Jana and Butchie Do Reality TV!

Let's talk about being lucky enough to get to do what you dream about! Butchie and I were chosen to participate in shooting a pilot today! A reality show where we try to re-make a professional chef's dish! But it's reality tv, so there's a catch...
me, butchie and our dish!

As a side note before we get this show on the road, I'm sorry for the lackluster pictures! I only had a point and shoot camera on me! 


Butchie and I traveled by metro.....so really that should read 8:15 am. The red line never gets you anywhere when you think it will! Late, but not disastrously so, we walk into Black's Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda and realize we might be in over our head. We had heard that we'll have to remake a dish made by Chef Jeff Black himself, but walking into the restaurant, this actually started to feel real! Intimidated? I wasn't until Butchie told me it was where her old office had held their holiday party, and that her boss had extremely high-end taste!!! [The office holiday gift to him was generally a gift certificate to the Little Inn at Washington. --B.] Turns out, Jeff Black owns 5 restaurants in DC, all of them supposedly fantastic. [I can vouch for the quality at Black's Bar, at least. It's delicious. But more on that later. --B.]


We sit down with the other team (two burly guys from Fairfax who admitted their strengths were mostly in Hot Pockets) and FINALLY get to hear a complete list of the rules. So. Um. Here's the deal: one of us had be be blindfolded....BUT she would get to eat the food. The other would ONLY gets to look at it, with noseplugs on so no inadvertent aromas would tip her off! In the end we decided Butchie's strength is in her tastebuds and I'm good with the visuals of food. What I'm not awesome at is talking with nose plugs on. I sounded like Janice from Friends. OH! MY! GOSH! Nasal is not a good sound on me.

The other rules? Oh just little things, like 10 minutes to shop, $50 to spend, and only 30 minutes to cook. [This is when I got dizzy. Half an hour? --B.] We'll be judged 50% on presentation and 50% on taste! WHOO!

My biggest fear was that Chef Black was going to bring out a soup. There are so few visual cues in a soup that I knew I would be of next to no help.

So. We're in position, Butchie's blindfolded, we're ready, we're set and out comes the food: fish, on a ragout, with a tomato garnish. No soup!

A few things I could recognize right off the bat: fish, crab, red peppers, corn, cherry tomatoes....so that's what? All of five ingredients? Awesome! The best part? I have no idea what the fish actually is. It's thin, a filet, white, and has a skin. That rules out tuna, and salmon. Great. Not. Good. Enough.

[Definitely not good enough. Then again, I was hampered too. The ragout, the first thing I tasted, definitely had bacon in it, and something else rich and savory. The flavors were so well-blended that aside from the bacon, I had a hard time picking them out. There was a little bit of sweetness, a lot of savory, and the mouthfeel was velvety and lush, making it hard to identify single ingredients. The fish was delicious, in some kind of lemony sauce, thin with a crispy seared skin, but aside from "flaky delicate white fish," I couldn't say more. The relish on top was unmistakable: shallots and cherry tomatoes. It was all delicious, but particularly with the ragout, I knew there were a lot of tastes I was missing or unsure of. Except for the bacon--there is nothing that tastes exactly like bacon. --B.]

from left to right: me, butchie, steve greenberg the host, and our competition

Literally a run! Host Steve Greenberg gives us 10 minutes, $50, and lets us loose. We fight our way past the other team who, despite outweighing us by at least three times, totally gets stuck trying to go in via the exit lane! HA! and we're in the lead! First stop? White wine...and it's all downhill from there...It took all the self control I have in me to not pretend it's Supermarket Sweep! Got the vino and off to grab the fish. Now, here's where we start having the BIG debate of the day: I saw crab in the ragout, but Butchie tasted bacon! That's a problem. I am insistent on the crab. I know what I saw and it was NOT bacon! Bit white pieces! I saw no little pink bacon-like things! But she also knows what she tasted. [BACON. --B.] Two skilled, competent mature adults could have handled that gracefully. But this was us, so it wasn't all that cute. We debate the fish (what color was the skin?!), debate the crab, debate the onions, peppers, corn, etc. Cherry tomatoes or grape? Parsley? Was there butter in the sauce? Garlic? Shallots? There were shallots!

And the twist? Oh yeah...the budget. That did not work out at all. We rang up $60 worth of food. So, we had to give up some ingredients. We gave up the wine! Ugh. Pain. [That was my call--I was only partly sure there was wine in the sauce. Whereas we were sure of everything else in the cart. We needed the fish, needed the crab, and together those two things were half the budget. --B.]


