Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top Chef Cayla

If you haven't guessed it already, I love food.  I love eating food, I love reading about food, I love shopping for food, I love cooking food, and last but not least, I love watching shows about food.

Last week, all of those loves came together in one glorious evening when I got to participate the Microsoft Canada Holiday Cook-off for a Cause. Our mission? To create a special holiday dinner for the Boys and Girls Club of Toronto. The challenge? This was a contest to see who could cook the best holiday dish, as judged by the kids and their parents. We had two hours to choose a dish, shop for the ingredients, and cook it. One dish in two hours might sound easy... and it would've been had it not been for one catch: I was cooking for 70. And more than half of them were kids. Insert nail-biting here.

Luckily I wasn't alone. I was only 1/3 of Team Blue, which consisted of Joe, our culinary student from George Brown College, and Irene Ngo, a food editor at Chaletaine Magazine. Together we decided to make Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Marshmallows, my husband's favorite holiday dish and always a kid-favorite. Who doesn't like roasted marshmallows?

Irene and Chef Joe searching for recipes using our Microsoft device.

It sounded like fun when I heard about it, but what I experienced was So. Much. Better. I am not even kidding when I say it was my Top Chef fantasy come true. In case you're not familiar with it, if Survivor and Julia Child's TV show had an affair, Top Chef would be their love child. But while I've never wanted to be on Survivor and hosting my own chef show is not really on my bucket list, I would join the Top Chef cast in a heartbeat. This night was probably the closest I'll ever get. Between the shopping, the cooking, and the plating, it was just about as fast and furious as anything I've watched on TV. Which was awesome.
Irene and I peeling 24 pounds of sweet potatoes. The smiles where strictly for the camera.  
The final plating process. Although we had just met that night, we functioned as a well-oiled machine.  
What made the night even more cooler was that everything -from the recipe search to taking it with us to go shopping to the kids' judging- took place using Microsoft Surface devices. In case you're not familiar with it, the Surface is kinda like a cross between a tablet and a full-on computer. It's the size of the former with the capabilities of the latter. It's what my son chose to get when it was time to replace his laptop at the start of the school year and it's what I am using now as I type this post. In Florida. Because it was small enough to fit in my purse on the plane ride yet still loaded enough for me to do my work and not have to lug a (now seemingly) giant laptop.

But back to my Top Chef Fantasy night. Despite the fact that almost everyone cleaned out their oranges, and despite the fact that Microsoft Canada's President, Janet Kennedy said she liked my dish best, we lost :-(.

Do I care? A bit. I mean, it would've been nice to win, but nonetheless, I had one of the most super-fun nights ever. And more importantly, so did the families of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toronto. Thanks for making it all happen, Microsoft!

Brown Sugar Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows Served in Oranges
Based on a recipe from Epicurious

4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
2 cups miniature marshmallows
6 oranges, cut in half and scooped out. Reserve the insides for this awesome orange salad recipe, also from Epicurious.

Preheat oven to 375
Combine butter, sugar, spices, and salt in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted and sugar is
Our lovely oranges right before their final roasting.
Put potatoes into a 9 x 12 baking dish. Pour butter mixture on top, mix, cover with foil and bake for about 50 minutes.
Uncover, stir about, and bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes or until it gets all syrupy and delicious.
Stir about again, let cool slightly, and then spoon into the orange halves.
Arrange oranges on a baking sheet and then top with the marshmallows.
Broil until they're lightly toasted brown. Leave this step until just before serving as they're best straight out of the oven.

I was not at all compensated for this post. I just really like cooking, my Microsoft surface, and of course, Sweet Potatoes and Top Chef.

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