A Cooking League of Their Own

Photos and text by Rachel Nash Perlow

OTB’s friend, Christine Nunn of Picnic Caterers, isn’t just a fabulous chef — she’s also a member of the Junior League! Christine was recently in charge of a social event for the Junior League of Bergen County. The ladies thought they were going to have an evening of cocktails and a cooking demonstration. But Christine had a little trick up her sleeve. The ladies (and a few gentlemen) arrived at Maverick Cuisine, a kitchen design firm to the stars with a fabulous demonstration kitchen,  to find that they were actually going to be doing the cooking!

What a turn out!

Fans of Food Network’s “Chopped!” will recognize the concept. Present the competitors with a market basket of ingredients which they must use in their dish, and be ready to present it to the judges in an hour. However, along with some mundane ingredients, like chicken breast, cheese, eggs, and various fruits and vegetables, each team was also thrown a curve ball. One had a bottle of Bosco chocolate syrup, another had Kraft Dinner. One unfortunate team was given canned kippers. I think this was Christine’s private joke on me, as I had denigrated them to her just the week before. My apologies, Team Kippers, you didn’t stand a chance!

What are we supposed to do with this stuff?

Several pots simmer away, while the ladies contemplate Campbell’s Cheese Soup

One group was given Bosco chocolate syrup and flour tortillas

Chef Christine Nunn’s husband and sous chef, Javier Ordonez, advises the Bosco team to make their sausage mole tostada extra spicy. Don’t listen to him!

Maverick’s Brick Oven was put to good use, baking pizza and portabello mushrooms

Chef Nunn advises another team, to drink a little more wine!

Two of my fellow judges, Chef Claude Ballas and Bill Pitcher

Jason was invited to judge the competition, along with Bill Pitcher of the Bergen Record, Chef Claude Ballas of The Chef’s Table, and Ted Axelrod of 201 Magazine. Jason was out of town, but I happily filled in. We did not take this responsibility lightly. However, when we saw some of the secret ingredients, I must admit we approached the tasting with some trepidation. There were several surprises, not the least of which was the sausage mole tostada created by the team with Bosco syrup. When we heard Bosco and tortillas, we figured we’d get a dessert. The mole was by far the most creative use of the market baskets, but for the fact that it was almost inedibly spicy, it might have been a contender.

Sausage Mole Poblano Tostada, featuring Bosco chocolate syrup

Another group made a beautiful presentation of their vegetable, bacon and blue cheese frittata. If only they hadn’t left the bacon and blue cheese out of the judge’s portions!

Somehow, the judges were served the vegan version of this beautifully plated frittata

The winning dish was a lovely entree Steak Salad. The team was given orange marmalade and salad greens in their basket. The steak they pulled from the common pantry. With the orange marmalade, they candied some walnuts, also from the pantry. They went beyond the obvious, so they also got high marks for creativity. It was the unanimous first choice dish of the judges, who were all left wanting more of those candied walnuts. The fact that the team was flabbergasted that they won made the announcement all the sweeter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a decent picture of the winning dish, but here’s the team, celebrating with us judges.

Congratulations to the winners!

You may have the wrong impression of the Jr. League, as I did. Without going into the stereotype, what I found was a great group of gals who enjoy getting together for both social and charitable events. Their next charitable event is this coming Sunday, June 7, 2009, in the parking lot of Garden State Plaza mall, near Nordstrom’s department store. It is called “Touch a Truck” and for only $20 per family, it is an opportunity for children to touch and learn about various large trucks, like fire engines and ambulances. Refreshments, in the form of hot dogs grilled by Chef Nunn, will be provided.

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3 Responses to A Cooking League of Their Own

  1. Looks like it was great fun and good eats!

  2. Josephine says:

    I attended a similar event for a non-profit that Christine hosted in March. She is a rare person who takes her skill and strength and chooses to take time to apply it to causes that can benefit!

    Thanks Christine.

  3. What a great use of Bosco Chocolate Syrup! I’m a co-owner of Bosco and would love to feature the recipe you used (or, um, concocted!) with some of our more traditional recipes. Would you mind?

    It looks like you all had a really fun time and came up with some delicious dishes.

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