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The Bacon and Gouda cheese challenge

Updated: May 3, 2021

This week, I turned the basket ingredients into two variations to fit the needs of meat eaters and lacto-ovo vegetarians.



Basket ingredients:

  1. Banana chips

  2. Smoked Gouda cheese

  3. Raspberry preserves

  4. Hickory smoked bacon

  5. Collard greens

The challenge:

  1. Prepare a meal highlighting the basket ingredients

  2. Use any pantry ingredients as needed

  3. Cook within the time constraint of one hour

Judging criteria:

  1. Creativity

  2. Presentation

  3. Taste

 

First reactions:


What a basket! My mind started buzzing with ideas and I had to take a moment to focus. I could think of a few ways of combining the majority of the basket ingredients, however banana chips seemed like an outlier that would test my cooking skills today.

  1. One idea that came to my mind was to make a Gouda cheese risotto by incorporating bacon and collard greens, and serve it with a side of a salad. I thought I could make a dressing out of the raspberry preserves, olive oil, salt, and pepper for the salad, and top it with bacon bits and crushed banana chips for a crunch.

  2. Another idea was to try out something that I’d always admired on the interwebs: A protein of some sort wrapped in a beautiful bacon lattice! I liked this approach as it would provide my judges with the protein they need in addition to satisfying my need to experiment with weaving the bacon. I could combine raspberry preserves with bacon to make a topping for the dish; this seemed the least intimidating. Even though this would be the first time I’d be cooking with collard greens, I felt I could apply the same techniques I had used with other greens. I had yet to figure out how to incorporate banana chips into the dish, but I didn’t want it to hold me back from jumping in.


The process:

  1. Preheating the oven: First and foremost, I set the oven to preheat at 400° so it’s ready for me for when I need it. This is something I did for a couple of Kitchen Sprints now and it’s been working great!

  2. Bacon wrap: I went to the freezer to figure out a protein that I could wrap in bacon. My husband suggested that any type of ground meat would be easier to handle and I took his advice and chose ground beef as my protein. I decided to make a burger stuffed with Gouda cheese wrapped in bacon. I set aside the ground beef to thaw while I started prepping the bacon. I cut two pieces of bacon into small chunks while I slit the rest vertically to wrap around the burger. At this point, the burger meat was still thawing.

  3. Gouda cheese: I removed the Gouda cheese wrapper, and immediately my two dogs came running. The smokiness of the Gouda was not to be dismissed, and I decided to give the first pieces to Willie and Sammy for their fine taste in cheese. They approved 😁. I started cutting the cheese and taste tested it along the way. The Gouda was surprisingly less smokey to taste compared to how it smelled, and I felt like the mildness would make it easy for me to work with. I started by dicing the cheese into medium-sized chunks and set it aside in a bowl (half way through cutting, I moved to using a slicer and it was so much easier!).

  4. Collard greens: I decided to combine the collard greens with bell pepper and leeks to give it more texture. I prepped all three veggies and added them to a hot pan with olive oil and garlic. I then added some Himalayan pink salt (we just made the move to make this our primary salt in the kitchen and are loving it) and black pepper, and gave everything a good mix before covering the pan with a lid to let it cook. When I checked after 7-8 minutes, I realized that collard greens are much tougher than other greens like spinach. To soften them, I added a cup of veggie broth and a handful of Gouda chunks and let it all cook for another 15 mins. What I ended up with was perfectly seasoned creamy collard greens with great texture!

  5. Bacon Jam: Following the success I had in making Maple syrup & sun dried tomato chutney in the “The passion fruit and maple syrup challenge”, I decided to make a bacon jam. While the collards were cooking, I started rendering bacon chunks in a pot. After the bacon browned nicely, I decided to drain some of the fat (at Nathan’s suggestion — I guess I’m rubbing off on him) before adding in raspberry preserves. The preserves immediately started melting and the promise of a bacon jam seemed achievable at this point. After it cooked for a few minutes, I added a pinch of chili powder to balance the sweetness of the preserves. My husband’s reaction was, “of course, it wouldn’t be your dish if you didn’t add chilli powder,” and I didn’t push back as it was a true observation 😉. I also added a few chunks of Gouda cheese and some crushed banana chips, and left the pot on low heat to keep it nice and hot.

  6. Burgers: While the collard greens and the bacon jam were cooking, I started to prep the now thawed ground meat. I transferred the meat into a large bowl, and added some salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, a tablespoon of Panko bread crumbs, and half a whisked egg and mixed everything together. I made two burgers stuffed with a good amount of Gouda cheese, dipped them in a beaten egg before covering them in a mixture of Panko bread crumbs and banana chips and set them aside.

