I Ate Like Kylie Jenner & Here's What Happened

Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
This story was originally published on May 19, 2016.

I cannot stop watching Cooking with Kylie. There are only three episodes out, but I've watched each one several times. I watched them on my own; I've eagerly shoved the show in front of friends. I find myself talking about it constantly. And it's not because the food looks great, or Kylie Jenner is a particularly engaging host. It's because when you watch Cooking with Kylie, you enter an uncanny valley of cooking shows.

Everything is there: the immaculate kitchen, the ingredients, the person telling you what to do with them. But something is...off. It's like we did our best to explain cooking shows to the aliens, and this is what they've created. In the weird world of Cooking with Kylie, ingredients are mysteriously added twice. Or they aren't used in the amounts specified, and new ones are sometimes brought up at random. In one video, a mostly silent man stands in the background, disappearing and reappearing from shot to shot without explanation. We are so used to getting our cooking instructions from experts that it's deliciously unsettling to get them from someone who not only seems uncomfortable, but totally unqualified to be giving them.

It only took a little while for my morbid fascination to gel into a desire to actually make the food. Now, I was re-watching the episodes over and over again because I actually had to parse out the exact instructions and create workable recipes from them. Kylie's recipes don't live anywhere in printable form, which takes me back to the pre-internet age of cooking shows. I felt a kinship with the women who had to dutifully take down recipes by hand from shows like The French Chef. Now, some 50 years later, I'm doing the same, but not for Julia Child's coq au vin. It's because I want to make a reality-star-slash-lip-kit-mogul's beef sliders.

Finally, with the ingredients and tasting team assembled, I was ready to stop watching Cooking with Kylie and actually cook with Kylie. First up? Candied yams.

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Recipe 1: Candied Yams
Kylie debuted her cooking series back in February. So, of course, she started out with candied yams, that favorite late-winter dish. In the video, she and her assistant, identified only as Victoria, proceed to drown yams in Aunt Jemima not once, but twice during the cooking process, then bury them in marshmallows.
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Screenshot: via TheKylieJenner.com.
The Ingredients
Please note, as I did, the demand for organic everything: yams, sugar, cinnamon, orange juice, coconut oil. Then: Jet Puffed marshmallows and Aunt Jemima. I grew up on Aunt Jemima, so I don't want to be too harsh here, but it should really be called "Aunt Jemima High Fructose Corn Syrup." The only thing maple about it is the artificial flavoring — just the kind of thing you want to go along with your organic produce.

Kylie also notes in the video that the organic coconut oil is used as a healthy butter substitute, which feels akin to asking for low-fat mayo on a Big Mac. If you're making something that you're planning on smothering in processed sugar, subbing in a "healthier" fat is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
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Photo: Via @lorditsmarshall.
My Version
I grew up in a family that never served any kind of sweet potato casserole on Thanksgiving (we always opted for wild rice, which is weird, I know, but I digress...). So I admittedly have very little experience with the dish. But, I don't think it's supposed to taste this bad. I don't think anything is supposed to taste this bad.

The yams, which were essentially basted in then topped off with corn syrup, were a gloopy mess, and any other flavors, organic or no, just got lost in the process. The marshmallows were the one redeeming detail, since toasted marshmallows always taste good. We picked them off the top and tossed the rest of the casserole away.

Finally, "candied" might be overstating the case a little bit. As one of my friends commented on Instagram, "where's the caramelization? they just look syruped..."
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Recipe 2: Karrueche's Shrimp Tacos & Homemade Guacamole
For her second episode, Jenner is joined by a more identifiable sous chef, Karrueche Tran. This time, it's Karrueche's recipe, not Kylie's, that we're learning. It's also slightly more complicated, in that the two also make their own crunchy taco shells from soft corn tortillas, a surprisingly advanced step in the cooking process.

Really, though, this whole recipe seemed like an excuse for the two of them to giggle nervously as they talked about "tasting each other's tacos."
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Screenshot: via TheKylieJenner.com.
The Ingredients
First of all: Do you know how much raw shrimp costs at Whole Foods? A lot. And since Cooking with Kylie demands organic produce, that is where I bought my two pounds of raw shrimp, coming in at $31.25.

