Thursday, July 7, 2011

Iron Chef: RFH Edition

Back when we started this blog, there were whispers among the cousins that we might incorporate some of the best grub we come across.  And while the Collective has yet to fulfill that lofty goal, it's never too late to start.  On Tuesday night, Dave and I served as judges for the most impressive cookoff either of us has ever seen.  As legend has it, two of Dave's roommates, Ed and Whit, woke up Tuesday morning with one goal: to create as many dishes with chicken and/or watermelon that they could, serve them as artfully as possible, and then face the music.  At 12:43, I received this text message: "Ed and Whit are having an iron chef cookoff with chicken and watermelon as the ingredients.  We need another judge."  At 8 p.m., Dave, their other roommate Josh and I were seated and starving.  This is what we were served.

Courses were scored in three categories: Quality (10 pts.), Originality (10 pts.), Presentation (5 pts.)

First contestant: Ed

Course 1:  Grilled watermelon with lime rum glaze
  Ed really came out swinging.  The three judges were skeptical that watermelon would be tasty warm, but there really is nothing like fruit fresh off the grill.  Top it off with the lime rum glaze and we couldn't have asked for a better starter.  Combined scores: 20, 23, 12

Course 2: Chicken taquitos with watermelon, mango, cilantro and jalapeño salsa
  As Ed noted when he placed this platter of deliciousness on the table, the taquitos were toasted to perfection.  This was the only dish of the entire night that combined both required ingredients, and the chef did so masterfully.  The only request from the judges was a little more kick.  Combined scores: 21.5, 25, 12

Course 3: Watermelon salad with fontina cheese and fresh basil; Grilled lemon thyme chicken sandwich with roasted tomatoes
Mind blowing
  This is where things got serious.  Apparently Judge Josh has enjoyed a similar salad a couple nights earlier at a restaurant, told the roommates about it and expected to be served an identical dish during the competition.  But Ed took it to another level, choosing a different cheese, different herb and generally blowing our collective minds.  Those three flavors blended perfectly.
  The second dish of the third course was a spectacular chicken sandwich that I think Ed has made once or twice before because the chicken breast, which was about 3 inches thick, was cooked to perfection and blended with the other ingredients seamlessly.  I promise you either of these dishes would go for $23.75 at any upscale luncheonette and it would be the joint's best seller.  Combined score: 24.5, 25, 13.5

Course 4: Watermelon panna cotta with lemon zest and fresh mint
Eating out of a wine glass is the classiest shit you can do.
  Just when we thought he couldn't top himself, Ed threw down a vanilla flavored panna cotta with frozen balls of watermelon on top, lemon zest and fresh mint that really brought down the house.  What is panna cotta, you ask? A flan/jello combo that is so tasty it can only be served in the finest stemware.  Combined score: 25.5, 28.5, 14

Second Contestant: Whit
Course 1: Shooter of watermelon fried in bacon fat, bacon, goat cheese, basil and balsamic vinegar
  How much flavor can you handle in one bite?  It better be a whole lot because Whit made his presence felt with the first course monster.  The watermelon hit first with a hint of bacon, then the goat cheese blew up the whole thing before that balsamic came in with the finish.  And it was served on little miso soup spoons.  Off to quite a start.  Combined scores: 24.5, 30, 15

Course 2: Watermelon mojito, Chipotle chicken pot pie, watermelon gazpacho
He surprised us with the gazpacho after I took the picture. You get the idea though.
  First off, Whit recognized the key to the judges' hearts: through our livers.  And while the mojito may not have been Whit's finest mixed drink, it sure was nice to have a beverage to wash down all that pot pie crust.  The homemade pie, which was fresh out of the oven and piping hot, serves as the perfect compliment to, in my opinion, the night's most outstanding dish: watermelon gazpacho.  The cold soup had some spice, some sweetness and the most shockingly fresh flavor I have ever tasted.  But because the entire course had to be graded together, the scores suffered a bit.  Combined scores: 23.5, 27.5, 11

Course 3: Fried chicken; Watermelon, arugula and blue cheese salad; Watermelon lemonade (con vodka)
One strikeout, one walk, one homer.  That's a .333/.666/2.000 performance. I'll take it.
  Whit's third course was his least worst, but still had a wide enough range of dishes hat the scores managed to even out.  The strikeout was the salad because the arugula and watermelon just didn't go well together, there wasn't quite enough cheese, and there may have been a couple olives in there, which just weren't necessary.  Whit got a walk for the chicken, which was a tried-and-true family recipe that had pleased the judges quite a few times before.  But the chef salvaged the course to some degree with a delicious watermelon lemonade cocktail that was mixed perfectly.  Combined scores: 21.5, 23.5, 12

Course 4: Watermelon slush
  Watermelon, frozen all day, blended, with some honey lime glaze sauce to drizzle on top.  Yes, it's fair to say Whit finished up strong.  Combined scores: 29, 27, 14

Overall winner: Whit

To be continued.....


Ryan Mahanna said...

Holy Crap...this might be the most impressive blog on The Collective yet. I am not sure what impresses me more, the quality of the food made or the coolness of it all (my Thursday nights are significantly more lame). I am glad Sam brought it to my attention that the subject of food is fair game from time to time on The Collective (thanks for nothing John). These dishes look ridiculously good everybody should be proud of what was accomplished. Still a bit confused, are Dave's roommates professional chefs? Didn't see a mention of it but it would make sense...

Josh said...

Not pros...yet. This was a truly impressive display of culinary prowess and I am proud to have been a small part of it.

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