Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's an OFF

An “off:” the idea of forming small teams and through the use of a predetermined ingredient/dish, competing against one another in order to come up with the best recipe and use of said ingredient. This idea was born during a friend’s birthday dinner when one of us claimed they could out-do the soup we had been served (at the restaurant- we might be critical but not tactless enough to criticize someone’s home-cooked bday dinner!!!)… of course, this lead to another dinner mate piping up and claiming that s/he could top THAT friend and so on and so forth. Hence the birth of the first “off,” the “Soup-Off.”
For those of you who are familiar with the “Iron Chef,” our rules were very similar:

-5 points for creativity
-10 points for taste
-5 points for presentation

Each team had 20 minutes to prepare/plate their dish (also allowing the other teams to somewhat digest the previous team’s soup.) The voting was simple; all participants rate the dishes, minus their own. (Because we are friends, we figured all would be honest in their voting.) Finally, the presentation order was drawn from a hat and the Soup-Off began.

I enjoyed numerous delicious soups that night including a lemongrass, coconut & shrimp soup (well, minus the shrimp cause of allergies), a curried carrot soup, the 2nd place 7 onion soup in a bread bowl which was created by yours truly & my brilliant partner in crime, ASB (yup, we do the “everything to do with sex Show together AND we are a killer team in the kitch! Dynamic duo I tell ya!!!) And, of course, the winner of the evening, created by a very talented newlywed couple (ok, it was new at the time), a tomato-basil bisque with parmesan crouton sticks. DE-lish!
(Yes, the recipes are posted below)

Without going through all of the boring details, the following year we had a wild (and very filling) time doing our Potato-Off! This made for highly creative dishes because of the use of an ingredient rather than a final dish. We saw everything from soups, gnocchi, potato fudge and the winner; potato nori used to wrap sushi and fried mashed potatoes served with a lime-potato sorbet.

Why am I writing about this you ask??? Well, Because our 3rd Off has been announced: A slider-Off!!! Ok, originally it was a Burger-Off but after further review we came to the conclusion that most participants would be full after being served their first dish therefore we decided to scale it down a little. I am generally a modest person but I KNOW I can make a mean burger… the problem is that after my 2nd place run at the soup-off, my potato dish kinda, well, sucked so if anyone has a killer burger recipe, something a little different, a little creative, feel free to pass it along! I will be hosting this year’s event so I can’t mess around with an average Joe burger!!!

Thanks in advance for sharing & I shall keep you posted- more Slidder-Off news to come…

**** Coconut, Lemongrass and Shrimp Soup ****

3 Cups Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
2 Stalks of Lemongrass, cut up.
4 fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves (not the end of the world if you can’t find any)
2 Red Thai Chili Peppers
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 cup of canned Coconut Milk
1 teaspoon fish sauce (sounds gross but adds a lot of flavor… not the fishy kind!)
1 lb large peeled & deviened Shrimp
1/2 cup of whole Straw Mushrooms
1/4 cup of Baby Portobella Mushrooms thinly sliced
1/2 cup of sliced Baby Bokchoy
less than 1/4 cup of Julienned Carrots
1 small Onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
One small handful of fresh Thai Basil leaves for garnish

In a pot, add to the Chicken Stock some lemongrass, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Chillies, minced Garlic, Turmeric, chopped Onions and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk & the fish sauce . Let it simmer for 2 more minutes. At this point you can fish out the Lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, I didn’t.

Turn the heat on high and the soup starts to boil, add the Shrimp, let it cook for 3 minutes. Lower the heat to low again.

Now add the Baby Bokchoy, Mushrooms & Carrots. Stir in the Lime juice.

Garnish with Thai Basil.

**** Seven Onion Soup ****

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 red onions coarsely chopped
2 white onions coarsely chopped
2 yellow onions coarsely chopped
12 fresh pearl onions or 10 ounces frozen
3 shallots coarsely chopped
2 leeks washed and cut into 1/4-inch rings
4 medium bunches of chives coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Marsala wine
6 cups beef, or low-sodium canned (chicken stock will leave your soup a little tasteless!)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried porcini
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus 4 sprigs of thyme

In a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat, combine the olive oil, red, white, yellow, and pearl onions, and the shallots and saute until golden brown and soft.
Add the leeks and chives and cook until the onions turn a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes more, or until the mixture begins to bubble.
Add 2 cups of stock every 15 minutes for the next 45 minutes, allowing the liquid to reduce by one-fourth after each addition.
Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves with the last 2 cups of stock. The soup will be a very deep brown. .
*See comments below to get further instructions RE: bread bowl gratine*

**** Curried Carrot Soup ****

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 pounds carrots, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water, or as needed

1.Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion until tender and translucent. Stir in the curry powder. Add the chopped carrots, and stir until the carrots are coated. Pour in the vegetable broth, and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes.

2.Transfer the carrots and broth to a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot, and thin with water to your preferred consistency.

**** 1st Prize: Tomato Basil Bisque ****

3 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion
1/2 rib celery
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cans (16 ounce size) diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 cans (16 ounce size) tomato puree
1 can (16 ounce size) beef stock (you can use chicken)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (I use 2% plain yoghurt)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat butter in a large stockpot. Dice onion and celery and add to pot. Saute until the onion is transparent.
Sprinkle flour over onions one tablespoon at a time, stirring in each one thoroughly with a large spoon until paste forms.
Add garlic, diced tomatoes and basil, and stir.
Stir in tomato puree and beef stock slowly, then whipping cream.
The soup should be a rose color. \Add bay leaf and simmer on low for about an hour.
Remove bay leaf before serving.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.