Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cook Off Recap

Good evening everyone! Another week of blogging is drawing to a close. As you are well aware, Maggie and I engaged in a little culinary cook off over the past two days. The premise was simple - given a $20 gift card we each had to construct a meal to show off our culinary talents. This was supposed to be a dish that served multiple purposes. It should be a dish that you could make on a Sunday night - I.E. family gathering meal. Also, it should have some element of 'impressiveness' to it - something you'd bust out when the boss is coming over for dinner.

Now that we've both put our best dish forward, tonight we're each going to recap both recipes. We've also constructed five categories to judge the contest on. Creativity, Complexity, Flavor, Impressiveness and Value for the Dollar. Both Maggie and I will go over each category and pick a winner. The dish with the most votes 'wins' the cook off. Let's begin with the recaps:

Macaroni Pizza & Chocolate Apple Fondue 

Tyler: Maggie's dish caught me completely off guard. We vaguely discussed our dishes with each other before the week - so we both had an idea of what the other one was cooking. However, I did not expect the dish that was placed in front of me on Tuesday night. Constructing pizza dough out of macaroni noodles was something that had never crossed my mind. Initially, I was skeptical about the flavor of the concoction but quickly put those notions to rest after the first bite.

The dish tasted a lot like cheeseburger pizza. The pepperoni, hamburger and onion formed the traditional 'meat lovers' flavor while the macaroni acted as a sort of cheesy, soft crust. Likewise, her chocolate apple fondue was a pleasant surprise as well. I did not think the pairing of apples and chocolate would blend as well as it did. It was another delightful surprise in a night that seemed chocked full of them.

In the end, recipes like this have sort of become Maggie's calling card. She steers clear of the overly complicated recipes and instead searches for the unique. While this dish certainly wont become a regular in our cooking rotation (It is by definition everything we are setting out against by cooking ourselves - box meal, preservatives, sugar laden) it certainly does fit into the 'guilty pleasure' category.

Maggie:  My mac 'n' cheese pizza surprised me...and I know I say that about every dish.  When I read up on my recipe beforehand, I guess I didn't really grasp the concept of having a "standard" American dish be the crust of a pizza.  But in the end, it turned out exactly to be that: a pizza with cheesy noodles as a base.

The taste wasn't too bad either.  It had beef and pepperoni, which made it almost a meat lovers pizza.  The Mexican cheese combination was an excellent pick.  If the cheese had been mozzarella or cheddar, it probably wouldn't have the same outcome.  You couldn't really taste the mac 'n' cheese most of the time, but when you could pick up hints of the mac 'n' cheese, it blended very well into the whole dish.

For the fondue, I knew that the chocolate and peanut butter combination would go very well together.  Since most individuals like to put peanut butter on their apples, it was no surprise that the fondue was appealing to the pallet.  The only thing that bothered me about the fondue was that it kind of hardened after a couple of minutes of resting.  I've never made fondue before, so maybe that's a characteristic of fondue, but it certainly didn't inhibit us from devouring it. 

Lemon Roast Chicken & Strawberry Shortcake 

Tyler: I mentioned last night that I was setting out to improve on a recipe that I had attempted earlier in our blogging days. My first foray into lemon roast chicken was a successful one - but I found the chicken to be not quite juicy enough for my liking. In the end, I knew the dish was good - but I felt it could be better. Last night, I turned to my cooking bible - America's Test Kitchen Cookbook to perfect the recipe.

In the end, the results were mixed. Yes, I did achieve a very juicy chicken thanks to the hour long brine and a slow roasting process. However, the lemon flavor that was so abundant in my first lemon chicken recipe was not nearly was noticeable in the second attempt. I think this is due to the lemons being sliced open in last night's recipe (vs simply poked with holes and inserted whole in the first recipe). I think the real winning recipe lies somewhere in between.

The flavors of the dish were still worth the effort, however. Lemon, garlic and natural chicken flavoring combined for a completely delicious dish. The strawberry shortcake, while not the most visually pleasing end result (I had a lot of issues with the dough) was still very, very good. Also, who knew it was so easy to make whipped cream? Chock that one up as a 'learn something new everyday' item.

In the end, this dish falls directly under my calling card. Multi-layered recipe with some more advanced steps yielding an impressive and delicious dish. I don't do easy and I don't venture out of the 'sane' flavor combinations like my lovely wife does. However, I take on the challenges and difficult recipes that she would never dream of tackling. I guess that's what makes us work so well together!

