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.