SPOILER ALERT! What a week! Thanks so much to everyone for their encouragement and support for my appearance on the Season Premier of Alex vs America on Food Network. Read more to find out about how the “now me” (I prefer “now me” over “new me” – it feels more accurate!) approached the daunting competition, how storytelling played a part, and my take on one of my recipes, Sauce Diable.
First up, to answer your questions — it really is 30 minutes (or whatever time is agreed to.) Nope, the chefs really do not know the ingredients ahead of time. It’s all so fast! There’s ZERO time to think. So, once I agreed to compete, I knew that I needed a plan. The last time I competed in a culinary competition was on Chopped and that was over 10 years ago! (LAWD. Lamb balls… and I do not mean ground lamb.)
I knew that I needed to be prepared. In this instance, I felt the best way to prepare would be to have in my head a cache of go-to recipes. And, I am a storyteller. I wanted to pay homage to James Beard, also not a restaurant chef, but a cookbook author, recipe developer, and teacher. In today’s lingo, he’d be a “content creator.” Once I agreed to compete, I started researching his recipes – and one of his favorites was Sauce Diable. I added that to my “back pocket” of recipes.
The French chef Carême evolved an intricate methodology by which hundreds of sauces were classified under one of five “mother sauces”: Béchamel, Velouté, Brown; Hollandaise, and Tomate. Sauce Diable aka Devil’s Sauce is one of many sauces that can be made from Brown Sauce. As its name implies, it’s spicy and piquant. According to the Beard Foundation, James Beard famously served it with his Deviled Beef Bones, but it is equally delicious with broiled flank steak or broiled chicken. I thought it would pair wonderfully with the rich wagyu beef and buttery puff pastry.
What is Beef Wellington?
Beef Wellington is a classic roast beef recipe of English origin, made out of beef tenderloin filet coated with pâté and mushroom duxelles, wrapped in puff pastry, then baked. Wellington was not part of my game plan, but once I saw that wagyu beef it felt right to go down a retro road and serve it with Sauce Diable.
The origins of Beef Wellington, as per usual with food lore is confusing and vague. Some say it was developed in the early 1800s to laud the victory of the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. What we do know is that it became a popular dish in the 1950s and ’60s, thanks to Julia Child including a recipe in her best-selling book Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. Julia and James were friends and colleagues.
I didn’t have time to make it the classic but knew I could execute a deconstructed version. One of my plans was to bake! NO one ever bakes on these shows and I am a baker. Truth is I really wanted to make biscuits, but I thought they would be perceived as too “paper napkin” and not “white linen” as the challenge dictated.
Winning on Alex vs America
If you saw the show, you know that I was eliminated. BELIEVE me, I have picked apart EVERY single part of that plate. Nope, I did not mean that to be a sandwich. I have also listed out on paper every single thing I did wrong or wish I had done differently. That’s how we learn.
And, yes, of course, I was disappointed, but I am 10K% ok, better than ok! I think this IG video pretty much says it all.
Self Care and Wellness
I baked puff pastry, made a proper sauce I could be proud of, and didn’t cut myself. That’s enough! I was up against some seriously intense talent! Holy moley! It’s also the 1st episode ever that Alex came in 3rd! It’s her SHOW! Good grief, that’s intense.
I made a plan, I stuck to my plan, and I executed it to the best of my ability. That’s all we can do. That’s all we can ever do. Do the best you can with what you’ve got.
And, afterward? I laced up my sneakers and took a nice long walk. Instead of numbing my sadness with burgers and bourbon, I enjoyed a healthy salad with grilled fish and an Aqua Fresca. Then, I took my Alex vs America per diem and bought myself a brand-new REI daypack! It will be SO much better for my herniated disk and back than my heavy over-the-shoulder tote. Win! Win! Win!
Every time I pick up my new pack, I can remember not what I lost, but what I won. That’s the story I want to tell. Thanks so much for reading.
Bon Appetit, Y’all!
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups beef stock warmed
- 1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until foaming. Add the beef stock and stir to combine. Reduce heat and let simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon. You should have about 1 1/2 cups.
- In a second saucepan combine the tarragon vinegar, white wine, shallot, and tarragon until reduced by half.
- Add to the simmering gravy and stir to combine. Add cayenne pepper and dry mustard. Simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Let’s cook something up! If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or book signing, let me know! Send an email to email@example.com and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.
I am not a doctor, RD, health professional, or WW representative. I am simply sharing what works for me. My blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.
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