Recipe to Riches reviewed, episode 5: Butter Chicken Lasagna
RECIPE TO RICHES Season 2, Episode 5
Last week, we were treated to a Grade A quasi-villain in Jackie Koh, but on last night’s episode, Recipe to Riches cooled down and delivered just another fairly judged competition. It was almost as though the judges decided to actually critique the product on its merits rather than filtering their opinions through a mean or sweet or cool persona—and that’s just not what reality TV is about. Merit is supposed to be secondary in this game. Perhaps Jesse Palmer could start stirring the pot a little, asking each contestant, “What do you hate about your competitor?” Galen Weston, with his family billions, could surely play the role of rich tycoon and cut someone down à la Trump. Of course, this is a Canadian show, so we’re betting the good-natured, fair-minded vibe is here to stay (the just-announced Australian edition, on the other hand…).
Competitors on R2R usually emphasize their dish’s trendiness, and we’re pretty sure that’s what Brampton’s Rick Matharu was thinking when he called his Butter Chicken Lasagna a “fusion” dish (sorry, Rick, the “f” word is yet to be fully rehabilitated). Mary Rocto was closer to actually being on trend with her Jerk Chicken Bun, nailing the fast-growing single-serve entrée market (a.k.a. stuff in bread). On trend or not, Matharu, Rocto and Stephanie Kepman, who brought her General Tso Tofu, all underwhelmed in the batch-up. The quantity required—300 portions—elicited the usual shock and awe, although aside from Matharu losing his wedding ring in a pile of marinating chicken, the challenge was pretty by-the-book. The judges didn’t have much good to say about anything, really, but the least impressive offering was the tofu; Laura Calder just outright called it bland, and Dana McCauley didn’t think Canadians would go for it, so Kepman was shown the door. The marketing competition proved the livelier of the two challenges, with Matharu and Rocto setting up directly across from one another in an empty storefront on Queen West. Rocto recruited drummers to hammer on plastic drums and woks (à la Stomp), while Matharu drew on his Punjabi roots, enlisting bhangra dancers to peddle his lasagna. People seemed to be a having a good, mostly non-contrived time, and both Rocto and Matharu sold out their inventories. The final judgement was a tough one, but Rocto made the fatal error of renaming her buns Bun-dles, which didn’t impress either Weston or Tony Chapman. Plus, the groundwork seems to be laid for the stealth return of fusion (the ’90s are finally here again!), so the judges picked Butter Chicken Lasagna to fill Loblaws’ shelves this weekend.
Best product that the judges passed on: Squiggy-bake
Best line: Rocto coming up with new names for her dish: “The bun-around, bun-around-the-world, bun-tastic; they were just things that came to me naturally.”
Just because two things taste good doesn’t mean they’ll taste better together. Oranges? Great. Mint? Tasty. Together? No, thanks. Having suffered through all manner of ill-considered fusion dishes, most of us didn’t hold out hope for Matharu’s mash-up. But an office kitchen pleasantly smelling of warm butter chicken made us reconsider, and we have to admit, unholy as it sounds, Matharu’s Butter Chicken Lasagna is actually pretty decent. There’s a gentle but distinct garam masala warmth in every bite; the tomato brightens the dish up; the noodles are… well, they’re noodly, which isn’t bad (you need some kind of starch with butter chicken, after all). The dish isn’t perfect: the mozzarella was kind of plasticky
(take note: the instructed hour-and-15-minute cooking time can burn the top),* and the ricotta was a little unappetizing. It’s an ugly dish, too. But all that doesn’t really matter, because this is just straight-up tasty comfort food; with a few adjustments to the cook time, this might end up as season two’s strongest dish.
Suggested pairing: A light, fruity red. Perhaps a beaujolais nouveau?