Cooks Vs. Cons is a fun, new Food Network show. Each episode features two professional cooks and two amateurs who compete to create dishes that are then sampled by judges in a blind taste test.  

In the first round, host Geoffrey Zakarian selects both the dish the competitors are to make and a secret ingredient that they have to incorporate. There are always several versions of the ingredient for competitors to choose from.

After one cook or con is eliminated, the remaining three compete in a second round where they can make any dish, as long as it features another secret ingredient.

I thought it would be fun to take second round featured ingredients and find recipes that make them shine. That way, you get a taste of what it's like to be on Cooks Vs. Cons

Chinese Takeout: Sriracha Bacon Fried Rice Balls

meat, chicken, sauce, vegetable
Sheng Lin

Cooks and cons alike always have a hard time repurposing already prepared food, like the secret ingredient of Chinese takeout. As a college student, you probably have a leg up on the professional cooks. Show them how to repurpose leftovers in style with these bacon fried rice balls

Potato: Sweet Potato Brie Empanadas

dough, flour, dumpling, pastry, bread, ravioli, gyoza, sweet
Julia McKellar

With several varieties of potato to choose from as the secret ingredient, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Luckily, the choice is made easy by this recipe. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli was judge on this episode, and I think she would vote you a cook after tasting these empanadas

Eggs: Shakshouka

tomato, pepper
Jeanne Kessira

Regular eggs are an extremely versatile ingredient, but Geoffrey made sure to throw in an extra twist by considering creme eggs an option for the secret ingredient. A true cook wouldn't touch those, though. 

The great thing about this recipe for shakshouka is that it’s customizable. No matter what type of egg you use, it will taste delicious. 

Maple: Maple Glazed Stuffed Squash

acorn squash, squash, vegetable, pumpkin, sweet, rice
Kendra Valkema

Squash is already a slightly sweet ingredient and adding a maple glaze with this recipe brings that flavor to the forefront. Using the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors would throw the judges for a loop when they’re trying to decide if you’re a cook or a con. 

Garlic: Braised Chicken

couscous, salad, chicken, vegetable, tomato, pepper
kate mellinger

Taking a potentially bland ingredient like chicken, and making a flavorful masterpiece with this recipe is the perfect way to incorporate the secret ingredient of garlic. Add a starch like risotto or orzo, and it's an entree. 

Buffalo: Mini Buffalo Chicken Pies

meat, chicken, sauce, parsley, pork, vegetable
Emma Lally

You’re sure to impress the judges with this recipe. It’s another unique application of chicken, this time with buffalo sauce in a hand-held pie that would make a fun party appetizer

Yogurt: Roasted Aubergine with Yogurt Dressing

Jody Brimacombe

As evidenced by the competitors’ choices in this episode, the best way to incorporate yogurt into a savory dish is with a sauce.

The judges would have a hard time picking you out as a con if you prepare them this dish, where the caramelized eggplant is topped off by the secret ingredient in a spicy sauce. 

Sausage: Twice Baked Breakfast Potatoes

egg, salmon, smoked salmon, toast, huevos rancheros
Maddie Cole

You could throw the judges for a loop with this recipe for breakfast twice baked potatoes. The egg and cheese make the flavorful sausage shine inside the sweet potato that serves both as the serving dish and an ingredient. 

Apple: Ham, Cheddar, and Apple Panini

sandwich, bacon, cheese, bread, cheddar
Justin Shannin

With a secret ingredient like apple, the judges are sure to be looking for the perfect balance of sweet and savory. This ham, cheddar, and apple panini is fried for extra crunch and indulgence that will steer you clear of plain old grilled cheese forevermore. 

Rice: Chickpea Curry over Rice

risotto, rice, vegetable, pasta, parsley, basil
Kevin Kiefer

One sure way to throw the judges off their game is by serving them a delicious and filling vegetarian dish. This chickpea curry over rice is the perfect recipe to elevate the secret ingredient of rice to a whole new level without touching any animal products. 

Cheese: Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

sauce, pasta, spaghetti
Maggie Gorman

Show the judges that you have full control over big flavors without overwhelming the secret ingredient of cheese with this recipe. The tangy goat cheese pairs perfectly with the smoky, sweet red peppers for a cook-worthy pasta dish. 

Waffle: Waffle with Carne Asada

The best way to make your dish stand out from other competitors is by making something so far out of the ordinary, the judges have never heard of it before. That way, there’s nothing to compare it to. For battle waffles, try this recipe which pairs beer batter waffles with carne asada in a taco-like hybrid

Coffee: Mocha Pancakes

chocolate, cream, cake, candy, sweet, goody, milk, brownie
Sara Tane

As I said before, standing out from the other competitors is a good thing. Try making breakfast to showcase this secret ingredient with this recipe for mocha pancakes. The judges are sure to appreciate the departure from savory dishes. 

Now that you’ve got some recipes, you better practice. You never know when you might be called upon to represent amateur chefs on Cooks Vs. Cons.

Do you think that you could con Geoffrey Zakarian and the judges into thinking you’re a professional cook?