Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Super Chef Battle

I admit it, I like Food Network and Iron Chef America. So I was very excited to see the Super Chef Battle, which featured White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford. This battle featured two of the Iron Chefs plus Emeril Lagasse. It starts at the White House where Mrs. Obama introduces the "secret" ingredient - anything from the White House Garden. The chefs get to pick their own ingredients before heading back to Kitchen Stadium where they have an hour to complete 5 dishes for the judges with those ingredients and American proteins. I had fun watching it and White House chef Comerford's team (she was paired with Iron Chef Bobby Flay) won the day.

I thought I'd post this blog post from White House Chef Comerford on the experience and one the recipes she posted from the episode:
This past Sunday, I gathered my family around me and together we watched the Food Network's "Iron Chef America." I never imagined myself in Kitchen Stadium and couldn't help but laugh as my daughter pointed me out on TV.

It was such an honor to participate in the "Iron Chef" competition. I had the privilege of working with great chefs to prepare healthy dishes using fantastic local, sustainable ingredients.
But as impressed as I was with Kitchen Stadium, I don't know if it quite compares with the awe that Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and even Alton Brown felt while visiting the White House, meeting the First Lady and working in the White House Kitchen Garden.

The chefs were all surprised when Mrs. Obama revealed that the "Secret Ingredient" was the White House Kitchen Garden and that our challenge was to create meals that were fresh, healthy and uniquely American – we knew we had our work cut out for us!

The White House Kitchen Garden is a perfect example of how easy it is to grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables. It costs less than $200 to plant the garden and in the past few months it has already yielded over 1,000 pounds of produce. We use this fresh produce in meals for the First Family, in dinners for foreign leaders and we donate a good portion of it to Miriam’s Kitchen, a nearby soup kitchen. The garden is a constant reminder for me that fresh fruits and vegetables really do taste better!

For this competition, I had the good fortune of teaming up with Bobby Flay – who is a White House veteran. He joined our team here at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last year for a Father’s Day event to help the President barbeque for a group of young men who had joined us from local schools to discuss the importance of being good fathers and good role models.

Because this competition was about fresh fruits and vegetables, but also about the American experience, Chef Flay and I decided to cook to our strengths and to our heritages. To highlight the diversity of culinary traditions and flavors that define our country, Chef Flay cooked with his southwestern flair, I brought in recipes from my native Philippines, and we blended it all with unique takes on classic American recipes.

The other team was made up of Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali. These formidable opponents cooked amazing dishes reflecting their own styles and backgrounds!

The competition was close, and each team created delicious meals in a short amount of time and I am thrilled that Chef Flay and I were chosen as the winners.

As great as the honor it was to compete in Kitchen Stadium with such creative and talented chefs, the greatest honor is still coming to work every day, walking through the White House gates and serving my country by serving the healthiest, freshest food we can provide for the First Family and their guests.

Mrs. Obama's challenge to use fresh fruits and vegetables in a healthy way wasn't just for "Iron Chef." It's a challenge that we should all try to meet in our daily lives – whether it’s cooking for ourselves, our friends or our children.

Now here is her recipe for her broccoli chowder:

1 tablespoon butter
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 lemongrass, smashed
4 shallots, sliced
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 sprig of thyme1
small onion, sliced
2 heads of broccoli, slice the stem, reserve the green tips for purée
8 cups clam stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

For the garnish:
36 clams, steamed (reserve juice)
16 grape tomatoes, fried and peeled
6 fingerling potatoes, sliced
1 bunch broccoli rabe
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium size sauce pan, create the soup by sautéing the garlic, shallots, leeks, onion and thyme in butter until fragrant. Add the broccoli stem slices and sauté until the broccoli is softened. Pour in the chicken stock and bay leaf. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

In the mean time, blanch the broccoli tips until they turn a bright green color. Blanching can be done by boiling water with generous amounts of salt, placing the chopped broccoli in the boiling water for 1 minute and removing them from the boiling water. Then, “shock” the green tips in a bowl of iced water. Drain and purée the broccoli in a blender and set it aside.

Purée the soup in a blender and strain it through a fine sieve or strainer. Add the green broccoli purée to the soup and season it with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a separate pan, sauté the potatoes in olive oil to cook. Add the broccoli rabe and sauté until it is softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and clams to heat through. Spoon the vegetables and clams to the soup plate or bowl and pour the broccoli soup around. Enjoy.

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