We started the night out with the dreaded cheese drink. We had been willing to eliminate this category for this ingredient because… well… “cheese drink.” Who wants to try that? Well, Cara took this as a challenge, and I’d say she was surprisingly successful in making a tasty drink with cheese. Her Strawberry Cheesecake smoothie used cream cheese. It was well balanced because even though you could taste the cheese, it didn’t dominate the flavor. This was way better than the dirty cheese martinis we were afraid of. (Sorry about the blurry pic, I had some light issues on this one).
The appetizers were the place to be, since both of our winners of the evening had this course. Chelyen made Caesar Chicken Salad in Parmesan Cups and walked away with her first Iron Chef win! It was a good thing she made seconds. The Parmesan cups were a really creative way to serve the chicken salad and were deliciously crispy even on their own. I think Chelyen was hoping to take some leftovers home, but no dice!
Our second appetizer was a cheese ball—but not just any cheese ball. Emily made a Parmesan Crusted Goat Cheese Ball with Basil Oil. She served with little toasted pieces of bread and it was a big hit, earning Emily the second place prize. It was the best presentation of the evening (imo) with the white cheese and bright green basil oil. And it tasted great to boot!
We did the sides and mains all together, so I’ll just go through them in no particular order. Morgan’s side was a spicy, Cheesy Cornbread Muffin. I love me some cornbread (we’re in the South, come on) and this was a good rendition. I think it was cheddar and jalapeño, which is a combo I could never be mad at.
I made the other side, which fell a little short of my expectation. I had a roasted caprese salad once at a restaurant in Chicago and really enjoyed it. This was my attempt, but I think the tomatoes needed to roast a little longer, and it might have tasted better served warm.
Kim made a really flavorful cheese soufflé. I have never made one, but I hear that they are pretty difficult to pull off, so the degree of difficulty was high here. Plus I’m a sucker for the “breakfast for dinner” thing so she got me there. Didn’t really photograph well on those red plates, but it really did taste great!
Jen made “Company Chicken,” a name I really love. Ok, so it is not the most beautiful looking food—but it was really good and homey. Had that “stick-to-your-ribs” feel to it. Definitely the kind of dish you would make to impress guests.
Most of us steered away from the cheeses with really strong flavors since they can be polarizing, but Shu went right at it, using a Stilton blue cheese. She paired it on a sandwich with roast beef and red onions. I really appreciated that the flavor of the cheese was truly the star of the dish, and it was a great pairing of flavors as well.
Finally, we had two desserts. First was Doan’s Cream Cheese Brownies, and really, you can’t go wrong with that recipe. They were fudgy and decadent—everything you want in a brownie. And I know that we ate almost the entire pan of them by the end of the night, so you know they were good.
Laura, our hostess for the evening, had the most creative dish of the night: Goat Cheese Ice Cream with a Raspberry Sauce. It’s not something you would expect, and we were all a little nervous about trying it. But actually, I think the recipe has some potential. The goat cheese gives ice cream a nice tang that adds another dimension. But in this case I think the ratio of goat cheese was a little too much, since that was a dominating flavor. But the point of Iron Chef is to take risks and get creative, and Laura certainly did that.
It was a great night of food, and wonderful to try recipes with such a well-loved secret ingredient. I was really happy with the variety and creativity that everyone showed, and it was good to get together again. The next Iron Chef hasn’t been planned yet, but be on the lookout! And if you have any cool ideas for ingredients, we’d love to hear them.