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What is your "Signature Dish"

So many of the "reality" competition TV shows like Hell's Kitchen, American Baking Competetion, Masterchef etc, have the cheftestapant come in with their "signature dish." Something that is "You on a plate."

If you had to make a signature dish for one of these shows, what would be "you on a plate?"
(apologies if this should be in home cooking or some other venue)

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    1. re: miss_belle

      I was still thinking! Might be lemon bars or caramel chocolate brownies but I would hate for my "dish" to be a dessert because I don't really eat those that often. Those are just what I'm known for bringing. I"m trying to think main dishes.

    2. My winter signature dish is Guinness beef stew or osso bucco

      My spring signature dish is roast leg of lamb with homemade mint sauce and roasted asparagus

      Summer would either be feta mint lamb burgers or caprese salad with my own tomatoes.

      Fall would be gorgonzola and spinach stuffed chicken breasts in a white wine sauce or chili and corn bread.

      My son would say toad-in-the-holes, quesadilla or nachos, LOL

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodieX2

        I want to come over fall/winter at your house.

      2. My own recipe, that came to me "full-grown from the head of Zeus", as it were. It's a braise made with the meat portion of a breast of veal, onion, apple, golden raisins, and sauternes. I've never measured, nor written it down.

        1. Cabonara using fresh pasta and guanciale.

          1. I look forward to seeing what people have to say in this thread.

            For my part: I'm sure my friends would say that my sourdough bread and also my pizzas are their favorites--I make them a lot, so there's been lots of feedback. And not to toot my horn, but I do not know where to find a bread that I like better than my own, and I believe I do as well with Naples-style pizza as can be done in a residential oven that can't be coaxed much over 570 degrees.

            BUT: I think the dish which is most unique to me is one I don't make often, and it's not easy to make in large quantities, so fewer people have experienced it. It's pretty much my invention, so it has no name, but it's basically mediterranean.

            It's made in a skillet and its primary elements are sliced sweet peppers, sliced onions, diced apples, sometimes some currants or raisons, all simmered with some chicken broth, garlic, herbs (dried and/or fresh), cumin, and enough "hot" spicing from fresh chiles or cayenne power to create a balance of sweet and hot.

            While I have written up the recipe, and in fact it won a recipe contest at a local Whole Foods, what's interesting about this dish is that you cannot really make it just from a recipe. Depending on the sweetness of the apples and peppers at hand, the exact nature of the spices, etc., it can only be made by tasting and adjusting balance as you go along. Sometimes I even add some sugar if that's what it takes to get the balance just so. I serve it on a bed of cous-cous.

            Once, my father visited and I made it for him and his current wife, and I think she kind of took quiet offense when he said he thinks it's the best dish he's ever had, because she is a very good cook herself and very much in charge of their everyday cooking. If anyone's curious, I can go into more detail about the recipe.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Bada Bing

              Mmmm....I am curious. I love sweet/hot things!

              1. re: sedimental

                Well, the recipe's old enough that I don't find it among my current computer files. I think my above description gives enough for many cooks to go on. But here's some more about process. If Chowhound has a space for this sort of thing, I'll post it under my profile:

                Apples and Sweet Peppers over Cous-Cous

                I begin by gently sauteeing 2 or so medium onions (sliced) and 2-3 red/yellow peppers (cut into long slices or square chunks) in olive oil until softened. If I'm using fresh chiles for heat, I generally tend to use two or so serrano chiles cut lengthwise at this stage. You can taste the mixture as time goes along, and when the chiles have imparted the desired heat level, I remove the chiles to a plate (maybe they're done for the day, or maybe not; they can be added in or minced up at any point, of course).

                Somewhere in this time I will also add several cloves of garlic (sliced or minced garlic, or even whole or halved garlic cloves, which can be left in or removed at the end). I'd also add kosher salt, pepper and any dried herbs or spices here (cumin, thyme, oregano, etc.), keeping in mind that further additions and adjustment can be made.

                Then I'll bring up the heat enough so that I can add a half cup or so of dry white wine and get it evaporating briskly. I might also add a splash of fish sauce here.

