Diane Hagopian
Oscar Menoyo
71, Gurnee
Former cook of the week.
Favorite TV chef: Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

Contestant's Recipe from the First Round

Surprise Lettuce Wraps

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons Ying’s Kitchen Spicy Kungpao sauce, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced into 1/3-inch pieces (white and about 3 inches of green)
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery, 1/3-inch dice
  • 3/4 cup chopped peppers (red, green and orange), 1/3-inch dice
  • 3/4 cup chopped kholrabi, 1/3-inch dice
  • 3/4 cup Granny Smith apple (cored, not peeled), 1/3-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 5 large bail leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 head bibb lettuce


  • 1/4 cup red delicious apple (do not peel) cut into matchsticks
  • 1/4 cup kholrabi - peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon kungpau sauce
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • Healthy squeeze of juice from 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt

Mix 1 tablespoon each vegetable oil and kungpao sauce in a small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Put chicken thighs in shallow dish and pour sauce over; refrigerate 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roast thighs until internal temperature registers 160 degrees. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, slice into 1/3-inch pieces; set aside.

Add olive oil to a wok and heat on medium heat until hot; add green onions stirring continuously for 1 minute. Add celery, peppers, kholrabi and apples and chicken stirring for another 2 minutes.

In small bowl add chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons kungpao sauce and corn starch mixing until smooth. Add to vegetables mixing until well blended. It may be necessary to add a bit more broth to bring it to a nice consistency. Heat through; taste for seasoning. Add basil and stir in gently.

For the garnish: Add the sliced apple and kohlrabi to a small bowl. Add Kungpao sauce, soy sauce, lime juice and salt and mix until well combined.

To serve: Arrange lettuce leaves on platter; add filling (room temperature) and top with garnish and a bit more basil chiffonade. Enjoy!

Serves four.

56, Hoffman Estates
Favorite cooking shows: "Iron Chef," "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives"

Lemon-glazed Halibut with Ramen Provencal

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 6 halibut filets (about 2.5 pounds total) cleaned and deboned
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup prepared lemon curd
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups vegetable broth, divided

Ramen Provencal

  • 3 packages (3 ounces each) noodles
  • 1 cup assorted peppers (sweet and hot), julienne
  • 1/2 cup thin sliced red onion
  • 4 large cloves minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon prepared lemon curd
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium unpeeled zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rehydrate porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of very hot vegetable broth for at least 30 minutes (this will yield about 1 cup of mushrooms). Drain, reserving the liquid and chop the mushrooms for the ramen Provencal.

In a small metal bowl, whisk together the lemon curd, sherry, red onion salt and broth.

Place 6 tablespoons of flour in large plastic bag. Salt and pepper the filets on both sides then dredge each filet 4 tablespoons melted butter. Place filets one at a time in bag with flour, seal it, and shake it vigorously to coat evenly.

In a 12-inch cast iron pan, heat 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat; when sizzling starts, add 3 filets and cook 30-45 seconds on each side to a golden color; remove cooked filets; again add 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil and follow the same procedure with the remaining 3 filets. Return the 3 filets that were set aside to the pan.

Baste the 6 filets with all the glaze mixture to cover entirely. Bake in the pan in 350 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes (until "test" filet flakes with little fork tug). Remove fish from pan.

Add as much stock as is left from the rehydrated porcini mushrooms to a 2 cup container; add as much more vegetable stock as is needed to total 2 cups.

In a 1-quart sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat; when completely melted, add 2 tablespoons flour and mix rapidly to make a roux. When golden colored, remove from heat.

Add the 2 cups mushroom liquid/stock to the pan the fish was baked in to deglaze it over high heat using a spatula to scrape the bottom. Place the saucepan with the roux on low heat. Stirring rapidly the whole time, pour the stock with deglazed content into the quart pan. This should thicken enough to yield a light, thin gravy consistency. Pour the gravy through a meshed strainer back into the sauce pan and set aside.

For the ramen Provencal: Cook the ramen noodles noodles in 4 cups of boiling water for 4 minutes stirring frequently. Drain well. Add a touch of olive oil and mix in to prevent noodles from sticking.

