While waiting for a job opportunity, my mother and I came up with a really creative idea to keep me occupied despite the stress and anxiety-filled job search. She suggested that once a week, I challenge myself to a 45 minute cooking challenge similarly to that of the hit television show, Chopped. Thinking this was a genius idea, I have completed two challenges so far and it has pushed my boundaries as a cook
The first challenge was done back on February 24th. As it the first challenge, I was a bit nervous especially when I saw the ingredients within the basket.
Basket Number 1 Ingredients: Beef stew meat, Just Chocolate’s Cayenne Chocolate, Artichoke Quarters and Masoor Dal.
Needless to say, it was not my favorite basket item. Especially stew meat. While I love a good stew during the cold months of the year, I had a mere 45 minutes to make this tough chewy meat into a delicious meal. What I got was this:
Beef Stew with Cayenne Chocolate Sauce with Sauteed Mushrooms and Artichoke Quarters with curried Masoor Dal, garnished with a fried Artichoke Quarter.
My personal opinion is that this dish wasn’t my worst, but it was DEFINITELY not my best. The meat was thoroughly cooked but it was over cooked, causing it to become chewy. My favorite part of the meal was the lentils. It had some bright notes of lime complimented with earthy spices along with hints of turmeric and cayenne. I wish the artichoke quarter had crisped up a bit more, which would have made a better garnish.
While there were some technical errors with the meat and the fried garnish, it was an over all attractive dish and had some delicious and successful parts of the dish as well.
Challenge #2 was a better success but with a better backstory as to how the ingredients were picked. Just to make things more interesting, I picked three out of the four ingredients while blind folded. For those who have never been to my house, our basement serves as an additional storage area with metal shelves holding an assortment of canned goods and pastas. So, while doing my best to not knock things over, I picked three ingredients while mom picked the fourth ingredient.
Basket Number 2 Ingredients: Pork Tenderloin, Red Kidney Beans, Sliced Pineapple and Penne Rigate pasta.
While this basket wasn’t too difficult, it allowed me to be a bit more creative with my approach. So, instead of sticking to plain and “boring” flavors, I decided to go a little out of the box and out of my comfort zone.
Here’s the Result!
Spice rubbed Pork Tenderloin on a bed of penne rigate pasta over a red kidney bean and tomato puree and topped with a pineapple cranberry chutney.
This obviously turned out a lot better looking (partially because it was sunny out) but the meat turned out SO MUCH BETTER! While the pasta was well cooked, the red bean and tomato puree complimented it extremely well. It had a nice balance of an earthy but mildly sweet flavors which went well with the spices I used on the pork tenderloin. The tenderloin, which was rubbed down in cumin, coriander, garlic powder, and cardamon, was cooked in a cast iron skillet at first on the stove top and then finished in the oven. The chutney had some spice provided by red pepper flakes and curry powder but was balanced by the sweetness of the craisins, pineapple and green bell peppers.
Overall, it has been an interesting learning experience and I cannot wait to do more experiments in the near future!