The Contests

Week 44

April 28, 2010 • 8 Comments

Congratulations to this week's winners!

Lechef won this week's contest for Your Best Recipes for Spring Peas with Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream.

Lastnightsdinner won this week's contest for Your Best Scallops with Seared Scallops with Spring Onion and Tarragon Cream.

(Lechef's soft-shell crabs, a dish he has mastered)

Lechef

Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.

I grew up spending a good portion of my summers with my grandparents at their house on Cape Cod. My grandfather loved to garden, and my grandmother loved to cook, so it was a perfect match. He kept a small vegetable garden next to the house with rows of fresh lettuce, tomato plants, cucumbers, rhubarb, carrots, strawberries, an array of herbs, and my favorite: sugar snap peas. As a child I remember my grandfather showing me how to plant seeds, how to tell the weeds from the plants and how to pick the slugs off the lettuce leaves before they ate too much. Most distinctly, however, I remember sneaking up to the rows of snap pea plants and surreptitiously picking the sweet, crunchy snap peas right off the vine. They were my absolute favorite plant in the garden, and I suspect that about 50% of the crop wound up in my mouth, and only 50% on the table. While I don't have the space for my own vegetable garden here in New York, that early formative food experience made me appreciate the process by which food is grown. I am sure that as soon as I have the room, I'll be putting in my own vegetable garden with all the plants I remember having as a child. When I saw that peas were this week's ingredient, I knew that snap peas would be the centerpiece of my dish.

What's your least favorite food?

I'll eat almost anything as long as it's prepared well, and I don't really have any foods that I truly "dislike". One thing that I don't like, because I would always rather have the unadulterated version, is whole wheat pasta. Grainy and dry. Sand pasta. I know it's better for you, but give me the real egg and flour pasta any day.

What is the best thing you've made so far this year?

That's a tough one. Probably the pig's head torchon I made recently.

Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.

The first time I tried to make soft shell crabs, I had just graduated from college and was living in my first real apartment. I had invited an old family friend over for dinner. Not knowing how best to heat the oil, I figured that keeping a lid on it would allow it to heat up faster. As soon as I took off the lid the entire pot erupted into flames, spewing acrid black smoke into the air and almost taking off my eyebrows. I had to throw the lid back on the pot to contain the flames and bring it to the window, where I put it onto the roof. It promptly melted the tar on the roof and became stuck. I did manage to salvage dinner, and learned a valuable lesson about heating oil.

What is your idea of comfort food?

Pasta Fagioli. Crusty bread. Extra crushed red pepper. Parmesan.

Apron or no apron?

Usually no apron, unless I am cooking with guests around and I'm not wearing my old cooking clothes.

What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."

If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?

Probably Tom Colicchio. I know it's pretty cliche, but I think he's a tough critic and I'd love to learn something from him.

You prefer to cook: a: alone, b: with others, c: it depends on your mood.

C: It depends on your mood. It definitely depends on the occasion. Sometimes it's nice to have peace and quiet when you're working on something new, but it's always great having kitchen assistants when you're cooking for lots of people. This also conveniently applies to cleaning up (see below).

When it comes to tidying up, you usually: a: clean as you cook, b: do all the dishes once you've finished cooking, c: leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean.

C: Leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean. I'm a big fan of households in which "those who cook do not have to clean". Though my pet peeve is a sink full of dishes, I prefer to focus on the food and recruit unwitting volunteers to do the cleaning for me. Sometimes you just have to get the food out onto the table and deal with cleaning later...

(Lastnightsdinner's favorite measuring spoons)

Lastnightsdinner

Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
My grandma’s kitchen was, and still is, always full of people, laughter, and the aroma of delicious food. I have wonderful memories of the whole family getting together at her house for regular Sunday dinners and holiday meals, of standing at her kitchen table literally up to my elbows in masa while she taught a bunch of us how to make tamales, and of stopping over at her house after my college classes to sit and chat with her over a bowl of her “garbage soup.” I think what I have taken away from these memories is that food brings people together, and while I do enjoy preparing a meal for myself, I’m happiest when I’m sharing a meal with my husband or feeding a crowd.

What's your least favorite food?
I can’t say I actively dislike any food – I’ll try anything at least once!  Oranges and grapefruits make me break out in a rash, though, so I avoid them.

What is the best thing you've made so far this year?
I think I’ve finally come up with my perfect meatballs and sauce recipe. 

Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
When I was dating my first long-term beau and just starting to get adventurous in the kitchen, I had a bright idea to make a big pot of duck and sausage gumbo for his parents, just like one we had when we vacationed with them in the Florida panhandle. It was a weeknight, and I started with a whole, very large, very frozen duck. I put it into a huge stockpot to cook, made my roux and prepped everything else I would need to assemble the gumbo after the duck meat and stock were ready. Several hours and glasses of wine later, that duck was still frozen solid. We ordered pizza.

What is your idea of comfort food?
Mashed potatoes, refried beans, grits or polenta – something creamy, spoonable, and better with a little cheese.

Apron or no apron?
Apron if we’ve got company, no apron if it’s just us.

What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
A Lady, a Tramp, and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs – it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Honestly, our families are so spread out now, and we rarely get the chance to get together, so having everyone together around a big table and feeding them well would be a dream come true.

You prefer to cook: a. alone, b. with others, c. it depends on your mood.
I’ll admit that I can be a little type-A in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s fun to cook with a crowd.

When it comes to tidying up, you usually: a. clean as you cook, b. do all the dishes once you've finished cooking, c. leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean.

I clean as I cook.  I can’t stand dirty countertops, stacks of bowls in the sink or drips on the stove.

Jump to Comments (8)

Comments (8)

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over 4 years ago shayma

heartfelt congrats!

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over 4 years ago KelseyTheNaptimeChef

Many congrats winners - these are both fabulous recipes and I've printed them both! Also, love the stories.

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over 4 years ago monkeymom

congrats! You are amazing cooks.

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over 4 years ago Veronica

Congratulations! Am in awe of you--wanted to make this last weekend, but NO. So, Saturday night--can't wait and can't thank you enough for the deliciously beautiful inspiration. WELL, WELL done!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Amazing - I am truly humbled. Thank you so much, and huge congrats to Lechef and Rivka, and to melissav and poorgirlgourmet for their outstanding finalist dishes!

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over 4 years ago TasteFood

Congratulations winners and runners-up!

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over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

I love getting to know the winners! Congrats everyone!

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over 4 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations! Another week of great recipes and great stories ... kudos all around!!