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I’m totally going to enter Epicurious.com’s home cook recipe contest!

http://www.epicurious.com/community/events/contest#

Help me pick what recipe I should perfect….or suggest a recipe for me to invent! Suggestions in the comments please. I have until the end of June to decide what to submit. Help!

People are passionate about their tacos, I’ll tell you that. The Brooklyn Taco Experiment was possibly the most exhausting and hectic of all the cook-offs I’ve done, and I’ll tell you why. Tacos. Take. Work.

Lauren and I had about 100 tupperwares, containers, tote bags, and boxes between us and still we were improvising. Thirty pounds of pork shoulder alone. And we had about the perfect amount after it was all said and done. I’m convinced we made way more than 300 tacos.

We had about 4 square feet in which to display / heat / assemble our tacos, and some seriously stubborn donated tortillas to deal with (not all the best things in life are free, I’m just sayin’). Nothing makes me feel older than standing for a whole day. Man, my back hurt!

No prizes this time, but I have to say, I have not seen so many hard core competitors (or so many competitors, period — there were 30 tacos to try) in any previous cook-off, and though once again I tried nothing, my friends who were there said it was a stellar group. So I’m not in the least bit sad about the lack of prize winning. If I were there and had to try 30 tacos, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to pick a favorite at all.

I think it might be time to take a bit of a cook-off hiatus. Work is crazy busy, and I have some possible big purchases coming up (including a car?!?) so the massive amount of time and money that these things take will just not be available to me. However, I will be an enthusiastic spectator and continue to follow Nick & Theo’s meteoric rise to the top of the New York foodie scene.

My final taco?

Slow roasted pork (with habanero, pasilla, ancho and chipotle chiles and cinnamon), creamy jicama slaw, home pickled onions and jalapenos, cotija cheese, a squeeze of lime, and cilantro! We also served a tequila punch: tequila, guava juice, orange juice, and fresh squeezed lime juice.

(these 2 pics are from the Huffington Post article on the event!)

The toughest part of competitive cooking is editing. Prepping for a cook-off is mostly a question of picking something strong conceptually and then making it taste really good, which would be easy (OK, not easy, but easier) if the task weren’t so open-ended. Tacos?? That could be almost anything on earth, and when you consider all the amazing things that are normally put in tacos, then combine that with the possibility of anything tasty at all that could be put in a taco…well, you get my drift. That’s a lot of editing.

I had a little taco tasting get-together on Saturday and I think I have a solid concept. However, I will not be divulging that here! No siree bob, because we taco cook-off contestants were just informed that the top prize for the audience vote is two tickets to Mexico. No, I am not making that up. So things just got a little high stakes around here! Although, I could probably buy a round-trip ticket to Mexico for what I’ll have paid in ingredients when you count the tests and the final recipe, so really, it’s about the experience not the prizes. As long as I win. Just kidding!

Here is a little photo of a quesadilla I made for dinner last night with some of the leftover taco ingredients, but of course I will not reveal what they are or whether I’m actually using them. You’ll have to buy a ticket for Sunday for that! I also made a simple salad, which I will tell you about, with baby spinach and blood orange segments. Just a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing and some salt and pepper made it just the right tangy balance for the cheesy quesadilla.

It’s another cook-off, y’all! Nick and Theo are back with the Brooklyn Taco Experiment at the Bell House in Brooklyn. Since pretty much anything worthy of going into a taco is delicious in my book, this one should be pretty fun. I’ll be there competing (taco recipe as yet undetermined), so get your tickets now!

enids

Lest you think I’m completely crazy, let me clarify: I was just a spectator at Enid’s yearly apple pie cook-off.

Co-host of the Food Experiments and overall cook-off guru Nick Suarez was competing, so I brought a friend with me and we showed up at Enid’s on a frigid, frigid afternoon, not knowing what to expect. At 5 when we arrived, there were still stragglers bringing tin foil-covered pies into the hot and insanely crowded restaurant. Balloons dangled from the ceiling, and mingling became a game of dodging balloon strings, or absentmindedly playing with them while talking.

I tried to snap a few pictures of the pies, but with the dim light and jostling elbows around me, I only managed one picture even remotely in focus. There were over 50 pies. Let me repeat that: OVER 50 PIES. That is a lot of pie.

pies

Unlike other cook-offs, the contestants only had to make one version of their pie. The judges tasted all, and then after announcing the winners (congrats on most original pie, Nick!) the crowd was encouraged to dig in. Luckily I was in close proximity of the pie table at the time of the announcement, just by chance. Otherwise I’m not sure if I would have even tasted any. Basically it was madness. Nick handed me a giant knife from across the table. People had paper hot dog trays and someone brought over a plastic cup full of forks. Most of the pies were massacred immediately, some were reclaimed by their owners to be devoured by friends at one of the tables. How do you elegantly take a piece (or really, a morsel) of pie in a mob?

