Food Photo Contest: Rick Bayless’s Twitter Challenge Week 1

To my surprise, Rick Bayless has started a four week long contest to promote his latest cookbook – ‘Fiesta at Rick’s’.  Naturally I jumped at this opportunity given my love for Mexican food and any sort of cooking competition. The whole idea behind the contest is to decipher Rick’s 140 character recipe and you do the rest while not cheating by peeking at the recipe in the new book. Recipes are posted on Monday and you have until midnight Saturday of that week to submit your photo.  According to Rick’s blog the recipes are judged on interpretation, presentation, and authenticity. Without being able to taste the recipe you can’t 100% determine a winner in my book but the photo competition alone is worth the work of preparing the dish.

Week 1 –

The first recipe of the contest was tweeted by @Rick_Bayless last Monday: “Sear 1.25# bnls chix brst; cool, cube. Brn 1 onion,add 3 grlc,2 poblanos (rstd,pld,slcd),6 oz chard,1c broth,1c crema.Boil2 thickn.Add chix”

Now, to me this seems pretty straightforward and simple with very few ingredients. Other “Tweeps” did not seem to feel the same way. They voiced dozens of complaints as to the vagueness of the recipe or what some of the ingredients even were.  Rick  responded to them with a firm, “That’s part of the whole challenge!”, and gave no other feedback.  To me, I welcome the challenge! While I could have run out to Barnes & Noble to flip through the glossy pages to size up what would no doubt be a studio-created photo I decided to play fair.  I hope that everyone else is doing the same but we all know at least one person would be lying…

That said, I wanted to keep it authentic and to-the-recipe as possible so this meant making my own crema.  After reading several recipes it seemed simple enough; 2 cups heavy cream and about 4 tablespoons of buttermilk. After heating through and allowing to cool and to sit for about 13 hours it turned into a tangy, smooth, and somewhat runny concoction. Not being all-too familiar with crema I decided this soupy consistency was acceptable given it was just going be boiled and reduced anyhow.  I found crisp and beautifully green rainbow chard at the White House farmers market on Thursday and after looking in three different places found poblanos at Whole Foods. I thought they were so commonplace now! Guess not… (I also have an awesome use for charred poblanos in my turkey burger recipe but I’ll save that for another day.)

I ended up making the dish on Friday night as my way of winding down after a long week at work. I love having a quiet kitchen to myself sometimes–so relaxing.  From start to finish I would say it only took about 45 minutes to actually cook. Not too bad.  I have posted the recipe below in my full interpretation along with the little tweeks I made for myself along the way.  I am a little disappointed that I didn’t win in the first round but I am going to step up my game this week. Watch out!  My only guess as to why mine might not have been chosen was my use of cumin and chili powder to season my chicken. This gave the sauce more of a yellowy-orange tint, but to me it looks just as appetizing as some of the winning submissions posted here. I can’t imagine not seasoning the chicken before searing it but that’s just me. Perhaps I should have stuck to the “recipe” more closely. I know I created way more work for this contest than was necessary after seeing the first week’s results. Therefore, for the next three weeks I’m going to focus on presentation alone and scale back the “authenticity”.

If you have submitted a picture to his contest or are thinking about doing so in the coming weeks let me know! I would love to discuss everyone’s thought process in interpreting these 140 character “Tweetcipes”.  I know that the challenge is just for a cookbook, but I really do enjoy a good competition plus I love to see other people’s photography.  Also, if anyone has actually picked up a copy of the cookbook I would love to know your thoughts on plating and food styling among his photos.

Congrats to the Week 1 winners and best of luck to any of my fellow competitors out there!

Creamy Mexican Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblanos

Serves four

1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 poblano peppers, charred, peeled sliced (slight variation from Rick’s)

10 oz. Swiss chard, rinsed, chopped (slight variation from Rick’s – I had so much of it!)

1 C. fresh crema (see description in post)

1 C. chicken broth

3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

1 large onion

1/2 jalapeño, diced, membrane and seeds included (slight variation from Rick’s)


chili powder



  • Season chicken with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Sear on a hot grill on both sides, remove, cool, then cube into bite size pieces
  • Add poblanos to hot grill and roast until skins char and bubble. Remove and let cool. Peel off skin then chop
  • Brown an onion in a pan with a little bit of olive oil
  • Add garlic and jalapeño. Continue to brown
  • Add poblano, crema, and stock to the pan
  • Boil until sauce begins to thicken
  • Add Swiss chard
  • Add chicken and cook thoroughly. The consistency should almost be like a curry
  • Serve on tortillas or over rice

I think this recipe is a good springboard for experimentation. I think the base would be really delicious with seared fish perhaps.

4 Responses to “Food Photo Contest: Rick Bayless’s Twitter Challenge Week 1”
  1. Sean says:

    Hi! I’m another Rick Bayless contest participant and just found your blog while searching for other interpretations. I’m definitely going to follow you now. Like you, I stayed pure. I didn’t win in week 1, but that’s OK because there were 3 more weeks! Your photo and preparation is much better than mine. One of the big mysteries for me on this one was how to eat it, which would have helped a lot in how to present it for the photo. Here’s how mine ended up:

    • Thanks so much. I’m kind of a slacker about getting my posts up sometimes…I’m going to put up the last two tomorrow so I would love your feedback! I thought my rib pic was a definite win!
      Like you, I had a hard time figuring out how to serve the first dish but I love your presentation! Your photos are wonderful.

  2. Rolando Sgrignoli says:

    An intriguing reasoning behind this writing. I’m 1 of people individuals whom tend to loose time waiting for things mature prior to taking action but also in this example I’m mindful that inaction causes only failures thus will heed your comments and commence to perform anything over it.

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