Second: Do you know how much four cups of diced organic tomatoes is? A lot. In the video, at no point does Kylie use anywhere near four cups of tomatoes. At best, she or Karrueche only ever use what could be described as a sprinkling. One could argue that I, in attempting her recipe, could follow the spirit, not the letter. But out of stubbornness (and morbid curiosity) I followed her ingredient list exactly and was soon up to my elbows in diced tomato.

Also, only when shopping did I notice at no point was "avocados" listed on the ingredient list, despite the premise of this recipe (Karrueche's tacos and guacamole). Unwilling to watch the video in public, I grabbed three and hoped that would be enough.
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Photo: Via @LordItsMarshall.
My Version
There was a lot that was weird about this recipe: seasoning a Mexican dish with a lot of Old Bay, cooking shrimp in nearly equal parts tomatoes, guacamole with three kinds of onions (green, white, and powdered), and a recipe list that includes three limes when you maybe actually need one. As for the mystery guac: At some point, Karrueche says "you need your avocados," and then we just had to wing it using other guacamole ingredients that actually were listed, present, and accounted for.

As we made our plates, we were all pleasantly surprised — it wasn't bad. In fact, it was pretty good. The Old Bay wasn't as overwhelming as I thought it would be; the shrimp actually tasted fairly bland (my guess is the soupy tomato-onion-cilantro mixture kept most of the spice from actually adhering to the shrimp). So not the best taco filling I'd ever had, but bland filling isn't the worst, especially when topped with cheese, guacamole, and salsa. I won't make it again, but my taste testers and I all had seconds, a big improvement from the disastrous candied yams.
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Recipe 3: Teriyaki Sliders
In the third installment, big sister Khloé Kardashian joins, as does a mostly silent Harry Hudson, who the internet tells us is a musician and cancer survivor, though here he's mostly just a silent, unexplained presence. They're making mini hamburgers, despite the fact that Khloé does not eat red meat. Nor, apparently, does she touch it. When Kylie asks for help mixing the burgers, Khloé demurs, explaining that she's got rings and nails on.

Khloé's assistance comes mainly in the form of running commentary on what Kylie is doing. Like bossy older siblings the world over, she goes from guest to host pretty quickly, outshining little sis in her own video. In the end, Kylie thanks her for "supervising" after Khloé explains there wasn't much she could do, since Kylie is "one of the best" chefs. (One of the best chefs in the family? In Calabasas? In the world? The question remains tantalizingly unanswered.)
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Screenshot: Via TheKylieJenner.com.
The Ingredients
This is by far the most standard of Kylie's recipes — most of the ingredients listed are exactly what anyone would put on a burger: cheese, seasoning, condiments. The one thing that sets it apart is teriyaki sauce. In the video, Kylie is using Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce and marinade, which she declares "major key," and which I was miraculously able to find at my local grocery store.

When I asked the butcher what he recommended for hamburgers, he told me the sirloin was very freshly ground and would be great. I didn't have the heart to tell him what I was about to do to his meat.
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Photo: Via @lorditsmarshall.
My Version
In the video, Kylie shares a secret to cooking burgers well-done: Make a small indent in the middle to help it cook more evenly. As I am not a monster, and order burgers as god intended (medium-rare), I did not follow her directive. I did, however, follow every other instruction perfectly: I drenched the beautiful, freshly ground beef in marinade, then topped it off with more marinade and let it sit. I cooked the sliders in butter in cast iron. I cooked the buns in a separate skillet, also with butter. I topped it with bacon.

And, as I took my first bite, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't a high-class burger. Some burger purists would argue that no burger should ever have so much seasoning mixed in — the meat should be allowed to speak for itself. While I agree in theory, it's rare that I meet a burger I don't like, and I found the garlicky, gingery marinade to give the whole thing a nice kick. This was the first recipe I not only enjoyed, I also made again. The next day, I used the leftover ground beef and made sliders for my roommate for lunch. She declared them a tad salty but good.

Considering her first recipe was downright inedible, Kylie's cooking prowess appears to be improving at an accelerated rate. I predict by the 10th Cooking With Kylie, she'll be a contender for Master Chef.
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