If needed, pat slices of zucchini dry with clean paper towels to remove excess moisture. In a wok, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and stir fry the zucchini slices until they start to turn a golden color with some browning of the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from wok, salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the wok, heat to sizzle, add the peppers, stir fry 3 minutes. Add garlic, the noodles, salt and pepper to taste and stir fry 2 more minutes more. Remove from heat. Return the zucchini to the wok, add parsley, lemon curd. and mix well.

To serve: For each guest, place the ramen Provincial on the plate and top with a lemon glazed halibut filet. Pour enough hot gravy over the filet to also lightly cover the noodles. Finish with some chopped fresh parsley over the filet.

Serves six.

Contestant's Recipe from the First Round

Barbecued Kungpao Chicken Thighs with Kohlrabi-Apple Slaw and Split Pea Dal

  • 8 boneless chicken thighs (about 2½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) Ying's Spicy Kungpao Sauce, divided
  • 2 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon medium-dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove crushed with press
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated


  • 2 kohlrabi bulbs peeled and julienned (see note)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple cored, peeled and julienned (see note)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper seeded and julienned (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon toasted cumin seed, ground (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted mustard seed, ground mustard (see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Fresh grated nutmeg to taste

Split pea dal

  • 1 cup yellow split peas, uncooked
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin (see note 1)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican-style chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 1 medium garlic clove finely minced

For the chicken: Mix 4 ounces of the Kungpao sauce with apple juice, sherry, sesame oil, garlic and ginger in small bowl until well integrated. Place chicken thighs in the bowl and coat thoroughly with the marinade. Transfer content to a one-gallon zip lock plastic bag. Press out air, and seal the bag. Fold the bag and place on plate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours (8 hours minimum) turning once at halfway point.

When ready to prepare the meal, remove chicken thighs in marinade from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare charcoal grill with coals to one side. If using a gas grill, leave front-most burner off and turn the rest on high. Upon reaching 400 degrees, spray clean grill top with nonstick cooking spray for high heat use. Shake excess marinade off chicken and place on grill for indirect cooking. Cook covered for 7 minutes with top closed. Using a steel spatula, turn and brush with Ying's Spicy Kungpao Sauce (have 4 ounces in a bowl). Cook 5 minutes. Turn and brush with sauce. Cook 2 to 3 more minutes. Turn and place on a baking pan or cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Brush side facing up with some more sauce. Place in 250-degree oven until ready to serve.

For the dal: In a one-quart saucepan bring peas in chicken broth to boil. Add turmeric, chili powder, five spice, pepper and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes; stir 3 or 4 times while simmering.

In a 10-inch skillet, preferably cast iron, fry diced onion with grounded cumin in butter until golden. Add minced garlic stir and fry 1 more minute. Add the skillet content to the saucepan with peas, stir, cover and simmer 5 minutes or until all liquid is evaporated. Turn off heat and let stand at least 5 minutes covered.

For the slaw: In a medium bowl add lemon juice. Julienne apple first, add to the bowl with lemon juice and mix (this prevents apple from turning brown). Then add julienned kohlrabi, julienned red pepper, chopped mint and mix thoroughly.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients and pour into the other mixture. Toss well and serve immediately.

To serve: Form trio of two pieces of Barbecued Kungpao Chicken Thighs, Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw and the Split Pea Dahl. Warm remaining 4 ounces of sauce in the microwave for 30 seconds to pass at the table. Serve with a lightly toasted, buttered pretzel dinner roll, a glass of a cold Weiss Bier with a slice of lemon and you have yourself an eclectic feast!

Serves four.

Cook's notes: Cumin and mustard seeds should be heated in cast iron skillet over medium heat, rolling frequently until they become fragrant (mustard seeds start to pop). Grind until fine in a whirly style grinder. The vegetables can be done using a sharp knife or using a mandolin style slicer set for a thin julienne or 1/8 inch strips. Lengths of kohlrabi, apple, and red pepper should be even.