This week on Food Network Star, Guy Fieri made a guest appearance. The challenge was a camera and cooking challenge...all on TV with no takes or practice. Similar to a morning show TV segment, each team was given an occasion and told to create a menu for it. We were to present the menu and our dish on camera to Guy. Team Alton got Halloween. Team Bobby got Cooking for Kids and Team Giada got Game Day.
Since I know parties, and I've done tons of morning show tv, I wasn't worried when I first heard the challenge. After the menu planning session with Alton, I was a bit more concerned. Once again, I offered many different options for the menu and was shot down on each one.... Roasted Butternut Squash Soup is a favorite of ours at Halloween... perfect color, nice and warm plus I can give it a little zip with some cayenne to give it a pop. But when I proposed the soup, I got a no from Alton Brown. I also got a no for 3 or 4 other ideas. In the end, I pitched Diablo Chicken Wings... which got a thumbs up but I was told I could not fry them since Justin was frying. Uggh... baked chicken wings are a bit risky. They can become rubbery if you don't let them get really carmelized and crispy. Plus, if you don't eat them right away, when they sit, they can become soggy. I just hoped I could pull it off. Get the recipe...
I knew the Diablo sauce was a good one. Made from pepper jelly as a base, everyone always loves it. Since you start with pepper jelly, you can ramp up the heat with Sirracha, cayenne, Tabasco or a mix of other spices and peppers. But when we went to the store, there was no pepper jelly. Uggh. I had to make up a similar taste from scratch.
Emily was canning applesauce to give as a party favor. Judson was making a healthy veggie chili, and Justin, in typically wacky Justin fashion, was making fried fish bones. Fried fish bones... "potato chips from the sea" as he called them.
We were given a block of time as a team... each one of us had 2 1/2 minutes to talk to Guy and present our dish. Since Emily was canning applesauce for her dish, she needed the most time. We all were to try to shave off some time from our presentation to give her MORE time. Sadly, none of us did. We all went a bit over on time and I went over by more than anyone. I was given a time cue... but what I heard was 30 seconds and perhaps the cue was 3 seconds.
After the evaluation, our entire team was sent to the producer's challenge... we had to face off against our other team members and one would be sent home. We had to throw a dart, hit a state, and make a dish representing that state's food. I missed 2 times- meaning my dart went in the ocean and hit the floor before hitting the great state of Pennsylvania. When Alton asked me what I was going to make, I just panicked. I had NO idea. Not one.
After a false start, I ended up making stuffed mushrooms... after all, have you ever been to a wedding or catered party where they did not have stuffed mushrooms on the menu? I don't eat or cook mushrooms but since PA is the largest grower of mushrooms, I had to come up with something. I decided to make a classic... Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms. Ground beef, 3 different varieties of mushrooms, beef stock, onion, sauerkraut and Philly cream cheese all went into the filling; a golden brown breadcrumb topping finished it off.
As I said, I don't eat or cook mushrooms... but the portobello tasted very good and had a nice texture, which has always been my objection to eating mushrooms. It was really good! I might make it again.
For the to-camera presentation, I had to sell this dish (not that easy since I am no fan of mushrooms) and talk about Pennsylvania. I struggled to get the words out... I mean, for the first time in my life, I could NOT talk. In the end, I got it together and when I did, Alton Brown came around the counter and hugged me. It was such a relief. I think he was sweating it almost as much as I was.
In the end, it was down to me (again) or Judson to be eliminated. Since Judson had struggled with his point of view, they sent him home. We hated to see him go just when he was coming to terms with his real point of view. Judson lost over 100 pounds by cooking healthy food by substituting flavor for fat- but he did not want to talk about it in the beginning. I am so proud of him for what he has accomplished. "The Architect of Flavor" will certainly be someone to help America combat our diet struggles. Good luck to Judson Todd Allen, the Architect of Flavor.
That is the recap for this week... I'm safe for another week and will be competing in a food court makeover!