We’re talking cookies here…after all it is Christmas week. Gingerbread is one of my favorite cookies this time of year and when I saw that there was a throwdown for gingerbread, I was in.

Bobby Flay went up against Johanna Rosson for this throwdown. We all know baking is not Bobby’s strength, but his ingredients intrigued me. Both recipes have the standard flour, cinnamon and ginger, butter eggs and brown sugar. Bobby added dry mustard and white pepper to his dough for added depth of flavor. Johanna had the molasses I have come to trust for really good gingerbread.

Both doughs were pretty basic – blend butter and sugar, add eggs, then dry ingredients. Right off the top, I noticed Bobby’s dough was a little dry. He asked for 2 Tablespoons of milk – I ended up adding 4 total to get a dough, not crumb mixture. Both doughs were refrigerated overnight – only because I did not have time to bake the same day, plus really cold dough usually rolls out better. Johanna’s dough was very firm, but rolled out nicely. Bobby’s dough was rock hard, difficult to roll out and cracked a lot – i.e. still a little dry. Both were rolled to 1/4″ (approx), cut out and baked – Bobby’s at 325 for 12 mins, Johanna’s at 350 for 13 mins.
Upon tasting them, Bobby’s had a nice mild flavor – a little hint of heat at the end, due to the white pepper but lacked in the ginger taste. The texture was more wafery – feeling the layers in my mouth, very crisp and broke with some crumb. Johanna’s were crisp as well, but solid. Johanna’s cookies had a little more ginger taste to them. On day two, I rolled out the second batch, this time thicker about 3/8″ thick. Softer texture and slightly longer cooking time (15-20 mins) indeed and better flavors for both. thicker is better for these cookies.
So roll roll as fast as you can, will it be Bobby or Johanna’s gingerbread men? I still treasure my mom’s recipe that I grew up with, but these were interesting rivals. As for the throwdown – we leaned towards Johanna’s in this house for overall texture, taste and ease of rolling.
Merry Christmas all.


Bobby Flay went up against a Brooklyn firefighter with a culinary background and a tight budget on this Throwdown. Cacciatore, or hunter’s style chicken is a classic, and Bobby knew he couldn’t mess with a classic for this challenge. Keith Young, a Brooklyn fireman, graduated from Johnson and Wales, worked in multiple restaurants before he became a fireman. He has also published a book called Cooking with the Firehouse Chef in 2003.

Keith had a traditional cacciatore with onions, green and red bell peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms. He floured his chicken before browning, which helps thicken the sauce. A little white wine, oregano, fresh basil and red pepper flake rounded out this dish.

Bobby chose to not flour his chicken, and used mushrooms, yellow bell pepper and tomatoes as well. He pureed his tomatoes, added chicken stock and red wine as well as rosemary and thyme. Bobby finished his dish with fresh basil and capers.

Both dishes started with browning the chicken, then the veggies, adding the liquids and tomatoes, and simmering everything together for 30-45 mins. The end result – Keith’s chicken cacciatore was a bright red, fresh tasting and very classic dish (at least from my memory of my mom making this dish as a kid). Hearty in the vegetables, moist tender chicken, and mild seasoning.

Bobby’s dish had a deeper brown color to it with a definite rosemary flavor and richness. His chicken was moist, and capers added a hint of saltiness. The tomato flavor did lack in Bobby’s, but the dish was delicious and hearty. The judges ruled in favor of Keith on this challenge, and for the sake of tradition, we had to agree. The tomato and pepper freshness of his dish was unmistakably the Italian classic.

On a side note – the second night, we both chose to have Bobby’s chicken and the flavors developed wonderfully….a great dish, but not the traditional. Call it hunter’s stew – and it is the winner in my book. Who knew these challenges were so tough to judge!

