We had a full house for Iron Chef Cinnamon this February, either because everyone really likes cinnamon, or because everyone wanted to see our lovely hostess Morgan's new place. Either way, it was a great night with lots of tasty cinnamon dishes first, followed by a lot of wine, gossiping and laughing. Hard to say which part was better. Alright, since there are so many dishes, I'm going to jump right into the recap!
Cara's drink was first out of the gate and she upped the presentation ante right away with her fancy schmancy apple with a cinnamon star design. The drink was an Apple Cider Champagne and it tasted a little bit like apple pie in a glass! The champagne made it more refreshing and light than a regular apple cider. I would say Cara completely redeemed herself from the Great Ginger Champagne Fiasco last year at Iron Chef Ginger.
We had TWO drinks this time which was either a genius idea or a really bad idea. I say genius. Doan brought out her Cinnamon Horchata next. Horchata is a traditional Latin drink made with milk and cinnamon and Doan spiked hers up with some rum. Yay, rum! I'm a huge fan of White Russians and this was a bit like that. Plus, any time you can't taste the alcohol in a drink, you know it's trouble, especially when Doan's involved.
Now we move into the appetizers. Emily was first with her Chicken, Pear and Goat Cheese Tarts with Cinnamon Bacon. Apparently goat cheese and cinnamon is a common pairing because we had more than a couple dishes that involved both. As a huge goat cheese fan, I was definitely not complaining. I admit to going back to Emily's tray a few times-- it was one of my favorites of the night. Using pear instead of the traditional apple was really smart and unique, and the whole thing made for a really enjoyable bite (or two bites if you have more manners than I do.)
Jen made a surprise (and very welcome) appearance after we hadn't seen her in awhile. She brought some cinnamon and (I think) walnut crusted goat cheese balls served on a crispy bagel chip. As you can see, it maybe wasn't the prettiest dish of the night, but you can't taste pretty! It actually tasted great. As previously mentioned, I'm a big goat cheese fan so these worked perfectly for me.
We also had a spiced butternut squash, cinnamon apple bisque from Kristy that we ate too quickly to grab a photo of (oops!). The squash and apple were great together and the cinnamon added depth to the flavor of the soup. Slightly sweet and creamy with a lot of autumn flavors, I think it would be a wonderful Thanksgiving appetizer!
We only had one side, courtesy of Kim, but it was a really good one. She made a cinnamon and goat cheese sweet potato mash that she topped with marinated red grapes. Sweet potatoes are usually too sweet for me, but the goat cheese cut them perfectly, and the tartness of the red grapes helped as well. Again, I think this would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table as it elegantly improved the classic yam.
Shu was the first main and served cinnamon spiced chicken with cous cous. I think there was cinnamon in the cous cous as well as on the chicken and it had sort of a Moroccan vibe to the whole dish. Since a lot of our dishes were on the sweeter side of savory, it was nice to have a dish that wasn't so sweet. It did have some rehydrated fruits in it (which Shu later told us included prunes) that had a bit of sweetness, but not too much. Eating the chicken and cous cous together in one bite was a really delicious mouthful.
I had the other main, and after a loooong dry spell I was totally happy and pretty surprised to pull off a win. I made cinnamon fried chicken and waffles with a honey cinnamon sauce. The chicken was oven baked but still was as crispy as deep fried chicken would have been, and even though I froze the waffles and reheated them in the oven, they were nice an crispy as well. The sauce was pretty sweet but worked with the chicken and evidently turned out as tasty as I hoped. It was a complicated dish, but worth it to get a win.
The night's second place dish was our first dessert made by Laura. Cinnamon ice cream over crispy cinnamon chips, drizzled with chocolate sauce. It reminded me a lot of fried ice cream, as far as the flavors go. It had a ton of cinnamon flavor, maybe the most of any other dish of the night, and the creamy ice cream and crispy chips were a really nice contrast. This is the kind of dish you could serve at a party without too much trouble and get a really good response.
We saved our hostess of the evening, Morgan, for last. She made an apple cinnamon crumble that was absolutely classic and delicious, even as stuffed as we all were. Served warm, the way it should be, it was nice and tender. It would have been even better with a spoonful of Laura's cinnamon ice cream!
Congrats to the winners (thank you, thank you,) and great job cooking, ladies. I'm already looking forward to the next one. Iron Chef Kale, perhaps?