Just in case you've lost track of which television chef show does what, here's a refresher. On Iron Chef, or I should say, Iron Chef America (it's based on a Japanese program), "world-class chefs battle the legendary Iron Chefs of America: Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora and Michael Symon." The chefs are given a secret ingredient to work with that must carry through all the courses of a meal. They cook on-camera in something that the show calls "Kitchen Stadium." Alton Brown is the host and it's on The Food Network.
The eighth annual "Iron Chef" cook-off competition to benefit Madison's Tenant Resource Center took place Friday at the Brink Lounge. While the cook-off matchups do revolve around "secret ingredients," the event dispenses with the "cooking under pressure" element and the volunteer chefs do not have to cook in front of the guests, just show up with the food.
This was good, as one on-site cooking project, Michael Jacob's berry pancakes, griddled on the spot, did slow the line considerably.
"They asked us to bring food for about 150 people, but we ran out," said chef Bessie Cherry, of the Project Lodge. "Either more than 150 people came, or Wyndham's been giving people more than one of things" -- referring to her co-chef, county supervisor for district 5, Wyndham Manning.
The secret ingredients and matchups were:
- Cheese: Jacque Pokorney vs. Brett Hulsey
- Avocado: Wyndham Manning and Bessie Cherry vs. Judith Siers Poisson
- Berries: Michael Jacob vs. Heidi Konkel
- Bacon: Michael Quieto, Julia Kerr and Kate Golden vs. nobody (one kitchen couldn't make it)
Dishes were rated by the judges on taste, presentation and originality.
The quality of the cooking was impressive, even if the presentation was more problematic. Jacque Pokorney's Peanut Butter Mousse Cheesecake, for instance, was difficult to serve -- but in this case, taste totally triumphed over presentation.
For taste and originality, Cherry and Manning's guacamole cheesecake bites with strawberry mango sauce and whipped cream were crowd favorites (even though the size of the "bites" varied wildly from cake to cake). No recipe, confessed Cherry; they just made that one up as they went along. "Ridiculously good," noted one judge.
Sweets were popular, but Judith Siers Poisson's "tropical confetti salad" (shrimp, avocado, jicama, and red pepper with a mango and citrus cumin vinaigrette in endive) was a strong entry that drew on fruits and vegetables.
While Jacque Pokorney trounced challenger Brett Hulsey in the cheese matchup and of course Quieto, Kerr and Golden won the bacon bout, the avocado and berry categories were close. Judith Siers Poisson won by just two points over Cherry and Manning, while Michael Jacobs edged by Heidi Konkel by only three points.
The overall winner of the night, surpassing all other kitchens by 20 points, was the team of Michael Quieto, Julia Kerr and Kate Golden, who truly went the extra mile in every repect. The four elements they cooked moved from amuse bouche (Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Quiche) to dessert (Maple-Bacon Caramels), as on the real Iron Chef, and at the beginning of the evening anyway, they were actually taking pains to plate their efforts.
Moreover, the ingredients wherever possible were grown or raised at local farms, with pork from Jordandal, Pecatonica Valley, and Willow Creek farms. And they cured and smoked the bacon themselves, dry smoking with mesquite in the driveway!
Bacon, as chef Kate Golden In addition to the BLT Quiche, Quieto, Kerr and Golden made an excellent Bacon-Pork Terrine with caramelized shallots served on mixed greens with vinaigrette. The entree was a roast pork slider with cottage bacon choucroute on a homemade Parker house roll. Yes -- homemade buns! Not only did this kitchen set its sights high, but definitely had its act together, even publishing a menu and being the only entrant that brought more than enough food. And the money raised all went to the Housing Crisis Fund, that helps prevent evictions of low-income persons or families in Dane County.
In addition to the BLT Quiche, Quieto, Kerr and Golden made an excellent Bacon-Pork Terrine with caramelized shallots served on mixed greens with vinaigrette. The entree was a roast pork slider with cottage bacon choucroute on a homemade Parker house roll. Yes -- homemade buns!
Not only did this kitchen set its sights high, but definitely had its act together, even publishing a menu and being the only entrant that brought more than enough food.
And the money raised all went to the Housing Crisis Fund, that helps prevent evictions of low-income persons or families in Dane County.