#MasterChef?

When life throws me curve balls, I turn to my crazy, foodie dreams and… apply for reality TV. Next Food Network Star, Chopped (Amateur), and now Master Chef. It’s arguably my favorite of the amateur competitions, and while the cooking time limits scare me to death, why not? My mom’s terrified Joe is going to rip me a new one on live TV, Dad wants leftovers, and the Magician is fully supportive.  I’ve got nothing to lose, except an afternoon at an open call, meeting some equally food-obsessed folks. Oh, and maybe a finger tip, but it is re-attachable right??

For the audition in October, I will serve one plate of stunning food to a panel of expert judges. Sounds simple enough, but there’s a few tiny…(ahem, LARGE) caveats.

1. No kitchen or access to heating equipment.

2. You have about 5 minutes to plate your dish before serving the experts.

3. You can only bring what you can carry into the audition room, and yes, you do have to bring your own plating vessel and utensils.

4. You could be standing in line for who knows how long.

Soooooo?? What to cook?? I think something hot is too risky because of number four, so I’m leaning towards a cold or room temperature dish. It will need to refined, yet reflective of my “Mutt” style cuisine (part Tex-Mex, part Southern, part Vietnamese, part French, etc.). Perhaps, a new take on a Bahn Mi, an Asian spin on a scallop ceviche, or maybe a lobster tostada? The Magician suggested my signature Dr. Pepper Ribs.

Dr. Pepper Ribs

And while they are tender and meaty with a sweet and spicy vinegary tang, they don’t qualify as  “a restaurant dish” in my eyes. I have one month left to figure it out, and cook the new best dish of my life. I conquered the Food Experiment so I think I may just have a real shot at this. What would you cook?

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Hatch Chile Season

When August graces us with unbearable heat and sticky humidity, I always look forward to Hatch green chile season. Trucked in by the ton from their native New Mexico, they grace produce departments for about four to six weeks until early September. I fell hard for these babies when living in Santa Fé. They have a mild heat (to my and the magician’s palate anyway), and can add a Southwestern flavor to a plethora of dishes…mac and cheese, crab cakes, cornbread. The list goes on.

I decided to get a little wild with the chiles this year, and pair them with lobster tails I bought on sale. The result…a Texas twist on a lobster roll that was sweet and succulent with a touch of spice. And while Mainers may disagree with my interpretation of the New England classic, I don’t think my fellow Hatch chile lovers will. Enjoy!

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  • 3 lobster tails, boiled for 10-15 minutes until bright red, meat removed from shell, and delicately chopped
  • 4 Hatch chiles, roasted, skinned & seeded, roughly chopped
  • 1 ear of shucked sweet corn, roasted in husk at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes
  • 2 Tbsp. Hatch sweet Onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Light Mayo
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 wheat buns, hollowed out
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Chives
  1. Mix the first 7 ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl. Adjust the mayo, lime, and salt/pepper to your individual tastes. Let the mixture meld in the fridge for 30 minutes-2 hours.
  2. Toast the wheat buns, and let cool for a minute or two.
  3. Assemble the lobster rolls by adding the lettuce first, then a heaping portion of the lobster mixture, and top with finely sliced chives.

Serves two

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Pinning it Up

These days my go-to social media site is Pinterest. If you want to know what I am cooking, look no further than to my Delicious board. 201 pins and adding more daily…Don’t even ask how many wedding pins I’ve posted. The magician is well aware I have disguised several nuptial boards. (No pressure honey.)

Pinterest is becoming the best search engine for recipes, dominating Google when it comes to image search results . The beautiful photographs of casseroles, salads, pastas, and desserts instantly sell me on Pins. With the click of one button, the chosen links and recipes are magically saved into my ever growing database of culinary ideas so easy to re-access on my board. The days of clipping magazines and assembling cute binders of collected recipes that I only bother look at when moving are long gone.

I still don’t follow recipes wholeheartedly, but my pins serve as nightly inspiration when I take to my kitchen. So what have I been cooking lately? Let me share a few Instagrams of my kitchen adventures. Enjoy!

Tossed Crunch Salad with Homemade Nectarine Vinaigrette

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Bastille Day Steak Au Poivre…perfectly cooked

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Mashed Potato Tostadas

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Chicken Bahn Mi with Asian Slaw

Bahn Mi

Sparkly Cherry Limeade Cocktail

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Scotch Dates

I meant to post about The National Food Experiment Results months ago, but I had some technical difficulties. Better late than never!

I have a thing for the number 12. Mostly because my birthday falls on the 12th. I feel the number is my lucky charm. So much so, I prefer to set my morning alarm on the twelfth minute of the hour when my schedule allows. It guarantees I have a good day. Weird…yeah. OCD, just a bit? Most certainly. So you can imagine how excited I was when the clock struck midnight on the 2012 New Year’s! A great year guaranteed! I was not disappointed. I crushed The Houston Beer Experiment. The magician carried me over our first threshold. We all of a sudden had this crazy family of cats (Don’t judge us.) Then we competed for culinary glory in Brooklyn. Now 2012 will always be known as The Year of the Magic Hops!!! Yeah, 2012 was even better than I could have hoped.

