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Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Years Day Food Competition

Bear with me as I attempt to catch up on blogging.  Let's go back to last month, shall we?

Our family was lucky enough to be in town this year for my dad's annual New Year's Day Food Competition!  Some years he's done an "Iron Chef" type of competion, but this year it was more like the show "Chopped" on the Food Network.  There were 3 teams.  Each team was given a box with the same 6 ingredients and we had to make 2 dishes in 1 hour utilizing all the ingredients in some fashion.  The ingredients were:
  1. blackberries
  2. chicken breasts
  3. ham
  4. penne pasta
  5. butternut squash
  6. avocado
Teams also had access to a pantry with various other food elements that they were free to use.

 Each of the teams were given a prep station.  The 3 stations were the main counter and 2 tables set up in the living and dining room areas with tarps under foot to protect the carpet.  My dad also made available his camp chef stove and the grill outside on the deck, since there was no way everyone would be able to fit around the one stove in his kitchen.
 And yes, there was plenty of snow outside. 

The competition began.  The kids watched cartoons and ran around inside while the cooking was happening.  Some spouses opted to watch their kids while the other spouse competed. 

I was cooking away when my little nephew came into the house from the deck looking scared and came up to me saying, "Um!  Spencer put the glass bowl on the fire and it broke!"  I just smiled and reassured him that it was okay.  It reminded me of the stories I was told of my mother when she was a newlywed and was trying to cook dinner for my dad one night using a glass bowl they got for their wedding.  She put it on the stove and began to cook when suddenly it exploded.  She was frightened, but assumed it must've been a cheap-piece-of-junk glass bowl, so she just got another of their glass bowls out and started over again on the stovetop.  Yup, that one exploded too.  She was running out of glass bowls, but she wasn't a quitter, so she continued starting over with a glass bowl on the stove until there were no bowls left.  After each explosion, my dad, a college student, who was trying to study in the other room would call out in concern, "Is everything okay?  Do you need help in there, hun?"   But my mom insisted that he keep studying and she was fine and would make dinner.  I love that she exploded all their wedding gift glass bowls in an act of service and love.

Back to the competition, Spencer came in a few minutes later and told us that my curious little nephew had gone outside where my dad and Spencer were busy cooking.  He found an empty purple glass bowl, filled it with snow and placed it on the open flame on the camp chef stove.  The bowl exploded.  No one was hurt and the scared little boy ran back into the house.  So, it wasn't Spencer who exploded the glass bowl afterall.  

The cooking continued and everyone finished on time.  The dishes were plated family style and all 6 dishes looked and tasted great!

Our team presented a penne pasta salad with fried ham bits, avocado slices, and roasted butternut squash, tossed together with cheese fantastico dressing, olives, and parmesan cheese.  I wondered if we may have had too many flavors going on in this dish, but it actually tasted great.  And the carrot curls were cute on top.  To my surprise this dish won the best plating award.

The other dish our team made was an italian-marinated chicken breast with a slightly spicy blackberry sauce.  The chicken was moist and perfectly cooked.  This dish ended up winning the best taste award by the tiniest margin.

Spencer made a delicious chicken dish with apple and berry gastrique on a bed of seasoned butternut squash cubes.  The chicken was full of flavor and I love that Spencer brought us something with a really technical name, something I assume he learned in his culinary program.  I definitely liked his gastrique and thought it to be the most unique and tastiest sauce.
 My dad pulled together his take on a penne carbonara with avocado in it.  I wasn't sure I would like avocado in a warm dish, but I was pleasantly surprised.  My dad used ham, and all the lovers of ham, including me, thought this version to be a winner. 

Micah's team rolled their chicken around a generous piece of ham, then breaded and baked it.  They made a bed of pureed the marsala squash and penne with herbs.  I have never had a marsala dish that I've liked, but this one changed my mind about marsala.  Micah taught me that if it's cooked right it takes on a sweet flavor and it can be awesome!  This dish won my vote for best flavor.
Ashley and Missy brought us this beautiful deconstructed salad with spinach, blackberries, avocado and ribbons of fresh parmesan dressed in a honey-lime vinegarette.  Served with garlic toasts.  Super yum~  and it got my vote for best plating.
 They also made extra toasts and chicken for everyone to enjoy.  I loved those toasts, by the way!

Everyone ate.
Everyone who tried everything got to be a judge this year and they voted for their favorites in 3 categories: flavor, plating, and originality. 
Getting ready to vote.
 Those who tallied the results found them to be completely varied and the winners each won by only a tiny margin.  It just goes to show how good everyone's food was.  Every dish was successful and we all got to taste the rewards.  Joe was half-attempting to cheat by having Amara and Malia use voting slips to "practice" writing certain numbers, the ones that happened to correspond to his team's dishes.  In his effort to push ahead, he was caught in the act by me, and his plan was foiled.  Sly guy.
Amara showing off her "number practice."

Malia showing off her "number practice."
It was a fun time with lotsa memories.  I love spending time with family.

There's Bill, Mandy's dad, being a great grandpa.

Rexton can judge next year.

This picture is blurry, but I was trying to get the 3 generations in the same photo.

1 comment:

Bobbie said...

Thanks for sharing this. This is always a fun time because our family rocks! It makes my heart warm to see this :) I am so glad you documented this especially that broken bowl and reminiscing about my newlyweds efforts in the kitchen ahaha! Good times! Good pics of the dishes that it made me want some... YUM! But I lived once again a great memory through the eyes of your blogs ;)