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The Potato chips & Jello challenge

Updated: May 3, 2021

Being a vegetarian, I don’t have a good grasp of basic techniques of cooking meat. Before the challenge today (at my husband’s thinly-veiled suggestion), I spent about 30 minutes on the web learning about recommended cooking temperatures and different ways to cook chicken, lamb, beef, and pork. It was educational and boosted my confidence before I dove into the challenge. It was now time to open the basket and see my surprise ingredients!



Basket ingredients:

  1. Kalamata olives

  2. Jalapeño flavored potato chips

  3. Orange flavored instant jello

  4. Beef back ribs

  5. Asparagus

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:


I have to admit that at first glance this basket seemed more challenging to me compared to last week’s. I had never cooked beef back ribs before, and all I had to work from were my memories of watching FoodNetwork reruns where chefs took to their barbecues and sweet sauces. I thought I could make a rub for the ribs using potato chips and jello, and sauté asparagus with olives to accompany that. With pesto pasta on the side, I felt like I had a plan at this point.


The process:

  1. Prepping the meat: I started a pot of water on the stove taking my husband’s advice to boil the meat first. I asked my husband’s help to cut the meat in half; the slab was too big for one meal.

  2. Rub: I mixed the orange jello in a cup of boiling water and added in a few ice cubes to cool it down. I set the jello mix aside, and started making a spice mix for the rub. I mixed together some dry cumin, dry coriander, chili powder, garlic paste, Italian seasoning, salt, crushed potato chips, and olive oil. I added in the jello liquid to the spice mix to make a paste for the ribs. It was interesting to see the jello mix setting as I blended it with the spice mix, and at this point I prayed that this would stick to the meat and work.

  3. Ribs: Once the meat boiled for 10 mins, I took it out and patted it dry with paper towels. My husband offered to coat the ribs with the spice mix and I jumped to take him up on it. I transferred the ribs coated with potato chip and jello spice mix into a 400° oven for about 20 mins. I checked the temperature after the first 10 minutes, and pulled the ribs out of the oven when they reached 145°. I let them rest for 5 mins before slicing.

  4. Pasta: For the side, I cooked some campanelle pasta (bell shaped pasta) from the pantry and mixed in pesto sauce and parmesan cheese. I chopped a few olives into vertical slivers to use as a garnish over the pasta.

  5. Asparagus: While the pasta was cooking, I cut asparagus to match length wise, and sautéed them with olive oil and garlic. I decided to blend a few kalamata olives with olive oil to add to asparagus, and my husband later told me that this mixture is called olive tapenade. 😀

  6. Greens: At this point, I felt like the plate could use some greens. I went into my garden and got a bunch of chard and sautéed it with olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt. In about 5 mins, I had a beautiful chard ready to serve!



Plating

The combination of colors and textures of the various components made it easy to plate this dish. I started by placing some chard on the plate and topping it with the campanelle pesto pasta. I accompanied that with two pieces of ribs and filled the open spot on the plate with sautéd asparagus. The plate at this point looked well complete!


Final dish:

Sweet & savory Beef Back Ribs with a side of Olive Tapenade Asparagus. Pesto Campanelle over sautéed chard.


What I could have done differently:

  1. Taste: Pesto pasta ended up slightly saltier than I intended as I didn’t account for the last minute addition of kalamata olives to the dish. 💡 A lesson learned is to be careful while adding additional components to an already composed dish.

  2. Incorporating the ingredients:

    1. The jello and the ground potato chips made the rub a little too think and it was hard to evenly distribute it over the ribs. While I got feedback that the ribs tasted good, I could’ve found better ways to incorporate potato chips outside of the rub (possibly, a crust? 🤔).

    2. Adding additional spice to up-level the flavor of jalapeños would be another thing I would do differently.

  3. Cooking method: I experimented a lot today as most of the ingredients were new to me (beef back ribs, jello, potato chips). 💡 I found out later that the best way to cook ribs quickly was in a pressure cooker followed by air frying them. I’m definitely going to apply this newly acquired knowledge in my future cooking.


Verdict:

  1. My husband (Judge #1) gave feedback that the flavor of the jello and spices came through in the ribs (win!), but felt that I could’ve used potato chips in a better way to add crunch to the dish. He also expected more of the jalapeño flavor come through from the chips but he barely tasted any.

  2. My son (Judge #2 and the picky one 😉 ) bit into a chunk of the rub and was not pleased with the taste of it. It basically ruined the rest of the meal for him 😐. I should’ve removed the thick rub off or found a better way to integrate it before serving. This cost me some points.

  3. Judge #2 also gave me feedback that I could've taken advantage of the potato chips to add some crunch to the dish. Perhaps a crust? Feedback taken!

I feel like I picked up so many new techniques today, and I can’t wait to share my next kitchen sprint with you!



Star sightings

Sammy did his "I'm gonna chase my tail" dance and once he tired himself out, hung out with his brother, Willie. 🐶




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