The average American consumes nearly five pounds of peaches every year, and I can’t blame them as peaches are very possibly my favorite fruit of all. If you visited my home in Los Angeles, you would be very likely to find a large fruit bowl in my kitchen laden with quite a few different varieties along with a few samples of their smooth cousins, the nectarine.
As well as eating them raw as a healthy snack, I love to use peaches in a wide variety of both sweet and savory dishes and am always on the lookout for inspiring recipes.
If, until now, you have always thought of the peach as little more than a canned filling for pie, I hope that this week’s efforts in Kitchen Stadium will persuade you that there is far more to this humble fruit than you ever imagined. You might even be inspired to head out in search of some interesting varieties at your local farmers’ market.
What are peaches?
The fruit of the peach tree is a “drupe,” which means it has a three-layered structure of skin, flesh and a hard stone or “pit” at the center. This puts it in the same family as other fruits including plums, cherries and apricots, and also relates it to walnuts and almonds.
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I am positive that just about everyone reading this post will have bought packs labeled “Parmesan” from their local supermarket. I am also sure that just about everyone will have used said Parmesan in their cooking, whether it was as the basis for a sauce or simply grated over a bowl of steaming pasta.
Unfortunately, much of what is on sale in the U.S. is mass-produced, a pale imitation of true Parmigiano-Reggiano from Northern Italy, and lacks the texture and deliciously nutty flavor of the genuine article. The good stuff may be pricey, but it is worth every penny and I really hope that Battle Parmigiano will inspire everyone to go out in search of the real deal.
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This week’s ingredient was certainly not the most unusual to ever appear in Kitchen Stadium, but that doesn’t mean that the task of impressing the judges was any easier for the Iron Chef and the challenger. In fact, such a well-known ingredient can often be tougher than a more exotic one as the chefs will have to be even more creative to avoid producing dishes that everyone has seen before.
Despite its familiarity, it’s well worth having a look at the history of the humble sausage to see where it originated and how it is used in the cuisines of the world.
What is sausage?
By definition, a sausage is made of ground meat, most often pork and beef, that has been mixed with salt, fat, herbs and spices. It is either sold in bulk or encased in tubes made of natural or synthetic materials. This sausage is then either cooked from fresh or cured to preserve the meat to be eaten later.
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Kitchen Stadium is a surprising place.
When the Iron Chefs face off against their challengers, you are never quite sure what they are going to come up with. In fact, I’m positive, neither are they.
The biggest surprise of all, of course, is the Chairman’s secret ingredient. Some of the foods revealed are very familiar, but many are unusual (some of the judges may say cruel and unusual), and I have heard many a battle-hardened chef whimper when the altar rises to reveal an exotic ingredient that has never graced their chopping boards before.
But that’s what being an Iron Chef is all about, and one thing is for certain: The Chairman’s challenges are not going to get any easier. He is continually searching far and wide for ingredients that will really test the mettle of the Iron Chefs and those who dare to challenge them.
For the upcoming season of Iron Chef America, I am delighted to announce that the good folks at Food Network have asked me if I would put together a series of guides showcasing the delights the Chairman has in store for the contestants.
What is paiche? »
As a very recent immigrant to the United States, I have to hold my hand up and say that most American sports remain a complete mystery to me. Until recently, I thought the term “all net” referred to fishing and that a “power play” was something you found at a Van Halen concert. But, even in my ignorance, I still knew all about the Super Bowl, one of the greatest sport events on earth.
So, when Food Network got in touch and asked me if I would like to judge a very special Iron Chef America episode to air just before Super Bowl XLVI, I jumped at the chance. When I found out it was going to be filmed in Hawaii, I was even more determined to take part and, when I was told that my fellow judges were going to be the irrepressible Sunny Anderson and the current Miss Hawaii, Brandie Cazimero, I almost offered to pay for my own ticket. Almost.
What made it more exciting for everyone involved was that this episode was also going to have a very, very special audience selected from the extraordinary men and women of the United States armed forces. It made all of us even more determined to put on a great show, particularly Sunny, who is a veteran of the United States Air Force.
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So you’re in Kitchen Stadium, competing against a fierce challenger who is prepared and ready to make five camera-worthy dishes featuring a secret ingredient in just one hour. As an Iron Chef, how would you face the battle? Do you have a go-to signature dish or flavor profile that you’d use? Are you a calm and organized Iron Chef, or do you thrive on impulse and take risks? Would you be sure to stay away from that pesky ice cream machine, or would you embrace its creative possibilities?
Iron Chefs Michael Symon, Masaharu Morimoto, Marc Forgione, Bobby Flay, Jose Garces, Mario Batali and Cat Cora all welcome the challenges of Kitchen Stadium, but each has his or her own unique style and culinary point of view.
