My bf challenged me to a Thanksgiving cook-off. As a joke, I said "I'll let you pick the cuisine, because it wouldn't be fair if we were to do something that you don't cook... like Italian." Like a crazed Barney Stinson, he exclaimed "Challenge accepted!"
We had here on our hands an Italian cook-off. I gave him some leeway because he could not roll pasta. We invited 4 guest judges to score each dish. I have included below their scores and commentary. Scores were out of 10: max 7 for taste, and 3 for presentation.
We broke out the styrofoam plates, cranked up the heat, and.... Allez cuisine!
Course #1: Appetizer course - Quail Eggs
The challenger made a "bird's nest" with sprouts, fries, and quail eggs baked in the oven.
Score: 6.9; Some complained that the eggs fell off when placed on the plates. The slightly chewy quality of the nest of sprouts and fries were the rest of the deduction.
The PBO made a crostini with pancetta, roasted mushroom, and quail egg.
Score: 8; Mushrooms were well roasted, but the bread was not up to par - was too chewy and not toasted. Melted cheese on top was a nice touch.
First course goes to the PBO.
Course #2: Primi
The challenger presented an open faced roast beef sandwich with wasabi mayo, avocado spread, and sliced apples.
Score: 8.1: Everyone loved the well spiced avocado spread, which had a hint of pepper flakes. There was some disagreement over the addition of apples, but both the cook and I agreed that they helped hide the fact that Whole Foods sliced the meet too thickly, on which the judges did not take note.
The PBO presented a perciatelli with home made tomato sauce and fried calamari and jalapeños.
Score: 7.3; Most of the points were lost on presentation and not enough sauce. The thick hose-shaped pasta was quite a mess and flopped onto the plates unceremoniously. The calamari were tender and popular, but it was questionable whether it worked well with the rest of the dish.
Second course goes to the challenger.
Course #3: Pasta course - Ravioli
The challenger cooked a "wavioli". Without hand-rolled pasta, he resorted to wonton skins. Then he ingeniously borrowed from a soup dumpling recipe by turning soup into gelatin, so that the inside of the "wavioli" are liquid. The soup consisted of duck stock, mushrooms, potatoes, and Chinese sausage.
Score: 7.7; Due to the delicate nature of the dumplings, they had to be boiled one by one. The judges in general liked the special quality of being served 1:1, but found the dumplings a little awkward to eat. The flavor inside was quite delicious.
The PBO cooked home made spinach ravioli, presented with just a sprinkle of parmesan.
Score: 8.6; The ravioli were well-proportioned, and the pasta was thin but had a little bounce. Unfortunately it did not come with any sauce, and that would have taken the dish to the next level. I must admit that at this point, I was just tired and the pan was dirty, so I did not make the butter sage sauce as planned.
Third course goes to the PBO.
Course #4: Main/Protein
The challenger put together a classic of his that made me tremble with fear: Chicken sliders with butter pickles and dijon mustard.
Score: 9.1; This dish definitely blew a few of the judges' minds and garnered full scores on taste. After some discussion about opening a restaurant if things don't work out, a few judges even asked for seconds (to my dismay).
The PBO countered with a pan seared steak with sides of beets and brussels sprouts.
Score: 8.5; The steak was perfectly seared but over-seasoned with garlic. It also created a small garlic-jalapeno cloud in the kitchen. The beets were loved by some and confused others and overall resulted in a wash. Brussels sprouts were as popular as ever, and I believe they were my saving grace on this course.
The fourth course goes to the challenger.
Course #5: Dessert
Like any good contest, it all came down to the last course.
The challenger was given the opportunity to buy a tiramisu, but instead took the hard route and made a cool swan-soaked cake with italian shaved ice.
Score: 8.1; The cake was moist and perfectly cooked, but a few judges did not like the "booziness" of the cool swan. Given that it's liqueur, I can see the problem... but it was Thanksgiving! One judge loved the booziness and gave it extra points. The italian shaved ice was very successful and worked well with the spongy cake.
The PBO made panna cotta with cranberry jelly, raspberries, and whipped cream.
Score: 9.5; The panna cotta was touted the best dish of the night, and was awarded 2 perfect 10's. The challenger knew that this was my secret weapon. After all he got to taste some when I was testing it out a couple days earlier and claimed that it was the best thing I cooked all month. The only complaint was that it was a little too sweet, and I admit that I was heavy handed with the powdered sugar in the whipped cream.
The final course and the competition goes to the PBO.
I thought that the challenger put up a great effort. I expected higher scores for his chicken burger, and honestly if the "wavioli" had worked, who knows where we would be.
I hope our 4 judges had a great 10 course meal for their Thanksgiving, and we thank them for their participation and honest comments.
Better luck next time, darling!