View Full Version : CS Cooks: A Fun Challenge!

12-22-2011, 01:37 PM
So was watching the latest episode of Top Chef, and they had an interesting challenge this week: cook a dish to pay homage to the person that first inspired or most inspired you to cook.

I'd like to issue that same challenge to the cooks here. No clock to race against, of course, and you can do this over the next few months, but come up with something to cook that is inspired by the person that got the culinary ball rolling for you. And tell us the story behind it.

For me, there are three women that really got me into cooking.

My grandmother, who always had food out and was often cooking as long as I knew her.

My mother, who somehow never learned a damn thing about cooking from her mother (above), and got married to my father without the slightest clue about how to cook anything, but somehow managed to teach herself quite a bit.

And my ex-fiance, The Brit, who noticed that I talked a good game, saying I believed I could cook just about anything, but didn't really actually COOK anything. "I keep hearing you say you can cook...show me!" Because while I say somewhat truthfully that I've been cooking since childhood, the fact is I didn't get the culinary bug up my butt that I have know until The Brit threw down that gauntlet oven mitt.

In honor of each of them, I am going to learn or teach myself how to cook something new.

With my grandmother, it's easy. I am going to make matzoh ball soup. I have only ever tried making soup once before (and it was....interesting), and I have never made anything close to as awesome as a Jewish grandmother's matzoh ball soup. So this should be fun. Also, just as a bonus, I am going to figure out how to prepare gefilte fish, which I love dearly, but have not had in years, perhaps decades. This dish grosses out a lot of people (it's basically jellied carp), but I grew up with it, and love it.

With my mom it's a bit tougher. The two dishes that spring to mind first with her are spaghetti (which I've been cooking forever, even before my ex-fiance's challenge) and spaghetti pie, which mom gave me the recipe for, but I have not yet tried to actually make myself. So I am going to try to make that, but also a dish that she made quite often that we loved, if I can pry the recipe from her, called salmon loaf. Basically a salmon casserole.

For The Brit, in honor of her Spanish heritage (her father was from Spain, and she so completely looked the part, even if she didn't sound it), I am going to attempt to learn a Spanish dish. I have already made paella once, but I am going to have to think of something Spanish (not Mexican) to make. Suggestions on this would be welcomed, as I am not all that familiar with Spanish (as opposed to Mexican or Cuban) cuisine.

So, CS cooks....spill the stories about who inspired you and why, and set out making a dish to pay tribute to them.

Your time starts......NOW.

12-22-2011, 02:15 PM
I guess the person who most inspired me to cook was my dad. He insisted that I take a Home-ec course back in junior high. There, I found out that I was really lousy at sewing but enjoyed cooking a lot.

My dad was the type who could gather the most random ingredients and come up with something really tasty. Heck, he could even get creative with bologna. I've inherited his ability to rework leftovers which is a useful skill to have when you're on a budget.

One of the things I'd like to learn how to make in his honor is goulash. I don't think I've had goulash since I was a kid. I've looked up recipes online and it looks really easy to make, I've just never gotten around to it.

12-22-2011, 04:06 PM
Wow, Jester, this one is actually kind of tough. As far as I can remember, I've loved cooking. I pretty much taught myself (and had a couple of highly memorable disasters in the process), but can't really think of any particular person or group of people who inspired me into cookery.

So... guess I'll have to go with the folks that encourage and inspire me to do fun and fancy stuff, my boyfriend and his family and our friends. I've learned how to make beautiful perfect cheesecakes, perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe, worked out my boyfriend's favoritest ever potato wedges (seriously. He's told me he wouldn't mind having those EVERY night, they're better than french fries), learned my boyfriend's family spaghetti sauce recipe, stole our friend's alfredo recipe and made it even better, learned how to make tiramisu completely from scratch (ladyfingers and all), and gotten my own personal recipe book actually on paper.

So, what am I going to learn to cook now? That's an excellent question. I really don't know what will be next.

12-22-2011, 05:29 PM
I've already done one for Nan. Until she got too old, she always had some sort of baked goods available when any of her family came to visit. The below is one of my favourites, and I believe her version was her invention. This version is my invention.

Passionfruit cookies. Basically, take a standard choc-chip cookie recipe, remove the chocolate. (Simple butter-cookie, unflavoured or flavoured only with vanilla). Make as per the recipe until you get to 'just before the oven'. Dimple the top of each with a clean finger or the back of a teaspoon. Fill each dimple with passionfruit pulp&seeds. (or drained tinned passionfruit)

My mother taught me cooking-on-a-budget and cooking-with-what's available. In her honour are all my various 'stewps'. Stew/soup/casserole dishes, made with (guess what!) whatever's available.
To her I credit my skill with on-the-fly cookery.

In general, on the cooktop I prefer on-the-fly, make-it-up-as-you-go.
When baking, I prefer to use a recipe, or modify the recipe in a precise, known way and see what changes.

I can follow a recipe on the cooktop, but since I can easily taste how it's going, I rarely resist the temptation to 'add just a shake of basil'.

12-22-2011, 06:26 PM
My mom inspired me to cook and she's the reason I especially enjoy baking. When I was young, my mom baked all of our bread from scratch. She even milled her own flour! My baking is on the pastry end of things. I've yet to master bread. It is my deepest desire to one day bake a loaf of bread as good as the ones my mom baked. And oh the homemade cinnamon rolls! Every time I bake, I think of my mother. In that way, every time I bake some cookies or a cake, it's a dedication to my mother.

12-22-2011, 06:48 PM
My parents are both the people that got me into cooking, and I already have nicked most of their main recipes, so this is an interesting idea.

I wish you luck with the Matzoh Balls Jester. My experience with them has always been that they are finicky to keep together (even the Jewish families I knew growing up bought them).

Pasta pie/pancake (assuming it is the same thing I know) is actually one of those dishes that I got from my mum as a wonderful way to use leftover pasta, though I love it so much I tend to boil a pound of pasta just for it at times.

12-23-2011, 04:03 AM
I pretty much taught myself but can't really think of any particular person or group of people who inspired me into cookery.

So, what am I going to learn to cook now?

How about something you've always wanted to try, but haven't? A couple of years ago, I decided to try making spaghetti sauce from scratch, rather than starting with a jarred base sauce and building on it. And it was a blast! Also a while back, I tried my hand at making my favorite dessert, baklava, and while tedious, that was also fun. So certainly there is something you have always wanted to make but haven't attempted yet, no?

And to those that say they've already gotten all they wanted to from those who inspired them, just because you have their recipes down doesn't mean you can't make a dish to honor. Take one of their staples and give it a twist, modernize it, make it different while still honoring the beauty that is/was their talent.

Or do as I suggested above to Kittish.

Whether as cooks or people, we always have more that we can learn. Always.