Monday, March 22, 2010

Battle Breakfast

Jamie and Alessandro, the winners of Battle Cheese, played Sherri and Becky, the winners of Battle Beef, in Battle Breakfast on Saturday March 20. Here are the results:

Becky and Sherri Dish #1: Hawaiian-style ebelskivers made with macadamia nuts, filled with mango-banana butter, and topped with toasted coconut and homemade coconut syrup

Served with Kona coffee and orange juice

Becky started off the day with an islandy take on Swedish round pancakes, called ebelskivers, which have recently come into fashion in New York. Judge Mary Beth declared that they reminded her of Thai coconut pancakes, and Danielle bemoaned the fact that some of hers had been singed.

Becky and Sherri Dish #2: "The Full Monty" Irish-Breakfast Bread Pudding Casserole

Becky's ode to Irish breakfast was filled with fried potatoes, roasted tomatoes, bangers, and bacon. Rich and creamy, judge Sam said "I can't finish this now, but I'm setting it aside for later."

Becky and Sherri Dish #3: Chinese Dim Sum: Pork and chive dumplings, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and duck eggs rolls

Served with Milk Tea with "sago" bubbles

Sherri's ode to dim sum, the Chinese breakfast served on carts around Asia, was well received.
"Fried things are good," declared one judge.

Becky and Sherri Dish #4: Québecois Maple Tart served with a candied bacon tuile and Pancake Batter-flavored ice cream

Served with a maple-apple champagne cocktail

Judges liked the smooth texture of the homemade ice cream, though some questioned if it tasted more like vanilla than "pancake batter." The tart was less sweet than expected in a dessert, leading several judges to question why it was so savory.

Jamie and Alessandro, Dish #1:

Pumpkin muffins with cream
Served with a choice of cappuccino or Moroccan mint tea

Jamie's pumpkin muffin was a throw-back to his childhood. His mother would bake these muffins, and serve them with cream instead of butter. ("I really enjoy pouring cream into the muffins," said one judge. "I'd like to just pour it into my mouth," said another.) The judges loved the muffin's moist texture and the flavor ("There's so much butter in this, it's almost a travesty to call it a muffin"), but debated the addition of pumpkin seeds. They also loved the accompanying drinks, and the showstopping disposable serving ware.

Jamie and Alessandro Dish #2:

Yogurt-honey parfait with toasted almonds
Served with papaya topped with mint pesto

Jamie explained that he never liked the taste of papaya—until he tasted it with lime. Many judges agreed that the combination was lovely. "Papaya usually has a slightly vomity after-taste," explained Judge Mary Beth, "but not with the lime." Other judges disliked felt the papaya didn't pair well with the yogurt. "I'm German," explained Judge Grimm "I wanna be able to mix everything up in a bowl."

Jamie and Alessandro Dish #3:

Open-face egg sandwich with candied bacon, dill, and roasted asparagus
Served with a Venetian Bellini

Alessandro had worked at Harry's Bar in Venice, the home of the bellini, so it was no surprise that it was made just right. The egg sandwich was also a hit with many judges, though a few wished for salt or cheese.

Jamie and Alessandro Dish #4:

Cereal-studded crêpe topped with
homemade toblerone ice cream and salted caramel

Judges were torn on whether the cereal's added crunch was a bonus or a bust, as they were with the texture of the cereal (some called the Toblerone bits too crunchy) and the caramel sauce, which firmed up when it was poured over the ice cream. "It's like Magic Shell!" declared judge Mary Beth, comparing it to the childhood sundae topping.

Congratulations to Jamie and Alessandro—the winners of this round!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Battle Cheese

For Battle Cheese, Iron Chef returned to Brooklyn—with two new teams! Danielle and Mary Beth battled Alessandro and Jamie, neither of whom had even seen a game before. Would ignorance be bliss? Read on to find out.

Danielle and Mary Beth
Team 1, Dish #1: Wisconsin Beer-and-Cheese Soup with Spicy Cheese Straws

This velvety cheddar soup was topped with crumbled bacon and served with cheese twists that packed some heat.

"The twist tastes like a Cheeze-It at first!" said judge Dave. "And then the pepper kicks in."

Team 1, Dish #2: Watercress, Hazelnut, Grapefruit salad served with a Parmesan Tuile

This refreshing salad course was meant to contrast the heaviness of the other courses.

"The nuts bring out the nuttiness of the Parmesan," said judge Sherri, while others wondered if the dish was cheesey-enough for the cheese to be the star.

Team 1, Dish #3: Pimento-Cheese Sliders with Honey-Bacon Slaw

Who doesn't love a cheeseburger? Team 1 served a playful take on the classic with a creamy pimento cheese spread beneath a cheese-studded burger and a fresh slaw.

Team 1, Dish #4: Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake with Tequila-Cinnamon Whipped Cream

As the oohs turned to aahs (and ouches), it was immediately clear that this was the star of Team 1's day. A shockingly spicy dessert, the heat was balanced by the cooling whipped cream. Judges raved about every aspect—the crust, the creamy and dense filling, the whollop of aggressive heat, and the tasty whipped cream accompaniment.

Mary Beth and Danielle smile for the camera, glad that their cooking was finished, at least for the day.

Jamie and Alessandro
Team 2, Dish #1: Burrata Panzanella with Pesto

This richly flavorful Tuscan bread salad featured crusty bread soaked in tomato water and olive oil, served with fresh burrata cheese (described as a soft mozzarella) and a homemade Parmesan-basil pesto. Judges loves that the bread retained its crunch, and that the pesto tasted even cheesier on its own.

