To put a twist on the ordinary dinner party, we recently challenged a friend of ours to a cook-off challenge. Early in the week, we emailed our mate J the following invitation.
Challenger J, we invite you to battle it off with Sam in a Iron chef style cookoff. Each contestant must prepare a minimum of 2 courses. The judging panel will decided on the winner with 10 points awarded for taste, 5 for originality and 5 more for presentation. Are you up for the challenge?
A few days later we received the following response from Challenger J.
I humbly accept this challenge. It shall be epic.
What actually started off as a fun dinner party idea, ended up turning a little stressful for both competitors. Without setting a theme or key ingredient, both parties were left completely in the dark with what the other was to cook and spent all week planning and re-planning their menus. From my side, it was rather entertaining.
After work on Friday and following a few gin and tonic and beers the cook off commenced.
For starters, J prepared a sesame encrusted seared tuna. He marinade the tuna in soy and sesame before searing on high heat on all sides. He then rested the tuna and slightly chilled it before thinly slicing and serving with grapefruit segments and green salad.
Sam prepared a lemon cured beef salad. He prepared this by thinly slicing fillet beef, and curing it using a mixture of lemon, fish sauce, sugar salt and pepper. After 10 minutes, excess liquid is squeezed from the beef and it’s served alongside bean sprouts, Vietnamese herbs, crispy fried shallots and garlic oil.
Next came main course and J decided to cook sirloin steaks with a mushroom porcini and portobello cream pepper sauce. He used Vietnamese peppercorns from Phu Quoc which he soaked overnight in water to soften, making the peppers edible. His sauce was made using liquid from the porcini mushrooms as well as the liquid that the peppers were soaked in.
Sam ended up going down an Asian route and cooked a slow cooked caramalised pork belly. After creating a caramel with sugar, he seared off his diced pork belly in the caramel. The belly was slowly braised in stock with bashed shallots and fish sauce and chilli for 1-2 hours to give the pork a tender melt in your mouth texture.
The dish was served with eggs that had been slow poached in the broth taking in all the delicious flavours from the pork. As you can see from the photos he was definitely trying to win points for presentation.
I could tell that Sam felt a little unnerved when J announced that he was going to prepare a dessert. After quickly whipping up a batter, he unveiled his secret weapon – Aussie tim tams. For those of you out there who have eaten a fried mars bar, this was like that but on another level! A definite crowd pleaser!
Throughout the night, the judges actually pulled together score cards rating each course. Personally J’s sesame seared tuna and Sam’s belly killed it for me as they were both perfectly executed, well thought out dishes. But by the end of the night seeing how hard the boys worked to pull the meal together, we could hardly pick a winner.
Until the next challenge then?