Iron Chef competition last weekend – Secret Ingredient: Coconut
Last weekend, I had the most amazing time taking part in an Iron Chef style cooking competition that my sister and a friend organized. Unlike the Food Network show, where chefs have to prepare a full course of dishes within an hour after learning about the secret ingredient, we were informed of the secret ingredient a week ago, so that gave us ample time to brainstorm recipes and develop something unique. Also, each family made one dish that utilized the secret ingredient. I must add that the sumptuous food was prepared by some truly efficient and talented ‘Iron Women’ whose culinary prowess is as developed as those of the Iron Chefs 🙂
The competition was judged using the same criteria as those used on the show: Taste, Presentation, Originality and Use of secret ingredient. We all scored each others dishes, hoping our spouses give us high scores 🙂
Knowing the competitive spirit within our group of friends, I wasn’t surprised with the range of innovative dishes we came up with. What I love about my group of friends is that we all come from different cultures and parts of the world, which made the competition a veritable gastronomic experience! Hubby darling couldn’t make it to the event owing to academic obligations 😦
I’ll try my best to explain what each family made. Please realize that the pictures don’t do justice to how delicious and tempting the food really was. Scroll down to see the winners!
1. Chick Xacuti (pronounced as Shakootee)
This dish was made by Cherryl, who grew up in Goa, India. Chicken Xacuti is a dish made for special occasions such as weddings, and the recipe involves the usage of copious amounts of dessicated coconut. The coconut flavor really came through when I tasted this rich curry and I went back for seconds soon after finishing my first helping.
2. Chicken Satay served with a peanut and coconut sauce
What I thoroughly enjoyed about this dish was how the sauce played the main role, while the chicken was just a prop to make one experience the heavy peanut and coconut flavors of the sauce. Loved the way Sheila plated the dish too. I gave her full marks on presentation!
3. Coconut and chicken pilaf, cooked in a tender coconut shell
Need I say that this one also got full marks on presentation? This dish truly blew my mind. Sabeeha cooked the chicken and rice in coconut water and freshly shredded coconut. She then piled the pilaf into a tender coconut shell (with it’s own coconut meat) and re-heated it in the oven. The result was a savory, spicy chicken pilaf that was thoroughly infused with both the sweet as well as nutty flavors of coconut. Certainly something that I am sure none of us had eaten before.
4. Coconut Shrimp in wontons
Sameera has a knack for thinking out of the box when it comes to food. I loved the crispy texture of the wonton, that matched with that of the crunchy coconut that she enveloped the shrimp in, before wrapping them in the wontons. Loved the simple flavor of the appetizers.
5. Enyucado Colombiano
When you have a friend from Colombia, expect to be surprised (in a really good way) every time she cooks something. Claudia made this simple Colombian side-dish that is sweet in flavor, but has distinct savory undertones. I loved the cake-like texture to the dish.
6. Coconut rice crepes stuffed with Coconut encrusted shrimp
This was my entry to the competition. Prerna of Indiansimmer and Kulsum of JourneyKitchen came to my rescue when I found out about the secret ingredient and emailed them for suggestions. They both promptly emailed back with ideas and Prerna shared her family’s favorite rice crepe recipe. Using some inspiration from the Vietnamese rice crepe dish, Banh Xeo, I used Prerna’s rice crepe recipe that I modified to concentrate the coconut flavor, by using extra shredded coconut and coconut milk. I then stuffed the crepes with bean sprouts, crunchy coconut encrusted shrimp and a coconut coriander chutney. I served the dish with a really yummy and creamy, chilled Zucchini and coconut milk soup the recipe for which, I borrowed from Cooking Canuck.
Honestly, although I loved the crepes by themselves, I don’t think the whole dish turned out as well as I had wanted it to. But I have to say this is the most experimental I’ve been with my cooking. Hopefully, I’ll get some time to improve on the shrimp recipe and share it with you. Here’s the recipe for Prerna’s crepes:
Prerna’s Rice crepe recipe – Modified to amp up the coconut flavor
Prerna’s recipe is very similar to the South Indian rice crepe, Dosa and I’d love to eat this for breakfast, lunch & dinner and even in between! Loved these crepes as is, with some cilantro chutney or ketchup.
- 3 cups rice flour
- 1/4 cup semolina, or cream of wheat (sooji)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- A handful of finely chopped cilantro
- 2 Thai green chilies, minced
- 1 tbsp salt or more to taste (the rice flour is quite bland)
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 tbsp shredded coconut (available frozen at any Asian grocery store)
Mix all the above ingredients in a large bowl and make a flowing, thin batter using as much water as needed (at least 6-7 cups). Mix very well and keep aside for 1/2 hour or so.
Heat a non-stick pan or skillet on high heat, after pouring a few drops of cooking oil on it. When very well heated, pour a ladle-ful of the batter on the pan. The crepe will form holes right away. Allow to cook on high heat for a minute or so or until you can see the sides turn brown. If you feel the crepe is sticking to the pain, pour a few drops of oil on the sides of the crepe. Cook the crepe upto the desired level of crispiness.
Flip the crepe over with a spatula and cook for 30 seconds or so. Remove crepe off pan when done.
Before making the next crepe, clean the pan with a wet piece of cloth. This reduces the temperature of the pan and also cleans any remnants of the previous crepe. Repeat the same process with the next crepe, adjusting the temperature on the pan, as it will get hotter and hotter if you don’t reduce and then increase the temperature, in breaks.
1st Place: Sabeeha’s Coconut chicken pilaf in a tender coconut shell.
2nd & 3rd place were tied between Sheila’s chicken satay and my rice crepes.