Team 2, Dish #2: Three Cheese Risotto

The decadent risotto was topped with taleggio, Parmesan, and panna cheese, and flavored with red wine and radicchio. Judges adored the complexity and richness, but debated if it was a touch too al dente, or if their palates had been tainted by bad American risottos.

Team 2, Dish #3: Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce and Blood Orange Salad

The salad that accompanied this dish was an interesting mix of blood orange segments, black olives, red onions, and greens—a refreshing palate cleanser after six dishes of cheese. But it was the tenderloin that was unforgettable. Sliced thin and served medium, the beef was tender, and the smooth, creamy sauce offered just enough blue cheese tang.

Team 2, Dish #4: Whisky-Mascarpone Cream with Hazelnuts and a Nutella Crust

A decadent end to a rich meal. Judges loved the flavor, the texture... everything about it.

So would Jamie and Alessandro be able to win on their first visit?

The answer was yes! The newcomers were victorious. Congratulations Jamie and Alessandro on a job well done! They return next month to try their hand in Battle Breakfast. Stay tuned....

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Green Goddess

Becky's Thai beef salad was a hit at battle beef, and not just because it was the one veggie-laden course of the day. The fresh, bright flavors of the dressing are a knockout.

Thai Beef Salad

  • ½ lb filet mignon
  • 4 cups torn lettuce leaves (you can use a spring mix, but avoid bitter greens)
  • 1 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • ½ of chopped jicama
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of a fresh minced hot chili or red pepper flakes
  • 6 tablespoons of Thai salad dressing (see below for recipe)
  • One package of Thai glass noodles

Follow the instructions on the noodles package to cook noodles. Once they are cooked, put them in a bath of cool water to chill. Season the beef with salt and pepper and grill to rare (an outside grill is best but a grill pan will work as well). While the beef is grilling, combine the lettuce, mint, cilantro, onion, jicama, tomato and chili (or pepper flakes) in a large bowl. When the beef is rare, take it off the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then slice it into 1/8” thick slices.

To assemble the salad, dress the lettuce mixture with the Thai salad dressing. Put a small helping of the noodles on each plate as the bottom layer, then add a handful of salad and place 2 –to 3 slices of beef on top. Garnish with additional mint and cilantro if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 6 small appetizer-size servings.

Thai salad dressing (makes enough for the salad recipe above)

  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons thin-sliced tender center of a lemongrass stalk

In a bowl, mix ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Battle Beef

The first battle of 2010 was in a new venue—Boston! The snow came down and temperature dropped, but the new crew of Boston-based judges figured the whole thing out pretty quickly and the contestants luxuriated in the perks of playing in a suburban kitchen. Team 1 was Brian and Chris; Team 2 were their wives, Sherri and Becky. So, on January 2, 2010, it was boys against girls in Boston... here are the results.

Team 1, Dish #1: Cow Jumped Over the Moon
An ode to the boys' years in Pennsylvania, Chris cooked homemade beef scrapple, a Pennsylvania Dutch treat, and cut it into cow shapes. It had a crunchy exterior and a smooth, livery inside. His "moon"? Scrambled eggs. The judges weren't sure what to make of the "scrabble" since some had never had it before—"It's pâté-like," one said. "That's what I like about it!" countered another. In the first of the beer pairings, they served a breakfast-y Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale.

Dish #2: Marrow with Brioche Toast and Fig Jam

The marrow bones were roasted, then sprinkled with sea salt. The brioche was toasted, and the not-too-sweet fig jam, a mix of mission figs, caramelized onions, and balsamic vinegar, was a homemade hit. "I would eat this jam on anything," Judge Sam declared. The beer pairing: Unibroue's Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale. "You know what I don't like?" said Judge Reuven, "The beer pairing. It's too Christmasy."

Dish #3: South-of-the-Border Chipotle Sliders with Sweet Potato Fries

Topped with queso fresco, cilantro, and red onion, these burgers had a flavor all their own, with chipotle chillies mixed into the meat. "The spices are dancing on my tongue," declared Judge Austin. The beer pairing: Mexican Sol served with a wedge of lime.

Team 1, Dish #4: Beef Sundae

A creative visual play on a dessert sundae, this dish was actually made up of steamed white rice topped with Korean bulgogi-style beef, scallions, sesame seeds, and a roasted cherry tomato. With heat and flavor, the dish was a crowd pleaser. The beer pairing: Korean brew Hite.

Team 2, Dish #1: Jamaican Beef patties with scotch bonnet sauce

These empanada-shaped treats were served with proper Caribbean hot sauce. The judges said "Water, please!" And then the cooks remembered they had brought Jamaican ginger beer to cool the fiery heat. Oops. But the judges were glad to have it, even though it came late.

Dish #2: Thai beef salad

A refreshing treat after five courses of serious beef, this salad was served over glass noodles and laced with mint and cilantro. The filet mignon was sliced thin, and the dressing was a tangy mixture of Thai-style fish sauce and lime juice. The result: a real hit.

Dish #3: Texas-style Barbecue Brisket with garlicky Texas toast and homemade barbecue sauce

Another hearty beef dish, this one didn't benefit from the lengthy cooking time it usually gets, but made up for it was a tasty sauce. The beef was served "wet" —which means fatty in barbecue speak. "It's repulsive how much I like fat," declared Judge Reuven.

Dish #4: Chinese orange beef lollipops

Served on popsicle sticks stuck in clementines, these fried chunks of beef were arranged with grilled orange slices. On the side, Becky served a tart and tasty hoisin-orange sauce, and a fortune cookie for good luck in the new year.

So who won this first game of 2010? The girls! It was a close one, once again. (This time, there was also a little bitterness "I've lost three times! I'm taking my legos and my transformers and I'm going home—I'm not playing again."

Next month, it's back to Brooklyn for Battle Breakfast!