Mission Accomplished! Best of the Cover Recipe Challenge


After 12 months, 12 cover recipe challenges, 34 recipes, and 25 wines, I finally completed the Food & Wine Cover Recipe Challenge! What a delicious roller coaster of a year!

To my pantry, I have added 6 types of vinegar, 4 types of salt, 3 varieties of sugar, and about a dozen new spices. To my cooking repetoirse I have added: oysters, chicken livers, daikon, fennel bulbs, lamb, polenta, meringue, and caramel. All of things I cooked for the first time, some of them I will be cooking for the rest of my life, others I am still trying to forget.

Here is the Best (and Worst) of my Food & Wine Cover Recipe Challenge 2013:

Prettiest Dish:
Crispy Polenta Bites with Arugula Tapenade

A plate of polenta bites appetizer with arugula tapenade

These pretty little morsels were from the April challenge where I cooked Italian recipes inspired by Mario Batali: They were super easy to make, delicious, and probably the most attractive looking food I have ever made.

Tastiest Appetizer:
Chicken Fried Chicken Livers

Plate of chicken fried chicken livers

These smelled disgusting when they were marinating in sriracha and buttermilk, but boy oh boy did they sure smell good while they were cooking! In September’s challenge post ‘Chicken Fried Chicken Livers’, I talk about my first actual chicken frying experience and how delicious all that grease can be!

Best Salad: A TIE! 
Winter Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate and Almonds 
Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad with Citrus Dressing

Salad 2

I just couldn’t pick between these two salads, both containing our beloved avocado. The first salad I made for this challenge was in March. Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad with Citrus Dressing is a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s and was delicious! The second salad was equally good and was ironically the last salad that I made for the cover recipe challenge. Winter Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate and Almonds was wintery, salty, and delicious, and it made the decision for best salad just too hard to call. Which do you like best?

Winter Salad with Pomegranate, avocado,  fennel and maldon salt

Best Dessert:
Vanilla Ice Cream Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel

Bread Pudding Piece

The best dessert was a unanimous decision. The Vanilla Ice Cream Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel was from November’s issue of F&W and I was delighted with the result. I had never made caramel before and it turned out great; there will be a lot more caramel in my future!

Worst Dessert:
Goat Cheese Cakes with Rosemary and Lavender Honey

Goat cheese cheesecake on a plate with honey on top

This dessert was a disaster. The cheesecake was from September’s challenge ‘Chicken Fried Chicken Livers’, and I was so annoyed when those stupid cakes wouldn’t set in the middle. Much to the dismay of Adam, it may have dissuaded me from making cheesecake for life.

Worst Overall Dish:
Creamed Summer Corn with Bacon

Creamed Corn

I won’t rant about this dish anymore than I did in ’27 and Cobless’ back in July, you’ve heard enough already. But this dish really sucked.

Best Overall Dish:
Grilled Oysters with Chorizo

Barbecued oysters on the dinner table with red wine

Oysters on the BBQ with champagne in the background.

There is no question in my mind what the best thing I cooked in the Cover Recipe Challenges: The BBQ’ed Oysters!  They were hands down, no questions asked, the most delicious thing that I ate the whole year, let alone in the challenges, and I don’t wonder why: Oysters + Butter + Chorizo + BBQ = miraculously good food.

In regards to a best main course, there is no way I could choose, it would have been a 8 way tie. There were so many delicious things, most of my favourites were pasta, but the absolute best I will leave it up to you to decide! Which of these was your fave?

Short Rib Stew with Caramalized Kimchi

Short Rib Stew with Caramalized Kimchi

Pasta with Abruzzi Style Lamb Sauce


Eggplant and Porcini ‘Meatballs’ in Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti and Plantballs

Spring Pasta with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Spring Pasta with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

What did I learn from this experience? I learned that creamed corn is gross, I learned that caramel is easier to make that I though, and I learned how to cut intimidatingly large fennel bulbs.

I learned how to create menus based around a dish or a theme, I learned how to pair wines and how to substitute them, and I learned how to host a formal dinner party. Over the past year, I got to try lots of new foods, foods that I couldn’t even locate in the grocery store without a google image: I am not scared of Daikon anymore, nor do I fear deep frying at home.

This challenge was started on a whim, but I am so glad that I finished it. Like so many great ideas, some things never get completed and I am proud that I did this. Despite the disasters and culinary let downs, I made some pretty amazing food this year.

I want to say a special thank you to Adam for supporting me emotionally (and financially) through the whole thing, and to Matt and Erin for standing by and eating every single dish with a brave face. Thanks to everyone who followed the challenge over the past year and make sure you stay tuned for the 2014 challenge, get excited! Cheers.

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