Thursday, June 26, 2008

Top Chef: The Jujyfruit Family Elimination Challenge

Our family loves to watch Food Network, and we have many must-see-t.v. shows thanks to that channel. Now that "Top Chef" is over for the season (which by the way, I never blogged about the finale, but didn't they totally make it look like Lisa was going to win?! Her food did look good that day, but, I mean, LISA?!?? I was yelling at the tv & threatening that I would NEVER WATCH AGAIN...and then, thank goodness, Stephanie won, because I would have hated to follow up on that threat), we are watching "The Next Food Network Star".

So anyway, the kids and I went to the library and checked out a bunch of cookbooks (after I paid my large fine and got my checkout privileges back...) because we all agreed we wanted to actually DO a little cooking, instead of just WATCHING it with stomachs growling.

We browsed and planned and came up with a group menu for supper last night. Then yesterday the kids and I went to the grocery store, each armed with our own list of ingredients for the cooking challenge (just like they do on the shows).

I gave orders to my husband to start the Baked Chicken Fingers recipe from this book while we finished up at swimming lessons. Then he cleared out of the kitchen with Junior while the bigs and I finished the rest.

Bubbs wanted to make BBQ sauce, so he cooked up a batch from a Williams-Sonoma sauce cookbook. Tootsie made Caesar Salad with the recipe from the first cookbook (minus the chicken). She also had plans to make the Potato Skins...but when we realized it was a two-hour endeavor, we 86'd them. (See my insider kitchen terminology? We're savvy cool foodies!) I whipped up some garlic bread as a quick replacement for the potato skins, and then my featured menu item was Swistle's Modified Baker's One Bowl Brownies, served with a duo of ice cream (Breyer's vanilla and a Peanut Butter version we mixed up in an effort to recreate a local ice cream stand favorite).

Now for the results from the Judges' Table.

The sauce was good, although a bit tangier and chili sauce-y flavor-ier than we prefer. Plus it was chunky. It was a good start, though, and now that he knows the basics of sauce-making, Bubba's gonna run it through the blender and doctor it up today to experiment a bit.
The chicken was a total flop (literally) for some reason -- it stayed pale and floppy and the egg dip & coating sort of pooled beneath each piece and baked onto the pan. We cut up the strips into nugget portions and finished cooking them IN some of the BBQ sauce on top of the stove. We gave them a thumbs-up after our modifications.

Based on his lackluster cooking results, my husband had to be eliminated from the family. Heartbreaking as it was, we were forced to ask him to "please pack his knives and go." Ha! Just kidding! It wasn't really an Elimination Challenge; I just said that to get everyone properly motivated -- it was really more of a QuickFire Challenge.

Anyhoo. On with the critique.

The Caesar salad was really garlicky, and quite good, and the recipe didn't call for eggs or sardines, which we considered a plus for home cooking. We thinned the dressing with some additional EVOO, but I don't think that was a good move. We'll definitely make that recipe again, but add extra lemon juice instead (if needed).

The brownies were delish. They were chocolatey and dense, with a thin chewy crust on the top and bottom - perfect! They actually didn't take much longer than they would from a mix, either, and the flavor was well worth the few extra minutes. I will have to start keeping unsweetened chocolate squares in the pantry now, rather than boxed mixes, because they are definitely craveable.

Hmmm, in fact, I'm suddenly thinking about how delicious one would taste right n....

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