Head back to "my kitchen" [the producer's kitchen --B.] and it's time to chop chop chop. Do you know what I HATE most about cooking? Chopping. Yep...moving on!

Our game plan was to make a cooked crab "salsa," for lack of a better term. We sauteed the onions, peppers, and corn, and toss the crab in to create the base of our dish. Check! That part, at least, went pretty flawlessly. Butchie added a little bit of red wine vinegar to try to get the richer taste she was describing earlier. [It wasn't very close. But at this point, too late to worry about. We only had ten minutes left. --B.] I wasn't so sure about the amount of the corn, and then I shredded the crab a bit just to realize later that I thought the larger lumps were better. Oh yeah. It really is so much harder than it looks to create a dish from memory!

Right as the clock was counting down, Butchie pan seared some sole...well, after the small fireball from the gas stove, the burnt butter, and realizing that our fish does not have skin of any kind. We finally get a decent piece of fish on the plate and move on to the jus and garnishes. 3, 2, 1, the host breathing down our necks and oh, we run out of time and throw a sauce on the plate we haven't tasted......not our favorite moment. [Not even a sauce, really. Just the drippings, with some lemon, and a little shallot, about ten minutes away from being anything we would call a "sauce." Oops. --B.]
pan seared sole atop a crab corn and red pepper ragout with a vinegar tomato dressing


Chef Black is on deck and it's time to see what our competition has come up with! The boys come in, proudly displaying a...

Salmon steak? On a bed of Couscous? WHAT THE?????

At this point I'm thinking, okay, there has got to be a twist right? RIGHT?!?! I can't be that off, can I??? I know what I saw and that wasn't it,but, but, we talked about it all! The fish not as oily as salmon, and neither bacon or crab is couscous--so, um, um, fingers crossed!

Chef Black was a little kind. He told us our sauce was too salty...too salty? It was basically just half a lemon with some leftover oil from cooking the fish. When I tasted it later, the acid stripped my mouth! We'd meant to strain the garnish, and to then mellow it with some add stock...um, yep. REALLY wished that had happened.

Speaking of REALLY: Chef Black said that about 10 times about the other team's couscous! "Really? Couscous? Really? Not Crab? You mixed up a starch and protein? Really?????" Oh, I was so relieved. It was in fact crab. Short lived relief, because yes, there was also bacon! Not. Good. [BACON. Ah, vindication. And the humiliation of knowing that I should have fought for that bacon. Trust your instincts, self. --B. ]

Then it gets worse: he tells us our sear on the sole is not as good as the sear on the salmon.....and since NEITHER team had the right fish.......the sear means more to him. Red snapper? Are you kidding me! Ugh. For shame! [I take no blame for that last one. The person with eyes is responsible for recognizing things like "red." --B.]

1 PM: AND THE WINNER IS...........

"Well boys, I have to tell you........that I'm really sorry for you! The girls have won!"

WOOO! I don't have to hang my head in shame as the foodie who couldn't recognize crab! Awesome! Honestly, if we lost I don't think I'd have had the heart to blog about it.

In the end we find out that Chef Black's dish has 22 ingredients! Ours only has 12!!!! We missed ten whole ingredients! And that's only if you're foolish enough to think that we got all our 12 right! Because, oh no, my friend, we did not. Ingredients we got right: crab, cherry tomatoes, corn, red pepper, shallots.....well. It was something all right. [We missed tarragon, champagne vinegar, BACON, the snapper, cream, chicken stock, red pepper flakes, and a few other things. --B.]
us and Chef Jeff Black


Finally we get to dig into each others' dishes. That salmon was cooked beautifully. I have to give the boys' team that. It was a good steak of salmon....that could feed four....and it did! I honestly loved our dish......if you take off the paint thinner of a sauce we put on there. If we'd had just five more minutes that dish would have been perfect! Still not the dish that Chef Black made, but delicious for what it was! [I will totally make that crab ragout again. It was great. But with bacon. Can I say that again? Bacon bacon bacon. --B.]

All in all, SUCCESS! Fun and food! What could be better? Well, maybe having gotten to eat Chef Black's dish. I was super jealous that I only got to look!

The show may or may not air, on a station yet to be determined. That's half the fun of the pilot! I'm hoping to hear in a few months that it will be in production and maybe I can share the video with all of you! Nose-plugged voice and all! :)

Cheers all! Hope I have more to share about it soon!