Cooks from Fox River Grove and Des Plaines advance to Round 2 of the Cook of the Week Challenge after besting their opponents in the first mystery basket matchups.
Cilantro Lime Steak Tacos and Burnt Butter Acorn Squash Ravioli won over the judges and pushed Jeff Zilch, a Fox River Grove dad and president of a recruiting firm, and Tina Garrett, a Des Plaines mom who works for an insurance firm, respectively, closer to the finals.
Zilch's creative use of lime gelatin in a spice rub pushed his recipe ahead of Nancy Smearman's gyros-inspired steak and Greek yogurt blended lime gelatin dessert. In the beer battle, Garrett used Goose Island's Oktoberfest in a sauce for chicken- and acorn squash-stuffed ravioli and in a beer-infused caramel concoction that edged her past Elliot Papineau's picnic chicken sandwich on beer bread and wheatberry acorn squash salad.
Next week these two will find out who they will face in Round 2. This week, let's find out what the judges (read more about them on Page X) said about their recipes.
Cilantro Lime Steak Tacos
Chef Olivera Amour: I really liked the use of lime gelatin in the taco seasoning, very creative. Flavors go well together.
Chef John Junior: Jeff's Taco Rub looks on the money with the addition of the gelatin powder; he found the right blend of smoky spice with traditional Tex-Mex seasonings, beautiful and bountiful presentation. Screams summer and cocktails, also for a little punch add a couple of pinches (of gelatin) to your salsa. Great looking dish.
Penny Kazmier: I am impressed by the creative use of lime gelatin in this recipe's taco seasoning and marinade. What a great way to add lime flavor.
Chef Suzy Singh: Wow! This home cook really has his taco seasoning down! This is definitely a dish that I would like to try in our R&D lab -- it's easy to cook with the right balance of sweet, savory and acidity from the lime gelatin! My only suggestion is to cut the cucumber salad and add a hearty replacement like lime-infused black beans -- you already have salsa -- the two will just compete head to head like two fighting neighbors ... over your delicious tacos!
Greek-style Flank Steak
O.A.: Could have used the lime gelatin in the gyros recipe to add even a further twist on the gyros. Like the fact that flank was substituted instead of the gyro meat we all know.
J.J.: I'm a fan of anything on pita, so I liked this dish, very simple in presentation and very simple ingredients and the flank was cooked perfectly. I would have loved to see a little bit of chopped herbs in the yogurt sauce or a little drizzle of olive oil and lime gelatin tossed with the onions, just to jazz it up. Lime gelatin was the key ingredient, right?
P.K.: The marinade sounds delicious with the flank steak. The combination of sweet and savory ingredients will provide a perfect foundation for the creamy tzatziki sauce topping.
S.S.: Any dish with bourbon is a winner in my book! I love that the home cook went to the staple route of a Greek-inspired dish, which is what these ingredients were calling for. I wish the cook used the lime gelatin in the tzatziki sauce instead of making a separate dessert because the tzatziki sauce was just asking for more acid. Overall, delicious job contestant!
Andrea Dembinski: This cook has creatively used the secret ingredients to put together a twist on the season. The presentation is nice with use of color, texture and shape. There is opportunity for the use of garnish to add eye-appeal … maybe dusting the tiramisu with cocoa powder. The recipes seem well written and easy to follow. The perceived taste for the combined ingredients is favorable and the dishes seem to complement and have a nice flow. The use of an easy technique -- using won ton wrappers for the ravioli -- makes it more doable for the novice cook.
J.J.: Classic dishes with a nice seasonal twist. The salad was high-end restaurant-quality look with great ingredients. I loved the use of won ton wrappers for the ravioli (much easier to use than pasta sheets) and the filling had tasty components. I'm not crazy about the tiramisu but everything else looked so good; I'm trusting that this cook knows what she's doing.
Michael Pennisi: Won ton wrappers are a great time saver for homemade ravioli! I have no doubt the raviolis by themselves would taste good but I'm a bit concerned about the butter sauce, as cooking down the beer for 10 minutes will concentrate the bitterness of the hops. The salad sounds tasty with the contrasting flavors of the squash, arugula and goat cheese. The dressing however, really shouldn't have uncooked beer in it regardless of how small an amount of alcohol it may be. Overall, I don't really see much of the whole rotisserie chicken used in this dish so perhaps it would be more suited for leftover chicken. The dessert is a really ambitious idea. I would like to try it even though I don't think a thick brown sugar sauce will properly soak the ladyfingers because there isn't enough liquid. Typically the ladyfingers are thoroughly dunked in a liquid to make sure they soften.
Beth Peterson: I love the creativity with the twisted tiramisu. Great idea adding the candied acorn squash.
A.D.: This dish makes good use of the secret ingredients in a creative and seasonal way. There is opportunity for improvement in the use of and textures; the completed dishes lack a bit of eye-catching pizazz. The recipes seem well-written and easy to follow. The perceived taste for the combined ingredients is favorable. I imagine the beer chicken on a malty beer bread with the melted Gouda and the sage may to be a nice combination. I also like the idea of the hazelnut vinaigrette with the roasted squash, but I'm wondering if the hazelnut, thyme, cumin and chili flakes would complement the sandwich's flavors.
J.J.: Great looking seasonal flavors and excellent use of ingredients; this contestant really loves to cook. The Acorn Squash with Wheat Berries looks fantastic especially with the addition of hazelnuts, maybe add a little roasted acorn squash to the wheat berries, with a little more chopped herbs like parsley to brighten the dish. Fresh bread for a chicken sandwich ... I'm coming to your house on Sundays.
M.P.: The beer bread and mustard-spiced chicken offer hearty flavors for the onset of fall. Bread is not easy to make well and this bread recipe, at 85 percent hydration (almost equal parts water and flour), requires a mixer as kneading by hand would result in a sticky mess for most cooks. The squash and whole grain salad is a solid combination and the hazelnuts complement the squash nicely. However, I think the salad could use some greens and the cumin/red pepper seasoning might not pair so well with the mustard and herbs in the sandwich. Sage and acorn squash are good friends, let them play together in the salad.
B.P.: The use of the beer in the bread is great. Perfect flavor profile for the sage mayo.