs, dried herbs, sautéed vegetables, salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze the potato roll to drain the milk, but not too dry, leave it a little damp.
Discard the remainder of the milk. Add warm water to the bowl. Dip hands in water before forming meatballs. This way the meat won’t stick to your hands. The meat mixture will be very moist. You should not be able to actually roll the meat in your hands – just form into balls and place on a lined, rimmed cookie sheet.
Make sure to keep some space between the meatballs so all edges are exposed. (If you’re doubling this recipe, use 2 sheets and rotate sheets after 10 minutes, do not crowd the meatballs). Put on top rack of pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until meatballs are browned and they have firmed up.
While meatballs are in oven, add the sauce, wine and broth directly into your slow cooker with some salt for taste.
When meatballs are done, put directly into sauce in the slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours on High (or 6 hours on Low). Then take lid off and cook for 1 hour on High (this last hour is important. It will help reduce the sauce a little to create that “non-slow cooker taste”).
Serve with whole wheat spaghetti and garnish with fennel fronds.
I hope you enjoy! J
I’m been on a bit of a sabbatical for the past few months. We went to visit my father in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We enjoyed some truly amazing food. I took a lot of notes from all the amazing inspiration. I’ve been trying some recipes from a bunch of new cookbooks. I’ve been exploring new flavors and trying some new techniques – include molecular gastronomy. J It’s been so exciting. I feel renewed and can’t wait to start developing new recipes to share with you.
I will be posting a couple very soon!
Nov 15, 2011
As you know from my Chopped Dinner Party posting, I’m a big fan of Chopped. As any competition show you get to know the judges: their personalities and likes & dislikes. Since we don’t have smell-a-vision or taste-a-vision, after a while you get to wonder what the palates of these judges are really like. What is their cooking like? What combination of flavors do they prefer? How well are their techniques developed? You can only get so much from watching. For those familiar with the show may know Scott Conant. He’s like the Simon Cowell of the Chopped judges. He’s a tough judge that specializes in Italian food. TPH happens to like Italian food. So for TPH’s birthday, we, along with 2 of our closest friends, Amy & Spencer had dinner at Chef Conant’s restaurant, Scarpetta in NYC and had fun judging the judge.
The restaurant was a little interesting to find – there was no sign outside – at least that we didn’t notice. It was smaller than I imagined but it was gorgeous. Exposed brick with dark wood and silver accents and what appeared to be, hand blown glass lighting. It was noisy, but not any noisier than any lively restaurant. The night we went, it was packed, not an open table to be found. Our table was in the middle of the back room. I sat facing the kitchen (by no accident) and it was a good thing because the man himself, Chef Conant stepped out to peer at the packed dining room. Dressed in his chef’s coat, he didn’t stay out long and rushed back into the kitchen. Looking over the menu, we made sure that no one ordered the same thing so we could get a variety.
Here’s what panned out….
|Yellowtail (photo courtesy of http://www.scottconant.com/)|
Raw Yellowtail with flaked sea salt: light, refreshing, lots of flavor, opened up your appetite for more. Overall I felt it was the best first course – it was everything a first course should be.
Roasted Beets with pumpkin seeds, sheep’s milk yogurt and watercress: Sweet, crunchy with a nice tang from the yogurt. I was pleasantly surprised how well the beet and pumpkin seeds went together. A definite score.
Creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms: Very creamy, flavorful….I’ll even say flawless
Mozzarella in Carroza with stewed baby tomatoes: Was only OK. We found that it actually needed salt.
|Spaghetti (photo courtesy of http://www.scottconant.com/)|
Short Rub & Bone Marrow Agnolotti with garlic chips and fresh horseradish: I thought the horseradish would over power everything, but it didn’t. It wasn’t until the 2nd bite that I even noticed that it was there. It was well balanced.
Spaghetti: This is the dish that Chef Scott Conant is known for. It has been called simple and perfect. Simple yes…perfect, hmmm, not sure. The pasta was cooked a hair over al dente, which I prefer. Considering the pasta is made fresh, it was surprisingly firm – it had a nice “bite”. The sauce was smooth and rich and very good but I found the basil rather over powering. And, trust me – I loooove basil, but if it was cut back a smidgen, then it I would say it would have been perfect.