  7. Bacon lattice: I laid out the bacon strips in a lattice pattern on the cutting board and wrapped each of the burgers in it. I transferred the bacon-wrapped burgers to a baking tray and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes. When the burgers reached 135°, I glazed them with the raspberry bacon jam and let them cook for another 3 minutes. I caught my husband gleaming with pride in me at this point (or maybe that was hunger?), and that boosted my spirits even more. ♥️

  8. Garnish: I finely chopped a few leeks and crushed some banana chips to garnish the plates.

  9. One last addition - Avocado yogurt sauce: All the components I had initially planned were ready to go, and I felt like the dish could use a contrasting flavor to balance and decided to make a quick sauce. In a bowl, I mixed together a big spoon of yogurt, some almond dipping sauce from last week’s challenge,, an avocado, and a pinch of salt until smooth to use as a base for the dish. I quickly taste tested it and it was delicious!

  10. All is good, but where’s my protein? I changed my initial plan of adding bacon to collard greens so that it’s vegetarian friendly for me. I worked hard for the challenge and felt like I deserved a complete dish too. I quickly made some poached eggs and they were the perfect combination to the rest of the components!



Plating

I feel like I’m getting better at plating after a few Kitchen Sprints under my belt. 😀

Meat version: I started by smearing a thick layer of the avocado yogurt sauce on the plate and topping it with a good amount of collard greens. The natural next step was to put the burger over the greens. To complete plating, I garnished the burger with finely chopped leeks and banana chip crumble, and topped it with raspberry bacon jam. The plate had a height at this point, but I was happy with how it came together.


Vegetarian version: I followed the same structure for the vegetarian plate too where I started with a smear of the yogurt sauce and layered it with collard greens. Over the greens, I carefully placed two poached eggs and topped it with more yogurt sauce, and garnished it with finely chopped leeks and banana chip crumble. I also added a sprig of cilantro to add a pop to the plate. 🌿





Final dish (Meat version):

Bacon-wrapped Gouda Burger with Bacon Raspberry Jam on a Bed of Cheesy Collard Greens and Avocado Yogurt Sauce


Final dish ("Vegetarian" version):


Poached Eggs on a Bed of Cheesy Collard Greens and Avocado Yogurt Sauce


What I could have done differently:

This was a successful challenge but, as always, there are learning opportunities.

  1. When I made the burger patties, I made it the exact size of a cooked burger. I learned that burger meat contracts when cooked, which made my burgers rounded and tall. 💡 I’ll definitely flatten the patties a lot more next time to avoid similar results.

  2. The portion size ended up being large and I need to keep this in mind for next time.

One other note: it’s worth remembering that you don’t have to know everything before you kick into gear and get moving. You’ll figure things out along the way, like I did with incorporating banana chips in the dish. I ended up using them in the burger breading, in the raspberry bacon jam, and also as a garnish which was way more than what I had in mind when I started. 🙂



Verdict:

  1. Nathan’s feedback (husband and Judge #1) was very positive. He loved the balance in taste, texture, and the visual appeal of the dish, and was especially proud of my bacon lattice achievement. I’ll happily accept the compliments. 😁 🥓 He did comment on the shape of the burger and this is definitely a lesson for me 💡.

  2. Judge #2 (my son) was good with the bacon wrapped burger (he loves bacon) but wasn’t happy with the portion size of the burger (oops! Smaller portions next time.💡). He as usual wasn’t thrilled with the greens on the plate either but ate half of the plate without complaining.

  3. Self judging: This might not count, but I couldn’t be happier with how my plate turned out! The creaminess of the avocado yogurt sauce was the perfect compliment to collard greens and poached eggs, and I was in food heaven the entire time I ate my meal!

In the end, I’m happy how everything turned out today. I got my fill to experiment with bacon lattice, and successfully incorporated banana chips that threw me off initially. I’m also thrilled that two of my friends did the Kitchen Sprint challenge with me today, and I can’t wait to see what they made and learn something new from them! Looking forward to sharing my next Kitchen Sprint next week. ✌🏼



Star sightings

Sammy and Willie were ecstatic about the Gouda cheese today and after their quick snack, they patiently waited in the kitchen with me until I finished cooking.🐾 Also in star sightings today is my husband, Nathan, who's been an incredible support and behind-the-scenes guy for my kitchen sprint adventures. ❤️




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