Behind the scenes on Iron Chef America, Food Network’s culinary production team is responsible for making sure that the rival chefs have everything they need to cook and present their dishes — from a stocked pantry to plenty of serving vessels — even outside of Kitchen Stadium. Daniella LaRosa from Food Network Kitchens recently shared some fun facts about what it took to pull off last night’s special episode for Grilling Week — the first-ever Military Grill Battle in Hawaii — that pitted Iron Chef Cat Cora against Iron Chef Michael Symon and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. They weren’t alone, though: Each Iron Chef was paired with a sous chef from the Navy, Army or Marine Corps.
Was setting up Kitchen Stadium in Hawaii more difficult than the mainland?
Creating Kitchen Stadium from scratch took a lot of time. We had treated both the Tailgating and Grilling battles like they were challenges from Next Iron Chef — specifically in that equipment and pantry items were going to be limited, and they might have to share during the battle. Because shipping anything to Hawaii was so expensive, we ended up having to spend about four full days personally shopping for equipment and specialty foods in Hawaii for the Iron Chefs and their sous chefs to use during the battle. We used all local produce — the Secret Ingredients were all sustainable and local. We used as many local vendors as we could find or found through word of mouth while we were there. It was also very difficult on both shoot days when we had to set up Kitchen Stadium at 6:00 am using the headlights from our rental car.
On a recent visit to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, I was lucky enough to enjoy a terrific meal at a restaurant called Bock Bisztro, which served many dishes made from Mangalitsa pork. Although I had eaten the meat of this particular breed of pig before and knew just how delicious and fully flavored it could be, this was the first time I noticed how incredibly versatile it is. The meal easily rates as one of my best in recent years.
I hope that watching the Iron Chef’s work with this magnificent beast in Kitchen Stadium will inspire you to go in search of this alternative to traditional pork breeds, either in the restaurants of some of the nation’s top chefs or in your own kitchens.
You won’t regret it.
What is a Mangalitsa pig?
Mangalitsa pigs, or as they are known in their native Hungary, Mangalica pigs, are a breed of hog that is renowned for their deeply flavored meat and for their high fat content. The name Mangalica literally means “hog with a lot of lard.” They are sometimes also known as “wooly pigs” because of the curly haired fleece that covers their body.
The famed Secret Ingredient: It’s destroyed some chefs while others have succeeded in Kitchen Stadium. In past years, we’ve seen the Chairman unveil everything from eggs, canned tuna, kale and mozzarella to cowboy rib-eyes, seaweed, whole pigs and sea whistle. From everyday ingredients to hard-to-find cuts of meat and fish, the culinary wizards of Food Network can find just about anything.
Have you ever wanted a say in the Secret Ingredient? Now’s your chance.
Instructions: Vote once a day until next Tuesday for your favorite Secret Ingredient in our poll below. Then stay tuned to an upcoming episode to see if your ingredient was chosen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?