Pumpkin Casonei with ricotta & amaretti: If you have a sweet tooth, this is he dish for you. It was very sweet.
Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli with Marsala reduction: It was rich and the Marsala reduction was a nice acidic balance to add the richness. It was very good. But…sorry, there’s a but…I was a little disappointed with the pasta. I know all the pasta is fresh and hand made in Scarpetta, but I’ve had better fresh pasta. It wasn’t awful by any means, this was actually the best pasta course.
|Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli (photo courtesy of http://www.scottconant.com/)|
Branzino with romanesco cauliflower and concentrate tomatoes: Was very nice. There was a nice crust on the Branzino and it was seasoned perfectly. Amy, who ordered it couldn’t stop gushing over it.
Spiced Duck Breast with lentils with cotechino butternut squash and apple mostarda: The duck was cooked a perfect medium rare but the whole dish was overpowered with nutmeg. I just couldn’t get past all the nutmeg. This was also a very sweet dish. It was begging for some acid to break things up a bit.
Moist-Roasted Carpetto with Rapini, Pancetta and Potatoes: We learned a new name for goat….carpetto. It was slow roasted for hours and you could tell. The flavors on the goat were incredible – the meat just fell apart. I thought this was the best entrée course. It was excellent.
Veal Loin, gremolata crust, saffron semolina and bone marrow: The veal was cooked perfectly. The gremolata crust was an interesting choice and it totally worked.
Chocolate cake with salted caramel gelato and chocolate butterscotch: This was all about the gelato. The cake was good but the gelato was amazing.
Coconut Panna Cotta with guava sauce and caramelized pineapple: I had real high hopes for this dessert. I love coconut, guava and pineapple and those flavors together excited me. Unfortunately what arrived was a guava soup and a little lump of panna cotta in the middle and barely any pineapple. Guava is such an intense flavor you cannot put too much because it over powers and when you have a dish of just the guava sauce, the other flavors didn’t stand a chance. It was a shame.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with pickled huckleberries, banana paper and Guinness gelato: OK, their pastry chef gets tops in my books for his frozen desserts. The Guinness gelato was incredible. It’s a good thing, because his sticky toffee pudding should have been called “dense toffee pudding”.
It was interesting checking out someone’s palate who judge’s food. Well, as for this judge, Out of 1 to 5 (5 being the best), I give Chef Conant and Scarpetto 3 and ¾. I know ¾ may seem odd, but ½ seemed too low and bringing it up to a 4 was too generous. Do I regret going? Hell, No! Am I rushing to go back? Not anytime soon. Overall, I had a great experience. It was eye opening and every time I eat at a well-established restaurant, like Scarpetta, I feel like it makes me a better cook.
Scarpetta is located in the Meatpacking district at 355 West 14th Street (corner of 9th Avenue), New York, NY 10014
Nov 4, 2011
Nov 2, 2011
Oct 28, 2011
I am a bit obsessed with the show “Chopped” on the Food Network. If you’re not familiar with the show, basically it’s a cooking competition that takes 4 chefs and challenges their ability to takes a unique combination of foods and cook an excellent dish that is judged by a panel of 3 well established chefs. There are 3 timed rounds – appetizer, entrée and dessert. Each round one chef gets “chopped” until there’s 1 winning chef standing.
I always find myself being the armchair quarterback watching this show. “He put took much sesame oil in there” … “She’s going to overcook it”…”Why are you serving pasta to Scott Conant?”
So I decided I need to put my knife where my mouth is…..not literally. I told our close friends Amy and Spencer about my challenge and they were up for being part of it. They would supply the “basket of mystery ingredients” and they and “The Picky Husband” would judge. That’s right – TPH was going to judge “mystery” foods. But I gotta tell ya, he was a great sport. I asked them to not only challenge me, but their own pallets….and they lived up to their portion of the challenge.
I’m sorry there are not as many pictures. TPH was busy playing “Host, Ted Allen”, Judge, still camera man and video camera man. Yes, there’s video which I’ll post soon!
We decided that we were going to do only 2 rounds – appetizer and entrée – and I was given an extra 10 minutes in each round, since I’m not a professional chef.