Head over to Food Network’s Facebook page, find The Next Iron Chef tab and take our quiz to answer Which Iron Chef Are You Most Like?
Tune in to The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs on Sunday, October 30 at 9pm/8c to watch 10 all-star chefs battle it out for a spot in Kitchen Stadium and the ultimate culinary title.
- Follow Michael Symon's step-by-step and serve up Iron Chef-style tater tots at your big game bash.
Tater tots are hot this year, the coolest football-watching food for people in the know. And why not? They’re nostalgic, retro and unexpected. So tot it up like an Iron Chef with Michael Symon’s Crab Tater Tots (a recipe from his cookbook Live to Cook), a grown-up riff that’s totally doable with the help of Symon’s step-by-step how to.
- Get more of this Iron Chef's best recipes.
Cook up more of Michael Symon’s football party picks:
- Greek Meatballs: Spice up lamb meatballs with coriander, cumin and a touch of cinnamon.
- The Lola Burger: Take burgers to the next level by layering on flavor – cheddar cheese, bacon, a sunny-side-up egg, pickled red onions and spicy ketchup.
More tots to try:
The big game game plan: For more tater inspiration, browse Food Network Magazine‘s NFL potato skins, with one skin for each of the 32 teams. Or just dive into our playbook to find more big game snacks.
- Texas Chili Potato Skins are team-neutral and just celebrate this super Sunday in Dallas.
What snacks and apps are you planning to make for the big game?
A few words from the winner …
On why he signed on for Season 3 of The Next Iron Chef:
“The only show that I would have done on TV was The Next Iron Chef. There are a lot of other chef shows, competitions that are on TV that I won’t name by name, but The Next Iron Chef is the only one that truly says, we want to see you as a chef, and we want to see who can actually be an Iron Chef. Not to see who can entertain us with the after-work antics and all this kind of stuff. It’s about the food.”
On how his life has changed:
“Just last night, I walked back into the kitchen through the dining room and every table was looking around and pointing me out. That used to happen every once in a while, but now, every table, they’re like, “Oh! That’s him!” I got stopped on the street coming into work yesterday and again this morning…It’s wild. I’m really kind of a humble, chill person. I’m having a great time, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a big change.”
On the Next Iron Chef experience:
“I’ll be 100 percent honest: I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was. Not to say I went in thinking it was going to be easy, but I kind of went in there thinking, you know, you do what you do, you see what happens. Which is the philosophy that I had the whole time: Just cook your food and relax…”
Read our full exclusive interview with Iron Chef Forgione.
When we visited Chef Marc Forgione at his restaurant (in secret!) shortly before his winning moment aired on The Next Iron Chef, we wanted to see him in his element: Back in the kitchen, cooking. But Restaurant Marc Forgione is closed for lunch, so the laid-back, mohawked chef asked what he should prepare from the menu. We got back to him with this proposition: “Just make yourself some lunch. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy—whatever you’d normally whip up.”
The resulting pork belly and pickled apple sandwich is so addictively delicious, we had to share Chef Forgione’s recipe with you. Iron Chef Forgione’s recipe, that is.
- Chef Forgione's late-night lunch: The B.A.D. Sandwich
Check out the making of this sandwich and get a tour of Marc Forgione (the restaurant). Plus, read our exclusive Q&A with the newest toque in Kitchen Stadium.
- Next Iron Chef Judge Michael Symon is all smiles, three years into his tenure.
Just three years ago Michael Symon sat where Chefs Marco Canora and Marc Forgione are today, battling for a permanent place on the roster of Iron Chef America. Now he frequently dons his jacket and defends chefly honor in Kitchen Stadium. He also serves as a judge on The Next Iron Chef, hosts Food Network’s Food Feuds and hosts Cook Like an Iron Chef on Cooking Channel. Clearly that long-ago Next Iron Chef winning moment was the end of one battle but the beginning of so much more.
“I went through the competition myself and I know how hard it actually is,” Symon said recently at Food Network’s New York City headquarters. “But you know, I feel that the winner is coming into our club, and we need to protect the club, just like Bobby and Mario and Morimoto did when I came through.”
- Who will be the next chef to have a jacket hanging here?
So this season, Symon has enjoyed food from “some of the greatest chefs in America,” and is sympathetic to the fierceness of the competition, but he’s also clear eyed and critical. From battle to battle, even the smallest details made a difference in which chefs stayed and which went. In the wake of last week’s double elimination, Symon compared dishes from Chef Tsai and Chef Tio with those from the two remaining competitors. “Chef Forgione and Chef Canora’s food was just a little more over the top. And because of the nature of this competition, sometimes you have to go a little over the top to win.”
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