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So how’d we do in the National Championship you ask? Well, we rocked Brooklyn’s socks right off with a solid 2nd place win in the Audience Category. Welcome home Le Creuset grill pan trophy! (You’re even better than those Jet Blue tickets.) No grand Championship or judges’ honors. But who cares? We were treated to a freaking amazing weekend in the most exciting city in the world. Thanks Brooklyn Brewery & The Food Experiments! I’m overjoyed, overwhelmed, and God darn-it people liked our “Scotch Date”.

“Scotch Date”

A Medjool date filled with chive cream cheese, wrapped in chile garlic sausage, breaded with panko, deep fried, and topped with a cilantro jalapeno aioli

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Our dish was out there. A huge risk that I doubted every step of the way. Frying in a catering type situation is a cardinal sin. You don’t do it unless you fry on-site. But in this game, all cooking is done the day before in tight kitchen quarters, and you have little time to prep anything before go-time. You get to utilize a chafing dish and Sterno at the competition, nothing with an electrical plug. Creativity is encouraged. We were advised that a rented oven would be on-site in the brewery to reheat our dish right before the competition started. But surprise, the oven failed. So we gathered extra Sternos and pulled out that torch we bought just in case!

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Thanks to the magician and my friends for encouraging me to stick with the dish despite these challenges! After the first few attendees sampled the date, my doubt faded and the adrenaline kicked in… time to bust out bites to 300 eager samplers. Seeing the smiles, surprising reactions, and satisfaction as the audience tasted the date gave me a high. It made slaving over the tedious prep-work all worth it.

As the crowd grew full and tipsy for the flowing Brooklyn Brewery Beer, we ran out of food. People had circled back to our table for seconds, thirds, and fourths. I was feeling good. My friends gauged the crowd buzz, and we had a shot at winning this! EEEeek…I couldn’t believe it. The votes were counted, the team leaders were summoned, and winners announced. No we didn’t win, but it felt like we did. I teared up and gave a love felt thank you to my magician. I couldn’t have done it without him, and he didn’t say a word about my bossiness the whole time. Plus, I was featured on the “Blue Ribbon Hunter” online t.v. show. Pretty cool.

The Blue Ribbon Hunter

People keep asking me “So “What’s next?” Honestly, I don’t know. I will keep on cooking, keep stirring up mad hatter recipes in my kitchen, keep on blogging, keep on eating like there’s no tomorrow, and most importantly, keep on plotting my culinary empire. More food competitions may come. I can’t deny my competitive nature, but who knows. Life is so curious when you don’t plan it. 2013 could hold all sorts of surprises. Maybe there’s a Food Experiment Cookbook in the works. If not, there should be. I’ll contribute a recipe.

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Biggest Day of the Year!

Where has the year gone? Summer, warm sunsets, and margaritas drifted away before I knew it. In September, we celebrated a dear friend’s nuptials in Chicago and celebrated the Magician’s thirty-first birthday. Last month, marked my first anniversary living in Houston as an adult. Last week marked my third anniversary with the Magician. But the most exciting, biggest day of the entire year falls next month. No, not Christmas, not NYE. The Food Experiment National Championship is finally here!!!!!!!!! I swear my March victory was yesterday. Seriously, where the hell did the time go?

Less than one month people! 25 DAYS!!! Panic and nerves are setting in, along with the realization that I have to cook the best bite of my life for 300 people in an unfamiliar city that celebrates some of the best food ANYWHERE. Period. This is big. Really big. A defining moment on my road to culinary domination. Time for lists…to-dos, packing materials, time lines, recipes. Ready go.

We decided on the bite after much experimentation, multiple tastings, and focus groups. Is it the best? I sure as hell hope so. Creative…definitely. I don’t think it’s been done before, and my endless Google searches seem to support that.   Delicious…it involves homemade sausage, panko, cheese. How could that be bad? Other than that, you won’t get many other details. I think the element of surprise will work in our favor. BUT KNOW THIS…THE MAGIC HOPS ARE BRINGING IT!

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Domestic Bliss and Brussels

Well, it finally happened! The magician relocated to Houston after 8 long months of the long distance thing. We rented a lovely condo on the edge of River Oaks, and moved in with our kitty boys about three weeks ago. I am in domestic bliss settling in and decorating with my love. And from what I can tell, he’s enjoying it too. He hasn’t tried to make me disappear once. I’m pretty sure he digs the nightly meals, and fridge full of leftovers.

In the midst of our nesting phase, and what felt like years without a steady internet connection, I missed sharing a post I wrote for The Alcalde back in June. They asked me to test out a recipe from Garrett Weber-Gale, an olympic swimmer who cooks up nutritiously refined dishes. I jumped at the opportunity to prepare his Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Pearl Onions. Read my thoughts on the Athletic Foodie’s Brussels on The Alcalde blog.

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The New Ladies’ Night

When I was in my early twenties, an ideal girl’s night out was spent on  Austin’s  6th street dwindling the early morning hours drinking Kamikazes and  dancing the night away. Fast forward 6 years, and oh, how things change.

 Makin' raviolis

Now my ultimate Friday night means hanging out in the burbs with two of my best lady friends hand-making pasta and sipping sophisticated cocktails. Could it get any better? You could add lobster to the mix…and we did. It seems like adulthood has its advantages.

Lobster Ravioli  with asparagus in a Brown Butter Sauce & Fettuccine with Vegetable Ribbons in Vodka Sauce

Homemade pasta night

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