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5. 28. 10 / rosemarried

LBC vs. PDX: Food Challenge #3!

Taylor finally got his wish.
After two cookoff challenges that had seafood as the main protein (scallops, then salmon), our third challenge was: steak. And not only was there steak, there was also bacon.

For our third cookoff challenge with Taylor and Brittany (see challenge #1 and #2 for a more thorough explanation of what it is that we do for these challenges), we (blindly) picked a strong array of flavors. Our challenge ingredients for this cookoff were: steak, avocado, puff pastry, and bacon. We originally drew passion fruit instead of avocado (!), but after a little research we realized that passion fruit is not currently in season (and nearly impossible to get your hands on). So, we re-drew and got avocado. What luck!

Since I don’t eat much meat these days (and what meat I do eat…I’m very particular about), I must admit I was a bit taken aback by this challenge. Steak and bacon? Not one meat, but two? Don’t get me wrong, I know those two things go very well together. I just hadn’t this much meat in awhile. But Nich and I did our homework and bought some great meat from some great local farms and I felt good about the challenge. It was a great mix of ingredients to work with. Here is what we came up with:

Nich & Lindsay’s meal was:

Cast-iron seared flank steak, served over avocado mashed potatoes with an avocado chimichurri sauce. Puff pastry empanadas stuffed with bacon, blue cheese, avocado mashed potatoes and chipotle chalula. Spinach salad with strawberries, cayenne candied bacon, blue cheese, puff pastry croutons and a balsalmic vinaigrette.

Our thoughts on the meal:
Nich and I ended up going in an Argentinian direction with our meal. Nich had the brilliant idea to make empanadas with the puff pastry, which was our starting point for the meal. We knew immediately that we wanted to stuff the empanadas with bacon, blue cheese, and avocado. I thought that avocado mashed potatoes would be an awesome empanada filler, so we made those as well.

We chose flank steak as it is often used in Argentinian cuisine (and is often served with chimichurri sauce). We tenderized the meat slightly, and then let it marinate with just salt and pepper in the fridge for an hour (the salt really breaks down the meat). Nich seared the steak in a cast iron skillet with bacon fat and we served it with an avocado chimichurri sauce (a traditional Argentinian salsa verde). The sauce is traditionally made with parsley, garlic, lemon and various other herbs – we used a recipe that added mint leaves, avocado, and red chili flakes to this mix. It was bright, herby, spicy, and really delicious.

Since the flank steak was so rich (with the bacon fat), the tartness of the chimichurri really went nicely with it. We also served the steak over avocado mashed potatoes. I had originally made them just for a filler in the empanadas, but then we realized we had a lot of extras – and they were ridiculously delicious. I think the fattiness of the avocado really added an extra creamy factor to the mashed potatoes. It was awesome.

The empanadas were so fluffy and buttery and filled with the best combination of flavors (bacon! blue cheese! avocado mashed taters! chipotle chalula!). They were also really good dipped in the chimichurri sauce. The spinach salad worked really well as a palette cleanser. It was great to have a fresh vegetable element on the plate, and the puff pastry croutons and candied bacon tied in the secret ingredients once again. And, the candied bacon was ridiculously delicious. How can you go wrong with bacon cooked with brown sugar and cayenne? You can’t.

Once again, we invited friends over to eat our challenge meal with us. This time it was our friends Ryan and Melissa, who claimed that this was the best meal they can remember having in ages. So I think that means it turned out well! My only complaint about the meal would be that we used a little too much bacon fat to sear the steak, and so it didn’t get a nice crust on the outside. The meat was cooked to perfection (and really tender), but it just didn’t LOOK like you want a steak to look. It didn’t have that sear. But it tasted superb, so that isn’t much of a complaint. Overall, this was a seriously good (and rich!) meal.

This is what Taylor & Brittany whipped up (and their thoughts on the challenge meal):

We looked at the ingredients and brainstormed over all the different ways we could use them, and ended up wanting to do a Spanish flavored beef Wellington.  We are calling our dish Beef Conquistador. 
I was really excited to get to mess around with steak, a Texas staple of my childhood, i know my way around a good steak.  I would have been fine grilling up a seasoned NY Strip, but since this is a challenge involving creativity and puff pastry, we decided to go across the pond for our recipe.

We selected a 2lb hunk of rump roast (a very lean cut, important for this recipe) from our neighborhood butcher and seasoned it with Cumin, Chili Powder, and a dash of salt/pepper and gave it a quick sear on each side. We then covered it in fresh Parsley, Cilantro, and Garlic Powder and put in the fridge to cool for a few hours.

In a traditional Beef Wellington, pate or mushrooms are used as a binder between the pastry and the meat.  But as we all know, the English don’t know anything about food, so we looked to Spain for flavor influences.  We made a cheese blend of Ricotta, Cojita, and Queso Fresco and a dash of red wine, and coated the meat with it.  The wine was a great last second addition, adding a wonderful acidic bite to the creamy cheese. We wrapped the cheese coated beef in puff pastry and gave it an egg wash and put it in the oven for only 25 minutes.  (This type of beef is not meant to be cooked all the way through.  It should be brown around an inch around and red in the middle.)

Continuing with the wrapping theme, we wrapped our asparagus in bacon.  A delicious decision. And baked it in the oven until crispy.  We made the avocado into a creamy sauce to pour over the meat.  We blended avocado, yogurt, lime juice, milk, cilantro and garlic until creamy and then kept it chilled until served.

The meal was extravagant to look at and even better to eat.  The beef conquistador was rich and wonderful with such profound flavors and textures.  The puffed pastry was crispy and flaky, the cheese was rich and tart with the red wine, and all of this complemented the fresh herbed flavor of the meat and the wonderful texture as we bit into a mouth watering bite of steak.  The creamy avocado sauce was the perfect compliment as it was smooth and cooling to the tongue and balanced the flavors so well.  The dish was rich, but so good and we thoroughly enjoyed eating the leftovers.  The bacon wrapped asparagus was light enough to go with the meal, but still full of delectable flavors.

Overall, we loved the meal and can’t wait to make it again, this time for guests as it is a lot of food.

**So that was challenge #3! How do you think we fared? Which meal would you like to eat?!


Leave a Comment
  1. Melissa / Jun 1 2010 12:35 pm

    looking at these pictures brought back delicious memories of a fun night and tantalized taste buds.

  2. Joe / Jun 1 2010 1:49 pm

    Both look like incredible meals. T&B won me over with their large hunk of meat. Looks amazing.

  3. Beyth / Jun 2 2010 8:37 am

    Outrageous! I was impressed with N&L’s three separate menu items, each of which combined a couple of the flavors in different ways. And while the appearance of avocado mashed potatoes doesn’t render dreamlike (I’m envisioning something similar to the time I accidentally whisked avocado into a scramble – too Dr. Suessian), they sound delicious – a therefore a perfect stuffing for empanadas.

    T&B’s bacon-wrapped asparagus sounds just amazing, though…

  4. krispindanielle / Jun 10 2010 7:57 pm

    i vote team SEE. the hunk of meat from the other team rather terrified me.


  1. food challenge #5! « rosemarried

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