Monday, December 26, 2011

The Torta/Cupcake Showdown

Today we held our fourth annual cooking competition. Due to the gluttony of two years ago, we decided to mix it up a little. Instead of everyone doing their own course we drew names and created teams of two. To make it even more interesting, we then had the teams pick out of a hat the course they would cook. And as if that was not interesting enough, we then wrote down ten or eleven random ingredients, put those into a hat and each team picked their "secret" ingredient (I had done a similar theme with my cooking club a ways back and it was a big hit).

The kids were really into it this year and wanted to be in on the action. They decided to do drinks and came up with a concoction of ginger ale and cranberry/grape juice, with an orange juice ice cube. Megan came up with the idea of making a sugar rim. Stephanie wondered where she thought of that. Mind you this is the woman who orders strawberry margaritas.

First up was Amy and Kiki who had the appetizer course and the ingredient cream cheese. They made an eight layer Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torta* with alternating layers of homemade pesto, sundried tomato/cream cheese, and creamed butter/cream cheese. It was topped with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil.

They served it spread over toasted french bread. It was pretty much incredible. It wasn't nearly as heavy or dense as you would have expected from all of the dairy. I would love to use it in a panini or Kiki suggested folding the mixture into pasta. Yes, please.

Stephanie and BVZ had the main dish and cinnamon and Bubby and Andy had the side dish and cilantro. Steph and BVZ did a pork loin in the slow cooker with a marinade of garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, cinnamon, honey, and maybe a few other things I am forgetting. I don't particularly love pork loin, but this was very tender and very good. Bubby and Andy did a pair of sides. First was a roasted potato with a garlic, lime, and cilantro rub. The other was a carrot, cilantro, and jalapeno slaw. Both were excellent. They set off the fire alarm during the cooking of the potatoes (BVZ called for a point reduction on account of the smoke).

Mark and I paired up for dessert and our secret ingredient was beer. We used this recipe for Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, with a few minor modifications. Instead of using Guinness, Mark opted for a microbrewed coffee porter. I had my doubts (and was pissed at first he didn't get Guinness), but it ended up being a great substitution. We also added an additional tablespoon of whiskey to the ganache and made the frosting Bailey-licious. It was basically a total drunk cupcake (don't worry, no kids ate one).

I am bummed I forgot to get a close-up of a cupcake.

Like in previous years, the voting was done by secret ballot. Your favorite gets three points, your second favorite two points, your third favorite one point. This year we instituted the rule that you couldn't vote for yourself. Because of that each person had to decide between the other three dishes. It was close and the torta won by ONE POINT. Mark and I realized we were idiots because we both gave the torta three points, whereas we should have chosen the pork, which was good but had no chance of winning (really guys, it was good).

The victors with the winning crown.

I am already thinking of ideas for next year.

*Kiki pronounced her dish tort-A, and I made fun of her because as everyone knows, the word is torte and it is pronounced "tort." She claimed there was a difference between a torta and a torte and I scoffed. We bet $5 and I just looked it up. A torte, of course, is a layered cake. Whereas a torta is really just a sandwich. With layers I suppose. I still think it could go either way, but since there is actually a word torta, I guess she wins. Nerds.

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