by Simon Majumdar in Shows, November 4th, 2012
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, September 17th, 2012
Although Chef Guarnaschelli’s splendid lobster dish made her the deserved winner of a return trip to the beach, for me this first challenge was all about Chefs Greenspan and Love.
A chef with less talent and confidence than Chef Greenspan could have easily crumbled at the thought of having to cook with grasshoppers again. His critter fritters, however, were one of the surprise hits of the day, as indeed was his grilled cheese grasshopper sandwich — although maybe less surprising as he is known for making one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches on the planet. Either way, it was definitely enough to keep him safe for another week. If it weren’t for a succulent morsel of Chef Guarnaschelli’s perfectly prepared lobster, I would have made him my winner.
On the other hand, Chef Love’s confidence was misplaced. If you are going to serve a salad on The Next Iron Chef, it had better be the best salad you’ve made. Chef Love’s kale salad wasn’t — and all three judges felt it scarcely warranted the hour-long cooking time. Insult was added to injury when Chef Love told us that he had also found time to make a juicy steak for himself while he was cooking. Perhaps if he had served us some of that as well, he might not have found himself in the Secret Ingredient Showdown battling Chef Mendelsohn, whose own dish was, quite frankly, just a confused mess.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, September 3rd, 2012
Everybody has their favorite memory of a perfect pasta dish. My own came during a visit to a small restaurant in Rome where I was presented with a plate of Bucatini All’Amatricana, made with the tubular pasta and a spicy sauce containing guanciale (cured pig jowls). As I travel the globe eating the weird and the wonderful, it is often this comforting bowl of pasta that I recall and crave the most.
Pasta is such a familiar ingredient in the United States that it is often all too easy to take it for granted. There are few people who don’t have at least one type of pasta in their store cupboard and if you were to walk down the aisles of any supermarket, you would have to take off your shoes and socks to help you count the fresh and dried varieties now offered.
Despite its ubiquity, however, there is something about a beautifully prepared pasta dish that is very hard to beat and I hope you were as excited as I was by the way that the Iron Chef and their challenger brought a new spin to such a classic ingredient last night.
Given that pasta is, I suspect, so familiar to everyone who will read this, I thought I would stray from the normal format for these features and instead give you 10 interesting things you may not know about pasta.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, August 13th, 2012
It would be hard to disagree with anyone who argued that the spiritual home for a dollop of cream cheese is on a toasted bagel, in my case accompanied by an equally large spoonful of crunchy peanut butter.
As I hope the Iron Chef and his challenger proved during their exciting battle, however, this fresh, tangy cheese is far more versatile than some people might imagine and is definitely worth keeping on hand as a refrigerator basic.
What is cream cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft, fresh unripened cheese that is made from a combination of milk and heavy cream and by definition must contain at least 33 percent milk fats and less than 55 percent moisture.
It is one of the most popular cheeses in the United States and the most recent research I could find from 2008 reports that the average American consumes a little over 2.5 pounds of cream cheese every year.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, August 6th, 2012
On a recent visit to Jamaica, just about every meal my wife and I sampled came with a side order of beautiful golden plantain strips, shallow-fried and served with a sprinkling of salt and nutmeg. They were the perfect accompaniment to grilled local fish or large plates of tear-inducing jerk chicken, and were so delicious a memory that they have now become a regular staple in the Majumdar pantry.
Watching the Iron Chef and his challenger has definitely given me some new ideas for how to use plantains in my own kitchen, and I hope to persuade those of you who have not yet tried them to give the banana’s less well-known cousin a try yourself.
What are plantains?
Plantains, or “cooking banana” as they are sometimes known, are part of the same family as the banana and are often mistaken for them. However, plantains and bananas differ in a number of important areas, both in how they look and in how they are prepared.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, July 30th, 2012
In this week’s Kitchen Stadium battle, the Chairman provided not one but a whole cornucopia of ingredients. He challenged the Iron Chef and his challenger to create an inspired tropical meal.
Some of the ingredients on the altar, such as coconuts, pineapples, mangos and green papaya are reasonably well known to regular viewers of Food Network. So, with your permission, I am going to put those to one side and concentrate on one ingredient with which people might not be quite so familiar: hearts of palm.
What are hearts of palm?
Hearts of palm are a crunchy and slightly sweet vegetable similar in taste to an artichoke heart. They are the bud or inner core taken from a range of palm trees including coconut, acai, jucara and pejibayes. They are also known by a number of other names including palmitos and palm hearts. In Florida, they were once known as swamp cabbage and are harvested from the Sabal or “cabbage” palmetto tree, which is the official tree of the Sunshine State.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, July 9th, 2012
One of the greatest food memories of my travels around the globe has to be an early-morning visit to the legendary Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. While dodging the porters and fishermen, I saw hundreds of varieties of fish and seafood being auctioned off for sale all over Japan.
Amongst all the amazing noises, sights and smells of the market, my eyes were drawn to a number of huge glass tanks containing live octopi, many of whom were attempting to escape by climbing over the sides using the suckers on their tentacles. Unfortunately for them they were soon recaptured and dispatched off to feed hungry locals and tourists including myself.
Watching the Iron Chef and his challenger battle with this eight-legged beast this week really reminded me of my experiences in Japan and I hope it inspires you to try preparing octopus in your own kitchen.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, May 28th, 2012
If I am ever asked to name my favorite cut of beef, my first answer will not be strip steak. I will probably offer up a beautifully marbled bone-in rib-eye as my cow part of preference.
I know that for many people in the United States, however, the strip steak, under its many different names, is the beef cut of choice, particularly when it comes to finding a perfect steak to place on the grill during the summer months.
Having seen the Iron Chef and his competitor turn their attention to strip steak, I am definitely willing to be convinced that I should give this popular cut another try.
What is strip steak?
A strip steak is a cut of beef taken from the short loin of the cow. This is at the top and the middle of the animal, before the rump. The short loin itself comprises two muscles: the tenderloin (from where you get filet mignon) and the top loin, which gives us the strip steak.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, May 7th, 2012
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.
by Simon Majumdar in Shows, February 27th, 2012
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.
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.