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updated: 10/16/2013 12:21 PM

Cook of the Week Challenge: Round 2 contestants don't wilt under heat of the grill

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  • Grilled Game Day Pizza, Grilled Spam & Havarti Sliders with Baby Beets and Apple Orange Marmalade Slaw and Apple Cider-Brined Turkey Legs by Lori Wiktorek of Aurora for the Cook of the Week Challenge.

       Grilled Game Day Pizza, Grilled Spam & Havarti Sliders with Baby Beets and Apple Orange Marmalade Slaw and Apple Cider-Brined Turkey Legs by Lori Wiktorek of Aurora for the Cook of the Week Challenge.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Jeff Zilch of Fox River Grove was tasked with making a tailgate meal using turkey legs, beets, havarti cheese and orange marmalade.

       Jeff Zilch of Fox River Grove was tasked with making a tailgate meal using turkey legs, beets, havarti cheese and orange marmalade.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Des Plaines' Tina Garrett creation of swordfish and watermelon using bourbon glaze.

       Des Plaines' Tina Garrett creation of swordfish and watermelon using bourbon glaze.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Christine Murphy's creation of swordfish and watermelon using bourbon glaze.

       Palatine's Christine Murphy's creation of swordfish and watermelon using bourbon glaze.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

Don't you just love firing up the grill on cool autumn days? The tailgating recipes our Round 2 contestants created sure gave us plenty of new reasons to keep the Weber out of winter hibernation.

Our judges had plenty of wonderful things to say about the tailgate recipe. Today I'll share their comments, but you'll have to wait until next week to find out which contestants will be heading to the Oct. 30 cook-off. I'll unveil the Final Four as well as the Fan Favorites on Oct. 23.

Touchdown Turkey Legs

Patrick Beach: Nice mix of foods. but much of this should be totally done ahead and a quick reheat would be safer and better. For example, marinating the turkey in an acidic marinade in an aluminum tin is a bad idea. Make it and fully cook the night before and crisp it on site, painting the leg as is gets crispy. Nice try with the beets and handles. I'm not sure it is working.

John Junior: These is a very cool menu, with great re-purposing of ingredients, which is essential in any tailgating event. The combo of beets and bacon along with a creamy cheese like havarti is celestial. The combo of barbecue sauce and orange marmalade gives the turkey such a sweet/smoky punch. Delicious.

Penny Kazmier: I absolutely love appetizers and think the beet and jalapeņo snacks sound delicious. Incorporating marmalade into the rice crispies is a great idea and I look forward to trying it myself with our family favorites. Overall a great effort with a tasty result.

Joanna Miller: I was intrigued to see the combination of Frank's buffalo wing sauce with beer for the turkey leg marinade; these are two great flavors put together. This recipe gets even more depth from the marmalade. And with the havarti, a very nice balance and cooling from the creaminess to the hot of the sauce and a bit of sweet. So much deliciousness just for the turkey leg. I also liked how the beet bites and poppers recipes overlapped, in using the excess scooped beets from one recipe to the other. And, everything is better with bacon. I would, however, have liked to have seen a bit more creativity as there is a big focus on the same platform with bacon and hot sauce.


Apple-brined turkey legs

Patrick Beach: Nice mix with more visual stimulation. Using the candied strip beets as pizza garnish is good. Apple beet/slaw is cool. Lightly cooking or blanching beets and apples ahead might be better. Different colors can be maintained by keeping the separate when cooking ahead. I'd cook the legs at home then finish at tailgate. Nice trick with pre-made pizza and heat/serve on site.

John Junior: Great fresh ingredients on this pizza, and a very under utilized way of making and baking crisp, delicious pizza. How could you not like Spam especially after while enjoying a few cold ones and cheering on your team. The slaw on this dish bun really lifts this slider to upscale tailgating cuisine, and the turkey legs look awesome.

Penny Kazmier: The crunch and sweetness of the Apple Orange Marmalade Slaw sounds like the perfect accompaniment to the savory Spam sliders, especially atop the pretzel rolls with melted havarti cheese. Next time you might want to add some of the orange marmalade to the Apple Cider brine to add sweetness instead of the sugar, it sounds like it would be a nice compliment.

Joanna Miller: I thought the Cook's Notes were very helpful, especially because these are tailgating recipes and you need to ensure you pack ALL of your utensils, etc. I like the attention to detail. I do like that the turkey leg looks very juicy, but not overly sauces. You don't want it to be too messy while tailgating. Although the turkey recipe had a lot of ingredients, the description was very detailed especially for the brine which I have never done. I like this approach to keep the turkey legs moist. I love the creativity of the pizza, not to mention the photo. How delicious it looks! And for the Spam, talk about reinventing something from the past. And what a nice combination of flavor with the saltiness of the spam to the sweetness of the beets and marmalade and the tartness of the apply. This recipe is packed with flavor!


Swordfish Kebabs, Watermelon Granita

John Junior: This is a very ambitious dish, great looking sandwich, with super looking sidekicks. Maybe place the granita in a glass or side dish and the ginger in the granita nice touch.

Heather Lloyd: Sounds delicious, but too much work and time to prepare. Not sure the final product would be worth all the trouble.

Michael Pennisi: Tailgating with kebabs is like Robbie Gould kicking a 30 yard field goal: both are guaranteed to score points. Kabobs are easy to eat with one hand or in a sandwich while standing around in a parking lot and they can be seasoned many different ways. The sweet-savory flavors in this marinade seem perfect for the swordfish although personally, I'd like to add some dried chili for a little more heat and I would reserve some of the marinade to baste the kebabs at the end of grilling. The salad looks delicious. Grilling the radicchio and romaine gives depth by adding sweetness and smoke. I love the dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, and strong vinegar accenting the salad. However serving salad when tailgating seems like an illegal procedure to me.

Suzy Singh: This is a tailgating party that I would love to attend! Swordfish is a wonderful hardy fish that can soak in marination beautifully. Skewering the swordfish was a great idea for portable foods. The salad seems to have the perfect balance of bitter, sweet, salty and umami. My only suggestion is to create one cohesive dish out of these mystery box ingredients -- the granita is a completely separate dish -- you should have replaced the pineapple with watermelon and have one complete dish. Overall, quite impressive.


Bourbon-Glazed Swordfish, Grilled Radicchio and Watermelon salad

John Junior: This dish is very vibrant and full of great summertime flavors. I like the use of the watermelon to hold the components. Maybe cut the veggies and other items to the size of the swordfish and watch your char, the sauce will really kick this up a notch.

Heather Lloyd: Unique combination of basic ingredients in a creative presentation. Sounds easy to prepare but also very tasty.

Michael Pennisi: Another great kebab game plan. I like the quick-kick from sriracha in the marinade. The grilled corn and potatoes will carry the sweetness of the marinade just like Sweetness carried the football but trying to eat that corn on a skewer looks like a fumble to me. This cook made the same strong play call by grilling the radicchio, which will taste mildly bitter. Balancing that with sweet watermelon and sour vinaigrette was a great trick play. If only the cook had brought in something salty, like feta cheese to finish the scoring drive.

Suzy Singh: I love anything with bourbon and this dish really sang to me! Great job in ease and prep. This is definitely a dish that anyone can make before going to a Bears game. This home cook scored a touchdown on Adults-Only Afternoon Sweetness! Sometimes simplicity wins the game! This contestant understood the essence of this challenge and created a cohesive dish that let the ingredients speak on their own. Great job!

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