                After the mixture has reduced, I lower the heat and might add a 14oz can or so of diced tomatoes (or fresh, in season), but tomatoes are optional in this recipe. Then add enough chicken stock to give the mixture the consistency of a very wet stew (you want it wetter at this point than it will be for the final product, because simmering and reduction are ahead). Also add a handful of raisons or currents here, if desired. They'll need this time to plump up. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally (no vigorous bubbling allowed).

                FInally, add two or so apples that have been peeled, cored, and diced into chunks maybe 3/8" or 1/2," along with any fresh herbs that you desire. I don't find it necessary to use a granny smith or full-on baking kind of apple: a Golden Delicious or the like is probably optimal.

                Taste here to make adjustments for heat and savory. At this point I might reintroduce the chiles or add cayenne powder for heat. Taste again after the apples have been in there for 10-15 minutes to judge the degree to which they have imparted new sweetness to the dish. You might use sugar or some honey or agave syrup or whatever to bring up the sweetness so that it is in balance with the heat and savory component you desire.

                I can't stress enough that this dish is about frequent tasting, adjustments, and balance--more so than anything else I've ever made.

                Add any finishing fresh herbs and seasoning once all the components seem properly cooked (a texture and moisture issue now). Then just let it sit off heat, lightly covered, as you prepare cous-cous.

                I use the semi-instant style of cous-cous that merely needs steeping in a boiled fluid for 10 minutes or so. I do take considerable care with the cous-cous broth, which needs to be genuinely flavorable and not just some chicken stock. I usually put a bit of garlic and minced onion in a saucepan with olive oil, toss in a premeasured amount of broth (relative to the planned amount of cous-cous) and then also a small splash of white wine, some fish sauce, chopped fresh parley or some sage or whatever's on hand, or some dried herbs like thyme and oregano, a pat of butter, salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne, paprika, etc. Then you can taste the broth, which should be quite salty but not hugely, its saltiness will be taken up into the cous-cous, so you need to learn just how much to overshoot in the saltiness at the broth stage.) Boil this mixture, stir in the cous-cous before much evaporation has happened, then take it off heat and let sit tightly covered for ten or more minutes. Then fluff away and join with the veggie stuff.

                1. re: sedimental

                  Sedimental, for sweet-hot, if you have access to a Trader Joe's try their Sweet Chili Sauce, $1.29 a bottle. Good on anything but if you use it as a dip for any boring frozen fried fish like fish sticks or filets etc, the combo will make you think you are a good Thai restaurant. Absolutely one of the best condiments I know of.

                2. re: Bada Bing

                  I'm curious about your skillet dish, too (it does sound delicious), but I'm even more curious about your pizza dough and sourdough bread if you're in a sharing mood...

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Thanks. My sourdough should be replicable. There's little secret about it, as far as I can tell. I have a starter begun with organic grapes (with stems) about 12 years ago. I think I used Peter Reinhart's book Crust & Crumb for primary advice. In recent years, I have mostly used a "no-knead" approach with 12-18 hour rises (you can see many threads here and websites about that). But I don't think the amount of kneading is the whole thing. It's really about the amount of time your dough gets to "preferment." Reinhart wasn't selling the no-knead approach, but he does urge you to knead up the dough and then let it sit in the fridge for a "retarding" phase: the yeasts slow down in their activity due to the lowered temperature, but the flavors develop over that same time.

                    Also, I use at a minimum King Arthur's Bread Flour for its high protein level, but I've lately been working from a 25lb bag of their even higher-protein "Lancelot" flour, which I found at a nearby Amish bulk grocery store. (For some reason, King Arthur itself will only see you directly these piddling 3lb bags of that stuff.) Other unbleached, unbomoated bread flours, like Good Medal's, can do fine. All flours are best bought in bulk at health food stores or the like with decent turnover, from artisanal bakers who are willing to sell you an extra 25lb bag, or from restaurant food supply places. That's dramatically cheaper per pound.