Bobby Flay takes on Drew Cerza, founder of the National Buffalo Wing Festival, in Buffalo NY. Drew made his Bourbon Street Buffalo WIngs, while Bobby made his own variation on hot wings with blue cheese dip. The judges for this throwdown were none other than Dave Botticelli of Duff’s in Buffalo and Greg Bacorn, a Syracuse University wing lover. These guys know Buffalo wings!

Drew’s wings had BBQ sauce, chili sauce, Frank’s Red Hot, bourbon, brown sugar, ancho chili powder, a little garlic and shallot. His wings fried for 15 mins before tossing with sauce. Bobby’s wings were dredged in ancho chile scented flour, then fried for 8-10 mins in hotter oil. His sauce had ancho chile powder, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, chile d’arbol powder, pureed chipotle, butter and honey. Bobby dipped his wings in a greek yogurt blue cheese and cilantro dip.

Both wings were easy, but time consuming, doing several batches of each set of wings so as to not crowd the pan. Bobby’s were the first taste taste. The blue cheese dip had a nice tang and the cilantro offered a freshness not typical of blue cheese dressing. His wings were moist, tender and had a great flavor. The vinegar hit first, then almost a smoky BBQ taste, and then……maybe….only slight heat was detected in our house. After a few more bites, the mellow heat did appear, but not as what we are used to in true Buffalo style wings.

On to Drew’s – he recommended a shot of bourbon to be sipped with his wings….we obliged. His wings were also very tender, moist, and definitely sweeter than Bobby’s. We could taste the subtle flavor of the bourbon in the sauce, which was BBQ saucey, sweet and slightly tangy. A shot of the bourbon really sealed that warm, vanilla smokey flavor of the wings. We did not get any heat off of these wings, but more of a saucey, sticky BBQ flavor. Bobby’s wings had a thicker sauce consistency, and were darker in color.

OK – so we had to let go of the “Buffalo” part of this wing tasting…..that was tough. Once we did, the challenge got a lot harder. Thought neither wing had the Buffalo heat, but both were tasty in their own right. We had to choose, and the choice was for Bobby’s wings for their less sweet, more intense flavor. Plus I loved the blue cheese dip to go with them…cool creamy and hot wings are wonderful partners. The judges on TV chose Drew’s wings, but then again – he is the Wing King! Taste them for yourself, and ask – who would you choose in the Buffalo Wing Throwdown?

Drew’s wings can be found at

Bobby’s wings can be found at

Hotter than a ghost

December 4, 2010

I was reading some news this morning on Yahoo and stumbled across this article claiming that a Brit has crossed three very hot chili peppers to create the world’s hottest chili…..the Brits? Now between you and me the Brits are not known for their spicy food, so this comes as a bit of a surprise to me.

Anyway, this chili, called the Naga Viper, measures 1,359,000 on the Scoville Scale. For reference that is 300,000 points higher than the ghost chili, and 270 times hotter than a jalapeno. Gerald Fowler, a pub owner and creator of this “monster” crossed a ghost chili with two other very hot chilis to make the Viper. He makes a curry from this chili and has guests sign a waiver before tasting. He claims the curry will burn your tongue and everything below for up to an hour, but claims that there are some health benefits. Unless you have an ulcer or other digestive condition I am sure.

This chili is so hot in fact that the military is looking at it for defense purposes – say goodbye to pepper spray, here comes the Viper! I imagine this could be truly beneficial in that aspect, and perhaps even in a medical aspect. But to eat this chili – I am not convinced that even my fire eating husband could tolerate this kind of pain. With a claim of an endorphin rush after eating, will this be the new “street drug” of young kids? Could it be tamed for depression use? Or is this British pub owner just a bit off his rocker? Either way, I thought I would share this little tidbit with you chilli heads and spice mongers out there.

Gerald is a member of the Clifton Chili Club, a group of Brits who travel around sampling chilis. One of their members decided to try one of Fowler’s Naga Vipers on camera. You can watch chili tasting experiences at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8xlx1JRXcE&feature=related