Maggie:  Tyler's chicken was incredibly flavorful.  The differing flavors from the lemon, garlic, and thyme made a very noteworthy mark for the chicken.  The brine probably also helped the flavor of the chicken, not to mention making it very pronounced.  The roasting process takes quite a while, but that flavor, not to mention moistness, makes it incredibly mouthwatering.

The strawberry shortcake was worked really well too.  I don't really have a knack for baking - just as Tyler doesn't but maybe some day I will give it a try.  But for a dessert, this worked superbly well.  The fresh whipped cream and strawberries, not to mention the fresh short cake, was a true delight.  Everything almost seemed to melt in your mouth and made it very pleasing for the pallet.  It wasn't a heavy dish either and it really worked with the complex flavors of the chicken.

Tyler always challenges himself with new and intricate recipes.  Most of the recipes I have to tip my hat, because I'm not gutsy enough to try it.  With this chicken and short cake, another tipping has occurred.  I'm always so impressed with the awesome recipes that he whips up and the chicken and short cake was no exception.  

Head To Head: 


Tyler: In my opinion, Maggie's dish wins hands down in the creativity portion. While I played it safe with chicken, she was making pizza out of macaroni and putting apples in chocolate. It doesn't get much more creative than that.

Maggie:  Although the chicken had some unique flavor combinations, the mac 'n' cheese pizza was pretty darn unique and an interesting find, not to mention out of the ordinary...ha!

Winner:  Maggie


Tyler: While Maggie's dish was certainly creative - it was not at all complex. Box macaroni insturctions and browning hamburger are by no means difficult culinary undertakings. My lemon roast chicken had basting, roasting, browning, quartering and reducing - and that doesn't even include the strawberry shortcake recipe! My dish gets my vote.

Maggie:  Complexity was hands down Tyler's.  The differing flavors within the chicken made it really incomparable and for something with few ingredients to have that flavor was incredible.

Winner:  Tyler


Tyler: This category is a little more difficult to call. Maggie's dish had 'guilty pleasure' flavor. Mac and cheese, hamburger, pepperoni - all classic 'junk food' flavors that (of course) paired well together for a delicious bite. My dish worked with more classic flavors. Lemon, garlic and naturally smokey chicken. I had subtle undertones, hints of thyme and parsley - all things that brought a great, fresh flavor forward. It's a close call, but I'll give my vote to my recipe.

Maggie:  Although my pizza had simple flavors, and almost a processed feel, it's flavors that everyone would come to recognize.  The true essence of cooking and working with flavors belonged to the chicken and it dazzled brilliantly.

Winner:  Tyler


Tyler: This is one category where Maggie and I agree 100% on the winner. The gorgeous picture of my roasted chicken on yesterday's blog tells the tale. You could plop that bird on the center of any table and certainly impress any boss or guest that you had in your home. Next to the stacked strawberry shortcake - my dish was clearly the move visually impressive.

Maggie:  Ditto!  When you make something and the picture looks exactly like what comes out of the get very giddy and excited...and definitely impress worthy.

Winner:  Tyler

Value for the Dollar: 

Tyler: This category is a toss up - I can see the argument in both ways. Maggie's dish had quite a bit leftover. If we applied this meal to a family of four, the leftovers would be reduced - but there still would be leftovers. Meaning her recipe could feed four with extra. That's 6~8 mouths for one meal. That's certainly streatching the dollar. BUT value isn't always about quantity - but sometimes also about quality. In that regard, my chicken was constructed with fresh garlic, fresh lemons and a free range, lean chicken. While my dish would feed a family of four in one meal with little to no leftovers - the quality of the ingredients really helps boost the 'value' of my recipe. When you compare what we spent (Maggie - $14.88  Tyler - $15.90*) it's essentially a wash. My vote is....draw.

* Note: My final total is adjusted form Monday after a reader pointed out that the $1.49 flour should not count against my total since that is an item that would typically be found in the pantry. The fact that we were running low on said item should not disrupt the competition.

Maggie:  Granted my pizza had leftovers for family, it probably isn't the healthiest meal.  Tyler's chicken is healthy and flavorful, but had little leftover.  With those two factors in mind, I'll equal the both of us out.

Winner:  Draw

Overall winner:  Tyler

The final tally shows three votes for my lemon chicken, one vote for Maggie's macaroni pizza and one draw. In theory, my recipe 'wins' the cook off - however,  I would argue that one draw and only two votes different between the two dishes clearly shows that there were not obvious winners. In the end, Maggie and I both produced fantastic dishes and had a lot of fun doing so. That's all that really matters.

That's all we have for you this week. Next week, we've got another interesting feature in mind - we'll give you the full details on that next Monday. Until then, I hope everyone enjoys there weekends! Until Monday,


No comments:

Post a Comment