Monday, December 7, 2009

Iron Chef Tribeca

I mentioned in an earlier post we have been waiting years to do renovations.  To be more specific, those renovations will (hopefully eventually) consist of combining our two adjacent apartments.  In the meantime I just cut a hole in the wall connecting two closets to provide semi-secret egress from one apartment to the other (Which is, admittedly, kinda fun.  Especially when you have first time guests at a party who see person after enter the closet and no one leave, causing them to utter confused queries such as "How big is that closet!?" or "What the hell is going on in that closet?")  But I digress.  Although annoying for us, I'm not going to bitch about the problem of delay because it's not exactly the worst situation to be in, especially when your friends come up with an idea to take excellent advantage of your two separate kitchens (destined to be one giant kitchen.)  That idea?

Iron Chef: Tribeca!

And luckily enough we are friends with the sous chef at Gramercy Tavern, who we drafted to be my opponent.  The theme was chosen by our wives, or actually themes:

The theme was threefold, Mushrooms, Apples, and Eggs

We decided to have three ingredients so we would have more variety in courses just so the tasters, ie everyone, would have a better meal.  The idea was you would have to use at least one ingredient in each couse, but two or three is even better.  This turned out to be foolish.  We were each supposed to make three courses, so everyone would have six things to try.  Not surprisingly, as I tend to get over ambitious, I added an amuse, and an app, and so on until I had more like seven or eight courses.  My opponent had similar ambition, and started with three amuses...and you can see where it went from there.  The cooking went on well into the night, and some guests were too full or too tired to taste the last couple.  So next time (and there will be a next time) we'll stick to one and limit the potential for us to get silly.  Here are how our menus ended up, mine first:
Poached Quail Egg with Beurre Monté, Iberico Ham,
Garlic Chip, Chive, and Porcini Dust

Pisco Sour

Truffled Mushroom Soup with Roasted Shiitake

"Oysters and Pearls:" Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca
with Oysters and Osetra Caviar

Seared Foie Gras with Curry Caramel Apple Sauce and
aged Balsamic on Brioche

Escarole Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Applewood Smoked Filet of Beef Sandwich with
Horseradish Mayo and Granny Smith Apple

Pain Perdu with Calvados (Brioche Bread Pudding)

Chocolate Truffles
And my opponent's menu:
Celery and Apple Juice Shot

Butternut Squash and Asian Pear Custard

Mushrooms Stuffed with a Mushroom Purée

Mushroom Soup with Bay Scallops

Arugula Salad with Stewed Hen-of-the-wood Mushrooms and Poached Fried Egg

Bacon (homemade at Gramercy Tavern) and Egg on Sourdough

Roasted Veal Rack with Mushrooms and Apple-Rutabaga Puree

Did I mention it was a long night?

Poached Quail Egg.  I was particularly proud of this one because a) I had never even worked with quail eggs before and b) I completely made up the idea in my head and had never tried any of it until that night.  I think it worked pretty well, but I need to figure out how to get the doneness of the eggs more consistently soft while cooking and then plating over a dozen of the suckers.  (Note both eggs and mushrooms in this one.)

This was his Celery and Apple Juice Shot, very nice and refreshing and an excellent way to start.

His custard (Asian Pear is related to Apples).  Really awesome, one of my favorites of the night.

Gotta have a cocktail, right?  I went with one of my favorites, the classic Pisco Sour:
Pisco Sour
Dry shake, shake with ice, strain and top with a couple dashes of bitters
I was hoping to do a Calvados Flip (using apples from the brandy and a whole egg) as well but ran short of time.

This is his bacon and egg

The presentation of my team's mushroom soup.  This was all my sous chef's doing, I had no hand in it whatsoever.  It was very good.

A closeup of the soup.  (My opponent had a soup as well but we neglected to get a pic of it.)

My opponent's arugula salad with stewed mushrooms and poached then fried egg.  Check out the technique on the egg.  I attempted this once and it was not nearly as pretty.  (Eggs plus mushrooms.)

My oysters and pearls, from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook.  This is an absolute killer dish.  IT would have been better if I had gotten my hands on Malpeque oysters like I've used in the past, but still great with the Blue Points I was able to get my hands on.  (Eggs x2, chicken and cavier, if you're still keeping score.)

My foie dish.

His rack of veal.  The richness and smoothness of this sauce is beyond my ability.  Needless to say, we were getting full and fast approaching a wall at this point, but we had to go on.

My salad and applewood smoked filet.  I attempted to make fresh mayo for and extra egg component in addition to the two apple ingredients, but utterly failed.  Not sure Hellman's mayo counts as egg, but I ended up just folding grated horseradish into the store bought stuff.  Always have a backup plan.

My Pain Perdu, spiked with Calvados, ie apple brandy. (Egg + apple).  I was going to caramelize apples and have them at the bottom, but by this point we were starting to lose people so I punted that part for the sake of expediency.  My sous chef-soup maker also made chocolate truffles we neglected to photo to go with this.  (Get it, truffles are mushrooms.)

And that was it.  We had planned to impanel some judges to score everything and determine a winner, but that didn't end up happening with everyone so full and tired.  Instead my opponent and I retired to the deck (it was unseasonably warm) for a well deserved cigar and Armagnac, so we both felt like winners.  I certainly did, because I got to eat all his awesome stuff.  We plan to do this again when Spring brings her bounty of seasonal produce to the greenmarkets.  I'll try to restrain my ambition to some extent next time.

If you are still with me after this epic post, here are a few choice highlights of the prep:

Sawing off the tops of the quail eggs.

Plating the quail egg amuse.

The finished sauce for the foie gras.

Plating the foie.

These are the bitters for the Pisco Sour.

Here's Tesla looking guilty after presumably scarfing up something I dropped.

This Kitchen Art Scrap Trap is a useful gadget I got recently.

Some of the mushrooms ready for use.

Did I mention we ordered these aprons for all the participants?

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