This is the fifth year that Amherst has hosted a student iron chef battle, and at this phase the prizes are great and the competition is steep. 6 teams of four were chosen randomly with a raffle, and we were not given any details until the day before the contest.
As it turns out, the format of this challenge was more like Chopped than Iron Chef (for all of you Food Network Aficionados out there.) We were given a basket with 6 ingredients that had to be used in some way to create a 3 course meal (appetizer, entrée, and desert.) All team had complete access to the food in the Dining Hall servery, and we were also given a few extra ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, whipping cream, eggs, and fresh herbs. We were only given one Bunsen burner, 2 pans, one chopping board, two knives, and access to 2 microwaves (for all 6 teams.) Cooking time was one hour, and every team was required to serve two plates of each dish when time was called.
Thai lettuce wraps:
Lettuce cup filled with diced artichoke hearts, chopped celery, shredded carrots, sliced upland cress, and crispy wantons tossed with our peanut sauce. We skewered some steak from the dining hall’s entrée of the evening, and used the meat skewer to hold the lettuce wrap together. The plate was garnished with a swirl of the peanut sauce (perfect for dipping the steak!)
Pulled Chicken Sliders:
We toasted dinner rolls and topped them with pulled chicken and a slice of the black tomato. To make the pulled chicken, we shredded chicken breasts (the grilled entrée available every day for a lighter meal option) and tossed the meat in an augmented barbeque sauce (we added catsup, mustard, brown sugar, and chicken broth to the standard barbeque sauce available at the sandwich bar.)
Our desert was the only dish which did not incorporate the secret ingredients. We made an apple crisp in a microwave, and served it in a hollowed out apple. The crisp was made by covering chopped apples with a mixture of cinnamon, brown sugar, and crushed ice-cream cones. (Yes- we used ice cream cones to replace the traditional oatmeal/granola topping.) The crisp was microwaved for 2 minutes, and then drizzled with melted butter and microwaved for a final minute. We spooned the crisp into the apple bowls, and topped it with freshly made cinnamon whipped cream.
Our sliders were served with two cold salads. The first was a rosemary garlic potato salad, created by simply adding mayonnaise and mustard to diced potatoes (potatoes were served as an accompaniment to the steak at dinner.) We topped the potato salad with the fiddleheads, which had been seared in butter and fresh garlic, and garnished with the wild onion stalks. The second salad was a celery, apple, and raisin salad served over flash seared mozzarella and drizzled in a balsamic reduction.