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PBS Great American Recipe Episodes 1 and 2

The PBS Great American Recipe experience continues!

Hopefully you caught me in Episode 1. By far the hardest episode to film, it took wearing those clothes 5 days before it was finished!

But let’s back up a bit, shall we? 

Arrived in Virginia and quickly met my new friend Khela on the van to the hotel. 

We were both exhausted and excited to finally be there. Off we went where we were met by Madison our handler, who checked us in.

Up we went to our rooms that looked really good on the surface until one realized that everything was coated in a thick layer of dust. 

It’s like no one had stayed in there for years and yes, that was probably the case. Remember COVID?

So it was time to unpack and not knowing how long I would be there, I wasn’t sure how much to unpack.

That night was spent in the room eating something from DoorDash at my 12 x 12 desk.

Nothing was memorable when eating in the room. Nothing was memorable in the way of food period.

Except there were Oreos available on set, and those are always good!

Friday we were allowed to have breakfast at the hotel, so all of us quickly figured out we were the cast as we ran into each other in the dining room.

We quickly got to know each other before we met our producers in person when they grabbed our clothing from our closets and took it away for camera check.

Most of mine passed, but not all. Luckily I had packed heavy!

Saturday found us in our first interviews.

There I was placed in front of a green screen where a ton of hairspray was used to plaster my hair to my head. 

PBS Great American Recipe

Then the two hour interview took place about my story, my background, heritage, etc.

It was exhausting and exhilerating and not knowing how much of it will be on camera is a bit terrifying.

The main reason I chose to do PBS Great American Recipe was so I could tell my story in the hope that one day my kids will play it for their kids.

(So far, it doesn’t look like much of our story is being incorporated into the show, so I hope that changes.)

Like I’ve said before, we all have a story and I hope you know yours.

(My dad is on the right. He is with my aunt and uncle.)

Dad, Aut Shirley and Uncle Art

Sunday and Monday found us free with our first day on set being Tuesday.

After we were mic’d and sound checked off we were marched to the barn where we practiced doing a big banana turn as they filmed us walking in.

(The barn is actually a wedding venue and “our” kitchens are all temporarily placed.)

From there we had a quick tour of the barn and everything it offered in the way of food and plateware that was available to us.

It’s actually quite incredible when you realize all the planning that has to happen to make this work.

Just finding ingredients in the middle of nowhere and then trucking everything in is a feat in itself.

I have no idea how many people were on the set but we were told by someone they thought it was about 200.

Like I said, I don’t know, but it sure seemed like a lot!

Matzo ball soup

Finally, time to cook. I made a very quick version of matzo ball soup for Plate Yourself.

With no time to really let the matzo balls chill, I kind of just plopped them into my doctored up chicken broth.

Floating a little duck fat on top, gave the soup a little something extra and a more soup-like mouth feel.

Want to know the truth?

I didn’t really feel matzo ball soup was what I would make for Plate Yourself.

I have a friend who makes matzo ball soup way better than me. 

I make it for holidays, but of course the producers wanted what they wanted, and somehow I got roped into this.

Matzo Egg drop Soup with Asparagus and Arugula

Note to self: If I do another competitition which I don’t expect to do in a million years, learn to say no!

I wanted to do a scrambled egg dish with seasonings from all the places I’ve been.

When chosen to participate on PBS Great American Recipe one is told you can make whatever you want, but that isn’t always the case.

After that first cook we ate lunch and waited for judging.

During this episode the judges came around to each of our stations and offered pointers.

They got to stand on soft rubber mats while we were just on a concrete floor. Judging takes a long time and standing in one place on a concrete floor is not easy to do.

It was during this time that the coughing began and a break in action took place.

The powers that be quickly had us all tested and that led to some of us not being able to compete and an alternate being brought in.

Which then led to us cooking the first part of episode 1 all over again on Wednesday.

Yes, bloopers could be spotted during the first episode but that’s up to you to figure out.

After quickly cooking part 1 and judging again, we filmed the second part of episode 1.

Famous Mexican burger on colorful plate with red striped napkin

This cook was titled, “Rep Your Region.”

I felt a Mexican hamburger, which was invented in Denver in the 60’s, would have been great.

This was totally axed about 5 days before I flew off. For some unexplained reason PBS Great American Recipe did not allow me to do the Mexican hamburger.

