Today was so much fun!!!!! Olivia didn’t show up, so it was just me, and because of that, Jordan was on my team, but I did most of the work. The competition was very similar to the show Chopped, which happens to be one of my favorites…well…Chopped Junior, to be exact, except each team had different ingredients, and ingredient-wise, we were being judged on the use of only the secret ingredient and not any of the other required ones. As those of you who watch either show know, everyone gets the same ingredients, and there’s no one secret ingredient because all of them are mystery ingredients. Plus, on the show, everyone works individually, and we worked in teams. In addition, we got help from Jordan and some other people there if we needed it. On Chopped and Chopped Junior, there’s no help…well…that is unless someone sees another competitor struggling, and they’re done with their dish and decided to give them a hand, so they could finish. And, we got our mandatory ingredients in advance and got more time to prepare and plate our dishes (we got about an hour more than the contestants on these shows get), and instead of getting “chopped”, the judges just declared a winner out of the three teams. So, onto our dishes. Gabby’s team had roasted chicken, smoked Gouda, and English cucumber as their ingredients, and zucchini was their secret ingredient. They decided to incorporate some pizza dough that Jordan had on hand and made calzones with the cheese and zucchini inside and a cucumber salad on the side. They garnished the calzones with some bacon and poured some balsamic vinegar on the side for an additional garnish. As I said yesterday, my ingredients were spaghetti, pancetta, pecorino (we used ramano; it’s pretty much the same thing), shallot, and arugula was our secret ingredient. Jordan and I met in the middle and combined our two ideas, which pretty much ended up being my idea with a few little tweaks. We made baked spaghetti, spaghetti being a substitute for the traditional ziti, so we could utilize a required ingredient, with basil, arugula, and spinach pesto, which was a spin on my normal pesto and was used as a substitute for marinara sauce to once again utilize a required ingredient, and an arugula and spinach sauté with caramelized shallot and pan-fried pancetta that was drained and sprinkled with sugar before adding it to the sauté. It had some ground turkey in it and was topped with mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, and torched with a kitchen torch, so the melted cheese would become nice and brown. Then, it was garnished with some parsley that was mixed with the cheese, and we garnished the tray that we served the dish on with a sprig of rosemary. The other group’s ingredients were flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, and bacon, and mango was their secret ingredient. They made taco cups, which were just the tortillas warned in a pan and baked inside ramekins, with some ground turkey, the cheese, and the bacon inside and a mango sauce on the side garnished with some parsley. Overall, everything looked and tasted really good and was very creative. The criteria we were being judged on was changed slightly; we were no longer being judged on creativity, just on use of the mystery ingredient, taste, and presentation. After each team explained their dish, the two judges commented, tried them all, and carefully deliberated outside. Then, the judges revealed the results. Each team received five points for each category, which was the most you could get, so there had to be a tiebreaker. Because I was pretty much stuck going solo, I won!!!!! I was grinning, and I was sooooo happy!!!!! While I’m glad that I won, I have to recognize everyone else that got to compete in this friendly competition because they all did just as good!!!!! And the best and most important part is that we all had fun!!!!! This was a great end to this one-week cooking class, and I hope I get to do another class at Sur La Table next summer!!!!!