Friday, February 22, 2013

Iron Chef Ginger

Ginger was a pretty great ingredient choice by our lovely hostess for this round, Cara. And it seems like everyone else agreed since this turned out to be our most well-attended Iron Chef competition ever! Twelve of our regular thirteen showed up to duke it out for ginger glory. And everyone brought their A game, as well. There wasn't a single dish that flopped, and everything tasted delicious, though it was harder to taste the ginger in some dishes versus others. It was also the first night that we instituted our new rule of trying to keep everything relatively bite-sized, and that was a huge success as well, especially since there were so many of us. We ended the evening feeling satisfied but not rolling around on the ground holding our full stomachs and groaning. Ok, enough of the preamble, let's get to the food!

Lee's Ginger Sweet Tea Tinis 

We started off with the drinks (we get right to business), and the first was Lee's Ginger Sweet Tea Tini. She even designed an adorable little label (presentation points!). These were dangerously tasty: one of those drinks where you tend to forget there is alcohol involved until you are doing something embarrassing. The ginger was subtle but definitely present, and we're in the South so sweet tea is always welcome!

Cara's Ginger Champagne 

Next up was Cara's Ginger Champagne, which was very elegantly presented with a sprig of thyme. Unfortunately, a mishap sent most of the glasses into the lap of one of our competitors (strategic move?), but there were enough left standing for everyone to get a taste. I really enjoyed how the ginger paired with champagne was almost like a play on ginger ale. Just a very elegant ginger ale. I was pretty glad I got my glass before the whole champagne shower went down.

Chelyen's Ginger Beef Bites 

We moved on to the appetizer round via Chelyen's Ginger Beef Bites. She took little phyllo cups, (perfect for appetizers, take note) and filled them with a tasty ginger beef and green pepper mixture. These had a hint of spice from the ginger and a ton of flavor, and made for a great little bite. For me, more like several bites (as I might have had more than one).

Emily's Sweet and Sour Pork Sliders 

Emily tried a few different recipes before deciding to throw caution to the wind and make these Sweet and Sour Pork Sliders that she had never tried before. Well, it was a good thing because she pulled out the Iron Chef Ginger win! These were really delicious little sandwiches with marinated pork slices topped with a nice crunchy slaw. The ginger was subtle in just the right way and the whole combination was very flavorful. Definitely a crowd pleaser (obviously)!

Sara's Gingered Goat Cheese Puffs 

My Gingered Goat Cheese Puffs were up next and, as always, I wasn't really sure about them. I also tried a few recipes before that turned out tasty, but didn't taste like ginger. Well, this one met the same fate, as the ginger seemed to be lacking, no matter how much I put in. The good news is, it still tasted ok. A little sweet, a little spicy and all in all, a good little bite.

Greta's Ginger Slaw 

As we moved into the sides and main courses, it was an awesome feeling to not already feel totally stuffed! Greta's Ginger Slaw was a really refreshing side, with sweet citrus flavor that paired well with the ginger and gave the slaw a nice brightness. I think pairing fruit and veggies can be a difficult line to walk but Greta did it really well with this dish. And it was nice to have something at least somewhat healthy as well.

Kim's Ginger Muffins with Ginger Butter 

The next side was Kim's Ginger Muffins, made with pears and crystallized ginger. She paired it with a tasty ginger butter. The muffin itself was nice and light, sweet but not dessert-like and overall had some good ginger flavor. The ginger butter was really good as well and definitely went well with the muffin.

Doan's Spicy Ginger Chicken with Soba Noodles 

On to the main courses! We started with Doan's Spicy Ginger Chicken and Soba Noodles which was a big hit! It was spicy (which is right up my alley) and had a ton of flavor, but the noodles didn't make it heavy. It felt light and healthy, and I don't want to know if it wasn't! I bet it would be great hot or cold.

Jen's Ginger Scallops 

Scallops are a pretty tricky thing to make at home, much less at a dinner party like this. But I think Jen's Ginger Scallops may have converted a few people over from anti-scallop to scallop fan because she pulled out a second place finish. These were pan seared with a nice crust and the ginger sauce was packed with flavor. You tasted the ginger in the sauce but it didn't overpower the delicate flavor of the scallop. And it was really gorgeous to look at, as well!

Shu's Ginger Banana Wontons with Vanilla Cream 

Shu "threw together" some Ginger Banana Wontons and homemade Vanilla Cream. She's definitely upping the ante on us by making her own whipped cream (which was worth it, in my opinion). The wontons were fun and unexpected, with a good combination of flavors, and everyone really enjoyed them! The wontons themselves weren't particularly sweet so putting the vanilla cream with them balanced out the dessert in a really smart way.

Kristy's Ginger Spice Cookies 

Kristy's Ginger Spice Cookies were one of the dishes where the ginger flavor was really pronounced, and she accented it with spices in a very nice way. They had that heat that you look for in a gingersnap, but these were nice and soft. I'm always a fan of cookies that play along the savory line, and these, while sweet, had some savory notes in them as well that were fun.

Morgan's Ginger and Peanut Butter Chip Cookie 

Finally, Morgan's Ginger and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies. Although she said she nearly gave up and brought nothing but a bottle of wine, Morgan's cookies were really tasty. They didn't really taste like ginger, but that didn't stop me from having more than one! And I don't think I'm the only one who did, since she didn't have many to take home at the end of the night. Thanks Cara for hosting our biggest group yet! Looking forward to the next competition sometime in April or May.

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