Monday, May 24, 2010

Iron Chef 2010

Today, I am not feeling well, but that is totally okay by my standards as there is nothing more comforting for me than to sit at my computer, with the whir of the air conditioning, and watch the gloriously bright sun reflect through the myriad of trees and branches just outside my window.

So, I decided that I'm going to work on my blog! I also thought that I would catch up on some of the many, many pictures that I need to post:

Shortly before the semester ended, the school's culinary department hosted their annual Iron Chef competition. Even though the competitors weren't bombarded with cameramen, provided with exotic ingredients, and then judged by famous people, the core purpose of the competition remained: a team relying on their knowledge and ability of cooking to turn out their best dish in a short amount of time.

Instead of 1 hour, we had a little over 2. There were 4 teams, each with 4 students. We had to make an appetizer and a main course (e.g. starch, veggie, meat), creating 6 plates out of each and making each dish out of mystery items. The mystery ingredients included whole chickens, strip steak, shrimp, lobster tails, wall-eye, artichokes, arborio rice, and several peppers.

In my group, Team A, we had a difficult time coming up with what we wanted to make. It was clear that there were 2 distinct categories of food: meat and poultry, and seafood. One girl insisted on making Italian ceviche, but didn't know what to make for an entree. Someone else wanted to do sushi for an appetizer, and then someone else wanted to do minestrone soup for an appetizer.

Even though I was the youngest and least experienced in my group, of one thing I was certain: seafood should be the appetizer. Meat, beef, beef broth, and chicken are just so heavy. It should be reserved for the main course. Seafood is lighter--lighter in color, texture, and weight--and the appetizer should be lighter than the entree.

I'm not sure if the others took my suggestion into consideration (I had a hard time getting a word in, and was fascinated by what the other 3 were coming up with), but they decided on...

Italian ceviche for the appetizer. A ceviche (seh-vee-chay) is a variety of fish and seafood (in our case: wall eye, lobster tails, and shrimp) cooked in citric acid, and served with cilantro and diced tomato. Though originally Spanish, a classic ceviche is cooked in fresh lime juice (no heat), but we ended up cooking in lime and lemon juice. We were worried that 2 hours wouldn't be enough time for it to cook, but we ended up putting in enough citric acid that it was a little overcooked.

Stuffed strip steak with rissoto and fresh veggies with a vinaigrette for the entree. The strip steak was stuffed with chicken and spinach, tied, seared, and then baked. It tasted like nothing I've ever tasted before. It was phenominal. One of my partners insisted the risotto was cooked, even borderline over cooked, but I could tell that it was not. I consider myself the queen of risotto, in case you can't tell. I ran it past one of my other partners, and he agreed it wasn't quite done. I added more chicken stock (from the pot that the chicken was cooked in) and heated it up, so it was quite warm by the time it was served. When our dish was critiqued, the chefs commented that it was (and I quote) "nicely cooked." That was compliment enough for me, especially since a majority of my duties included dicing vegetabes, wiping counters, and washing dishes. In the next year, I plan on gaining much more knowledge and expertise, so that I can be the bossy one in the next Iron Chef.
We got 2nd place!!
We each got a collapsable mandolin slicer and a waiter's corkscrew. Each person in first place won a copy of a fancy French cookbook on vegetable garnishes. Though I love love love cookbooks, I prefer my mandolin slicer over the cookbook: it's green. And collapsable!
We also lost points on sanitation...that was because the one girl refused to wear gloves when plating the ceviche.
First place got first place because their sauce was apparently kick butt. Their team member didn't use a recipe, just went by instinct and taste, and the chefs were immensely impressed. Yes, I am taking a mental note of next year!
All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I feel as though I learned a lot. (I'm not sure I would feel this way if I had gotten 3rd or 4th place -- ha!)
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