Category Archives: Showdown

Week 4- Mushroom Lasagna, and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Meet the Contenders: 

  • Mushroom Lasagna
  • Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
This week we were lucky enough to host a few friends for our weekly TFB dinner and the NY times mushroom lasagna recipe seemed the perfect fit for a group dinner. It was a huge hit and provided some stiff competition for last week’s risotto!
The Lasagna
(recipe from New York Times)

Cooking Time: 3 hours (45 of those minutes are just sitting and smelling the delicious melty cheese)
Rating: cheeeeese
In three words: rich (ie. #opulent)

What we liked: 

Cheese.  Look at all the cheese!!!  CHEESE!!!!! As two meat lovers, we knew any vegetarian dish was going to be hard-pressed to make us fall in love, but this did a pretty excellent job. We used a number of different mushroom types (cremini, portobello, shiitake, and oyster) and the combination of all the different cheeses (fontina, gruyere, parmesan and smoked mozzarella) resulted in a delightful intermingling of flavors that was unbeatable. The middle layer of the lasagna was just the smoked mozzarella which really stood out. We used farm-fresh, small-batch mozz straight from Vermont and it was beyond worth it. The smoky flavor added so much to the dish as a whole.

Beyond tasting amazing, this lasagna smelled heavenly. The addition of the truffle oil to the mushroom mixture not only tasted good, but the earthy smell of the truffles took over the entire kitchen and we were sure glad it did. As the lasagna baked, it got better and better, making us more and more excited to actually dig in.

What we didn’t: Time and intensiveness of preparation–lots of slicing, dicing, grating, and sauteeing. We ended up grating 4 blocks of cheese total (that’s a lot of grating) and slicing a pound and a half of mushrooms (that’s a lot of slicing). Not to mention the shallots. The recipe called for 6 large shallots which had to be peeled (annoying) and minced. By the end, our eyes were killing us from the shallot-sting that we somehow couldn’t escape. And, let’s be honest, we love meat and this dish was lacking (although it was so delicious that we can’t really take off any points for that).

The Whoopie Pies
(recipe from Doubly Happy)

Cooking Time: 1.5 hours
Rating: WHOOPEE!
In three words: Use more bourbon.

What we liked: 

Wow. This was a spur of the moment dessert decision and it turned out wayyy better than we could have imagined. We’d toyed with the idea of making whoopee pies when we saw a whoopee pie baking tray at williams-sonoma. Though we didn’t purchase it, it got us thinking about the delicious little cookie cakes and we knew we had to try it. These were delicious. We were turned on to this recipe by the words “mini” and “bourbon” which are both always delightful, especially in cooking. As whoopie pie newbies, we weren’t sure how big they are normally, but by most standards, these don’t seem “mini.” At least two inches in diameter and almost the same in height, these little monsters were rich and gooey and delicious, but maybe not as mini as we’d imagined.

As our kitchen creativity took hold, we added half a tablespoon of allspice to the pumpkin mixture (a fabulous idea) and about two extra tablespoons of bourbon to the icing (also an excellent idea). I don’t think we’d change anything flavor-wise about the cookies if we were to make these again, but the bourbon flavor of the icing was completely dominated when it was inside the cookie cakes, so it definitely couldn’t hurt to add even more.

What we didn’t: 

These are some moist little cookie cakes. Once assembled, we let them chill a bit before serving, but even though they were fully cooked, they were so dense and sticky that it would have been off-putting if they weren’t so damn delicious. In the end, it almost made them taste better, but perhaps a few more minutes in the oven or a little less oil would have helped firm them up a bit more.

The Showdown

Savory 16: Mushroom Lasagna vs. Shrimp and Truffle Risotto with Seared Scallops

Winner: Risotto

The lasagna, amazing as it was, required way more prep and cooking time than the simple risotto. Both were, in our eyes, equally creamy, cheesy, and delicious, but the risotto is taking this one just because it was so, so easy. This one was a stiff competition, and it all came down to the simplicity factor. Either way, you should definitely try  both recipes because they are amazing.

Sweet 16: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting vs. Apple Pie Phyllo Rolls

Winner: Whoopie Pies

The whoopie pies beat our little phyllo rolls in almost every way–ease of preparation (ugh… phyllo) and seasonal appropriateness (perhaps this was our bad) being chief among them. That said, the bourbon butterscotch sauce on the apple pies could definitely beat the bourbon cream cheese icing (but that’s probably because the icing didn’t taste very bourbon-y at all and needed something to cut through the sweetness).

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Week 2- Southwestern Pulled Brisket, Frickles, Green Onion Slaw, and S’mores Cookies

Meet the contenders

  • Southwestern Pulled Brisket
  • Frickles
  • Green Onion Slaw
  • S’mores Cookies

The Brisket
(recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

Cooking time: 5 hours
Rating: 2 forks and a dutch oven
In three words: Tender, tangy, and terrific.

What we liked: This brisket. Even though the recipe calls for a slow cooker, we used a dutch oven and cooked it at 350 for four hours and it came out perfectly. The brisket pulled apart with the slightest touch and was so flavorful it seemed too good to have come out of this kitchen. It had great spice to it (we used two big chipotles) but the other flavors came through and nothing got lost in the heat.

