Monday, October 9, 2006

Weekend Challenge Results

Well, this has apparently been a lot of fun for some people, and certainly for myself. The Weekend Challenge was really meant to be more of a mental excercise than anything, and I know that a lot of people really enjoyed that. I had a couple of people ask me if they could use vinegar because they keep it in their spice cabinet. I had a couple more people ask me if they could use flour. A common thought among most people was, "this dish would be really good if I could add x and/or y ingredient."

Before I get to the entries, I'd better tell you what I came up with. My list was deliberately vague in a lot of areas, and much more open than I think some people realized. For instance, I allowed any cooking fat. Why one might have bacon fat laying around with no bacon may remain a mystery, but that's the cooking fat that I decided to use. I started with a chicken breast that I had thawed overnight in the fridged. I diced it up, salted it and sauteed it in the bacon fat in an attempt to give it some real color, but not overcook it. As it turns out, I had too much fat and I ended up not getting any really good color. I removed the chicken from the pan and set it aside.

Next up, I added in a small handful each of frozen carrots and broccoli. I let those sweat it out for a few minutes before tossing in a couple of handfuls of frozen diced potatoes. I cranked the heat to high and sauteed, in an attempt to give it all a little color. Again, it didn't quite work. I lowered the heat and added a can of "cream style corn". I had been hoping for something a little creamier, but that was not to be. I also added a couple of cups of chicken broth and let it all simmer for a while. The broth made it pretty loose, but it tightened up after a few minutes. I finally added the chicken back in and stirred to warm it up a little. I even added a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. Voila! Chicken Corn Chowder!

After taking the picture, I added in some crumbled bacon. It was good on its own, but now that the challenge was over, I decided that I was finished with rules for the day. It ended up being a relatively simple dish that I may spend some time improving on. My wife even expressed interest in making it herself, and believe me, she doesn't like to cook much.

Now, looking at the entries, I found some interesting things. First of all, Harley's entry reminded me of a casserole I made just before getting married. In fact, were he to mix in cream of muchroom soup, replace the string beans with broccoli and replace the pineapple with shredded cheddar, he would have had exactly the same casserole. In fact, said casserole won 2nd place at a cookoff, so I think it's safe to say that people like it.

Art had so much fun, she submitted two entries. Her first entry was based off of a dish that she had made her family recently. She told me in email that she had to leave out soy sauce and vinegar because they weren't on the list. And yes, apparently it was a hit with her family. The interesting thing to me was that she assumed that you just knew how to make rice. In fact, Harley did the same thing too. Then again, anyway that's been reading my blog from the beginning would probably have a pretty good idea of how to cook rice anyway. Same goes for the potatoes in Art's second entry. I liked that she added cocoa powder to her Mexican Hash. I'm always up for a good molé. I think though that were I to add corn to the crockpot, I would wait until the end of the cooking process.

The thing I liked about TuxGirl's entry was that it was based off of exactly the sort of situation I had in mind when I came up with my ingredient list: her cupboards were next to bare, and these were the only ingredients left. Seeing as she was in school at the time, and most certainly a starving student, shopping was likely out of the question. Her dish, which also assumed you know how to make rice already, also looked kind of like a Mexican Hash, but with rice instead of potatoes. In fact, it reminded me of several similar dishes I have made in the past using leftover rice.

What caught me off-guard with Tensai's entry was that he actually went so far as to create three seperate dishes, the last of which made a couple of assumptions about the contents of his spice cabinet that I would not have guessed (nor allowed within the rules), such as eggs and bread crumbs. But hey, this is a friendly little excercise, hardly a competition. I've never been a big fan of making chili with "flying meat" (fowl) in it, but if I was stuck with this list of ingredients, then I don't think I'd mind his suggestion. I would, however, eschew the broccoli. Nothing personal, I just don't like the stuff. I think I might like his Korokke, however.

I think this was a successful challenge, and I'm already planning another for this weekend. Since Ali and James gave me such a hard time, I'm tempted to do something like require wheat flour and continue to disallow vinegar. We shall see.


  1. I didn't get around to actually trying the weekend challenge, but the one thing that came immediately to mind was beans and rice together cooked in broth. Looking around, I found recipes for "Moros y Cristianos", a Cuban dish, that seemed to be what I was thinking. Serve that alongside grilled chicken breast with a sweet salsa made from the corn, tomatoes and pineapple (if only you'd included chiles in the list!).

    Back to the Moros y Cristianos: I found several recipes online, but this is one of the ones that looked best to me:

    -- modified for ingredients not in the list :(

    * replace fresh onions w/ dried
    chopped onions
    * replace crushed garlic w/ garlic
    - green peppers

    -- other modifications

    * replace vinegar w/ lime juice; you really need limon, but lime will do in a pinch and is closer to being a fridge-bound "spice cabinet" member
    - tomato paste (adjust water/broth accordingly)

  2. Confession: I keep a card in my recipe box called "How to cook rice" with the instructions for dummies straight from

    Side note on my first recipe: the thing that actually really ended up throwing me off was not having corn starch. That's when I realised I'd have to reinvent the recipe I was planning on using. You may or may not have noticed that the result was pretty similar to the chicken and pineapple dish you used to make often, just with different spices and served differently.

  3. I didn't take the time for the challenge either, but I must say my first thought after glancing at the list was "Stir fry".

    Other ingredients (such as the beans) could be added for a unique flavor, or created as a side. I'd go for the unique mix though.

  4. In my defense, I do actually keep breadcrumbs in the spice cabinet. The egg was a stretch. I've tried making korokke without the egg and that creates an entirely separate beast. The potatoes explode due to the steam and make a kind of hash brown. Still good stuff, so sans egg you could just go for that.

    I quite enjoyed the challenge. I wanted to make my recipe and take pictures, but we already had stuff planned for the weekend that needed to be made before the tofu went bad. Maybe next time.


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