Could I do Rocky Mountain Oysters? Or perhaps steak or lamb or fish seems more Colorado?

Truth is Denver doesn’t have things like Cheesesteaks or pizza or Italian Beef or any true dish associated with it.

I wish it did! If you think I’m missing something, please share!

Anyway we settled on rainbow trout which they assured me they could get.

Unfortunately, I was presented with some extremely large trout that would never have fit on a plate and another kind of trout that I’ve never seen before.

But that one fit on a plate, so that is what I used. And all this 5 minutes before we cooked!

pan fried rainbow trout recipe with red chili on white plate

Judging began about 10 that night, if I remember correctly, whereupon the generators went out and the food had to be wrapped up so the judges essentially tasted cold food for the cameras on Thursday.

However the judges almost always taste the food hot before it appears on camera!

But I do give them kudos for bravery, because they still had to taste cold food for the camera, in this case!

That round was a challenging cook for me because the fish I was expecting and the fish I got were two different things.

Had I known I would have changed the plating, but it was too late for that.

I also think that the judges were not familiar with New Mexican red chile.

What the show showed was a bit different than what actually happened but that’s OK with me!

In any case, the trout with red chile and the stuffed poblanos are two of my kids most requested recipes.

Saturday was PBS promo day where we got to do individual photo shoots, group shots and fun little promos with PBS.

cast of PBS Great American Recipe Season 2

Have you seen this one about me and Ina?

It was a lot of fun to do!

After week one we were supposed to have finished filming two episodes, but due to things beyond our control, the format of the show changed. 

We were behind schedule which meant a lot of cooking the following week.

Sunday found us filming Episode 2, What’s For Dinner, which was supposed to have been completed in the first week.

I began with Dan Dan sliders for the first half, which are a huge hit in my family.

Dan Dan sliders

For some reason I decided to run the Sichuan peppercorns through a spice mill and I think it took away some of the heat.

I was worried the judges might get a bit of peppercorn in their teeth and dock me for it, but I should have just pounded them, as they are better that way.

The judges wanted it saucier, so if you like it saucier, do not cook down the chicken broth in the sauce. Let is simmer just a bit.

The smashed cucumber salad is so good, you should really be making it all summer long.

The second half of the episode was noodles and since I am Jewish, they wanted a noodle kugel.

PBS Great American Recipe Noodles

Let’s just say I scored with that.

Kind of funny because noodle kugel is such a polarizing dish. You love it or hate it and there are so many ways to make it.

When baking the noodle kugel, be sure not to overbake it so that the interior is still creamy.

And make sure to really smash the cornflakes into crumbs and toss them with the butter so every piece is coated well.

My mother used to dot with butter, but that only allows the butter to permeate the spot you placed it in.

It was a stressful week and the best part of the week was getting to know one each other in the cast.

No, there really wasn’t much interaction with the judges, which was a bit disappointing.

I am guessing it was due to the circumstances beyond our control.

And that’s about it for catch up.

I had my watch party Monday night and my friends Brad and Khela were here.

Brad Khela and Abbe PBS Great American REcipe

You might recognize them from the show.

It was great to see them and fun to celebrate with my friends.

We set up a screen in the backyard and watched Episode 2 under the stars.

I made my noodle kugel with huckleberry jam for Maria, and Dan dan sliders.

noodle kugel with huckleberry jam

Along with hummus for Brad, spicy salmon poke for Relle,

spicy salmon poke with mango

kale salad for Khela, caramel corn from Chicago for Ted, cassava pone for Salmah and coconut buns for Leanna. 

It was fun trying out some of their dishes and serving them to my friends.

We did a little Q and A beforehand, and as we were being bitten by mosquitoes we also drank champagne.

Who won PBS Great American Recipe?

Well, that is yet for you to see.

But in essence we all won, because it was just that kind of show, and getting to hear each other’s stories was a gift I will always treasure!

Everyone asks if it was fun to be on PBS Great American Recipe?

I’m not sure that is the right word. It was an experience. It was work,

It was great getting to know others that in normal life I would never have met.

It was great knowing that at this point, we would all be together on every episode except the finale.

And yes, there were many, many fun moments. After all, it can’t be work all the time!

Truthfully I thinkkeeping us all made it a better show. What do you think?

Stay tuned for Part 3!

Want to read about Part 1 PBS Great American Recipe?