I escaped with bites of about 4 of the pies nearest to me. No chance of trying Nick’s 3 tier tarte tatin creation (sad). After eating our random scraps of pie, we made our escape back into the drizzly cold. Maybe next year I’ll make a pie myself! I love Brooklyn.

honey

Wow. There is really only so much sugar a human can consume in one afternoon. I felt for the judges, I really did. I tried a few of the 20 or so contestants’ dishes, but honestly, my entire mouth was coated in sugar at that stage and I had to stop. The event was a lot of fun, and I hope we raised a lot of money for New York Cares.

And I won something! Best Presentation, which I’m pretty proud of. I got a plastic medal and I am going to cherish it. Cutting 200+ perfect 1×1 squares of cheesecake is HARD, man! I think what sold it was my cute little honey pot though. And the vintage doily. You can’t underestimate the power of doilies.

Anyway, here are some pictures. Enjoy!

poundcake

lovebites

whisk

OK, I’m exaggerating. I fail at…consistently blogging. But I have reasons!

1. Grad school applications
2. Studying for the GRE (see #1)
3. Cook-offs
4. Laziness

The thing is, I’ve been cooking plenty, just not really documenting it so well. And frankly, I don’t think saying I made a recipe and then linking to said recipe on another blog is really that worthy of a post. PLUS much of my cooking has been recipe testing for cook-offs….and I can’t very well post my recipe before the actual cook-off happens, now can I?

I can’t promise that over the next few weeks I will be much better, but I will at least try to take a couple pictures of the end product if I do cook something successfully.

AND! Fierce & Sweet is just 2 weeks away, and tickets are now on sale. All the cool people are going.

I made recipe cards for the competition again this time around, so here it is. Just because it lost doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty!

Ingredients

10 – 12 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
1 recipe tomato sauce (follows)
1 recipe fontina bechamel (follows)
1 1/2 lb. mozzarella, sliced or shredded
1 c. grated parmeggiano reggiano
1 1/2 c. fresh ricotta
Assembly

Preheat your oven to 375˚. Ladle a small amount of tomato sauce into a 13x9x2 pan and spread out to coat the bottom of the pan. Add one layer of lasagna noodles (3 – 4 noodles, overlapping slightly). Add a generous amount of tomato sauce. Top with 1/2 of the ricotta in dollops (it will melt and spread out as the lasagna cooks). Top with 1/3 of the mozzarella and grated parmeggiano. Add another layer of noodles, a thin layer of tomato sauce, and the fontina béchamel. Add the rest of the ricotta, 1/3 of the mozzarella and grated parmiggiano. Add one final layer of noodles and a generous amount of tomato sauce and then top with final 1/3 of mozzarella and parmiggiano. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until heated through and bubbling. Let cool for at least 5 – 10 minutes before digging in!

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setup

Well, another competition has come and gone.

It was a really fun event, as expected. No prizes for little old me this time, but you know what? I feel just as good as I did after the beer experiment, because once again I got to spend the day with so many amazingly vibrant people. Make fun of me all you like, but winning isn’t everything. A lesson for the ages. I’m sure the more of these I do, the more competitors I’ll know or recognize, but this event included dishes from Frankie of The Young & Hungry, and Cathy of Not Eating Out in New York.

Despite the third degree burn on my finger from a half dropped lasagna (believe me, the aftermath is not pretty), I managed to make it through the day unscathed, unless you count the fact that I ran out of lasagna way, way sooner than I thought I would. There was also some pre-event excitement with a little documentary crew filming me prepping on Saturday, so I got to pretend for a minute like I had my own show. I know now that I wouldn’t make it 5 minutes on reality TV! Thanks to Santiago, Joe, and Mindy, and of course Nick and Theo. Good times.

prep

Once again I didn’t really get to taste many of the competitors’ dishes, but I did manage to sneak one of Bonnie Suarez’s winning spicy cheese crackers and tomato soup — delicious! Anyhoo, Brian’s cousin Brian (ha ha) took a ton of pictures during the event, which I’ll post when I get them. He’s quite the talented photographer, so I can’t wait. On to Fierce and Sweet!

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