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Friday, June 11, 2010

Iron Chef... Harlem?

Friday, June 11, 2010 By

Augusta, Ga./Harlem, Ga. - I got us into it. "Anytime you need us," I said to Lee Ann at Red Oak Manor in Harlem about their Iron Chef competition.

It's a beautiful place, run by beautiful people. The food is good, the property gorgeous. And did I mention the awesome people? Lee Ann messaged me. Did I want to compete? Sure!

Then I changed jobs, and promptly forgot about it. The secret ingredient is corn meal, Lee Ann informed us, about a week early. And I promptly forgot about it again.

"This is what we're cooking on Thursday," Scott told me.

"What's Thursday?" I asked, oblivious.

He glared at me. Then he told me the menu he had devised.

"That sounds horrible," I laughed.

He glared some more. I was being an ass.

"I mean, that's gonna be awesome! They're all going down!"

We were late getting there, so we were late getting started. We didn't know we could prep some dishes in advance - like pre-chopping, or mixing a batter. We were way behind, and first-timers against two well-seasoned teams. It was hot as blazes, and I had no idea what we were doing - besides running around and sweating.

In fact, sweating was maybe the only thing we had in common with the other competitors. Even my SHINS were sweating! But the others had done this before, had prepped a little in advance, and - and this is REALLY important - had brought enough food for everyone. LOL!

But we worked it out. Not enough buttermilk? Mix in some eggs. Not enough fish batter flavoring? Create our own with spices from dry storage. Serving spinach and cantaloupe porridge for the soup course?

"Well, you can't fix that," I thought. "Just send it out and move on to the next thing."

Our fellow competitors were so much fun. We shared beer and wine, tried each others' dishes, laughed at our mistakes. And sweated some more.

Scott and I were definitely out-techniqued. They made fresh pico de gallo. Corn fritters from scratch. Pork medallions that melted in your mouth.

"Oh, we so lost already," I crowed, after tasting something melt-in-your-mouth awesome. And I was okay with that. It was a great experience.

We served up fried green tomatoes with a butternut squash-rice-something on top. The aforementioned Soup of Insanity. Fried fish with mango chutney and asparagus.

In the end, his gamble paid off. He won the People's Choice and Judges' awards. And even more of my respect.

He also won himself more time in our own kitchen. But I'll clean up after him. Just as soon as he buys me the industrial dishwasher they have out there!


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