If you haven’t seen the trash-talking tweets, or if you didn’t see the picture of me gnawing on a fatty rib on page two of the Chicago RedEye Tuesday morning, let me explain. GrubHub.com was recently asked to participate in the first-ever RedEye Virtual Kitchen Stadium Cook-Off. As the executive blog chef of The Daily Grub blog, I am representin’ for my fellow GrubHub’r’s.
There are eight “chefs” — I just play one on the Web — and two preliminary rounds. The first four chefs battled for virtual supremacy yesterday, and the next four will compete the following week. Two winners will move onto the final from each week. The only real rule during the competition is the chefs must cook one dish with a secret ingredient that is announced on Twitter the day of the cook-off. I kicked off the culinary battle yesterday, cooking against Joey DiFranco, a Chicago foodie/filmmaker (Twitter: @elephantville). Our secret ingredient: fresh cherries.
You can follow the madness and trash talking on Twitter @redeyemunchtime and #redeyecookoff. The chef’s recipes and pictures are posted on the RedEye’s Chicago Now blog. Winners will be named every Thursday of the week by celebrity guest judge Rick Bayless (@rick_bayless)! Readers can vote for their favorite dishes in the comment section of the blog post. So in the spirit of Chicago politics, everyone should vote early and vote often.
The inspiration for the GrubHub Cherry Meatball Sub came from my love of Italian meatball sandwiches. Instead of using a tomato marinara sauce, I decided to create a savory cherry pineapple salsa to top the meatballs. I also love a sweet piece of meat, so I thought by combining the chopped cherries in with the ground beef, the sweetness would complement the spices from my five spice seasoning. The secret to any great sandwich is the bread. I decided to go with a Challah Roll, just because it rocks.
As for the taste, I got thumbs up from the peeps at the GrubHub office. Todd Clark, our account manager, described the meatball sub as a “meaty cherry doughnut.” Considering most people love meat and they love doughnuts, this could be a winning combination.
I also want to give a special shout out to the Lincoln Park Whole Foods market on Kingsbury Street for being so kick a**. The employees were super nice and helpful when I was searching for all the ingredients I was cooking with. I’ll also be posting a YouTube video — courtesy of Big Teeth Productions — of the cooking frenzy that took place yesterday. We have Big Teeth Productions to thank for following me around all day and their hard work in creating the video.
Spicy Cherry Meat Ball
1 lb Ground Beef
½ cup Organic California Sweet Cherries (pitted and chopped)
½ cup Red Onion (finely chopped)
1 tbs Amy’s secret five spice seasoning (mix of white and black pepper, garlic powder, sugar, and a secret ingredient).
½ cup Green Bell Pepper (chopped)
1/3 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1 egg (only use egg yolk)
2 tbs Garlic (minced)
Pinch of salt for seasoning
Cherry Pineapple Salsa
1/3 cup Cilantro (finely chopped)
½ Jalapeno Pepper (finely chopped)
½ cup Red Onion (finely chopped)
½ Freshly Squeezed Lime
1 cup Organic California Sweet Cherries (pitted and chopped)
½ cup Pineapple (finely chopped)
1 cup Diced Tomatoes
In a bowl, combine ground beef, sweet cherries (pitted and chopped), chopped red onion, green bell peppers, five spice seasoning, garlic, Italian bread crumbs, and egg yolk. Mix well. Shape into 1 to 1 ½ inch meat balls. Arrange into one layer baking pan. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
For the salsa, combine the cilantro, jalapeño pepper, minced red onion, lime juice, sweet cherries (pitted and chopped), pineapple, and diced tomatoes. Then sauté the ingredients in a cooking pan over low heat. Don’t ask me why, it’s my mom’s technique and it totally brings out the sweetness from the fruit. Strain some of the juices out so it doesn’t get too soggy when you garnish the meatball with the salsa. I love cheese, so I top the meatballs with a little shredded Wisconsin Cheddar cheese, but no cheese is needed.