Tomato-fennel soup with gremolata and a grilled goat cheese-and-fig sandwich
I got outside of this humble grilled cheese and tomato soup dealio while watching "Iron Chef America." It was my first Iron Chef experience. Good grief.
"Iron Chef America" is a made-for-TV cook-off–taped in a place called "Kitchen Stadium"–between two famous studly chefs (surprise! Iron chefs are all guys!). In this episode, the chef-dudes had to come up with five courses, each involving the same "secret ingredient." I cannot say why they kept calling it "secret", since nobody made the slightest attempt to conceal its identity. It was squash. They had to make everything with squash.
My (possibly regressive) view is that the practical applications for a five-course squash dinner are few.
In fact, I remain unconvinced that haute cuisine is at all suitable as a professional-wrestling-style spectator sport.
Be that as it may, these are world-class chefs and they’re not fucking around. The five courses are thrown together and exquisitely plated in a flurry, and ultimately are fed to a panel of judges who are called upon not just to score, but to make witty pronouncements on each dish. Roly-poly witty prononceur and dining enthusiast Jeffrey Steingarten was understandably one of these judges. He looked to be in hog heaven. If there’s a better gig than professional eating, I’ve never heard of it.
Bobby Flay won the squash battle. I was perturbed by my inability to taste the food, but did not let this get in the way of my mocking Flay’s silly pumpkin-French-toast-as-main-dish idea. I also gave his cloying pumpkin ice cream the raspberry, for its presentation in a goofy giant pumpkin shell stuck all over with flowers. It looked more like an Easter bonnet on a drag queen than something you’d want to put in your mouth.
This Flay is one of those chefs who gets a big bang out of food puns (viz. Boy Meets Grill). It looks like breakfast, but it’s really dinner! It looks like a hat, but it’s really ice cream! I wanted the other guy to win, a sensitive, tasteful chappy name of Armstrong. His food was elegant and nuanced, even though he’d been forced to put squash all up in it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: irony is the enemy of dinner. But iron chefery? I’ll get back to you on that.