Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Battle Pasta

On Feb, 7, 2009, two teams competed in Battle Pasta. Since Becky was on "maternity leave" from Iron Chef Brooklyn, Chris filled in to team up with Sherri. (Yes, Chris of the Jurassic Jello.) They played Danielle and Jeff.

Danielle and Jeff, Dish #1 Italian Wedding Soup dumplings

Served on a bed of kale, these spinach dumplings were filled with pork and chicken. Unfortunately, the soup spurted out during steaming but, as one judge said, "The flavors were there!"

Cybele surveys the soup dumplings.

Dish #2: Hakka noodles with homemade paneer

Yes, the challengers made cheese. The dish was fresh and light.

Judges said: "These aren't strong flavors, but this is how I like to eat at home."

Dish #3: Fideua with shrimp and chorizo, served with a Tinto de Verano cocktail

This pasta dish has many of the same flavors of paella. Judges loved the spice of the chorizo, and the perfectly cooked shrimp. They especially liked the cocktail, which was redolent of sangria, without the chunks of fruit.

Danielle pours cocktails for the appreciative judges. Ari is especially pleased, once he understands what he is about to drink.

Dish #4: Baked saffron ravioli stuffed with pistachios. Served with vanilla ice cream, basil seeds, and blood orange sauce.

The judges raved about these—they loved the flavor combinations, and the light texture of the dough.

Sherri and Chris, Dish #1: Tortellini en brodo

Sherri and Chris decided to celebrate Italy with their dishes. This soup, a tribute to Sherri's favorite book, Heat, is made with homemade meat stock (a mix of poultry and beef). The tortellini themselves were filled with five different meats—proscuitto, mortadella, ground turkey, ground veal, and ground pork, as well as parmesan cheese.

Dish #2: Sheep's milk gnudi with fried proscuitto and sage leaves in a sage-truffle butter sauce

This dish is inspired by the delectable gnudi at The Spotted Pig restaurant in Manhattan. Of course, their recipe is a closely guarded secret (rumor has it that they are made in a small basement room that only a few chefs are allowed into). But this comes pretty close, and included Chris' signature fried sage leaves.

Dish #3: Pappardelle Bolognese

Sherri grew up on a more Southern-style meat sauce, and fell in love with this delicate one when she traveled in Italy. The sauce has several different types of meat, as well as tomatoes, but it's the white wine and vegetables that make it light and nuanced.

Dish #4: Sicilian cannoli

Sherri read in her research that cannoli shells are made with a buttery, fried pasta dough. Of course, there are a few tricks you need to learn to get them right: the dough must be cold for the butter to "blister" when fried, and—while it sounds strange—the only recipes that seem to work are the ones with marsala in the crust). These cannolis are filled with ricotta cream, made with ricotta from the Brooklyn-based artisanal ricotta maker, Salvatore. In the cream is also chocolate chips and candied orange and lemon peel. The cannoli are garnished with pistacios—and both the pistacios and orange were controversial.

The judges debate the close game—perhaps the closest ever! In the end, Danielle and Jeff win by half a point. Congrats to the new champs!

No, there is no Kitchen Stadium in Brooklyn. Instead, these competitions are held in a small galley kitchen, and the teams take turns cooking. Does that make the game more impressive or, well, a little sad? You decide.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Battle Cereal

The third battle pitted Becky and Sherri against Lauri and Jessica in a match based on cereal.

Lauri and Jessica, Dish #1: Macaroni and cheese topped with buttery corn flakes

A southern fave, this dish was rich and hearty. A good start to the day!

Dish #2 All Bran cereal "pizzette" topped with a mushroom-tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil

This one was quite creative: The bran cereal was mixed into the crust to create a surprising nuttiness.

Dish #3: Cinnamon Toast Crunch churros with cinnamon whipped cream

Dish #4: Mexican-style hot cocoa, infused with Cocoa Krispies and topped with cayenne whipped cream and Lucky Charm marshmallows

The hot cocoa had a hint of cinnamon and hot pepper—but the real stars were the colorful marshmallows.

Becky and Sherri, Dish #1: Oatmeal blinis topped with creme fraîche, chives, and salmon roe

Becky and Sherri, having done well with themes in the past, decided to make their dishes each correspond to courses in a meal. This one, the amuse bouche, was served with a flute of Veuve Clicquot Champagne—a tribute to the fact that the battle was being held New Year's Eve weekend.

Dish #2: Salad topped with goat cheese-filled Honeycomb croutons, dressed with a honey-lavender vinaigrette

The croutons in the appetizer salad were fried, so they were both crisp and creamy, but judges complained that the greens were under dressed, and they would have liked to taste more vinaigrette.

Dish #3: Buttermilk-marinated, cornflake-crusted, oven-fried chicken. Served with cheddar-sausage grits.

The entree was, unfortunately, eaten before pictures were taken. This back-up plate was prepared with leftovers, and is unfortunately, not so camera-ready. Note to selves: Must shoot food before the judges dig in! Also, the judges missed the description as "oven" fried, so even as they raved over the grits, they were confounded by the texture of the chicken's crust.

Dish #4: Peppermint Rice Crispies treats, served with Cocoa Crispies-infused chocolate milk and ricotta ice cream topped with Froot Loops fairy dust

Yes, the "fairy dust" was made of microplaned pink Froot Loops, in what is now becoming a signature technique of this team.

In the end, Battle Cereal was another fun match—and Becky and Sherri won again!

