Smothered Chicken Breast with Roasted Potatoes
vs.
Beer-Braised Brats with Cabbage-Beet Slaw

vs.
Spicy & Smoky Grilled Cheese with Cracked Black Pepper Potato Chips

For take two of our 5 Ingredient Face-Off, our friend Ken joined in.  We headed to Plum Market yet again, each armed with our own cart, and set off down the aisles.  Same rules as before:

1) You can't make something you've made before
2) You're confined to 5 ingredients and you have to purchase all of them here
3) You can only use butter, oil, salt, pepper, and sugar from home to prepare and season your dish
4) You can't spend more than $30
5) It has to be a complete dish, not just a protein or vegetable

Thirty minutes later, arms loaded with bags, we headed back to our house to cook.  Three cooks in one single-family kitchen?  You’d think it’d be disastrous, but it was functional.  Just every space in the kitchen and dining area was covered with ingredients and cutting boards and mixing bowls.

Ken’s Ingredients:

1) Chicken breasts
2) Baby spinach
3) Comte – a nutty, oaky, buttery, creamy, earthy cheese
4) Yukon gold potatoes
5) Baby portabella mushrooms

Kyle’s Ingredients:

1) Bratwurst
2) A pilsner to braise the brats in
3) Red cabbage
4) Beets
5) A red-apply balsamic to flavor the cabbage-beet slaw

My Ingredients:

1) Mexican chorizo sausage
2) Red peppers
3) Yukon gold potatoes
4) Italian bread
5) Mahon – a smoky, nutty, salty cheese

Let’s get cookin’!

The Completed Dishes:

Smothered Chicken Breast with Roasted Potatoes (Ken):

Pan-sautéed chicken breast topped with sautéed spinach and mushrooms, finished in the oven, topped with a thick slice of comte cheese, and baked until bubbling.  Served alongside Yukon gold potato wedges tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted until slightly crisp.  Paired with a mildly oaky Torrontes with flavors of apple and pear.
Beer-Braised Brats with Cabbage-Beet Slaw (Kyle): 

Bratwurst seared in a cast iron skillet and then braised in a light, crisp pilsner.  Served alongside a cabbage-beet slaw flavored with a red-apple balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar.  Paired with the same pilsner used to braise the brats.
Spicy & Smoky Grilled Cheese with Cracked Black Pepper Potato Chips (Liz):

Italian bread topped with browned ground chorizo sausage, a smoky red pepper harissa sauce, and grated mahon cheese.  Fried up in butter and olive oil and browned, crisp, and hot throughout.  Served alongside fried Yukon gold potato chips smattered with cracked black pepper.  Paired with Short’s Brewing’s “Spicie Nicie”, a wheat beer spiced with orange zest and coriander.

What We the Critics Say:

PRESENTATION:

Smothered Chicken Breast with Roasted Potatoes (Ken): Nicely plated with the spinach, mushrooms, and cheese layered on top of the chicken breast.  It was cohesive and melded the flavors together.  The potatoes were cut into bite-sized chunks, were slightly browned, and looked nicely seasoned.

Beer-Braised Brats with Cabbage-Beet Slaw (Kyle): Plating was kind of boring: meat and a side on a plate.  The slaw was really colorful.  The bratwurst was nicely browned.

Spicy & Smoky Grilled Cheese with Cracked Black Pepper Potato Chips (Liz): Lots of brown and orange.  Not a lot of color on the plate.  The bread was fried well and the chips looked browned and well-seasoned. 

FLAVOR:

Smothered Chicken Breast with Roasted Potatoes (Ken): The cheese was incredibly flavorful and married well with the chicken and spinach.  The mushroom flavor was lost to the spinach and cheese.  The potatoes could have been a little crispier on the outside, but the insides were soft and well-cooked.  The oakiness of the off-dry Torrontes paired well with the cheese, and the fruit notes kept the wine refreshing  and helped in stand up to the strong cheese and spinach flavors in the dish.

Beer-Braised Brats with Cabbage-Beet Slaw (Kyle): The brats were crispy on the outside, and a little tough on the inside, but very flavorful.  They paired nicely with the cabbage-beet slaw that was seasoned well with the balsamic.  The slaw had good texture: the beets still had a little bite which contrasted well with the softer cabbage leaves.  The beer didn’t pair well, though.  It took on an acidic, metallic taste against the brats and slaw.  Next time, Kyle would use a

Spicy & Smoky Grilled Cheese with Cracked Black Pepper Potato Chips (Liz): Biting into the sandwich, there was an explosion of flavors, all of which melded together into a spicy, smoky indulgence.  The smokiness of the red harissa mirrored the smoky, melty cheese.  The spicy chorizo added another flavor element on top.  And the sandwich fried up in butter and oil made it the ultimate, comfort-food meal.  The potato chips were seasoned well with the pepper but were either burnt or soggy.  The spice notes in the beer paralleled the spices in the chorizo and harissa and made the perfect beverage pairing.

EXECUTION:

Smothered Chicken Breast with Roasted Potatoes (Ken): The chicken was perfectly cooked: juicy and tender.  The potatoes could have stood another few minutes in the oven to roast longer but were cooked and seasoned well. 

Beer-Braised Brats with Cabbage-Beet Slaw (Kyle): The brats may have been a little overcooked but were full of flavor.  There was a lot of textural contrast on the plate: the crispy, meaty brats paired with beets you could sink your teeth into and finished with the additional textural element of the cabbage.  The slaw was flavored perfectly.  The balsamic and sugar mellowed the beet flavor and wasn’t too vinegary or acidic or sweet.  Nicely balanced.

Spicy & Smoky Grilled Cheese with Cracked Black Pepper Potato Chips (Liz): Had I left the dang potato chips off the plate, I might have been the winner.  I didn’t get the oil temperature right; I couldn’t master how long to cook the potato slices.  I ended up with brown crisps that tasted like grease or burned oil, or I got soggy, greasy slices doused in pepper.  Maybe five chips in the whole batch ended up as imagined.  The sandwich, though: perfection.  Next time I make it (so next week, sometime), I’m pairing it will a salad of greens, tomatoes, avocado, and a cool ranch to cut through the spicy sandwich flavors.

The Winner: 

Ken!

I will be making his dish for dinner sometime soon.  I can’t wait until the next face-off…using just a few simple ingredients to make super-yum dishes that are way more than the sum of their parts.
9/28/2012 07:25:52

Actually, I didn't put any sugar in the beat and cabbage dish. Seasoned it with salt, pepper and apple balsamic. All that sweetness came from the balsamic.

Congrats to Ken. My revenge will be enacted the next time we compete.

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Grandma
9/29/2012 11:53:01

You sure do know how to have fun! Love it!

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