                    As for pizza, I think the key elements are a bread dough (I work from Peter Reinart's recipe for Neapolitan dough in his book America pie, which involves significant kneading and a day or more rising in the fridge. I have a sturdy baking stone, and I will often pre-heat the oven for an hour or more at maximum temperature with the stone in there. I bought an infrared thermometer and am able to read the surface temperature of the stone that way--it is generally about 570-585 when I make the pizzas. The pies cook a total of about 5 minutes under those circumstances, and sometimes in the last minute or two, I will turn the oven to a broiler setting. (Basically, they key to pizza, and the challenge, is to get the top and the bottom both where you like them at the same time.) I use bread flour for pizzas, too, but a good AP flour is good enough not to be a deal breaker for me.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        p.s., sorry for my typos above....

                  2. Mine always used to be chocolate chip cookies. But...somewhere along the line, they stopped coming out nice and thick and started flattening out. I simply cannot explain why - same recipe, same cookie sheet, same ingredients.

                    But...I found this Levian Bakery knockoff cookie recipe that saved me. I think the cookies are better than the ones I used to make.

                    Beyond that...hanging head in shame...it's the old standby chocolate cake mix with sour cream, extra egg, pudding mix, chocolate chip recipe.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: jbsiegel

                      No shame. That cake is GOOD. A lot better than plenty of homemade chocolate cake recipes I've made.

                      1. re: jbsiegel

                        Don't hang your head in shame. You just made me google that cake recipe. Going to make it this morning to take over to my BF's grandfather's house for dessert!

                        1. re: Firegoat

                          I really do like that cake. I never even attempt a "from scratch" chocolate cake...

                          Sometimes I make it in layers and frost it, other times I make it in a bundt and leave it naked. I will also do it in a 9x13 pan and put cream cheese frosting on it.

                          1. re: jbsiegel

                            Chocolate cake from scratch is killer with the Hershey's Deep, Dark recipe. Do you know it? It's a cinch! Been making it since I was in college.


                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              Yep - I've heard that's the one to go with!

                              I make the Hershey's frosting recipe all the time...

                              1. re: jbsiegel

                                :) I even screwed it up and left out the eggs once (the batter is very liquid because of the cup of boiling water you add at the end), and it still came out OK. Flat, but still good. :) Imagine my surprise when the cake was in the oven, and there were the eggs on the counter as I started to clean it up... ;)

                        2. re: jbsiegel

                          I did end up making the chocolate cake/sour cream this weekend for my BF and his family. His granddad doesn't have much of an appetite and didn't eat much of dinner.... but he did eat his entire piece of cake. (I made it into a 4 layer cake.) I was asked by his dad if I made it from "Scratch." I said... well not exactly..... before he clarified that the fact I didn't buy the cake pre-made from "Mrs. Dillon's" meant cooking from scratch as far as he was concerned.

                        3. Rosemary Lamb with Truffle Mashers
                          it is a bit simple and passe but it is the first "grown up" dish I made by myself ...I french cut the chops , and started the grill, grew the herbs, It was for my Granfather's birthday... ive made it a lot since but that first time was my favourite

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: girloftheworld

                            You started growing the herbs after you start the grill? Tee hee.

                            Sorry, couldn't help myself. I'm sure it's delish!

                          2. Chinese beef noodle soup with hand-pulled noodles

                            1. Probably my warm lentil salad with kielbasa and roasted butternut squash and fennel. It's not particularly complicated but people go apeshit for it. Either that or my Italian meatloaf, which is basically just a ginormous meat/cheese bomb. Two of my friends almost got a "divorce" one year after Thanksgiving due to a misunderstanding about the leftovers of this meatloaf.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: biondanonima

                                I actually had a "friend" stop speaking to me (and unfriend me on facebook) because I wouldn't give her my recipe for lamb chops with olive tapenade.

                                1. re: SpareRib

                                  yeah I think that person deserves the quotation marks. Obviously not really a friend. Good to be rid of them.

                                  That said I never have a problem sharing my recipes. I think it's flattering and what harm is in it???.

                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                    there was some sitcom where the mother in law went to great pains to protect her recipe she even went so far as to switch the herbs in her cabnit labels..so hers would always be the best

                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                      I'd say that kinda goes both ways. What kind of a friend doesn't share their recipe? Really??

