Cook of the Week Challenge: Asian catfish and Moroccan chicken catch judges' fancy
Don't be freaked out by Freekeh.
Our contestants sure weren't. At least not after they figured out what it was.
Freekeh is roasted green wheat. Freekeh Foods packages it like rice mixes and it comes in original and a few seasoned flavors. It cooks up quickly with boiling water (or broth) and, as our challengers learned, can be seasoned and dressed up like any other grain, especially rice.
Here's what this week's judges had to say about the recipes in the Freekeh challenge and in the whole chicken contest.
Cate Brusenbach: Tempura is an inventive and creative way to prepare catfish. The batter looked light and crispy. I love the use of freekeh as a "fried rice" dish to partner with the tempura. I would have plated the freekeh dish in a bit differently to show it off more. I can't see what it actually looks like.
Suzy Singh: Absolutely delicious. I love that the catfish was first marinated in barbecue marinade and then tempura'd! My suggestion is to add 1 tablespoon of salt or 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the tempura batter to bring out the taste of the barbecue catfish. Overall, fantastic use of the ingredients!
Ying Stoller: It uses all the required ingredients. The presentation is neat and clean but it looks too busy with a bowl on a patterned plate. The food could use a little sauce.
Spencer Wolff: I really like the "outside the box" thinking with the fish and going to a tempura.
C.B.: Pan-fried catfish is not creative enough for this stage of the competition; Cajun spice is too predictable. The catfish looks spicy and tasty but there is not enough color contrast with the freekeh dish. The fennel salad does not seem to pair with the rest of the dish.
S.S.: My palate is officially dancing with this dish! The preparation for the Cajun Blackened Catfish is spot on and by far my favorite prep out of the two recipes. There is a bit of misalignment with the fennel grape salad and the catfish, I would suggest instead to create a sauce to accompany the freekeh and catfish.
Y.S.: It also uses all the ingredients fully. The blackened catfish and dirty freekeh look delicious. The salad could use a little better presentation.
S.W.: All things considered, I believe this dish is amazing and very full of flavor. Where it fall short is in the creativity.
Patrick Beach: The whole Moroccan concept combined with quinoa (South American) comes together nicely. I like it disjointed and the quinoa flavor profile looks better to me. I got surprised with the frizzled celeriac on top.
Katie Bloomfield: Great recipe. I love that you cut up your own chicken, not many people do that anymore. Great use of ingredients. Not sure that I've had celeriac before, but your "frizzled" idea made me want to try it. Looks beautiful.
S.S.: I give this home cook a standing ovation. Amazing use of the ingredients and technique. My only suggestion is to plate the way you eat: have the sauce on the plate and use less quinoa. This contestant mastered the art of creating a sauce, highlighting the ingredients and ultimately creating a uniquely composed dish. Fantastic job.
S.W.: I think the dish would be just fine without the fried celeriac; it will add a bitterness that will probably be unappealing. Also, it's not very visual.
P.B.: This looks good but with a more robust combination of root vegetables it might be better. The quinoa flavor seemed standard. It is a big piece to carve on the plate.
K.B.: Very nice recipe overall, I'm sure the chicken tastes wonderful, love that you added sweet potatoes. Not so sure about the quinoa though, I would have liked to see something added to make it more flavorful. Overall, well done.
S.S.: This home cook knocked the glazed out of the park! I'll definitely use this cider jam recipe in the very near future (possibly replacing the butter for bacon fat). Quick suggestion: let the vegetables cook slow and low so that their natural roasted flavors develop. Infuse the water for the quinoa with herbs so that at the end of the day you have a delicious and flavorful composed dish.
S.W.: The chicken looks great! I think more could have been done with the vegetables. Also possibly presented on a larger platter … too crowded.
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