Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Donkay Challenge - Part III

Yesterday we partook in another Donkay Challenge. Justyn and I were up to cook for Audrey, Chef Jeff & Timmys. I arrived at Audrey's place around 5:30pm eager to find out what Chef Jeff & Audrey picked out for the mystery box. I got into the kitchen and found two butcher paper wrapped packages, a variety of herbs and spices, a nice loaf of rosemary focaccia bread, frise lettuce, tomatoes, half an English cucumber, some weird root looking thing, brown rice, a yellow and red onion. I'm sure I've left out some stuff, but as I post, I'll remember.

I turned to Chef Jeff to find out what the weird root thing was.

"Hey Jeffy, is this celery root?" I said.
"You're getting your product all wrong!!" said Chef Jeff in his best Gordon Ramsey impresssion. I laughed.
"WTH is it then?"

I immediately placed the jicama with the salad pile and unwrapped the two packages like it was the best Christmas ever. Drum roll please. I got some chicken carcass looking thing and sausages. Hmmm... I turned to Justyn.

"Hey bee, I think we got chicken!" I said.
"OK." said Justyn.
"It's turkey breast." Chef Jeff said.

At this point I felt like a complete idiot and was getting frazzled. I've never cooked with turkey, let alone deboned one. I've never cooked with jicama nor frise. AND I had only two hours to break everything down and cook. Scary!
Audrey got me a paper pad and pen to write our menu on. Justyn and I got to work on what we would make. I started piling ingrediants in their respective piles to come up with ideas. Justyn came up with all these crazy recipes which I was quick to reject. He was my sous chef for the day so I get final say on what we make. (Wow that came off bitchy huh?) We finally decided on turkey and sausage "jumbalaya", frise and jicama salad with the dressing I always make for salads, roasted potatoes and... OH yeah! I have swiss chard. I decided to do a braise with that. I saw Rachel Ray make that one time and it looked good. I've never cooked with swiss chard before either.

After getting over the feeling of complete n00bness, Justyn helped break down the turkey breast with a little help from Chef Jeff. I took care of the produce by chopping the onions as needed, putting a dice on the tomatoes and so on.

Once everything was prepped, I had Justyn brown some of the sausage which he had taken out of the casing in a large pan. While that was browning I washed the frise lettuce, cucumber and green onion (for garnish). I added the turkey breast to the pan after the sausage was browned. Unfortunately, the sausage didn't give much fat so I had to add a little more olive oil to the pan. While Justyn sauteed the meats, I prepped the salad dressing by dicing some red onion, mincing garlic and squeezing lemons for juice. I didn't have a microplane with me, so I left the lemon zest out of the dressing. I kinda messed up on dicing the red onion so I used a blender to make my dressing smooth. I added some honey and balsamic vinegar to give the dressing a sweeter background. Before blending, I added the diced yellow onion, tomato and minced garlic to the pan Justyn was working on.

Things were still shaky, but I kept on trucking. First of all, the pan with the meat and veggies weren't browning like I wanted. I think I crowded the pan too much and the turkey ended up surrending its liquid which made browning impossible. I let that simmer in hopes of having some of the liquid evaporate while Justyn washed his potatoes. I made the dressing while the pan was going and it spattered all over the place even with the lid on as I was drizzling olive oil in. After Justyn washed his potatoes, he chopped up some rosemary as I quartered his spuds. He dressed the potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, some old bay seasoning, salt and pepper. Into the oven those went at 450 degrees. We were quickly running out of time and I had no idea how long potatoes were supposed to roast for. I didn't have time to worry because I had the jicama to break down. I peeled it like I would a melon and discarded all the brown parts. I sliced it into thin pieces and made match sticks. That went on top of the chopped frise. Justyn worked on an appetizer of the beautiful focaccia bread and garlic butter spread. When I got a break, I had a couple pieces and it was goooood.

Oh crap, I forgot about the pan. So the liquid in the pan was simmering, but didn't evaporate like I had hoped. The other problem was that my pan wasn't big enough to add the brown rice. I had to transfer the mixture to a large pot and added the rice. I then added some chicken stock and put a lid on it. By the time all that was done, I had 40 minutes left. I looked at the bag on the rice and the cooking time said 50 minutes. I'm not gonna make it! I told Chef Jeff, Audrey and Timmys that I wasn't going to make it. They said it was OK, but I'd lose points for it!

With the swiss chard, I chopped it up and gave it a wash in a colander. Since the pan was no longer being used, I washed that and heated it with some olive oil. I asked Justyn to chop some garlic for me when he made his garlic butter spread so I added that to the pan. After the garlic had a light brown on it, I added the chopped swiss chard and let that cook down. I deglazed the pan with some chicken stock and added seasoning. I wanted to add some nutmeg as Rachel Ray's recipe had, but Audrey didn't have any. Oh well, I let the swiss chard braise until the very end.

Well, everything got cooked so after the 50 minutes, I plated. (Pictures to come. I'm waiting for Timmys to send them)

So what kind of comments and scores did I get? There were very similar comments from Audrey and Chef Jeff. They both said that I should've used the corn in the salad and swiss chard. The salad needed some color which the corn would've fixed. I remember Chef Jeff saying it needed "sweet nuggets". The swiss chard also needed heavy cream which Chef Jeff brought out, but while cooking I disregarded it. Everyone agreed that the salad dressing was good which was a relief because that's the only thing I've done over and over in the past. I also got a little room for the jumbalaya since brown rice was really hard to cook and took forever to soften. Audrey told me that I shouldn't have called it jumbalaya since it wasn't "stewy" enough. Overall, I agreed with all the comments. I really learned a lot through cooking with mystery ingrediants. Hopefully I'll do better next time!
Thanks guys!

More pictures courtesy of Timmys:


Jeff G said...

you are a better cook after the event then you yesterday afternoon before the event...it comes with experience.

Good job...you should be proud of your performance on that

Chef jeff

JadedOne said...

Chef Jeffy! Thanks for the vote of confidence. I will use this to beat you in the donkay challenge. Haha! :)

Audge said...

Hey Steph! You guys were frigg'n awesome! You handled everything you were given well. Very creative... Jeff and I know how hard this challenge is as we have gone through this ourselves-Congrad's to you and Justin! I'm shaking in my boots now...I have to study for my Donkey "turn" in two weeks...oh boy!

JadedOne said...

Haha Audrey.. at least you have experience in both the catering and cooking arena. Mine is all self taught! Jeffy and I won't pick anything too out of the ordinary. Hee hee >:]