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        I don't share recipes very often, especially if I know the cook isn't very capable, and will make short cuts not beneficial to the final outcome. One friend bemoans her baking attempts, but she always cuts the fat and sugar in half so it's "healthy". Not surprised things aren't working there, so I am protecting my cooking reputation by not having them serve "Autumn's grilled shrimp" when it really isn't my recipe anymore.

                                        Now if I know some one will follow what I tell them to the letter, I'll probably give it out

                                        1. re: autumm

                                          I still find it unfathomable to lose a friend over a recipe.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            That's why assumed that they were never friends to begin with hence the "quotes". I would always share a recipe with a friend but then again I would do it with a "Friend" too. As an amateur yet accomplished cook I don't take myself that seriously. Anyone whose opinion I care about wont judge me on some one else's bad version of "my" recipe. I can't imagine even being worried about such a thing...

                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                              Nope, neither can I. Especially since most of "my" recipes didn't come out of thin air. They're all based on somebody else's recipe or a combo of several.

                                              I did not invent the wheel, culinarily speaking. Ever.

                                    2. re: SpareRib

                                      Not trying to be provocative, but: I can't imagine not giving a friend a recipe, unless I was a pro with a distinctive dish at a restaurant I ran (or, if I saw such a thing on the horizon).

                                      Of course, "friends" on Facebook is sometimes a joke of a category. My 13 year old son has 800 fb friends...

                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                        I can see it both ways. Yes it's "just a recipe" but if you've worked hard on it and perfected it and it is "you" it sucks to give it to someone who makes it and substitutes a bunch of stuff and then says... Oh this is Spare Ribs special recipe!
                                        That said true friends know they can have any recipe I have or come sleep on my couch.

                                      2. re: SpareRib

                                        What the heck? I can see guarding national secrets, but a recipe?
                                        And you lost a friend over this?

                                    3. I think it's my cookies, to my volunteer group friends, anyway. I have a few favorites that I bring along to committee meetings so DH and I won't eat the entire batch. Most often it's English Matrimonials , an oatmeal bar with jam inside. For awhile it was Scandinavian Almond Bars.
                                      For summer pot lucks, I still make my mother's marinated bean salad - and it's still a hit.

                                        1. Mine would have to be lasagna. I always make my own noodles and there are usually at least ten layers and I love playing around with flavours. The one which is most requested is my beet and goat cheese one with my braised beef and mushroom one a close second.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Gloriaa

                                            Braised beef and mushroom lasagna--WOW! I'm hungry just thinking about this.

                                            1. re: Gloriaa

                                              Oy, does that sound good. I even have some mushrooms.

                                            2. I wouldn't dare make anything for a TV show - I'm just not that accomplished, but my friends love a very simple dish I make that I guess you could call "Garbanzos con Chorizo".

                                              I soak and simmer dried organic Garbanzos, I slice Spanish (not Mexican) chorizo into medallions and brown them in olive oil, toss in diced onion, a lot of minced garlic, then the Garbanzos, some whole tinned Italian plum tomatoes squeezed through my fingers, some capers, and a mix of nice olives. Simmer to blend flavors and serve with yellow rice (basically rice with chicken broth, shallots, garlic and turmeric.)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                that sounds fantastic!
                                                think i might have to try that - my family would love EVERYTHING about that dish!

                                              2. My signature is more sweet than savory. I'd say me on a plate is Mounds brownies.

                                                But for a main dish, I'd say roasted tomato vodka sauce with hot sausage. For years it was straight up my vodka sauce, then I started making it with roasted tomatoes and found I liked it that way even better!

                                                Any of my stracciatella gelati (regular, fresh mint and Mounds) are very much "me," too.

                                                  1. I have an outdoor kitchen and wood fire oven, so my friends and family would say it is wood fire pizza. Several kinds of pizza, but often the request is for my specials of Gorgonzola, walnut, arugula or pesto, goat cheese, tomato or a simple but quality margherita pizza.

                                                    Although I love a good pizza party, and I am not complaining really- I get a bit tired of the request for pizza all the time in the oven....when there are so many other things that are fabulous!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                      That's sort of funny--both your and Bada Bing's pizza posts caught my eye, but I know what you mean about being known for one thing when you make so many other more fabulous things. I did a post on Maker's Mark-spiked marshmallow treats that went around the world and then some, but I've made so many other things that outshine that contribution.