In the Appetizer Basket was:
Alligator filets ~ Hot Pepper jelly ~ Bok Choy ~ Nacho Cheese Chips (Doritos)
YIKES!! Doritos!! Hot Pepper Jelly!! ALLIGATOR!
I’ve had alligator before as a sausage and “gator bites” which both were very yummy. Hmmmm, “gator bites”…which were basically breaded, fried chunks of alligator. Done! I took the Doritos, crushed them and added a little flour and Cajun seasonings and breaded the alligator with that.
I tasted the hot pepper jelly – it was spicy and sweet. I thought it needed a bite to it. I put equal parts of the jelly and sherry vinegar in a sauce pot and simmered it to a sauce (a gastrique). I love bok choy. It’s a sturdy green leaf vegetable in the cabbage family. I decided to keep it simple and grill it with some olive oil and salt & pepper. I thought the dish would need a little color and something to bring all the flavors together. I took a couple tomatoes and grilled them too. Diced them up, added salt & pepper and topped the dish with it.
I was satisfied with the dish, but of course, after the fact, I think I could have done more. I’m starting to understand the pressures of Chopped. The judges were pleased. TPH thought taking Doritos and crusting the alligator with it was predictable. I agree. But everything was cooked perfectly. The alligator was juicy without being under cooked. I was proud of TPH, it was the first time he had alligator, as well as Amy.
I took what I learned in the appetizer round and was ready to attack the entrée round.
In the Entrée Basket was:
Smoked Ostrich ~ Dried Figs ~ Delicata Squash ~ Wild Boar Bacon ~ Keebler Cheese & Cheddar Cracker Sandwiches
Ostrich…cool! Bacon…very cool! CHEESE CRACKER SANDWICHS…..OH NO!!! What did I get myself into!?!?!
I wanted to know more about my proteins. I opened the smoked ostrich and it smelled amazing. The subtle smokiness started to make my mouth water. I knew I wanted to keep the Ostrich simple and let these wonderful flavors shine. So the rest of the ingredients were going to revolve around the Ostrich.
Squash is squash. This squash had the consistency of a butternut or acorn squash and it smelled similar. I knew I wanted to roast it and that was going to take some time. Not sure what I was going to do with it after I roasted it but I knew the flavors I wanted to impart. I cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds. I sprinkled the top with salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and olive oil and roasted in a 450° oven.
I took the wild boar bacon out and it was a slab….which smelled amazing as well. I diced up cubes and rendered them in a pan. Wasn’t sure where I was going with that either, but I knew I wanted to get that yummy bacon fat.
Figs…figs…FIGS??? I thought the crackers were going to be the tough part the basket but, really, the figs were. Thinking again about the ostrich, how could the figs compliment the Ostrich? It came to me - - -I took the figs, rough chopped them, put them in a pot with red wine and a handful of juniper berried. Let them come to a boil and then simmered them. Put everything in a blender to create a sauce.
Yikes – I need a starch and I still have these darn cheese sandwich crackers to deal with. Another idea popped in my head. What goes better together than cheese and potatoes!?!? I grabbed a potato and grated it. Took a handful of the sandwich crackers and crushed them in my hands and added them to the grated potatoes with some salt, pepper and flour for binding. I cooked potato pancakes in the render bacon fat.
Ostrich – check. Bacon – check. Figs – check. Cheese Sandwich crackers – check. Squash…..SQAUSH. Oh yeah. Took the squash out of the oven and put it in a food processor. Squash puree it is!
Time to plate already!?! I spooned the cinnamon squash puree down. Next, the potato pancake with the cheese sandwich crackers. I sliced the Ostrich and fanned it out on the plate. Spooned the fig, juniper and wine sauce on top. And topped it all with wild boar bacon cubes and some dices chives. I was really proud of this dish!! I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And the “judges” agreed! J As a matter of fact, Amy went home and made potato pancakes with cheese cracker sandwiches.
The alligator and ostrich were purchased at Fossil Farms in Boonton, NJ. Excellent quality ingredients.
I had the most amazing time. It was truly a culinary rush and I can’t wait to do it again!!
I had the most amazing time. It was truly a culinary rush and I can’t wait to do it again!!