Most of you who follow this blog know that for the past couple of years I have been a regular competitor in a series of cook-offs here in NYC known as The Takedowns. However, it occurred to me the other day that for all of my blog posts announcing competitions and updating you on what happened at each one, I have never actually written about what it’s like to prepare and compete in one.
In contrast to what one might think, there is no cooking on site; the venue just isn’t set up to accommodate that. Rather, all the cooking happens at home and then the competitors — known collectively as the Takedowners — tote their creations to the venue about an hour early to stake out a table and set up the tastings. The tastings are open to the ticket-buying public — not just the judges — which means that each of us has to prep about 250 1-oz. samples for everyone to taste.
If 250 1-oz. samples sounds like a lot, it is! The majority of Takedowners do multiple test runs before deciding on a final entry, and most try to plan ahead so that they are not scrambling at the last minute to put together something that is both tasty and winsome.
I wish that I was one of those people, but partly due to my schedule and mostly due to my inability to get organized early, I am usually the Takedowner pulling out her hair and freaking out less than 24 hours before the event. I do console myself by thinking that stress and time constraints are the mothers of invention. Sometimes it works in my favor like last summer when I brought home two ice cream makers for my Backwoods Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet.
Sometimes it just results in something damn weird that I am still damn proud of like my Miso Awesome Cookies.
I had a couple of ideas for this year’s Brooklyn Mac and Cheeze Takedown (pizza mac and cheese? garlic bread-inspired mac and cheese? chocolate mac and cheese?). Ultimately, I decided that a baked mac and cheese was the way to go.
My entry for this year’s Brooklyn Mac & Cheeze Takedown? Mac-sagna, the heavenly mash-up of mac and cheese and lasagna.
Using a gallon of homemade, three-hour pork and beef Bolognese, a gallon of béchamel, four pounds of macaroni, two pounds of shredded mozzarella, two pounds of grated Parmesan, and half a pound of garlic and parsley-buttered bread crumbs, I made two gigantic 21 x 12 inch trays of mac-sagna for champions.
It was delicious and I had to stop myself from eating it like this:
Sadly, there were so many other excellent mac and cheeses that I did not win. I did, however, get to see and spend time with good friends, taste a lot of amazingly creative and imaginative dishes, and be part of another
drunkenly excellent Takedown. That alone is worth every sweaty second in the kitchen.
A scaled down recipe is forthcoming. In the meanwhile, you can check out my fellow Takedowners here and here, and read more about the lovely winner here.
24 thoughts on “Brooklyn Mac and Cheeze Takedown Update: Mac-sagna!”
I’m sure Garfield would have voted for you.
I think where I would fail is the maths. I’m terrible at simple multiplication. I would need to test my recipe, note down the quantities for 1 dish and get someone else to multiply it for me and check and double check!
I’m think Garfield would have voted for me too 🙂
The quantities get to me as well. Once I triple and quadruple the recipes, I have to put multiple post-its around the kitchen so I don’t forget anything.
Thank you so much for your lovely message the other day! An overdue reply is forthcoming! This past spring semester was so busy (busier than any spring that I have had in a long time) that so many things got pushed to the sidelines. But now that the semester is over and grades are submitted, I am very happy to be back!
Thank you, Birgit! It was very yummy 🙂
YAAY, DAISY IS BACK!
Thanks for sharing a backstage bits from your Takedown!
Yes! I am back! It is taking me a little bit of time to get back into the swing of things. I was so busy near the end of the semester that I was pretty much comatose for a week afterwards! But I am looking forward to reconnecting with good friends like you, dearest Lucas!
Good to have you around again
I plan ahead in my mind but when it comes to actually doing anything, I’m a deadline queen too. I’ve thought about entering cooking contests but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’ve never been brave enough to do it. Bravo to you for entering all these. Considering all the work involved its amazing you have the energy or time to do it. What’s the next challenge you’ll be doing?
Oh dearest Poodle! I envy your organizational skills. I think that if not for the looming deadline, I would have a hard time setting my own schedule. To do one of these you really just need to bite the bullet and go for it! I think you would do amazing well and be a fierce competitor.
As for the next challenge? It will be Ice Cream at the end of July. For once, I already have an idea!
I love Mac & Cheese. I love Lasagna. You can make me Mac-Sagna any day…and you can call me Garfield!
Darling Garfield! Anytime 🙂 Next time you are in town, I will make you a tray. If you come in for the Sniffa Fall Ball, I will bring it to the Bergdorf Breakfast because heaven knows there is no real food at that thing 😉
Daisy, we’ve missed you!
I have missed you and Steve terribly too! This past spring was brutal. Not in terms of the students (they were wonderful), but just in terms of the workload! But the semester is over and all grades are in. I have a while summer to decompress and get back into the kitchen.
What are your summer plans btw? Any travel that brings you out this way? 🙂
Yay! Vacation! No plans currently (unfortunately). Are you heading to IN anytime this summer?
Probably some time this summer but I’m not sure when yet. It’s hard to get away and see friends when I’m at my parents though . . . maybe a covert trip to the midwest is in order 🙂
I know exactly how that is. So, do a stealth visit here. We’ll have the cat fur professionally eradicated in your honor!
Seriously???? Me and my allergy meds are so there! Let me see how the summer is going to play out around my grandpa’s 91st birthday and we’ll figure something out!
🙂 Okay! When are you guys around? Any dates that are best for you?
Honestly, we have no plans this summer. We just got back from the beach and we aren’t going away this fall. 😦 😦 😦 So, we’re wide open!
This is mactastic
Ha! Mactastic: I love that. Thank you!
Nice to see you back now that school is out. Daisy, you are always a winner as far as I’m concerned and I’ll be looking forward to what you come up with for the ice cream challenge.
Thank you, Karen! Getting slowly back into the groove — just in time for summer fruits and vegetables 🙂 And thank you as well for the kind words and all of your support! Ice cream is at the end of July . . . maybe I’ll get organized early and start testing now!