Battle Cheddar

So, the second game (on Nov. 15, 2008) was Battle Cheddar. Here, the winners of Battle Shrimp played Dave and Cybele.

Dave and Cybele, Dish # 1 (above) Käsespätzle with Buttermilk-dressed Salad

These German dumplings, and ode to Cybele's German parents, were topped with cheese, served with a salad dressed in buttermilk dressing.

Judges said: "Tastes like a Cracker Barrel casserole, but I mean it in a good way."

Brian tucks into a plate of spaetzle and salad. He says, "This salad is a little foppish."

Om nom nom.

He and Chris agreed, "It's good to be a judge."

Dish #2: Apple pie-and-cheddar grilled cheese

This powdered sugar-covered delight was a sweet treat. Judges debated whether it should have been served as a dessert instead, but in the end agreed that, regardless, it would make the best stoner food ever. "The only problem is," said one judge, "a place would have to be willing to deliver them by the dozens, late at night."

Dish #3: Papas Rellenas with a Black Bean Salsa and Cheddar Jalapeño Sauce.

This Dominican dish was an ode to Dave's heritage. It was by far the star of the day—mashed potatoes filled with ham and cheese and deep fried, then topped with several sauces, including a creamy cheese one. In a clever twist, Dave decided to do just this one dish, and forgo the team's "optional fourth" so as to focus on his one genius creation.

One judge remarked, "I'd order this in a restaurant. I'd order it again."

Note: After this game, the fourth dish became a requirement.

Becky and Sherri, Dish #1: Cheddar-Bacon-Chive souffle garnished with cheddar-filled brats.

The reigning champs took advantage of their right to go second. Their theme was "cheddar throughout the day," and their first dish was breakfast.

Judges loved the airy souffles, but hotly debated the bratwurst. In the end, they decided the best way to eat the brats was to bury them in the souffle.

Dish #2: Irish Cheddar Welsh Rarebit served with apple slices, cornichons, and a pint of Guinness (not shown)

This lunch dish was a tribute to their trip to Ireland together, and a blatant tug at the heartstrings of the judges of Irish descent.

Dish #3: Grafton Cheddar Truffle Cheeseburgers on Brioche with Green-Chile Mac and Cheese

A snarky judge said, "Truffle, ketchup, and pickle together isn't brilliant, assuming they used truffle cheddar." Another chimed in: "My guess is cheddar is more in the mac."

The dinner dish proved popular, though much conversation centered around the bread-and-butter pickle condiment, and the varying impressions of whether the chile addition made the mac spicy.

Dish #4: Carmar cheddar profiterole filled with cheddar mousse and topped with apple cider reduction

A hit—and perhaps the tipping point that made Becky and Sherri win again! The only complaint: It could have used more of the caramel-like apple cider sauce. Yes, those are some nit-picky judges.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Battle Shrimp

For our first competition, on Oct. 4, 2008, we decided on Battle Shrimp. We thought it would just be a one-time-thing, something fun to do on a Saturday. So Becky and Sherri dueled it out against their husbands, Chris and Brian. At the end, the judges asked, "When's the next one?"

Becky and Sherri, Dish 1: Shrimp Poke

Becky and Sherri decided to go with dishes inspired by their travels.

This is a shrimp version of the Hawaiian dish that's usually made with raw tuna. Both women have had it in Maui in the past.

Becky and Sherri, Dish 2: Baja-style Shrimp "Fish" Tacos

This dish was inspired by Sherri's visits to Mexico. The shrimp was beer-battered and fried, and served on warm tortillas with a cabbage slaw, salsa, and chipotle-mayo sauce.

Becky and Sherri, Dish 3: Cape Cod-Style Shrimp "Lobster Rolls"

Yes, they look a bit bedraggled here. There were homemade fries too, but they were eaten before the pictures were taken. Boo. First lesson: Must take pictures before the judges dig in! For this dish, Becky drove the proper side-loading buns down from Boston. The judges' conversation revolved around whether the bun should have been toasted. A snarky judge said: "The toasting makes the bread taste stale." From Becky and Sherri: "We stand by our dish."

Becky and Sherri, Dish 4: Marscapone Gelato and Shrimp Chip Sundaes

All agreed, this was a surprisingly tasty dessert. The gelato was scooped into Thai shrimp chips, and then more shrimp chip was microplaned on top. The lovely balance of creamy, salty, and sweet surprised even the contestants. There was no destination inspiration, per se, except for the creativity of some of New York's molecular gastronomists.

Brian and Chris, Dish 1: Shrimp Popsicle

It was clear from the beginning that Brian and Chris would go in a more playful direction. They purchased pop art plates to serve their sometimes fun, sometimes silly creations on. This first dish, a warm shrimp "pop" was a hit.

Brian and Chris, Dish 2: Shrimp "Kiss" Dumplings with Mango Chili Sauce

Judges debated the heat level of the sauce, but all agreed that the mango and shrimp paired well together here.

Brian and Chris, Dish 3: Shrimp Kiev-Cordon Bleu with Fried Basil Leaf

The shrimp was crispy and tasty, and even though much of the butter filling leaked out, it seasoned the bread crumbs on the way and left its mark. Judges were also impressed with the tasty fried basil leaf.

Brian and Chris, Dish 4: Jurassic Jell-O

This light-hearted dish was, though it is hard to see in the picture, a mold of pineapple Jell-O with a "fossilized" dried shrimp in the middle.

The most fun dish of the day was, unfortunately, the team's downfall. It will never be forgotten, though few involved would ever choose to eat this flavor pairing again.