Beyond how delicious it was, it was easy. Even for two amateurs, it was simple and seems like a recipe that would be hard to mess up. If you ever need to show off your kitchen acumen, this is an awesome place to start.

The brisket was made even better by the green onion slaw which added a refreshing crispness to the meal. It would make a great sandwich, though, or a taco, or a Chipotle-style “bowl” or even a salad. We can’t wait to experiment with the leftovers throughout the week to see what other excellent uses we can find for it.

What we didn’t: Nothing. This brisket is delicious and very versatile. We plan on making it again, preferably soon.

The Frickles
(recipe from here)

Cooking time: a few minutes
Rating: 1 million
In three words: so frickling delicious

What we liked: Everything. Anyone who says that fried pickles aren’t one of the greatest foods ever invented is a fool, and these are better than we’ve found in a lot of restaurants. Since we see ourselves as frickle connoisseurs, we used the best frickles we could think of as our model, and if we do say so ourselves, made something that could easily stand up to any restaurant or state fair competitor.

We found a southwestern seasoning salt at Whole Foods to use in the batter, and instead of breading them in panko crumbs as the recipe suggested, we re-dipped the pickles in the flour after coating them in stout batter. To make things more exciting, we twice-battered the frickles which made them even better. We love our frickles to be thick-cut (but not spears–those are too hard to eat!), and cut these to an ideal 1-inch thickness. Once fried, they stayed crisp and tart while the thick coating had great southwestern kick and some delicious crunch.

To dip them in, we mixed some mayo and some diced chipotle in adobo (and a liberal amount of the adobo too) and a little bit of pickle juice. Tasting the sauce from a spoon, we were a little unsure, but once we had frickles to taste it with, we could see how they made a perfect pair. The sauce was spicy, but not too much so, and paired perfectly with the little deep fried bits of heaven as they came off the stove.

What we didn’t: The clean up. Little droplets of the frying oil somehow managed to get everywhere. But it was so, so, so worth it.

The Slaw
(recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

Cooking time: 5 minutes
Rating: 2 rubber gloves
In three words: Refreshing, zesty, spicy.

What we liked: This was delicious! As far as coleslaw goes, this is at the top in our books. It didn’t have the thick, heavy, mayo-y-ness that most coleslaws have and instead tasted very refreshing and perfectly complimented the brisket.

This was a simple and great dish, and we highly recommend it. Unfortunately, it’s really not a fair fight for the poor slaw going up against the frickles. No fair at all.

What we didn’t: Serrano chile oil…on bare hands…hands that touch faces…ouch. Tip from the pros (ha!): if and when you try this recipe, use gloves when you handle the serranos. No matter how much soap and water we use, the burning won’t stop!

The Cookies
(recipe from here)

Cooking time: 3 hours
Rating: 1 lighter
In three words: Ooey, gooey, chewy

What we liked: While we wouldn’t want to eat a cookie by itself, the cookie marshmallow sandwich was pretty good.  The texture of the cookies was right on–soft, thick, chewy, and melty chocolate chips.  We suppose they were intended to taste somewhat like graham crackers but in cookie form, and perhaps flavor wise there were some similarities, but texture wise these were very much cookies and not crackers.  They were sweet (lots of butter) but not too sweet.  Getting the marshmallows to be the right consistency for the filling was a bit of a challenge.  First, we microwaved a plate of them and tried to spread the “goo” between the cookies…that led to a very messy sandwich (but delicious).  Then, we decided to skewer and roast individual marshmallows with a lighter and put those in between the cookies.  This was a little bit less messy and the toastedness of the marshmallows was a welcome addition.  The sandwiches were fun to eat because of the messiness and gooey-ness, and the texture of the composition was highly enjoyable.

What we didn’t: Way better in theory than actuality.  As mentioned above, the cookies themselves were not anything special alone.  Making the marshmallow filling was a bit more challenging than we thought.  They didn’t really work well as “s’mores”–they have to be made on a cookie by cookie basis, they can’t be prepared all at once because if the marshmallow filling hardens, the cookies are not going to be as enjoyable (or easy) to eat.  Not inedible by any stretch, probably just not worth the effort.

The Showdown

Savory 16: Beef and Beer Chili vs. Southwestern Pulled Brisket
The brisket took this one. The complexity of flavors, the tenderness of the meat, and the “impressiveness” factor put it over the top. But the chili was good. Damn good. We definitely recommend it, but not quite as much as the brisket.
Winner: The Brisket

Savory 16: Green Onion Slaw vs. Frickles
As we said, this just wasn’t a fair fight. The slaw was great, but just couldn’t compare to marvel of frickles. Sorry, slaw. We really do like you.
Winner: Frickles. Hands Down.  

Sweet 16: Momofuku Milk Bar Cornflake Crunch Cookies vs. S’mores Cookies
The cornflake crunch cookies may have had a little too much butter in them, but the innovation (cornflakes…in cookies!) and the effective use of marshmallows (sorry s’mores cookies… the marshmallows didn’t really work here) gives the cornflake crunch cookies the edge here.
Winner: The Cornflake Crunch Cookies.