Had an opportunity to deliver one of my interactive culinary events for a client in Dallas, Texas recently. We used the culinary center at one of the great Central Markets in Dallas. What a great store, incredible variety with a great selection or artisanal foods from around Texas and the Southwest. They also were a pleasure to work with as we utilized their kitchen facility for the culinary program and borrowed a few of their chefs to facilitate the event. That event, my "What's Missing" Culinary Challenge, has long been among my most popular executive training options that involve cooking. In a nutshell:
Even a novice cook can make something delicious from a successful recipe. However, what if the recipe is incomplete or missing an ingredient? The “What’s Missing” Culinary Challenge explores your team’s abilities to overcome obstacles by creating a menu from recipes where key ingredients have been omitted. The challenge is in determining the missing ingredient or working together to come up with an ingredient that fits even better. The objectives of the “What’s Missing” Culinary Challenge: nurturing a creative mindset within a group dynamic, improving problem solving skills in a fluid environment, community building and having fun.
What makes this event so popular is that the participants aren't merely following the cues of a complete recipe or an iron chef, they actually need to make creative choices to complete their dishes. And as is often the case, I had one team member who substituted an ingredient that worked even better than the "missing" ingredient from the original recipe.
Here's that recipe, a winter vegetable tiello (kind of like ratatouille, but heartier). The subbed ingredient is in bold (in the original recipe it is red wine vinegar):
Autumn Vegetable Tiello
Quantity Produced: Serves 6-8 as Side
Olive Oil, EV 6 Tablespoons
Butternut Squash, Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 1 Medium Squash
Red Pepper, Cut in 1 ½ “ Chunks 1 Medium
Carrot, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 3 Carrots
Onion, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 1 Medium
Celery, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½’ Chunks 2 Stalks
Honey 3 Tablespoons
Lemon Juice, Fresh 3 Tablespoons
Kosher Salt To Taste
Fresh Black Pepper To Taste
Italian Plum Tomatoes 1/ 12oz. Can
Roasted Chestnut Puree 3 Tablespoons
Honey or Sugar 2 Tablespoons
Oregano, Dried 2 Teaspoons
Preheat oven to 450d.. Using 2 tablespoons of the oil, grease a roasting pan just large enough to hold vegetables comfortably. Toss vegetables with remaining oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Drizzle with honey. Roast vegetables, stirring occasionally, until tender 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. While the vegetables are cooking, in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan combine tomatoes, chestnut puree, honey/sugar and oregano. Cook over medium high heat until thick and tomatoes have broken up 15 minutes. Season to taste and pour over the roasted vegetables. Roast in oven for additional 15 to 20 minutes or until glazed and soft.