With the chill in the air and the Bears on a winning streak, tailgating sure was an appropriate theme for our Cook of the Week Challenge. And just like the Bears had a "bye" this week, so do we, kind of.
I'm not announcing this week's recipe challenge winners and instead will make them (and you) wait until I reveal the Final Four on Oct. 24.
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Just to make things more tense for our contestants, I am sharing the judge's comments and the Fan Favorites (see Page 4). Most weeks the Fan Favorite voting mirrored the judges' choices. Will that be the case this week?
Suzy Singh: The key to tailgating is simplicity with an elevated twist and this contestant tackled the challenge! I would suggest combining the flank steak with the quesadilla for a more cohesive dish. Overall this dish got the interception and scored a touchdown in the culinary field!
Spencer Wolff: Though the perceived taste is one that I would welcome with open arms, I feel this dish falls short just a bit with its appearance and creativity. Could have been more expressive.
Don Mauer: Flank steak's an excellent protein choice: good flavor and lean. Found the quesadillas to be an appropriate side, but recipe instructions were somewhat confusing. Contestant showed a good ingredient knowledge by specifying Mexican oregano and kicking-up the flavor profile a notch by using crushed red pepper flakes. Appreciated that all ingredients were readily available. I'm concerned that the lime juice in the marinade will "cook" the beef and make it mushy in a long marinade and suggest that the lime juice be omitted in the marinade and added to the basting mixture only. Question wiping off the marinade step; it's unnecessary and potentially diminishes the final flavors.
William Vena: We loved it. Great idea and wonderful flavors. Skewers at a game? We are in!
S.S.: This contestant scored a field goal on the tailgating beans ... can you say bacon?! Deliciously used in this dish! The cheese fondue was a major fumble; when you are using raw wine -- you will need to cook it through so that it has reduced by two-thirds prior to adding it in a sauce/soup. It was a false start but this contestant finished strong with the grilled pork chop!
S.W.: This reads as a true Chicago tailgate! Pork and beans … very interesting use of the pork sandwich.
D.M: I appreciated the protein choice of lean loin pork chops and the concept of making them into an easy-to-eat sandwich. Love bringing on the heat with cayenne and chili powder. Thick onion slices will fall apart during grilling without being secured with either toothpicks or a skewer. Ground beef in the baked beans is unnecessary, when the bacon works perfectly as a smoky addition and complements the sandwich. I suggest draining off most of the bacon's rendered fat as these beans will be too greasy otherwise.
W.V.: Idea has been used before, also nice flavor but hard to eat -- it was falling apart. Keep in mind at a tailgate: We want quick easy pickup food, not beans -- sorry. Maybe next time a wrap form with beans in it?
Kevin Bozis: I do like the presentation and the flavor should be right on as well. I feel I have had this many times before just not at a tailgate party. I would like to see more classic tailgate food with a twist.
Dorothy Seaburg: You do eat with your eyes first and this is a very eye-appealing plate. This is a lighter, yet satisfying tailgate meal that I might make next Sunday. I think using a lot of the same ingredients in the marinade, glaze and dressing for the slaw makes this a very balanced plate. Good use of all three mystery ingredients. I was nervous about an overload of sodium with the use of the Vulcan's Fire salt with the sausage as mystery ingredients but I think each ingredient was used beautifully.
SS: Wow! This home cook has really outdone themselves on this recipe! I wish that there was a creamy/umami component to this slaw which would bring this whole dish together. Would this work for tailgating -- sure. Is it practical for tailgating? Not so much. I would suggest making a more cohesive dish with fewer elements and let the mystery box ingredients truly shine.
S.W.: I think the flavors will really stand out here! I really like the simplicity and true "tailgate" approach to this dish … it seems easy to work with while roaming a parking lot.
K.B.: Looks beautiful and should taste the same. I like the variety of uses for the grill. This sounds like a good tailgate party with food like this. I love watermelon like this.
D.S.: When I think tailgate, I think "meat on a bun" and this hit the nail on the head. I do not think of popcorn made on the grill, but absolutely love the idea and the clever mandarin orange reduction coating that popcorn. I am a bit hesitant about all of the different flavors going on here. From the sauce the kielbasa is cooked in, to the dill aioli, to the balsamic glaze on the watermelon. I like the addition of the fruit but would have loved to see that fruit grilled.
S.S.: I recently tailgated at Da Bears opener and the key to tailgating is portable food, with an elevated twist. Great job in making this food accessible and delicious! My only suggestions are to thicken the sauce prior to placing on the sandwich and add those gorgeous caramelized saucy onions on top of the sandwich as a finisher with the pizza seasoning. Overall, Hester would score a touchdown on this dish!
S.W.: Unique presentation, though maybe more geared for those Ivy League schools. Still, I think the overall approach was good and it possesses fun flavors.