Sunday, September 15, 2013

Iron Chef, Mac and Cheese Battle

This is Gecko's in the Landings mac and cheese cook off. Eighteen entries were submitted by regulars for the mass's consideration, and prizes to boot. The prizes were nice, but oh how the bragging rights would be coveted for all time to come. Teams were being formed, and the smack talk started early. Pejorative allusions to other's cooking skills and the quality of their palates were rampant. Ingredient teasers, and red herrings abound. Did you hear the rumor about the abalone and truffles mac? 


I can do this I thought. How hard could it be? In my callow and poorer youth I used to prepare Kraft dinner and eat it right out of the pan leaning over the sink with a cold beer to wash it down. If the milk looked a bit too chunky for my taste, I would just add some water. Yum, or so as I remember it, but a lot of this may have been driven by the fact you could buy ten boxes for a buck. It was often what's for diner.

Three similar recipes I like are found, and I'm using parts from all three. Nutmeg doesn't belong in my mac, but the dried mustard from this one is fine. I'm already convinced that I could be a big winner. The all purpose flour in the frig was way out of date. The dried mustard needed an ice pick to get it out of the jar, and so on. A list is assembled, and way more dollars than I thought it could possibly cost were paid for a dish that would serve twelve. It has to be done and delivered by eleven thirty am Sunday morning.

The problems all started that morning. I had developed some angst overnight about whether a recipe that serves twelve would be enough for everybody to taste. The bar will be packed with people watching the Buc's lose, and if I ran out of my mac and cheese, then people wouldn't be able to vote for me. I would then lose, everyone will laugh at me. I'd have to find another watering hole, and then move into a cardboard box in a downtown alley to hide my eternal shame. Aargh, I need to double that recipe soonest! Off to the store first thing in the morn go I and more goods are purchased.

At this point I'm required to say that there has been a marital court order issued prohibiting me from displaying any photos of the kitchen or the processes involved therein in creating this epicurean substance. Suffice it's fair to say that things started to overwhelm me after I doubled the recipe. Eleven cups of milk were needed to make the now doubled Bechamel sauce, and after I had made the roux, I realized belatedly the milk had to be hot, and it wasn't. RTFDF! I had chosen some pan sizes poorly, changed them, and began to run out of clean ones along with time. Two pounds of elbow Marconi  are aboil, and six cups of cheese have not been converted into a gooey Mornay yet to be created sauce. Kate hearing the shrill less than polite mumbling of a distraught pseudo chef being culinary tortured in the kitchen interjected herself and gave me a hand.

So after some agile gyrations it turned out pretty damn good, or at least good enough to get third place in the "Best Over All" category. Nine cups of shredded gruyere and cheddar, homemade croutons, and lots of center cut bacon cooked in. I mean cooked first and then put in.... I think. I can't remember for sure.

There are millions of ingredient permutations possible when you have a dish that starts with marconi and cheese. In the collection of entries we had pineapple, lobster, crab, bacon, chipolte, and jalapeno peppers, a few types of indescribable lumps, and endless varieties of cheese. 

Carla is much smarter than I, and won the "Traditional Mac and Cheese" category. In reality she was the big winner. She just made eight boxes of Kraft dinner, and dumped it into the serving container. How much more traditional could you get? Done deal. No slaving over a hot roux, and just two pots were needed. A few additional minutes to cut some box tops off to evoke childhood nostalgia for the dish, and the presentation is complete.

Kraft Diner has been around since 1937, and a fun fact that most American's don't know is that it''s considered to be a Canadian national dish, and founder James Kraft was a Canadian himself. Don't snicker kids, hot dogs are one of ours. Of the about 350 million boxes of KD sold annually, 100,000,000 are purchased in Canada. Most of the time there are a couple of boxes in my pantry at home, and it was always on the boat. Extruded dehydrated powdered processed cheese food product doesn't require refrigeration.

The "Most Original" category winner was prepared by Mark and Cathy. That means Cathy made it, but Mark gets some creative points. It was a tasty cheesy mixture of crab, bacon and diced fresh jalapeno's.

The lobster based mac by Danielle, Krissy, and ahem... Tom took the grand prize. It was nicely spicy, and if that wasn't enough for you there was Siriacha sauce available on the side. This mac and cheese was a worthy winner.

All I have to say is that it was fun, in retrospect, and I learned some important lessons about this type of competition, mostly from Carla. I'll be back.

  

5 comments:

  1. I'm afraid to advise you that Poutine has supplanted Kdot Ddot as Canada's national dish. There's also the Beaver Tails (basically a deep fried pancake dusted with Maple Sugar) but that's in a totally different food category. I think the change had was mandated by Health Canada's new Food Guide.

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php

    See Kdot Ddot only meets 2% of the recommended daily nutritional requirement for college kids. Now Poutine, when broken down into it's constituents covers all four food groups. Salt, Fat, Carbohydrates & Cholesterol.

    My ole' Mum sent me packing off to College with two cases of Kdot Ddot. Oh the good ole' days!

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  2. Rick, thanks for the update. A matter of even greater import is the petition started by two moms from North Carolina who want the iridescent orange colored dye that actually makes KD look like there might possibly be some real cheese in the product, replaced with natural product like carotene from carrots. I think this is a plot by carrot growers who are trying to expand a market for a virtually inedible root product. The beet people did the same thing, I mean who eats these things?

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  3. I think KD has some distance to go before Poutine knocks it off its perch here in the worker's paradise. I'm judging by the number of boxes my 12 year old (who *insists* on making it "exactly like they say on the box") my son manages to put into the recycling bin every week.

    Oh, well, if I fall off the boat today, at least I'll have the comfort of knowing he can boil water!

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    Replies
    1. RHYS, I agree, and I never got into the Poutine thing, however Kate loves the stuff. Partially melted cheese curds and brown gravy on fries was never my thing, but I will eat it if it's dropped in front of me. I do agree with Rick's comments, although KD is surprisingly low in fat, and high in fiber, salt, and carbs, all the things that makes food taste good. Cooked carrots, not for me. I doubt that 100,000,000 orders of Poutine occur per year in Canada, or Harvey's stock would be through the roof.

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    2. RHYS, I agree, and I never got into the Poutine thing, however Kate loves the stuff. Partially melted cheese curds and brown gravy on fries was never my thing, but I will eat it if it's dropped in front of me. I do agree with Rick's comments, although KD is surprisingly low in fat, and high in fiber, salt, and carbs, all the things that makes food taste good. Cooked carrots, not for me. I doubt that 100,000,000 orders of Poutine occur per year in Canada, or Harvey's stock would be through the roof.

      Delete