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updated: 9/19/2012 6:11 AM

Cook of the Week Challenge: Round 1, Week 2 winners selected

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  • Mary Beth Thornton prepared a quiche created with peach-topped ham in a tater tot and pecan crust.

      Mary Beth Thornton prepared a quiche created with peach-topped ham in a tater tot and pecan crust.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Mary Beth Thornton of Cary

    Mary Beth Thornton of Cary

  • Terri Edmunds' espresso and chocolate-glazed roast.

      Terri Edmunds' espresso and chocolate-glazed roast.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Terri Edmunds of Naperville

    Terri Edmunds of Naperville

By Deborah Pankey
Daily Herald Food Editor

A woman who is toying with the idea of heading to culinary school got a boost today when judges in the Cook of the Week Challenge deemed her recipes the winner of the Ashland Sausage Co. mini-ham challenge.

With her Peach and Ham Quiche and Georgia's Cobb Salad, Mary Beth Thornton of Cary bested Elk Grove Village's Jamie Andrade, a two-time Challenge participant whose cheesy smashed tater tots weren't quite enough to wow the judges.

Also moving into the second round is Terri Edmunds of Naperville, whose espresso and chocolate-glazed roast beat out Mary Miske of Lake Zurich and her slow-cooked shredded beef tostadas.

Thornton will face Week 1 winner Michael Pennisi while Edmunds will cook against Week 1's Ron Nunes in Round 2. After the end of Round 2, four finalists will compete in a live cook-off Nov. 1 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg.

Let's see what our judges said about today's recipes.

Ham and Peach Quiche with Georgia's Cobb Salad

Chef Suzy Singh: This is a recipe that I will definitely want to try out with my family. The home cook has innate classic French technique under her belt. The use of tater tots and pecans as the crust for the quiche -- can you say brilliant? This is a perfect example of taking leftover ingredients and creating something not only unique but also delicious. I love the use of brandy in deglazing and caramelizing the peaches.

Chef Spencer Wolff: Great use of ingredients. Brilliant twist on a Cobb salad as well as the quiche. This dish would do well in a bed and breakfast inn.

Dorothy Seaburg: What a great idea using the tots and pecans as a crust. The quiche was creative but the Cobb salad lacked that extra pizazz with some of the secret ingredients.

Smoked Ham Flatbread with Cheddar Tater Cakes

S.S.: This week's cooks had a fantastic array of tough ingredients. This home cook handled it well by creating a dish that is all about creativity. The use of the chipotle with cream cheese to make a sauce is truly a unique transformation of the ingredient. The combination of peaches and pecans is classic and used in a great way. Interesting use of the ingredients overall!

S.W.: I think this would be great Sunday morning football food. I do perceive a potential issue with the use of a can of adobo sauce and three chipotles for four flatbreads … it may be too hot for most people.

D.S.: Love the idea of a crispy flatbread with the contrasting flavors and a little bit of heat.

Chocolate-Espresso Glazed Roast

S.S.: Wow! This home cook sure knows how to cook, from using the pan drippings and creating a roux to make the sauce to the delicious rub for the roast. This is definitely a contender that I can see in the finals. The only critique I would give to this contestant is plating. When you get into the finals, work on your plating -- bring elevation, don't compartmentalize the food, and stack the dish the way you would eat it.

S.W.: I like the use of the coffee and chocolate for a gravy -- much like a "red eye" gravy of the south with a twist. The dish is well thought out and has the perception of great flavor. The plate seems crowded and it is lacking much of an impact; beginning to resemble a Sunday dinner, though that doesn't make it a bad thing. Katie Bloomfield: This roast looks beautiful, perfectly pink in the center. A great spin on a traditional family dinner.

Shredded Beef Tostadas

S.S.: This cook definitely has creativity up her sleeve. The fact that he or she used mole to infuse with the gorgeous sirloin tip is pure genius. Presentation is outstanding. I would not add as much to the main ingredients and simply let these ingredients speak for themselves. Remember home cooks, simplicity is key. Respect the ingredients and let them shine.

S.W.: Although I find this dish to be appealing from a flavor standpoint, I don't find it to be too creative, and the use of ingredients are very "normal" in their approach. Also, the appearance lacks a bit of "wow."

K.B.: The only bad thing about this recipe is that I didn't get to eat it. I love the avocado/plantain guacamole idea.

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