Blindfolds and Brown Butter: Cooking with Campbell’s

I love the cooking process. The chop of vegetables, the sear of meat, the sizzle of oil, and the aromas filling the kitchen. Unfortunately, my “kitchen” is actually just a stove in a hallway and bumping into hanging pots and pans when I turn to grab the salt makes the whole experience a lot less pleasurable. When I was presented a chance to try my hand in something a little spacier, I jumped at the chance.

When can I move?

When can I move?

Sure, the folks at Campbell’s aren’t technically in Philadelphia, but just a quick trip over the bridge in Camden, you’ll find the Campbell’s Campus complete with kitchens, cafeterias, and kettlebells (well, I’m not sure about the last one, but they do have a gym for the employees). Their kitchens are where the magic happens, and thanks to a partnership with Camp Campbell’s last year, I was able to visit this cave of wonders with the wizards themselves. Certified Master Chef Tom Griffiths, Executive Chef Maria Gamble, and Chef Carrie Welt brought the heat (get it?! kitchen humor!) teaching us about how and why the chefs at Campbell’s “Own the Flavor”.

The Master at work!

The Master at work!

We started out discussing the importance of the entire sensory experience, and there was even a little sniff-off.

Half of us were blindfolded, and the other half administered “the test”. Guess who didn’t miss one?!

50 Shades of... Smell?

50 Shades of… Smell?

Wanna know my secret? Every single ingredient has been in a cocktail I’ve enjoyed lately. Finally, being a part-time cocktail queen pays off!

Thank you, Volver, Sassafras, and 1 Tippling Place for all the help.

Thank you, Volver, Sassafras, and 1 Tippling Place for all the help. Ginger, lemongrass, limes (“This smells like shots!”) and lemons!

My prize was yet to come, but I did get a hint…

I see you, baby.

I see you, baby.

Before we got too sweet, though, we had to get a little savory. And, for savory, we went to the sea. Namely: Scallops.

My buddy KT making fast work of these little suckers. And there were a lot of them.

My buddy KT making fast work of these little suckers. And there were a lot of them.

We learned how to yank the muscle out of the scallop and we prepared these bad boys for cooking two ways:

  1. Poached in green tea
  2. Sautéed in brown butter

I know.

Poaching is something that I typically only equate with eggs, but Chef Tom let us know that it can create a clean, fresh take on seafood. Green tea poaching was something I’d never considered, and the scallops came out of a brief bath with a hint of earthy lightness (think the suggestion of grass).

So fresh and so clean

So fresh and so clean

We were momentarily sated.

And then the butter came out to play. Sorry, green tea, but you really didn’t stand a chance.

What's that you say? You need to be tastier?

What’s that you say? You need to look tastier?

You got it.

You got it.

I ate more scallops this evening than I may have ever consumed in my life, total. And I thought I couldn’t eat any more. But when Chefs Marie and Carrie let us know things were about to get sweet, I somehow found some room.

After discussing the differences between dark chocolates, and how well they pair with Port (spoiler alert, very well), Chef Marie got to serious business. The business of honey tuile cups and macerated fruit, of homemade ricotta (and the subsequent homemade ricotta ice cream), and of washing it all down with sweet, rich Port.

(I had some trouble telling them apart. I had to try a lot of each one...)

(I had some trouble telling them apart. I had to try a lot of each one…)

Take me to this Dessert Island

Take me to this Dessert Island (notice the Port glass has magically refilled itself)

The trip was, to say the least, incredible. Eye-opening. Decadent. We saw the kitchens where products I’ve eaten my whole life were tested (I practically grew up putting way too much Prego in my pasta!) We met the folks who eat, sleep, and breathe food innovation and creation.

These aren’t the chefs that are touted in magazines for using molecular gastronomy to create the most sublime tasting menu (for a paltry $300 [$450 with wine pairing]). These are the men and women who are striving to make flavorful and nutritious accessible to everyday men and women cooking for their families. Sure, they served us scallops. But they demonstrated how the same techniques could make a piece of cod sing with flavor. Chef Tom proved that cooking time and proper seasoning makes the difference between green beans that taste like they’re from a can and those that are crisp and zippy.

Real food that matters for life’s moments. Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 9.29.06 AMThanks, Camp Campbell, and here’s to many happy returns.

And brown butter.

#CampCampbell: Tasty Traditions

Two PhDs, a yarn expert, a circus performer, blogger, and a lawyer walk into an apartment….

Nope. Not the beginning of a hilarious joke (YET! Accepting any takers.) But it was the beginning of a night filled with some of the most interesting and inspiring ladies that I know (well, at least those that live in Philly. Maybe I’ll try to scoop some more distant buddies next time).

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but I’m a member of a lovely network of women organized by Campbell Soup called Camp Campbell. It’s made up of women 18-34 who are passionate about food. Change makers and tasters and movers and shakers. Apparently, I qualify as one of those, so when they reached out to see if I wanted to host a fall dinner, I jumped on the opportunity. I invited a handful of inspirational women in my life, and we went back and forth with what to eat from the ingredients sent over. Although I received a generous box of Campbell family products, when I described them to the ladies, one option came out as clear.

Taylor ogles the spread

Taylor ogles the spread

PIZZA PARTY!

Prego Pizza Sauce, unknown to me before delivery, is part of the family often known only for their soups (and like…. a bunch of other brands. Learn something every day, right?)

PREGO: Not just for pasta anymore!

PREGO: Not just for pasta anymore!

Almost all the other stuff was brought and supplied by my buddies. And we were fully loaded. Prego, pesto, two crust types, sausage, salami, roasted vegetables, cheese far as the eye can see, spinach, pine nuts. SUCH GOURMET, am I right?? Not only are we inspirational. We keep it classy. Since my dear friend Susan let me bogart her home for the evening, I played cook.

Chef BoyarJay

Chef BoyarJay

Pizza a plenty

Pizza a plenty

And Ame brought the treats.

Ame's got dessert covered (she also brought the snickerdoodles)

Ame’s got dessert covered (she also brought the Snickerdoodles)

Despite most of the photos, though, the night was not only about pizza…

Dinner is served!

I mean, it was a lot about pizza.

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner and kicking off the holiday season, we decided to share some of our favorite traditions. From singing with wine to rotating hosts of Thanksgiving dinner to choosing who brings the novelty butter (you guys haven’t LIVED until you try some turkey-shaped butter) to putting together Thanksgiving hoagies the next day with all the leftovers, it wasn’t surprising that some of our best holiday memories revolve around food.

Since two 'zas is never enough

Since two ‘zas is never enough

But here’s the thing. Although I was provided some choice ingredients courtesy of Campbell’s, and I deeply appreciate that, the best thing that came from the night was not the food (despite the fact that the brussels sprouts pizza was off the chain).

The MVP(izza)

The MVP(izza)

The best part was the promise of a new tradition. These are women that I know from different walks of life. School, work, friends of friends. And they all came together, by my invitation, to dine. To dish. To gossip and reflect. And then, at the end, we were like “Wait. This was great. Let’s do it again around Hanukkah!”

So we will.

Sure, anyone can be a girl who grubs… but we’re going to be ladies who latke. And that can be our new tradition.