O.K. So the bad news is that I did not bring home the massive Build a Better Burger first place trophy and the even more massive $50,000 check. I came in second (I'd like to think that it was a close second, but I'll never know.)
The good news is that I came home with a smaller, but oh-so-adorable custom sculpted burger trophy, a $500 prize, many new friends, and wonderful memories. I also get to try again next year!!! Yaaaaaaaaaay!! After I take a slider-sized burger break, you can bet your buns that I will be coming up with ideas for next year.
So, I'm going to politely disagree with Ricky Bobby's "If you're not first, you're last" motto. Cheesy and cliched as it may sound, I think that all of the finalists felt like winners. We were treated like rock stars, and we spent a long weekend being wined and dined and wined again in Napa Valley. Kinda hard to not have a good time, don'tcha think?
The winner and reigning burger queen is the energetic and lovely Suzanne Banfield, who wowed the judges with her Roman Patty Melts. She how surprised she is in the picture?Suzanne was cooking right next to me, and she was composed and cool as a cucumber. Her burgers, which you can view on her Today Show segment here, looked and smelled absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, due to my "no eating while competing" policy, I only had the chance to taste one of the other burgers (Patterson Watkins' delectable pork sliders on homemade biscuits), but I know that Suzanne's burgers were well-deserving of the title. Congratulations again!!
For someone who spent an entire day surrounded by sizzling gourmet burgers composed of the finest ingredients that Napa Valley has to offer, I sure was starving by Saturday night. Ironically, whenever I'm concentrating on cooking or competing, I am typically so focused, not to mention a bit nervous, so that last thing that I want to do is eat. After the excitement of the day's events wore down a bit, I was grateful that I had decided to make a dinner reservation for my mom and myself at a nearby restaurant called Market.
My mom was my "date" to the competition (tough gig, but someone had to do it), so I wanted to have a nice dinner for just us girls. Market came highly recommended, and after dining there, I can certainly see why. When we were greeted at the front door, and I gave the gentleman my last name, he said "Oh, Julie!" I looked to see if I was still wearing my name tag from that afternoon. I wasn't--he had memorized it from the reservation book. That pretty much set the tone for the whole experience. Friendly, attentive service; fresh and perfectly cooked food; and of course a good bottle of wine. I can't wait to go back.
When we got up to leave the restaurant, the manager handed us a little Chinese take-out box with "a little something extra" inside. RICE KRISPIE TREATS!!! Oh, I had forgotten how much I like, nay, loooovvveee Rice Krispie Treats. I'm talking eat-the-whole-batch-right-out-of-the-saucepan kind of love.
So now I am on a Rice Krispie Treats kick. I wanted to play around with the recipe a bit and see what I could come up with. The first recipe is a variation on my favorite blondie recipe--rich and buttery. The second was inspired by an ice cream truck classic, the vanilla-orange creamsicle. Here are a few extra tips for these tricked out treats:
- Be sure to allow the brown butter to cool before adding the marshmallows. If the mixture is overheated, the marshmallow mixture might cause the treats to become too hard when they cool.
- Whole Grain RIce Krispies are a new product that I recently found at the grocery store. They are slightly sweetened with honey, and their size is bigger than regular Rice Krispies. Feel free to substitute plain or cocoa varieties in either recipe.
- If you can't find Heath toffee pieces, then buy regular Heath or toffee bars and crush them. You can do this by placing them in a plastic bag and rolling over them several times with a rolling pin.
- These treats are best eaten the day they are prepared, but they will keep, tightly wrapped, for 2 or 3 days.
Brown Butter Toffee Rice Krispie Treats
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces marshmallows
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups toffee bits (such as Heath)
5 cups Rice Krispies
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Spray a 9-inch square pan with nonstick baking spray. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook the butter, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides and the color turns deep golden brown. The aroma should be rich and nutty. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool 5 minutes.
Add the marshmallows, salt, and cinnamon to the saucepan, and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the marshmallows have melted. Stir in 1 cup of the toffee bits and the Rice Krispies. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, pressing with the back of a spatula to form a flat surface. Let cool to room temperature.
Melt the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring at 20 second intervals, until melted and smooth. Invert the Rice Krispie treats onto a piece of foil or parchment paper and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining toffee bits and allow to set. Cut the treats into squares and serve.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Zest of one orange
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces marshmallows
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups Whole Grain Rice Krispies
6 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Spray a 9-inch square pan with nonstick baking spray. Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over low heat. Stir in the orange zest, vanilla, marshmallows, and salt, stirring until the marshmallows are melted. Stir in the Rice Krispies and transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, pressing with the back of a spatula to form a flat surface. Let cool to room temperature.
Melt the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring at 20 second intervals, until melted and smooth. Invert the Rice Krispie treats onto a piece of foil or parchment paper and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top.
Allow the chocolate to set and then cut the treats into squares.