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secret ingredient

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Last year my kids (in their 20s) started a great Mothers Day tradition...they cook me dinner, making it a competition loosely based on Iron Chef...at around 2PM I text them a "secret ingredient", and they each have to plan a meal based on that ingredient. Dinner on the table around 7pm...at least 3 courses for each kid, can include cocktails, app, main, dessert, etc.
Last year my secret ingredient was coconut milk, and we had some great dishes....I'm trying to think of this year's ingredient...maybe lemon...bacon....any suggestions?

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  1. why not go with something seasonal? off the top of my head:
    artichokes
    asparagus
    strawberries
    fava beans
    sardines
    sockeye salmon
    rhubarb

    1. Pistachios ...
      Kale ...
      Mizithra Cheese ...
      Abalone ...

      1 Reply
      1. re: todao

        Abolone? $100 per pound abolone?

      2. This sounds like so much fun! What about something like ricotta, that could be used in savory and sweet dishes?

        1. try some thing fresh like seafood shrimp,crawfish of some kind, or clams

          1. What a neat idea! Your kids sound like winners to me. If it were me, I'd select the ingredient by what I thought I would like to eat, then again, being surprised is fun too. An ingredient that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes would seem to work best. How about saying citrus instead of just lemons, that way you could get a wider variety of dishes?

            1. peppers..there are just so many varieties available...I'm thinking flourless ancho chocolate cake for dessert. Another good theme is beans...I think it would be more interesting if the kids came up with their own secret ingredient and surprised you

              1. Avocado?
                Labne?
                Blood orange?

                1. How about a spice that works in sweet and savory dishes? Maybe Sichuan peppercorns? That's my latest fave in sweets.

                  Happy Mothers Day to you, and all other mothers here on Chowhound! This year I'm lucky that I get to spend it with both my mother and my beloved mother-in-law.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dmd_kc

                    You're a great child of someone lucky - I can tell... :)

                    Along the line of spices, how about saffron? From Spain to Persia and wherever else your imagination will take you.

                  2. What a fun idea, and how lucky you are to have kids interested in cooking, no matter how you raised them! '-)

                    It might be fun to go with a wine or liqueur, or even beer. It could be a way to load the dice in your favor too... Well, if the kids know a lot about food or are good at research. If you have a craving for oysters Rockerfeller, then go for Pernod. Crepes Suzette? Grand Marnier or Curacao. Cognac or brandy leaves room for a lot of drop dead delicious concoctions. Whether you go with booze or hotdogs, we'd love to see pictures! Have a GREAT Mothers; Day!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Caroline1

                      3 Cheers for Caroline1 - booze is always the perfect ingredient!!

                    2. pumpkin?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Russel Shank

                        its fun finding out what it can go into, and it wont dominate the dishes/you wont get sick of its presence. Its native to every cuisine from New England to Afghanistan and Japan, so it could get really interesting.

                      2. What a great, fun idea!!! I'd pick bacon every year! But maybe cheese would be fun too!

                        1. lemon or bacon is good. I don't think you should strap them down to a main dish protein like steak or fish. Give them an item that has lots of flavor and see what they can do with it.

                          A very common item like egg or potato wouldn't be challenging enough.

                          strawberry was a good idea
                          Cheese would be a little too easy I think
                          mustard maybe
                          honey
                          apple
                          crawfish but it goes against my no main dish protein statement
                          pineapple would be great
                          nuts
                          citrus in general was a good idea
                          avocado was a good idea
                          spam {grins} that would be interesting
                          cream
                          peppers was a good idea but you better really like spicy food
                          Bell Peppers would be safe
                          mushrooms
                          soda (coca cola, dr pepper, 7up)
                          Cheese is too easy
                          pastry dough would be interesting

                          1. Well the dinner was just great! I settled on citrus; and thank everyone for their suggestions, some of which we'll be sure to use in the future! My two kids (plus SO's) cooked 2 great menus, here's what we had:
                            Matt's team: Warm black olives w/ orange and lemon zest
                            Greyhound cocktails (fresh grapefruit juice and vodka)
                            Grilled asparagus w/ lemon
                            Pecan-crusted sole w/ citrus salsa
                            Almond citrus nut cake w/ citrus compote & whipped cream
                            Emmy's team: Mimosa's with strawberry, orange, grapefruit and champagne
                            Salad of beets, fennel, mint, tangerines, oranges
                            Seared duck breast a la orange
                            wild rice w/ lemon grass (play on citrus)
                            Dessert was a play on breakfast combo of granola/yogurt/OJ:
                            pecan/almond lace cookies w/ orange zest, yogurt w/ honey and
                            orange zest
                            Not bad for having to come up with the menu's and execute in 5 hours! Ofcourse I couldn't declare a winner, it was Mother's day and they're both my kids! But we had a great time, and we're all talking about next year's secret ingredient...when their little sister will be out of college, and able to join in the fun!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: sfbecky

                              That's marvelous! You're one lucky Chowmom! So did you wear the cape and bite into a bell pepper before the segue into the unveiling of the secret ingredient? :) For next year, you might prepare a dvd with silly voice-overs i.e., the cutesie actress/pop singer with the highly feminine voice and school girl laugh, the manly voice that's an octave too low for the person whose words are being translated, and 80 mile-an-hour psycho-babble for the guy announcing the play-by-play in the kitchen!

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                You might have hit on something there with the idea to tape the chow-offs. It could be something you could go back & view year after year, a legacy if you will....

                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                  I think this a such a great tradition. It has the whole family involved in one way or another, it's definitely Chow-ish, and what memories...

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    This year I'm thinking of one of these:
                                    nuts
                                    pineapple
                                    peppers
                                    maple syrup
                                    I like to chose something that can go both sweet and savory...thanks to tonka11 for your suggestions...

                                    1. re: sfbecky

                                      i'd personally stick with something that's *in season* and that you can source locally. initial thoughts:
                                      - rhubarb
                                      - fennel
                                      - apricots
                                      - beets
                                      - figs
                                      - peas
                                      - avocado
                                      - pistachios

                            2. The kids do the shopping (paying for the groceries), cooking and cleaning?

                              Since it's Mother's Day, here are a couple thoughts...
                              Caviar
                              Lobster
                              King Crab
                              Tenderloin.
                              Duck

                              If you have to pay for the groceries,
                              Chicken
                              Chuck Roast
                              Eggs
                              Tomatoes

                              Sounds like a fun tradition... Happy Mother's day.