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.