So, what is happening here? I should be entering photography contests, not recipe contests. Yes!Chef! is the one who should be thinking about cooking contests. The sad truth is: I should stick to photography and let Yes!Chef! do the cooking.
Last year at the county fair I won some blue ribbons for photography, not cooking. (Clue phone is ringing!)
So, you would think that this would encourage me to stay within my well-defined bounds of photography. But, no! I saw a recipe contest on the Philadelphia Cream Cheese website where the winner would get a kitchen remodel. I couldn’t resist.
My family thought I should enter our old family recipe: Blue Cheese Dip. I think I’ve probably mentioned that recipe before. My mom passed down the recipe to me. I’m not real sure where she got it but when I was growing up, we always had it at Christmas and never any other time.
I carried on the tradition of Christmas-only-blue-cheese-dip until my daughter begged me to make it one year for her birthday. What? Break a Thomas-Family-now-Schmautzhaus tradition? Unheard of. But, she kept at me (like she is known to do) and I finally relented.
Now, we have it at many of our family gatherings because it is so easy to make, it goes with crackers, or veggies and even grapes and everyone likes it. It is also good as a topper for hamburgers or steak hot off the grill.
So, I thought I would submit that recipe to the Philadelphia Cream Cheese contest. I had a few days before the deadline, so I bought the ingredients including some really, really nice blue cheese. Then, instead of following my mom’s tried and true recipe I embellished. Instead of adding regular blue cheese, I used fancy (and more expensive) blue cheese and more of it. (If some blue cheese is good, more must be better?) Instead of using garlic powder, I roasted some garlic and mashed it in. I also added Horseradish to make it a little zippy. I had Yes!Chef! taste it because when I tasted it, it just didn’t taste right. He loved it. He wanted me to add more and more horseradish, though, because the blue cheese was so overpowering that nothing else could be tasted.
Light bulb moment! I told Y!C! that I was going to start all over and not get so fancy. I used a more moderate, but still great, Stilton blue cheese and got back to using the garlic powder and a little horseradish. The results were what made this recipe famous (at least in our household.) I dolled it up a bit for the picture (because we were required to submit a picture of our creation) and entered the contest on the very last day.
And then I waited for it to appear on the “Entries” page. And waited…and waited. I submitted it again and waited. I wrote to the contest people, who responded almost immediately and gave me some suggestions. I tried those and waited. I tried again…
Needless to say, it never made it to the contest. A sure winner (maybe I’m a little over-confident), which will never see the light of day in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese contest to win a brand new kitchen. Sigh.
The good news is that Yes!Chef! made a wonderful supper while I was fretting over the stupid dip. He made honey-glazed pork chops on the grill and a corn salsa salad to go with it. That’s it. Simple and tasty. That was the lesson that I learned the hard way.
Of course, the chops were perfectly cooked and had a sweet and spicy glaze. The corn salsa was fresh and zesty. My youngest son brought a friend over to dinner who is whey intolerant, so my husband is always careful about how he cooks things when this friend is over. I’m happy to say that this meal fit within this young man’s diet restrictions. We all ate every bit of the dinner and smacked our lips in satisfaction. Obie T. Dogg smacked his lips too, but he wasn’t invited to join in. (I’ve put him on a doggie diet because he looks like a little sausage.)
Here’s the recipe for the Grilled Honey-Glazed Pork Chops from Cook’s Country
From Cook’s CountryWhy this recipe works:We battled glazes that slid right off the chops, while chops appeared slightly lacquered required such lengthy grilling and basting times that the meat was as a dry as a bone. We rub our chops with a sugar mixture that caramelizes on the grill creating a rough surface for our super-reduced glaze to stick to. Oh, and the meat is perfectly cooked too.
- 4 (10-ounce) bone-in pork rib or center-cut chops, about 1 inch thick, trimmed
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1. Cut 2 slits about 2 inches apart through fat and connective tissue around outside of each chop. Combine sugar, salt, and pepper in bowl. Pat chops dry with paper towels and rub with sugar mixture.
- 2. Whisk vinegar and cornstarch in small saucepan until no lumps remain. Stir in honey, mustard, thyme, and cayenne and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until glaze is reduced to 1/4 cup, 5 to 7 minutes.
- 3A. For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour two-thirds evenly over grill, then pour remaining coals over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
- 3B. For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn other burner(s) to medium-low.
- 4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chops on cool part of grill and cook (covered if using gas) until meat registers 140 degrees, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Brush chops with glaze and grill, glazed side down, over hot part of grill until caramelized, about 1 minute. Repeat with second side of chops. Transfer chops to platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Brush with remaining glaze. Serve
And here’s the recipe for the Corn Salad, again from Cook’s Country.
Published July 1, 2012. From Cook’s Illustrated.Why this recipe works:Steeping corn kernels in boiling water with a touch of baking soda worked like magic to soften the raw corn and loosen the hulls. As the corn steeped, its hulls softened just enough that they weren’t leathery, but the kernels in our corn salsa…(more)
Makes 3 cups
Do not substitute frozen corn for fresh. For a spicier salsa, add some or all of the jalapeño seeds and ribs. This salsa can be served atop chicken or fish or with corn chips.
- 3 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (2 1/4 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 tomato, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1. Bring 2 cups water to boil in small saucepan over high heat. Stir in corn, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; remove pan from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain corn and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
- 2. Whisk lime juice, oil, honey, and 1/8 teaspoon salt together in bowl. Add corn, tomato, shallot, jalapeño, and cilantro to lime juice mixture and toss to combine. Let stand for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve.
One of the reasons Yes!Chef! likes Cook’s Country recipes so much is because they are tasty recipes using interesting techniques and they give you the reasons why the recipe works so you can apply it to other recipes. He’s a geek at heart, and a curious spirit, so he appreciates learning the techniques and the reasons for using them.
I just like the food.
Bon Apetit! Or, as Yes!Chef! would tell you: “Life is too short to eat crappy food.”