                                                      I must say, excellent pizza isn't always easy to find--try to think of it as a compliment as I'm sure it is one. :)

                                                    2. I think it's actually omelets for me. I sautee onions (until just carmelized) and whatever other veggies sound good, then pour the egg/milk mixture over them, cover the pan so that the egg steams and is fluffy, once cooked, I add a ton of cheese and maybe some spinach on top and fold it over. It's not a traditional omelet, but everyone really seems to love it and it's one of the first things I was sort of known for making. the fact that it's different every time made me think of the "me on a plate" thing.

                                                      1. For me it's chicken tagine, though I don't use a tagine.
                                                        It''s the first dish I remember making where I remember thinking this ain't half bad you know.
                                                        Refined it over the years using rose petals and good quality ras-el-hanout. Always use chicken thighs never breast.

                                                        1. I havea few that are requested frequently. The newest addition might be the Trini-Chinese chicken, but since it's not really a recipe I invented, I can't really call it "mine".

                                                          The ones I would call mine are just things I throw together on the fly, and they generally come out pretty well.

                                                          Caponata, pulled pork, seafood pasta, potatoes au gratin, Thai beef salad.... the list goes on.

                                                          Anything tasty is *me* on a plate, really '-D

                                                          1. My signature dish is actually a drink, or 2 drinks, the Manhattan and the Margarita (and various iterations of it)

                                                            For food I'd say it would probably be mole poblano and chiles en nogada

                                                            For dessert the Miami Beach Cake or a lemon meringue pie

                                                              1. When we get together with friends, I'm always bringing desert. My signature desert are frosted sugar cookies decorated with foot ball team logos for the super bowl party we have every year. Please some year let Cleveland make it so I can just make chocolate icing!

                                                                My husband would probably say my spicy grilled shrimp. I would say its my "not quite Thai Pad" making good nut free pad Thai (allergic kiddo) has been my ongoing struggle, since I can't have that peanut topping.

                                                                1. My brisket. Not the smoked kind but the braised kind that I make for Jewish holidays.

                                                                  And also the S'mores bars that I bring to a friend's Superbowl party every year. People devour these and they are the talk of the party year after year since I started bringing them about 3 years ago.

                                                                  1. Duck vindaloo quesadillas with mint chutney, labneh and duck chicharrones. It's an hors d'oeuvre I invented for a Christmas party and pretty much sums up my experience of cooking as a first-generation American of mixed heritage who grew up in a mind-bogglingly diverse city.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                        +1 That's some concoction, JungMann. Superfusion.

                                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                          Family dinners in my childhood involved a cast of characters brought together from the Philippines, South Asia, Louisiana, Argentina and the Arabian peninsula, all cooked in a kitchen smack dab between our Polish and Latino neighbors. It's melting pot cooking truly.

                                                                    1. Hmmmm,
                                                                      Probably pad woon sen. Thai stir fried glad noodles. I rarely make them the same way. You can have shrimp, pork, any variety of veg and herbs. Mine is balanced, but also a bit heavy on the chili peppers and cilantro.
                                                                      Or anything with glass noodles, really. I love them. It's my Iron Chef dream ingredient :P

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: alliegator

                                                                        alliegator, do you have a recipe for the sauce part of the pad woon sen? There are few recipes online and the ingredients tend to vary. Sadly most recipes are for the cold glass noodle salad, as well :(

                                                                      2. My summer signature dish would be the smoke pulled pork and smoked brisket that I make for large parties. There's something about the outcome of applying low heat and spices to meat over extremely long periods of time. My grilled salmon is a close runner up

                                                                        My winter signature dish is a lamb bolognese over homemade pasta.

                                                                        All four seasons a year I can pull a vacuum sealed bag of any of these (except for the salmon) out of the freezer for a dish that's every bit as good as the day it was made.

                                                                        1. Spag bol - my mother's simple recipe which I have adapted over the years... Recently I was introduced to Emeril Legasse's version and its divine. So I have adapted my version to include his spicing.

                                                                          1. It was emerils now its mine.. Crispy red snapper topped with crawfish cream sauce on a bed of black eye pea jambalaya.