Ultimate Recipe Showdown

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I've given up TV for Lent. I watch entirely too much television. TiVo is my best friend. Nielson should do a study on me. As a matter of fact, what prompted me to turn off the tube was Nielson. A booklet and $20 compensation came in the mail asking me and my family members to fill out what we watch, when, and for how long. After three days of checking boxes and filling in circles, I realized that I was up to five viewing hours a day! Five! That's crazy! I also looked around me and noticed the overflowing wastepaper baskets, unfolded laundry, the wrinkled sweater I was wearing, and my biggest embarrassment: my dirty kitchen.

The past week and a half, I have really cleaned up my act. SC Johnson Scrubbing Bubbles is now my new friend. We're not ace boon coon yet, but I've got him listed as an associate.

Despite my TV watching being whittled down to zero (a number almost as scary as Five!) I have been sneaking to find out what's going on my favorite shows and network channels. I've been reading TV Guide. Tonight at 9 p.m. The Food Network is hosting "another TV Food fight:
Ultimate Recipe Showdown

There will be six episodes featuring six different categories: Chicken, Burgers, Comfort Foods, Cakes, Pasta and Cookies.

Because I cannot watch and wait in suspense as the "regular folks" take it to the Silpat and give us a good show, I'm going to list three recipes I would have created had I been privy to send in a recipe or two. Or be on one of the shows. It's the next best thing to watching it. I think...

White Lasagna Serves 8 to 10

Bechamel sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 cut onion, studded with 4 cloves
pinch nutmeg

Chicken filling
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
5 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 pounds total), 1/2 inch strips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
15 oz box dry no-boil lasagne pasta
8 oz shredded pepper jack cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream and bring mixture to a boil, whisking vigorously until thick and smooth.
  3. Add bayleaf, nutmeg, onion, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce over low heat, whisking occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
  4. In a large skillet melt butter over moderate heat and cook chicken, 1 tsp garlic, and half of herb mixture, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken with a slotted spoon to a large bowl or platter. Pulled chicken from a store-bought rotisserie chicken is OK here.
  5. Add wine to skillet and bring mixture to a boil, stirring. Add mushrooms, turn down heat and cook, covered, until mushrooms are soft. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoons garlic, remaining herb mixture, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid given off by mushrooms is evaporated.
  6. Transfer mushroom mixture to chicken, add parmesan cheese and stir until combined well. Reserving 1 cup sauce, add remaining sauce with salt and pepper to taste to chicken mixture and stir until combined well.
  7. Pour 1/2 cup reserved sauce into baking dish (sauce will not cover bottom completely) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, making sure they do not touch each other. Spread half of chicken mixture over pasta sheets in dish and top with another 3 pasta sheets. Spread half of sauce mixture over pasta and top with another 3 pasta sheets.
  8. Continue layering lasagne with remaining chicken mixture and pasta sheets, ending with pasta. Spread remaining‚ cup sauce over top and sprinkle with Parmesan. Lasagne may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bake lasagne in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.

Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Sirloin Burgers

2 1/4 pounds ground sirloin
2 Tbsp strawberry jam
1 cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Divide meat into 4 1/2 inch patties. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Set aside.
  2. Pour vinegar in a small saucepan, whisk in strawberry jam and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-high and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Season burger patties with salt and pepper. Heat a large nonstick skillet or grill pan until hot. Put burgers in pan and cook on each side for 5 minutes, or until the outside is browned and slightly crisp and the center is a bit soft to the touch. . Quickly heat balsamic reduction and pour or brush 1 generous tablespoon over each patty. Serve immediately on wheat buns with red leaf lettuce, tomato, and sliced red onion.
Comfort Foods
Cornmeal Crusted Grilled Cheese Serves 2

4 slices Pepperidge Farm 100% Natural 9 Grain Bread
2 slices provolone cheese
1 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp yellow cornmeal

Place the provolone cheese on 1st slice of bread and layer with 1/2 oz of shredded cheddar. Top with remaining slice. Butter top layer with softened butter. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly in a pie plate. Press buttered side of bread down in plate. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet and when foam subsides, add the sandwich, cornmeal side down. Gently press down with a spatula once or twice during cooking. Butter uncooked side of bread. When the other side is golden, add 1/2 tablespoon of butter, turn the sandwich over, and brown.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

Leave a reply

  1. Hi, lady! You are so nice to come to my blog and say such sweet things. I would cook your burgers in a heartbeat. I'm adding you to my sidebar, so there.

  2. I've been barred. And on the side. I don't think I've been side-barred before. Alright!!

  3. I give you a lot of credit for making a real sacrifice for Lent.

    I'm a lacto-vegetarian but can appreciate your recipes. I can imagine the goodness the strawberry jam and balsamic reduction would add to the burger.

    The cornmeal is a very nice touch and one my husband will get to sample next time I make him a grilled cheese.

  4. This is the 1st year I've actually suffered while giving up something for Lent. I was a vegetarian in college (it kept me thin) and I have a plethora of lacto-veg recipes in my repetoire. Let it be known that I will have to post more substitutions so everyone can enjoy these recipes.

  5. Nikki,

    I watched that episode on Food Network, and I think your chicken recipe would have won! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you! I appreciate the vote of confidence :-)


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