Have you ever watched those food competitions like “Iron Chef” and “Chopped”, where chefs are thrown into a kitchen with random ingredients, asked to invent a recipe on the spot, and have a ridiculously short amount of time to do so? I have a hard time watching shows like this because it stresses me out – I get tense just thinking about that kind of pressure!
So imagine my surprise during day 2 of the Kenmore Blogger Summit when it was announced that we would be starring in our own blogger version of this competition! I’m always up for a challenge, even if I think I will fail miserably – which I was quite convinced I would! So I was game, but I expected to be a frazzled mess. Anyone who knows me in person knows I struggle with this type of multi-tasking, and I figured the intense pressure would have me sputtering and unable to think clearly. But I’m always game for anything!
We were all split into randomly-assigned groups, and I found myself in Group 2 with the awesome Jennifer of Makobi Scribe, Kimberly with Tampa Bay Chef, Malini of Restaurant Fairy, Marina of Mommy Snippets, and Theresa with The Local Tourist.
Chef Kari Karch introduced the challenge by discussing “Most-Hated Hostess Gifts”, and pulled out a table containing the least favorites: Boxed wine, Royal Dansk butter cookies, fruitcake, and a cheese platter. (To be honest? I’d actually like to receive any of these for a hostess gift, so feel free to bring box wine next time you come to visit. ;))
The challenge was that each team would be given one of these hated ingredients, which they must then use as the basis for a delicious recipe, using a randomly-assigned Kenmore appliance. The contestants would have 30 minutes from start to finish to prepare this, and would not know the ingredients or appliance until the clock was ticking.
Our group went last, so we had half an hour to speculate as to what we might be stuck with. In the meantime, there were a variety of other activities to complete, such as collecting holiday hacks for a separate contest, giving interviews, and blowing up fruitcake. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not great at multi-tasking, so I was pretty preoccupied just trying to collect the holiday hacks!
Team 2 sat at our table trying to think of holiday tips and also come up with a strategy. Kimberly is a true strategic planner and was thinking hard about what to do if we got X, Y, or Z ingredient. Malini said that she really, really did not want to get the fruitcake, because what on earth would we do with it? I suggested perhaps a trifle, and Kimberly said, “But what if we need to do a savory dish, though?” I thought for a minute and then said, “We could do stuffing.” Kim thought it was a great idea – so when our turn was up and we walked into the kitchen to see that yes, indeed, we HAD been stuck with the dreaded fruitcake, we quickly asked the rest of the team what they thought about doing stuffing, and they were all game.
This contest was one of the best examples of teamwork that I have seen. Here we are, a group of random people just getting acquainted with each other and thrown into a high-pressure situation, and every single person was amazing. Everyone started throwing out ideas for what to add to the dish and how to prepare it – our required appliance was a Kenmore 120 sq. in. Indoor Grill, so we decided to grill the fruitcake and some pieces of french bread for the base of our stuffing. How many times in your life will you utter the words, “Grill the fruitcake”?
Taking the “Thanksgiving stuffing with a twist” theme and running with it, our team grilled up chicken (since we didn’t have turkey) and veggies to round this out as a full Christmas dinner. All the ingredients were symbiotic – the stuffing had some savory elements and the veggies had a kick of sweet to tie it all together. The stuffing was grilled fruitcake, grilled french bread drizzled in olive oil and seasonings, almonds, apples and a touch of chicken stock and water – possibly a few other ingredients that were thrown in and forgotten in the mad rush! 😉
Malini made fabulous chicken, at one point pounding it with a pan because there was no mallet available! Every person had amazing ideas, skills, great teamwork and smart strategies. After the breads had been grilled, I heated the stuffing on the stove and then got ready to put it in the oven to bake for the finishing touch. At this point, I asked Kimberly to take over watching it in the oven since I have the tendency to overbake things and I trusted her sensibilities on the timing more than my own. We were also being judged on cleanliness, so at this point I rushed over to start wiping down counters and help Jennifer get the dishes dried and put away. Did I mention that we didn’t have a dishwasher that we were allowed to use?? When the final buzzer rang, I was literally running with clean dishes in my hand to put away!
Our recipe was then introduced by Malini:
The judges tasted our recipe, and this is what they had to say:
Imagine my shock when they announced our recipe as the winner! Each one of us won a food processor for our efforts. Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be able to come up with a passable recipe under such circumstances, never mind a winning recipe! My kooky ideas were a strong point in this contest, and the amazing Team 2 took the concept I threw out off the cuff and came up with brilliant ideas for ingredients and putting it together as a full meal. It was like we had an expert for every single delegated item – there’s no way my fruitcake stuffing idea would have turned into a winner without them. We had team members that had expert foodie sensibilities, great cooking skills and gorgeous presentation, great strategy, eloquence describing the recipe and how the grill was utilized, plus master speed cleaning skills and fast chopping
This challenge was a toughie and each one of the teams created such wonderful dishes – next year, I think they should do appetizers as the cooking challenge, so that we can sample them all at the end!