It started innocently in late September, 2011, when three friends decided to get together for an evening of good eats, good drinks, good laughs and friendship. It was my birthday weekend and the celebration became the catalyst for future Iron Chef weekends. We didn’t call ourselves Iron Chefs that weekend (for fear of Morimoto’s wrath) and I merely played sous chef and kitchen tool finder for the girlfriends. After watching an early movie at the local theatre, Chef Kelly brought what looked like the entire contents of her refrigerator to my apartment and proceeded to heat up the kitchen. Steam rose from the pots and pans on the stove, sending the savory smells into the living room and down the hall. Chef Natasha and I enjoyed Chef Kelly’s creamy polenta, a food that we had not eaten before that day (we were in love). I cannot confirm the rest of the meal (I shall blame the wine and CRS) but I seem to remember spaghetti sauce and marinara. Maybe. Maybe not.
I have just realized that I need to start keeping a log of these weekends or drink less wine or grow a 25-year-old brain that remembers stuff.
November of 2011 was the official start of Iron Chef weekends. There were no secret ingredients, no judging panel. An Alton Brown lookalike was not allowed (girls only) and karate chops were optional. The only rule for the three Iron Chefs? Make a dish you have never made before…something like Cauliflower Pizza (success!) or Stuffed Mushrooms (Success!) or Spring Rolls (Epic Failure!). It must be a brand new recipe and preferably more difficult than a four-ingredient “make it in 15 minutes or less” recipe.
No cheating or that’s where the optional karate chops come in. Hi-yah!
Chef Kelly, Chef Natasha and I have had an enormous amount of fun during our Iron Chef weekends. The
wine culinary comraderie gives us a heightened sense of accomplishment and a chance to talk silly. We also have matching aprons and flipflops that give us powerful zen-like cooking abilities. We are Iron Chefs!
Cue the karate chop, given this time for excellence in cheffing fashion.
A subsequent Valentine’s Day 2012 Iron Chef competition ensued, followed by a year of nothingness. Schedules, work and life got in the way and Iron Chef tumbleweed rolled across the kitchen floor. It’s not as though any of us stopped making new recipes. We did. It simply happened that Chef Mary, Chef Kelly and Chef Natasha were cooking alone in their own kitchens – no karate chops or fancy aprons. During the year of nothingness, I consoled myself by printing recipes from Pinterest and then stuffing the pages into a recipe book that I rarely opened. Sad times.
Fast forward to November 2, 2013. The Iron Chefs return to continue their rein in the kitchen and down a couple bottles of Marco Negri, a lovely sparkling moscato. (Cue the karate chop and an impersonation of Julia Child – “A little wine in the food, a little wine in me!”) It felt great to be back in the kitchen with my girls…chopping, sauteeing, baking and wondering how they folded so many grape leaves into that small jar. Chef Natasha chose stuffed grape leaves for her project, Chef Kelly whipped out a beautiful chicken bruschetta, and I tried the Coconut Curry Meatballs from My Favourite Pastime. The intensity was palpable at one point as we vied for a place at the same stove and someone’s nuts burned. Luckily, Chef Natasha had more pinenuts (save!) and toasted a second batch. Chef Kelly and I drank to burned nuts and continued on until our dishes were complete. Chef Kelly earned kudos for color and plating skills and Chef Natasha was admired for her grape leaf folding abilities and the complexity of her recipe. Chef Mary’s meatball output was very yummy, but too spicy for
weenie Chef Natasha, even though I used the mild curry paste. (Oh well, leftovers to take home.)
Chef Natasha’s neighbor, Carolyn, had shown up earlier in the evening to make sure we were following food safety standards and to ensure our dishes were fit for human consumption. Carolyn also had to taste test the wine in order to give the chefs her “this stuff is awesome” two thumbs up. We made her our honorary judge, although she was not allowed to pick a winner to avoid any type of kitchen utensil death match if the chefs didn’t agree with the verdict.
We were all winners, all Iron Chefs.
Realization set in at the end of dinner that dessert was overlooked, so the last of the Marco had to take its place while we watched Pacific Rim on the big screen TV. Next time someone is getting an assignment for a recipe that either contains chocolate and/or coma-inducing sugar as a true Iron Chef finishes every meal with a sweet treat. If the assignment is not completed, there will be a penalty to pay.
Cue the last karate chop of this story.
The next culinary adventure for the three chefs is tentative for January. It will be an excellent way to beat the beginning of the winter doldrums and use one of those recipes from Pinterest. I can hardly wait, although I do want to savor the holidays first.
Until then….Allez Cuisine!