Thursday, January 17, 2013

Culinary Competition Gone Bad

Hey, there. It’s me—Victor. You know—Jordan’s partner in crime. I swear, whenever we get together, trouble always follows us. Like the time we went on a Caribbean cruise so Jordan could judge a culinary contest.

Please! Anyone who knows Jordan knows she wouldn’t know a pate from a good bean dip!

This time she was the only one on board the Carnation Queen who suspected something sinister was going on when that arrogant—but hunky—Italian chef keeled over in his signature halibut dish during the Greased Lightening round of the competition. It darn near got her killed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Most of the cruise was a blast, especially during the appetizer portion of the contest when Jordan discovered what sweetbread really was. The girl thought it was a Chicken McNugget. Can you believe that? I’m pretty sure I hurt myself laughing over that one.

Yep, I love that girl, but she does keep me entertained. Here’s the way the sweetbread thing went down.

Glancing down at the appetizer, Jordan was surprised to see that it resembled a chicken nugget. So far she'd made it through four of the appetizers without making a complete fool of herself. She was pleased to see that the last entry might be something she actually enjoyed.
Reaching for one of the chunks, she dipped it into the sauce. As soon as she popped the morsel into her mouth, she let out a relieved breath. Although it didn't taste exactly like a chicken nugget, it was close enough that she was ready to declare Marsha and her sweetbread the overall winner.
She ate the other two chunks, pleased with herself for having survived the evening. With her lips still burning from the jalapeño dip, she wiped her mouth with the clean napkin across her lips then pushed the plate to the side. Choosing the scorecard with Marsha's name, she scribbled a big 4.5, taking off half a point for the sauce. If it had been served with a nice avocado ranch or a creamy honey mustard dip on the side, she would have given it a perfect score.
“It looks like we’re ready to hear the judges’ decision,” Emily said, moving to stand beside Marsha. “This is the all- important vote where we find out who is eliminated tonight and who wins and gets an advantage in tomorrow night’s competition. Judges?”
Somehow Marsha had managed to open the top button of her purple sweater. Even though most of her chest was covered by the apron, a tiny bit of her ample cleavage peeked through. A visual designed to get the judges’ attention, which it definitely had. Poor Beau was nearly foaming at the mouth.
What was it about men and boobs?
“George, what did you think of Marsha’s sweetbread?” Emily asked.
     Christakis eyed her for a moment, glancing once toward Beau, making Jordan wonder if he knew something was going on between him and Marsha. Then he held up the card with a large 3 scribbled on it. For a minute, Jordan thought the audible gasp had come from her, but then she realized it had actually been Marsha, who was now staring at Christakis in disbelief.
     “Although I love sweetbread and I appreciate the rich white sauce you made, I found the glands to be overcooked and gristly. It would have worked so much better if you had spent a little more time sautéing them rather than frying them in the oil.”
Glands? Jordan squeezed her eyes closed, grabbed the napkin, and spit into it, but the morsels were long gone. Catching her breath, she looked up to see that everyone was staring, and she felt heat crawl up her cheeks.
“You cooked glands?” Her eyes begged Marsha to deny it.
“Yes. It's one of my favorite appetizers.”
Jordan took several deep breaths in a row, hoping to push back the lump in her throat threatening to ruin her debut as a cooking judge. “What kind of glands?” she whispered, so low that only those close to her could hear.
Christakis twisted in his chair to face her, laughter in his eyes. “The thymus gland. What did you think sweetbread was?”
There was no way she'd admit she thought she had eaten chunks of fried chicken. “I figured it was glands, but I wasn't sure what kind,” she lied.
Mentally, she slapped her head for the lame response. She knew it was glands but didn't know what kind?
This time Christakis couldn't hide his glee and bit his lips in a futile attempt to keep from showing it.
And what in God’s name was a thymus gland, anyway?

You’ll have to pick up a copy of MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT to find out what happened. In the meantime, I’m curious. What’s your favorite appetizer?


  1. It's hard not to think of bread, pastries, or shortbread when we hear "sweetbreads" isn't it? My favorite appetizer involves brie in any form, but warmed slightly in the microwave? Yum!

    1. I love brie smeared on a piece of hard crusted bread! I never thought of warming it in the microwave. I'll have to give that a try. Thanks for commenting, Willow.

  2. Grilled calamari on a bed of arugala. Of course, I wouldn't turn down sweetbreads, either, but not with jalapeno sauce. No, in my day they were serve a a savory brown butter and truffle reduction. Oh my, it's rather early in the day to be discussing appetizers, isn't it? I haven't yet had my freshly-squeezed orange juice.

  3. Hey, Wolgfang, long time no talk to!! And I'm like Jordan. I Donalt eat calamari because I know what it is. Poor girl had no idea what sweetbreads were. My friends once tricked me into eating squid on a salad. I thought I was eating purple onions. I barely slept that night expecting the little things to burst through my tummy, like the aliens did to Sigourney Weaver!!
    Now go drink that juice. And fresh squeezed? I'm impressed.

  4. Lol, it is not glands, that is for sure! I like toast with different kinds of cheese. Some soup, and of course in a restaurant I often choose Carpaccio.

    1. Ewe!! I had to look carpaccio up:

      Carpaccio (pron.: /kɑrˈpɑːtʃi.oʊ/ or /kɑrˈpɑːtʃoʊ/; Italian pronunciation: [karˈpattʃo]) is a dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer.

      That would have ended up in Jordan's napkin, too. LOL, Aurian. You seriously eat that??

    2. It is delicious, it is very thinly sliced beef (the very expensive steak kind), with a tasty dressing, bits of lettuce, slivers of old cheese or parmesan cheese, and often some capers, or little bits of red onion, perhaps a few croutons. You just eat a bite of everything at once, and the taste is just so good. But, well, kind of expensive too.

    3. Lol you can serve it to your heroine in one of the next books to make her queesy.

    4. Again, yuk!! And don;tl be surprised to see it in one of my next books!!

  5. I don't think it would be sweetbreads for me either, but if it really did taste like chicken nuggets, then I probably wouldn't know if no one told me. I would go with something like cheese and crackers, or stuffed mushrooms. Or deep fried pickles. Or onion rings. Or blooming onion. Oh, I am getting hungry now...

    I am going to have to pick up a copy of this book. Looks like a fun read!

    1. Forgot to say, I love you for trying the book!!

  6. Elaine, I have never tried sweetbreads (an have NO intentions of ever doing it as I am as bad as JOrdan.) Before I wrote Halibut, I researched lots of hours of Chopped and Top Chef. They had sweetbread on there and one of the judges said ti tasted like a fired chicken nugget. I immediately knew that was going in my book.

    And I love the same appetizers that you like. One of my next books will be called Enchi-Lada Bodies and will feature my best Mexican recipes in the back. One of them is Jalapeno Poppers Dip. OMG!! Is all I can say about it!! With a little persuasion, I might be tempted to post that recipe here. Anyone want it?

  7. Being a Maryland girl I love a good crab ball.

    1. Susie, I've never tasted that one, but it sounds okay. Also like my heroine, I'm not much of a seafood girl unless it's battered and fried. How's the weather on the East Coast?

  8. Pickled herring is a good treat we eat in MN.

  9. hmmmmm......stuffed mushrooms!!!!