Family: the people who have to wait to eat their meal because you’re busy photographing their plate, but who still love you anyway.
This past holiday was spent in beautiful Austin, TX with Tyler and my in-laws. We drove down on Thursday morning and got in just in time for a delicious Thanksgiving meal. Tyler comes from a line of incredible cooks, and his Nana’s sausage stuffing and his mom’s (Susan) sweet potato casserole and freshly baked beer bread are simply scrumptious. (Side note: I made The Pioneer Woman’s Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole, which turned out great. Can we all just agree that Ree Drummond can do no wrong?)
The weekend was filled with the best things in life – football, long walks, long talks, leftovers, and more football. The weather was overcast and perfect for hot drinks and snuggling, and the neighborhood was filled with deer who constantly strolled the sidewalks, sat lazily on front yards, and peered out at you from behind trees.
My heart was full of love and gratitude.
However, temperatures began to rise as Saturday night rolled around when the First Annual Family Food Challenge was held! Susan had a great idea to get the entire family cooking, and we got to brainstorming and soon a list of rules were established.
Rules of the Family Food Challenge:
- The 8 of us were paired off into 4 teams of 2.
- Each team was given one dish to create: a vegetable dish, a side dish, the main course, or dessert.
- Each team was allowed to pick a “mandatory ingredient” that had to be incorporated into the dish of another team.
- When presenting our dinner, we had to create and recite a limerick.
It’s easy to see that as least one of us really loves Iron Chef.
We spent the evening in the kitchen, sharing chopping boards and pans and measuring cups. We chatted and worked through our recipes with our teammates, and soon the results were in:
The Vegetable Dish: Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta (recipe below)
Team members: Allison, my sister-in-law, and Susan
The mandatory ingredient: Brussels Sprouts
The Side Dish: Bruschetta with Tomatoes, Diced Onion, Fresh Mozzarella, and Cilantro
Team members: Myself and Bill, my father-in-law
The mandatory ingredient: Cilantro
The Main Course: Beef Stroganoff over Egg Noodles with a Tomatillo Garnish
Team members: Nana and Tyler
The mandatory ingredient: Tomatillos
The Dessert: Chocolate Kahlua Cheecake with a Waffle Cone Crust
Team members: Darrell, my brother-in-law (Allison’s husband), and Jordan, my sister-in-law
The mandatory ingredient: Waffle Cones
Everything was delicious! We unanimously agreed that brussels sprouts did not deserve their bad rap, and we helped ourselves to seconds of the chocolate kahlua cheesecake. At the end of the night there was not an “official winner,” just a happy family that had spent the evening creating a wonderful Thanksgiving memory.
And until the next food challenge, here’s Allison and Susan’s brussels sprouts recipe!
- 2 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 to 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 10 oz. Brussels sprouts (about 18 medium sprouts), trimmed and halved through the core
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- Kosher salt
- In a heavy 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan set over medium- low heat, slowly cook the pancetta in 1 Tbs. of the oil until golden and crisp all over, 10 to 15 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the fat behind. You should have about 2 Tbs. of fat in the pan; if not, add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Have ready 1/2 cup water. Put the pan over medium-high heat and arrange the sprouts cut side down in a single layer. Cook undisturbed until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes. When the sprouts are browned, add the water to the pan, cover immediately, and simmer until the sprouts are tender when poked with a fork or skewer, about 3 minutes. (If the water evaporates before the sprouts get tender, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.) With a slotted spoon, transfer the sprouts to a plate.
- Return the pan to medium-high heat and if any water remains, let it boil off. Add the balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of pepper. Boil the vinegar until it’s reduced to about 2 Tbs. and looks lightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the butter, and stir until melted. Return the sprouts and pancetta to the pan and swirl and shake the pan to evenly coat the sprouts with the sauce. Season to taste with salt and more pepper and serve.