As the episode title refers to it... Shark Week. In week six of season 14 of Food Network Star, we tackled transforming family recipes and cooking some shark food, but for humans (naturally). We are down to the final five, and competition is FIERCE. Not only is it getting tougher and tougher, but I genuinely care for every person that I am competing against. And we have spent enough time together that these eliminations sting. But as well all know there can only be one winner, so it is game time, capisce?
Don't worry, I am not going all ham against my fellow competitors. That is not how I roll. Also, we have a real Italian competing with us, so I don't want to mess with that. (Christian is a huge teddy bear, not scared.)
Each episode is typically two challenges. They are broken up into the Mentor Challenge and the Star Challenge.
For our mentor challenge, we had the seriously charismatic Molly Yay. In fact, this fellow blogger just landed her own show on the Food Network, Girl Meets Farm.
See this beautiful and caring smile? Plastered on her face in the most genuine way possible. Her genuinely positive energy was a thing to be envied... especially since I have such a morbid self deprecating humor.
(Example: I just tried to find a skin suit GIF and I couldn't. So moving on...)
Basically, there was nothing not to love about her. She had the sweetest comments. Not to mention how wildly in
love with her blouse I was. What else could you want? :)
Each of us was asked to make a family heirloom meal into a easy to cook week night meal.
Hault. Stop. Wait. No. Cant. What?
I have none. True story. I did not grow up in a cooking family. Truly. Everything that I know I basically taught myself. I worked in restaurants (front of the house) and was always around food. But I am self taught in the truest form. No cooking with mommy nights for this girl. So when we say family recipes, passed down from generation to generation, my mind draws a total blank.
I am going to let you in on a little production secret. In out downtime, producers will ask us some food questions. Our answers to those questions become the dishes that we will cook for certain challenges (they correlate our answers to what they want us to cook in some episodes, not all). When they asked me for a family recipe I literally had nothing to say. So that was followed up with, well what about something that is meaningful to you? The first thing I thought of was my rosemary and pistachio crusted lamb. It was the very first thing I posted on my blog 4 years ago. And fast forward a few years, an updated version was the second dish I cooked in my Food Network Star application process.
Very First Ever... such low photo quality and no eye for photography.
But, years of practice and an artistic eye and I continue to grow. I still have so much to learn. But I love learning, truly.
So that was the best I had to offer when it came to "cherished family recipes". I was supposed to transform this lamb, but into what?
I got to my station and it turns out my card said Indian food done! I am no expert in Indian food, but I know enough to not drown in this challenge. I decide to make a stew because that is a great way to tenderize the lamb and cook in some lovely flavors in a short amount of time. I toast the pistachios and play up herb in my stew, incorporating as much of my original dish as possible without it just being chaos.
Our presentations will be via Instagram stories?!?!?!
Okay, I don't look that good doing it, but the same level of skill is there. Instagram stories are my happy place. Luckily for me, Bobby, Giada, Molly (and my fellow competitors agree).
In fact, Giada said this was one of my best presentations to date. They weren't terribly keen on my food. But that is a rarity, so I knew I could redeem myself. And my presentation was great. Its like its opposite week or something.
In the end, Manny won the mentor challenge, giving him some unknown advantage for the next challenge.
Recipe for my Pistachio and Rosemary Crusted Lamb
Its Shark Week on Food Network Star y'all...
Okay, not entirely.
But we show up at the aquarium and Bobby and Giada (or as we lovingly deemed them Baba and Giady) are there ready to issue us a challenge. Shocker, I know.
The aquarium is celebrating their 25th anniversary and we are hosting a 5 course dinner for special guests. They draw our names and we are all assigned a course that correlates to the primary appetite of a particular shark. I ended up with the entree course and the zebra shark. Who, as it turns out, feasts primarily on squid. Okay... squid entree? As least I didn't get yellow tail soup, poor Palak.
I actually have plenty of squid ideas.... but I can't make it like an appetizer, a salad or a pasta or I will be critiqued for skirting the challenge. And that has sent people home in the past.
I basically come up with a polenta and braised carrot dish. They thought my food lacked a bit of cohesiveness, so I changed a few things before turning it into a recipe for the blog (which we will get to later).
Lack of cohesiveness aside my squid was "cooked perfectly" and they thoroughly enjoyed my presentation.
I was able to weave in family stories into the theme of the dish and night. Yay me. (And really, my son could name a crazy number of sharks and dinosaurs before he was three.)
In the end, Christian and I landed on top and Katie went home. Quick note. There are few people in this world with a bigger, more loving and giving heart than Katie Dixon. I had the pleasure of sharing a "secret door" (aka room connector) between our rooms. She is kind, generous and simply amazing. I was quite sad to see her go.
But now we are on to the final four, and cook with Ree Drummond next week!!!
And now my adapted octopus recipe!
Braised Octopus with Creamy Polenta and Charred Vegetables