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Charting Unknown Territories: the Kitchen

posted Feb 27, 2014, 3:35 AM by Unknown user   [ updated May 15, 2014, 8:24 AM by Unknown user ]

Rachell Resnik and Abby Shroll

To put our cooking skills to the test, Abby and I decided to battle it out in a friendly cook-off. Abby’s cooking history includes setting her microrave on fire trying to make easy mac and perfecting the art of cooking pizza rolls. My culinary skills are a little more advanced than Abby’s, from baking delicious cookies to flipping golden brown pancakes every Sunday morning.

After diligently searching Pinterest, we  picked two easy-to-follow, truly homemade recipes to try on our culinary adventure. The first recipe, the main course, was a delicious chicken alfredo stuffed shell dinner, and for dessert, a perfect red velvet cupcake. We invited two taste testers to evaluate our dinner: senior Zach Hiris, voted in the yearbook as “biggest appetite,” and senior Robyn Flick, local food expert, to be our judges. Senior Kelly McCartney, dessert extraordinaire, was our cupcake judge.

While embarking on this challenge, we evaluated the recipes by clarity of directions as well as taste. With this adventure hosted in Abby’s kitchen and after our trip to Walmart for ingredients, we started to set up for our first task: the cupcake.

The cupcake’s recipe was from scratch and had a lot of odd ingredients, from the white vinegar to the heavy whipping cream, so Abby and I searched for alternatives to these unfamiliar ingredients. This was quite a step up from our previous ease of using store-bought, boxed cake mix.

Instead of using white vinegar, we used apple cider vinegar and in place of buttermilk, we made our own concoction of milk and lemon juice. While mixing the wet ingredients, the recipe said to put in a  personally desired amount of red coloring. During the chaos in the kitchen, Abby dropped the entire food coloring bottle into her mix. She had to stop the automatic mixer and scoop it out of the mix creating a brief moment of humor and confusion.

To add to the commotion, in the middle of mixing we realized we were out of cupcake liners, sending Abby’s mom on a frantic mission to Walmart. After adding the dry ingredients to the wet, my handheld mixer couldn’t handle this recipe and frequently froze up during the mixing process. While Abby was on the other side of the kitchen smooth sailing using her automatic mixer, allowing her to put her cupcakes in the oven first.

I was falling behind as the cooking “expert,” and Abby was on turbo speed, emerging as the dark horse as I scooped large amounts of cupcake mix into the liners and tossed mine in the oven.

We made the frosting together in order to save time and use less utensils. After 18 minutes, Abby took her cupcakes out and let them cool, I checked my cupcakes and noticed how large they turned out. I decided to keep them in the oven a little bit longer and begin getting ready for the next recipe.

The second recipe, on both sides, was as smooth the alfredo sauce it was baked in. Both of us started by cutting and seasoning our chicken breasts; Abby used garlic salt and pepper while I used an italian seasoning blend and garlic salt. After seasoning the chicken, I realized I left my cupcakes in the oven a bit too long and they were crispy.

We then started cooking our noodles together in a giant pot. Abby cooked her chicken in a skillet with water, and I used olive oil to cook my chicken in. Abby frequently poked her chicken and cut chicken in smaller pieces to speed up the cooking process.

After our chicken was cooked, we began to mix in the cheese and noticed how the recipe was very cheesy and creamy. Then after a moment of silence, we both realized we neglected our noodles like young orphans.

It was a hard knock life for us (or for the noodles), as we drained the noodles and transferred them over to our respective stations. We each began to stuff the noodles with our cheese and chicken mixture. Since the noodles were fresh off the stove top, they were hot and burned our hands as we stuffed. The stuffed shells were laid to rest in a bed of alfredo sauce and put in the oven. Abby was slower in stuffing her noodles and ran out of chicken in her mixture, so some of her noodles were purely cheese-filled.

After twenty minutes, I took my pan out of the oven and waited for Abby’s to finish up. We then placed our noodles on separate plates and presented them to the judges as plate A (mine) and plate B (Abby’s). The judges were told to rank the recipes on scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best and 1 being the worst, in three categories: taste, texture, and appearance.

After much deliberation, Robyn gave plate A (mine) a 9 in taste, a 8 in appearance, and a 7 in texture. She scored plate B (Abby) with an 8 in taste, and a 7 in both appearance and texture.

Robyn enjoyed the recipe and said, “the noodles were warmer in plate A and had more sauce than plate B; but overall a job well done on both recipes.”

Zach gave mine a 7.5 in taste, a 7 in texture and appearance and gave Abby’s a 6.5 in taste, a 6 in texture, and a 7 in appearance. Zach said, “plate A had better flavor in the chicken, but both were very delicious.”

Kelly was told to rank the cupcakes on taste and texture. Kelly gave my overdone cupcake a 10 in taste and a 6 in texture, she gave Abby’s cupcake a 10 in both taste and texture. She cautiously praised extra crunch my cupcake brought, but ultimately enjoyed the classic, moist cupcake that Abby made.

Following the results of the taste test, Abby and I also discussed our own opinions of the difficulty of the recipes we made. Abby thought the pasta dish was harder than the cupcake recipe because she was unfamiliar with seasoning the chicken. When it came to taste, though, Abby enjoyed the pasta much more than the cupcake dish.

Abby, whose favorite dessert is red velvet, would not make the cupcake recipe again, but would make the pasta again. Abby said, “I have an obsession with all things red velvet and this recipe did not live up to my standards.”

I thought that the pasta recipe was fairly simple and ignited positive feedback from the judges and my taste buds. That is a recipe I would definitely make for dinner again, while the cupcake, on the other hand, was a flop despite a 10 from the judge. For how much time the recipe required, these cupcakes didn’t deliver. I would much rather buy a box cupcake recipe than waste my time mixing all the odd ingredients together.

As our culinary adventure came to an end, we both agreed that we appreciate our mothers’ cooking and have a lot to learn before we head off to college. Check out the red velvet cupcake recipe here and the chicken alfredo stuffed noodle recipe here, and try them for yourselves!