The sizzle of the finalists' lunch trucks dishes in the preview for Sunday's Star episode made me hungry for street food, (alas, no Smell-O-Vision) so I cooked up Aarti's street food-inspired winning dish from the last episode while I waited it out for Sunday night. Her take on Jonathan Waxman's favorite dish -- lamb and potatoes -- had the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" of the food world singing her praises, so I figured that the Ground Lamb Kebabs with Pomegranate Glaze, Bengali-Spiced Potatoes and Cucumber Raita would be a sure-fire hit at my dinner table.
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Turk-Eye Meatloaf is an unfortunate and not-exactly-appetizing name for a recipe, but the flavor of Aarti’s dish proved otherwise. She drew Horror as her inspiration for the movie-themed camera challenge, and the judges ate up her cute "wandering eye" story that tied this dish to the genre.
Since I wasn’t stuck with any scary movie challenge while making Aarti’s meatloaves at home, I left off the (intentionally) creepy “eye” garnish. Without it, these individual meatloaves make a healthy and simple weeknight meal. Keep the garnish and it would certainly be a fun dish for Halloween.
Seriously, who doesn't love carnivals? You've got rides galore, great people-watching and of course, that deep-fried, candy-coated carnival food. Okay, after this week's episode of Star, maybe a few of our contestants aren't big fans -- poor Doreen!
When Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman, along with special guest-star Zoltar, asked the contestants to turn iconic carnival sweets into a savory party bite, I was intrigued -- anyone who can improve on funnel cake is someone I'd want to eat dinner with.
Aarti conquered her self-doubt (and the fact that she's never had a funnel cake!) and came out on top, and I couldn't wait to try her winning dish: Scallion Blini with Chicken in Tandoori BBQ Sauce. Would I be able to "taste the love" in the recipe? Well…
I am lucky to have grown up with a mother who is a fantastic Indian cook. She does not make dishes from recipes; she goes by taste. This makes for a very complicated way to learn the cuisine. The delicate spice combinations typical of Indian cuisine can either meld into a flavorful plate or a hot mess—a heavy hand on any spice can easily throw off the entire dish. I'm hoping this season of The Next Food Network Star will make it easier for home cooks, including me, to feel confident making Indian recipes.
While I was watching the NFNS premiere on Sunday night, I immediately liked Aarti Sequeira. I think it was very clever of her to make a golden traditional lentil dal with a twist of fresh lime as the soup course. She also spiced up chicken breast with cardamom and turmeric. I can't wait to see how she is going to modernize Indian cuisine and integrate it into American classics this season! Will she make Tandoori Chicken with a side of curried mashed potatoes and will she have the confidence in herself to sell it? Tune in to see if she can bring Indian food into your home!
What are your favorite Indian recipes?
As I watch The Next Food Network Star from my couch at home, I’m pretty jealous of Bob, Bobby and Susie—the lucky ones who actually get to taste the food. Well, maybe not so lucky during the very first challenge when, despite the high caliber of talent this season, several of the chicken-and-potato dishes were undercooked. I certainly wasn’t envious of all that raw chicken.
But let’s focus on the good stuff—every week, we’re cooking and blogging the winning Star recipes. Aria’s chicken breast stuffed with a date-walnut-grape mixture wasn’t raw at all—in fact, Bobby pronounced it moist and well-seasoned, and all of the judges seemed to enjoy digging in.
The premiere had not one but three winning dishes, and two of them belonged to Aria. I decided to try out her chicken—I’m always looking for new ways to jazz up a chicken breast. Hers sounded interesting and not super-complicated, perfect for a weeknight dinner.
First step was the side dish of roasted potatoes and cauliflower. I did some quick chopping and tossed the veggies on a sheet pan with a big handful of raisins, olive oil, salt and pepper. My grocery store didn't have any chervil, but I wanted a little green mixed in, so I sliced some scallions and added those.
That went into the oven for 25 minutes, per Aria’s instructions. Meanwhile...