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June 12, 2006

Photos - Iron Chef Garlic

And here are the photos and descriptions. I (perhaps unwisely) opted to do six courses this time around, since the 1,000th dish scored at Chicago Iron Chef fell in the first course, and I really wanted to serve it. The challenger leads off, unless the Iron Chef does an extra dish. So I did an extra dish :-) Also, thanks to Lindsay Bartolone for this year's pictures.

Sautéed Garlic Cloves, Three Flavors
A common Italian pasta technique that I find absolutely maddening is that they will frequently cook whole garlic cloves in olive oil, and then throw them away before using the oil for the pasta. The upside is that when I cook huge pots of pasta for Movie & Pasta Night, I end up with a little cup of tender, crispy, delicious whole garlic cloves to munch on. Such are the chef's spoils, but with this dish I wanted to share. Each of the three cloves was sautéed and then seasoned: basil puree with pecorino, anchovy puree with fresh mint and red pepper and chile puree with Sichuan pepper. Of course, the presentation on the aforementioned 1000th dish, served to the chairman, was slightly different.

Steaming Garlic Broth with Wagyu and Green Garlic
Garlic soup is done frequently enough, but it's usually done as a heavy, creamy monstrosity. So I wanted to do a garlic soup that would bring out a lot of garlic flavor without beating the judges over the head. I thought a beef stock would be the best vehicle, so the soup was comprised of a homemade beef stock made with marrow bones, beef chuck, onions, ginger, fish sauce, sugar and lots of garlic. The soup was accompanied by thin slices of raw Wagyu beef and slivered green garlic, which were dipped into the broth to be lightly cooked and eaten while drinking the soup.

Roasted Garlic Ravioli with Egg Yolk Sauce and Crispy Pancetta
Garlic is used for all kinds of pastas, but since this is Iron Chef, I wanted to do a pasta that used garlic in an unconventional manner. Garlic is usually a supporting ingredient in pastas, or when it is featured, as in an aglio e olio, it's usually a very strong, sharp sautéed garlic flavor. So I did roasted garlic filled ravioli, with a rich sauce composed of egg yolks and a touch of butter to provide a rich base that mellowed the bitterness of the garlic. The pasta was finished with pecorino for a bit of tartness, crispy bits of fried pancetta for salt and texture, and a bit of black pepper.

Fried Garlic Crusted Halibut with Pickled Garlic-Miso Sauce
I was already in the habit of panko coating and roasting my fish, but on my recent honeymoon in Hawaii, I had a dish at The Hualalai Grille by Alan Wong that put a panko-crusted fish on what he called a miso-sesame vinaigrette. In thinking about IC Garlic, I recalled this dish and I thought it would be extremely well-suited to a two-pronged garlicky approach, so I reverse-engineered the sauce as best I could, and then adjusted it to take a ton of pickled and fried garlic. The halibut was covered with a crust of panko, butter, fried garlic and basil, then roasted and served on a sweet, tart, creamy sauce seasoned with rice vinegar, pickled garlic, white miso, ginger and sesame oil.

Pork Tenderloin with Ancho-Cherry Sauce, Garlic Confit and Green Garlic Salad
Cherry was another finalist for the secret ingredient, and I think garlic and cherry is a great pairing, so I wanted to do a dish that incorporated two garlic and cherry pairings, one cooked and one raw. The pork tenderloin was marinated with cider vinegar, thyme, bay leaf, cumin, allspice, cloves and cinnamon. It was roasted and topped with a sauce composed of butter, shallots, whiskey, cherries, thyme, ancho chiles and garlic confit, which was made by blanching garlic cloves before poaching them in duck fat. The pork was accompanied by a salad of maché and slivered green garlic, dressed with a vinaigrette of oil, cherry juice and sherry vinegar.

Roasted Garlic Crème Brûlée with Strawberries and Balsamic Syrup
I'm of the opinion that garlic is underused as a sweet ingredient, and that the difficulty in making tasty garlic desserts lies not in the recipe, but in managing the tasters' expectations of where garlic belongs. The crème brûlée was seasoned with roasted garlic puree, and topped with fresh strawberries and a sweetened balsamic syrup, to act as a bridge between savory garlic expectations and sweet garlic reality.


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