At last night’s Iron Chef Avocado Dinner – from left to right, top to bottom: Avocado Ice Cream; Roasted Jalapeño Guacamole with Blackberry-Mezcal Jewels; Frozen Avocado Margaritas; Avocado Baked Egg with Bacon, Tomatoes and Chives; Guacamole with Banana Chips; Roasted Tomatillo Guacamole with Crunchy Chicharrón; Avocado Toasts with Tomatoes and Lemon Ricotta; Avocado Cheesecake with Pistachio Shortbread Crust; Chocolate Avocado Cookies.
Category: Iron Chef Dinners
At last night’s Iron Chef Parsnip Dinner – from left to right, top to bottom: Parsnip Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip Mash, Parsnip Ice Cream, Parsnip Meatballs, Roasted Parsnip and Vanilla Chocolate Soup, Nut Butter Crusted Parsnip Fries, Parsnip Gravy, Shrimp Enchiladas with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips, and Parsnip Soup with Walnut Pesto and Fontina.
Since September 2009, a group of friends and I have been gathering monthly for a dinner series we simply refer to as “Iron Chef.” Each month we pick an ingredient and everyone (there are eight of us) brings a dish that incorporates that ingredient. Over the years, we’ve covered more than 40 ingredients and themes including Maple Syrup, Crock Pot, Aphrodisiacs, Pumpkin, Tacos, Mardi Gras, Tailgating, Macadamia Nuts and Wisconsin Supper Club. The dinner series is a great way to ensure that we all see each other at least once a month, and it’s also a chance to enjoy great food and challenge ourselves to step out of our culinary comfort zones.
This month’s theme ingredient was beets. I thought it was rather appropriate with Valentine’s Day around the corner and all. It was the first time Larry and I hosted at our place. It was a challenge finding the space in our apartment, but we made it work. We had fun incorporating the theme into the party decor and preparations, including Ball jars filled with hydrangeas in beet-dyed water, and a beet-themed musical playlist for the evening. We realized it’s funny how you can listen to a song like “The Beat Goes On” or “Turn the Beat Around,” and suddenly the lyrics take on a whole new meaning when you’re sitting in front of a plate full of beets.
One of the things I loved most about this dinner was the vibrant color palette and the creativity of the dishes. The dinner included everything from Beet and Beet Green Gratin to Beet Ice Cream and Chocolate Beet Cake. It was the ultimate beet fest, and wonderfully heavy on desserts. Next up? Parsnips.
Top to bottom, left to right: Beet and Beet Green Gratin, Beat Bread, Beet Bundt Cake, Beet and Apple Salad, Beet & Blood Orange Cocktail, Beet Cake, Beet and Sweet Potato Muffins, Chocolate Beet Cake, Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter, Za’atar-Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts, Heart Beet Cookies, and Beet Ice Cream with Mascarpone, Orange Zest, and Poppy Seeds.
Although the “blizzard of 2012″ slightly delayed December’s Iron Chef dinner, somehow we were able to pull off a rescheduled event just before the new year. Cereal was the theme ingredient for the evening’s meal. The dishes were varied, and quite interesting. By my count, there were at least nine different cereals represented in the meal.
From left to right, top to bottom: oatmeal sausage, fruit loop shot (apparently all the rage with the college students), Malt-O-Meal Empanadas, fruit loops, cheesy potatoes with cornflakes, crepes (made with ground golden grahams) with prosciutto and brie, chooclate scotcheroos with Rice Krispies, cornflake marshmallow chocolate chip cookies, Fruity Pebbles bars, meatloaf muffins with Grape-Nuts, Asian Snack Mix with Nori (with Special K cereal), and Julie using all of her strength to try to get the scotcheroos out of the pan – no easy feat.
When my friend Brodie greeted us at the door wearing a flannel button-down shirt and a freshly grown beard, I realized he was not only hosting November’s Iron Chef Dinner, he was also dressing the part.
Friday night marked our latest Iron Chef Dinner, themed “Supper Club.” There’s eight of us who participate in the monthly dinner series, and all of us grew up in Wisconsin. We’re each intimately familiar with the concept of a Wisconsin Supper Club—the wood paneled walls, taxidermy art, relish tray, Schlitz on tap, and all-you-can-eat Friday night fish-fry. I fondly remember my brother and I ordering “kiddy cocktails” at supper clubs from a very young age.
Iron Chef Supper Club was one of my all-time favorites. Dinner included Old Fashioneds, Schlitz beer, a relish tray, Booyah, wedge salad, Wisconsin beer cheese soup, fried cheese curds, prime rib, fried fish balls, chocolate mousse, and kneecaps (a puff pastry with whipped cream). We ate like kings and enjoyed the meal in courses so as to fully appreciate and savor each dish.
More than once, we raised our glasses in the air and toasted to our heritage: the Wisconsin Supper Club. This month’s theme was about more than just food—it was about our roots, our childhoods, our families, and our beloved state.
With a theme ingredient like lime, this month’s Iron Chef Dinner could have spun in one of several directions. Interestingly, the meal was best defined by shrimp and tropical foods. There were grilled shrimp skewers with red peppers and mangoes, a jicama salad, two versions of ceviche, a lime pesto spread, margaritas, red pepper grilled shrimp, strawberry lime ice, and a pistachio lime angel food cake. It was one of those iron chef dinners when all of the dishes came together harmoniously. The only dish that seemed to be missing was key lime pie!
Larry took the lead on preparing our three dishes—the jicama salad, ceviche, and strawberry lime ice. All were inspired by Rick Bayless recipes. I was impressed to learn that Larry juiced 30 limes and drove to Oregon (20 minutes south of Madison) to pick up farm-fresh strawberries for the lime ice. That’s the kind of dedication that makes an Iron Chef!