Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Chef V

This was our biggest, and possibly best, Top Chef event. People arrived in the mid-afternoon to start planning, shopping, and drinking. After throwing the ingredient submissions of bacon, chocolate, persimmon, egg, and pear into a hat, Judge Katie picked pear, the group divided into teams, brainstormed, shopped, and got to work.

Team Awesome: Bill, Gabi, Rebecca, Keith, Rusty
Team Perineum: Chris, Doug, Jen, Katie, Robin
Judges: Sandy, Rich, Katie Wolfe
Videographer: Jessica

First Course: Pear Ceviche
- Scallop
- Shrimp
- Asian pears
- Cilantro- Tomato

Served with a pear liqueur shot

Second Course: Grilled Cheese with Pear served with Winter Squash Pear Soup

- Brioche
- grilled pear
- bleu cheese
- balsamic reduction

- Butternut squash
- Creme fraiche
- Bartlett pears

Third Course, Dessert: Vanilla and Spiced Pear Cupcake with Salted Caramel Frosting

- Buttercream recipe (see prior post)
- Homemade caramel sauce
The best news of all is that the judges loved every course. The other team rocked it with some great food as well: pear won-ton and swordfish, but a massive fail with baked pear drenched in balsamic vinegar. With my mother as a judge, no fruit dessert is going to beat a solid buttercream frosting!

So, the end result? My first win, ever! Team Awesome let me keep the trophy:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Past Projects

We plan to blog our future meals with photos and recipes, but to catch you up on some stellar dishes, here's some photos of Bill's creations . . .

Top Chef: A History

Part of what have inspired and defined our cooking adventures are our Top Chef competitions. Even though we've since learned that our events hardly resemble "Top Chef" (I think the rules are more similar to Iron Chef or something), we've created some pretty amazing meals. Here's a summary of our Top Chef nights . . .

Top Chef I

Secret Ingredient: Banana

Dinner Creations 3.24.07
Top Chef at 1849 Church St.

Team Bernie: Chris, Bill, Dominic
Team Beni: Doug, Meredith, Rebecca

First Course Team Bernie:
- Mixed greens and kale with banana vinaigrette salad dressing, cranberries, slivered almonds and banana chips
- Banana crumb crust with fresh crab and lime

First Course Team Beni:
- Banana bread with candied walnuts
- Wild basmati rice with cranberries and green onions

Main Course Team Bernie:
- Turkey filets fried in a meringue crust
- Plantain mashed potatoes with garlic
- Mixture/stuffing of plantains, chipotle peppers, raisins, hollandaise sauce

Main Course Team Beni:
- New York strip steak with red wine reduction sauce and carmelized onions
- Fried plantains
- Sauteed spring vegetables

Dessert Course Team Bernie:
- Banana custard in mini pie crust topped with strawberries

Dessert Course Team Beni:
- Homemade banana ice cream

Winners: Team Bernie
Rematch!: TBA

Top Chef II

Secret Ingredient: Onion . . . worst ingredient ever. Bill's onion bread "dessert" was a serious disaster. Everything else was pretty great.

Top Chef III

Secret Ingredient: Apple

Top Chef IV

Secret Ingredient: Tomato

We covertly held Top Chef IV at my parents' house without their permission, so there are no photographs of this event. Of course they found out anyway. Also, there were technical difficulties such as the lack of an impartial judge. This has resulted in an epic argument over which team had the worst dessert, with no objective party to intervene. Bill maintains that my team's tomato ice was disgustingly over-vinegared, whereas I maintain that his team's tomato-basil ice was equally, if not more, heinous.

Cakes: A History

Rebecca's cake-decorating hobby has had a long run. Not going so strong lately, but, here's some of the top ones. Best, easy frosting recipe:


4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional)

In large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, vanilla and milk until smooth. If necessary add more milk until frosting is spreading consistency. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring. Mix everything well. Chocolate buttercream frosting - add 1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa.

Baking: A History

This is all Rebecca too. Most recently, a killer peanut butter cookie recipe has hit the repertoire, recipe below.

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Hersheys Kisses, 1 for each cookie
Pre-Heat oven to 375°F.
Cream together butter, both sugars and peanut butter. Add 1 egg and
vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt.

Form in walnut size balls. Roll in white sugar and place them on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Press Hershey Kiss into each cookie when
fresh out of the oven.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Cooking: A History

Back in the day, Rebecca used to be the cook. Here was an excellent chicken salad served in papaya bowls, served to our favorite bagel lady in New York City.

Leslie's Papaya Chicken Salad

Papaya (whole – doesn't need to be huge)
Roasted chicken
Curry spice (optional – we used a bit of paprika)
Chopped celery
Pine nuts

Cut papaya in half, scoop out seeds
Mix pieces of chicken, ~ 3 tbsp. mayo, curry, chopped celery, pine nuts
- you may also want to scoop out some of the papaya itself and mix it in with the chicken salad so that people don't have to dig it out themselves with each bite
Pour into papaya (use it as bowl)