Whose cuisine will reign supreme? Iron Chef: Pepper Battle
For a couple of years now, we’ve engaged in the occasional Iron Chef Battle with some friends. It started when -e- wanted to have one for her birthday party. It was such fun that the experiment continued, about every two months, until we moved away. Our departure coincided with another kitchen moving to L.A. and the battles stopped happening.
Earlier this month, the L.A. kitchen — Yani — returned and we felt the urge to stage a rematch.
Now, recognizing that we have no Kitchen Stadium or an army of sous chefs, we’ve modified the rules thus:
- The theme ingredient is announced ten days before the event.
- Each kitchen can prepare from 3 to 6 dishes on the theme ingredient, (with the bulk of cooking done at home)
- Order of kitchens presenting will be drawn out of a hat at the start of the evening (with host kitchen reserving the right to present first)
- There will be 15 to 20 minute intervals between kitchens to allow for finishing dishes and plating, (ovens will be available from arrival)
- Please bring your own small dishes for plating when possible. Presentation counts. Plenty of flatware and stemware available.
- Remember, there will be many dishes presented. Please keep portions small. Head count, if all participate, should be 10
- Please limit meat courses to one per kitchen (or also prepare a vegetarian variation)
- Judging will occur at the end of the evening, via written ballots
- Feel free to provide appropriate beverage pairings
The food is judged based on:
- Taste – with an emphasis on articulating the theme ingredient.
Rob and I had taken rule 9 to heart and came prepared with a bell pepper cocktail. To our surprise, this was a very successful cocktail which had notes of pear and was quite refreshing. We thought we’d do one, as a novelty, but Rob had to make repeated batches.
Then Kitchen -e- began the battle in earnest, taking her place at the front of the pack as befits the host. Her dishes were:
- Chipotle corn pudding with chevre and sweet pepper confetti
- Spiced roast red pepper soup with sweet yellow pepper crema (Nicely articulated the ingredient. It had a good evolution from sweet to spicy.)
- Taco with pork slow cooked in deep chili sauce, caramelized peppers, cilantro and lime (She made the sauce for the pork from dried chilis which was lovely.)
Then Yani, who was limited with time, presented her single dish
- This appetizer was presented in a champagne flute. In the bottom of the flute she layered Earth and Vine’s Red Bell Pepper and Ancho Chili Jam with a cayenne dark chocolate. Above that, was a raspberry cracker spread with marscapone and sprinkled with a chili and chocolate mix. This had so many layers of complexity and articulated everything from the sweetness of peppers to the spice.
The third kitchen, was our youngest competitor. Zane is only fifteen and a serious, serious cook. Unfortunately, I did not write down what his dishes were called so my notes are spotty.
- Gazpacho – This was spicy and cold. It was a nice combination with good acidity.
- Pan-seared halibut with a green chili sauce
- Savory pepper tart — Good articulation of the theme ingredient. Very light body with subtle heat to add interest carried by a nice crust
Then it was our turn.
- Safron roasted bell peppers on a bed of arugula, with yellow beets and cucumber. Dressed with safron bell pepper infused olive oil and apricot balsamic vinegar
- Green pepper stew garnished with a puree of roasted green and poblano peppers, a fried padron pepper, and chili croutons
- Red pepper millet pilaf topped with black trumpet mushrooms and roasted red peppers, olives, capers, and a red pepper reduction
All the kitchens hold desert to the end, but only Kitchen Zane and Kitchen Kowal presented deserts.
- Zane – Sneaky Pete. This was a mini pepper stuffed with canoli filling and glazed with a cayenne infused syrup. It was sweet and spicy.
- Kowal – Parmesan Crème Brûlée topped with Red Pepper Jelly
(I have to do an aside and say that I had that parmesan creme brulee at Perbacco years ago and still think about it. I was delighted that they had the recipe online. The original was served with a balsamic reduction.)
And who’s cuisine reigned supreme?