Thursday, July 25, 2013

Iron Chef Corn Recap

I have to admit, not every Iron Chef competition we've done has involved an ingredient that I particularly love. Melon, for example... not one of my favorite foods in general. Same thing with pumpkin. I even had my doubts about our ginger challenge, although it turned out pretty good. But corn? Man, I love corn. Who doesn't? It's sweet, buttery, juicy and fresh. It pairs well with just about anything. Corn is pretty much my favorite vegetable, mostly because it tastes so much better than any of the other vegetables. Sorry, broccoli. Too bad, asparagus. No hard feelings, kohlrabi. Yep. I knew this was going to be a great Iron Chef. And I was not disappointed.

We started the night with an appetizer offering from our lovely hostess, Laura. She made Corn Dip Filled Peppers with corn chips. The dip itself was cool and creamy, and Laura took it to a more elegant level by putting it into sliced bell pepper cups that added crunch. She also sprinkled corn chips on top of that for even more crunch and salty flavor. It was one of those dishes that stayed on the table all night because we constantly grazed off it and no one could bear to let her take it away. 

Next we enjoyed Chelyen's Jalapeno Corn Cakes with Cilantro Sour Cream sauce. They were sort of like little silver dollar pancakes made with corn and jalapenos, and I do love a savory pancake. They weren't all that spicy, but the cool sour cream would have taken care of it if they were. In fact, the Cilantro Sour Cream was so good it almost overshadowed the corn cake, and I would definitely love to try the sour cream on other Mexican dishes!

Cara originally chose to do a drink, but after trying the only corn drink recipe she could find, she decided not to subject us to it, for which we are eternally grateful. She switched to an appetizer and it turned out to be a great plan, since she had the winning dish of the night! Her Roasted Corn and Poblano Pepper Poppers were a big hit. Some were spicier than others, but the creamy insides and panko crumb topping helped keep it cool. These were cheesy, spicy, corny and clearly the favorite of the night!

Our first side dish was Doan's Truffled Corn with Maple Bacon and... um... corn, bacon, truffle oil? Those are some of the most delicious sounding words in the world. Doan did a great job balancing the truffle oil (which can be overpowering if overdone) with the flavors of the corn and crispy bacon. This was a little like creamed corn taken to another level of tastiness.

The other side for the evening was an offering from Shu: Grilled Corn, Black Bean and Mango salsa. Now, I'm not a big fan of beans, so I avoided them, but the other ladies say that it was a great combination. I thought the mango with corn was really interesting! It tasted really bright and fresh, and was a completely different flavor profile from all the creamy or sweet items everyone else made, which really made it stand out. 

There were two mains for the evening, starting with our second place finisher: a vegetarian Corn and Poblano Lasagna from Emily. It is difficult to make an entree that really features corn so this lasagna was a genius find. It was a white lasagna with plenty of cheesy, creamy goodness from the corn sauce, and just a hint of heat from the poblanos. Plus yellow squash and zucchini to give it some structure.

The other main came from me and there's no photo because it honestly was just a sad, sorry mess and I didn't want photographic evidence of my epic fail. Corn tortillas stuffed with a chicken-corn mixture that dried out in the oven... I don't even want to talk about it. Suffice to say, I decided to wing it, and that's not something I will ever do again!

Our foray into corn desserts began with Kim's Butterscotch Corn Cake. Made with butterscotch schnapps (a tongue twister for some of us at this point in the evening) and creamed corn, it was very moist and almost bread-pudding like. It was sweet and delicious, and I think that if you didn't know it had corn in it, you might not realize it. The butterscotch flavor really came through and was a great component of the cake. 

Our other dessert was also a corn cake, but Kristy's Sweet Corn Cake with Blackberry Compote tasted very different from Kim's. This one veered more towards cornbread, but sweeter, and the spiced blackberry compote was really complex and flavorful with hints of nutmeg. I think the compote would be delicious with ice cream as well! 

By the end of the night, we were all comfortably full and happy with all the dishes. Everyone highlighted the best parts of corn and it was a great choice for a summer competition. Congrats to our winner, Cara and runner up, Emily! We are looking forward to our next Iron Chef hopefully sometime this fall! Until then, try one of the dishes above or figure out what you would have entered in Iron Chef Corn!  

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