The cooking is over and the results are in. Sadly for this Texas girl, that did not include a first place win (and a suite for next year, have I already mentioned the suite?), but yesterday I came in a respectable third place out of 4 finalists in the Houston Astros Recipe Challenge. I’ve gotta say I walked away a little perplexed at the outcome, but it is what it is and all I can do is try harder next year. To start, let’s recap: my recipe (in the spirit of being new and innovative) called for Chicken Lettuce Wraps. My competitors (think unique) included cinnamon rolls, a turkey burger, and a chicken sandwich…confused as me?
When I arrived at Minute Maid Park, I entered Biggio and Bagwell’s signature restaurant, FiveSeven Grille, and was greeted by a host of Astros staff and my sous chef Dominic. I was quickly fitted into my very first chef’s coat (picture below!) and brought to my table. Although I wanted to be able to choose the size and cut of some of my ingredients, it was nice to see everything mise en place so I didn’t have to show off my less than expert knife skills.
The prep for my recipe was quick – a toss of the chicken with some soy, salt, and pepper, and we were off to the kitchen! This was my first time in a real kitchen, and the first thing that came to mind is how in the HELL chefs wear those coats. I was standing in front of three broilers, and was waiting for the mascara to melt off my eyelashes. Once the cameras were in the back and ready to film, it was time to cook!
The process was fairly straightfoward for me, thanks to the help of my great sous chef, who taught me quite a bit about cooking and plating in a short amount of time. Once the chicken was done (about 3-4 minutes), we added some daikon, cucumber, fresh ginger, jalapenos, and chile garlic and soy sauces. A few flips later, we had beautiful, crispy, sauce coated veggies. Threw in some glass noodles and off we were to plate!
So here is the final result – a nice, healthy piece of Bibb lettuce, with a heaping handful of our chicken mixture, finished off with a splash of our three sauces and a sprinkling of cilantro. Yum!
And then the judging began. I went second behind the soon-to-be winner – the green chile turkey burger. I must say, he made onion rings dipped in a parmesan batter, and they were pretty darn good. Given the fact that the judges were going on taste, uniqueness, and healthiness, I really thought him and I were a lock for some form of first and second place.
Then, my turn. All smiles as the camera turned on me and I began to explain my thinking behind my choice of dish. It was simple – healthy, easy, inexpensive ingredients that can be used to mass-produce an entree that is ballpark friendly. I really thought I had it until the announcer asked our newest pitcher Bud Norris what he thought about the messiness factor. I think that’s what got me. The fact was, at home, I had sliced my noodles into 2 inch long strips when they were in their dried form, and at the cookoff they had been boiled whole. Other than that, I thought it had gone pretty well.
The judges finished up their EXCITING chicken sandwich and doughy cinnamon rolls and made their decision. Fourth place – sourdough cinnamon rolls, third place – myself, second place – the chicken sandwich, and first place the turkey burger. I did walk away with tickets for next year, and a sweet Carlos Lee bat (rock!), so I can’t complain. And in all fairness, this was my first cookoff ever. For those in Houston, the entire segment will air September 18th at 5:30 CST on FSN, Fox Sports Network, on a local show called “Here’s the Pitch” hosted by Jennifer Vogel.