Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Zakarian v. Clime

TWSF and Chef Zakarian

Over the weekend I was invited to be a local blogger judge for the Cadillac Challenge in Reston Town Center. The other blogger tagged along and was able to steal both a judges seat and some of my thunder when one of the other judges did not show up.

The competition featured Chef Geoffrey Zakarian of Food Network fame (including Chopped and Iron Chef) and Chef Christopher Clime of local fame (most recently Passionfish). Chef Zakarian made a deliciously light white gazpacho and peekytoe crab salad, it was amazing how the gazpacho was creamy even though there was no cream in the recipe. Chef Clime did a jumbo lump crab cake with sweet corn chow-chow, he constructed the best crab cake I have ever eaten.

TWSF and Chef Clime
I voted for the crabcake the other two judges went with the gazpacho. Both dishes were amazing but I found the non-cooking aspects of the competition the most interesting.

Although the requirements of a judge were minimal (state your name and a vote by show of hands) I was taken by surprise when the host suddenly put the microphone in my face and the camera turned to me. I was only able muster up a few pathetic culinary insights including "its all gone so it must be good" and "its going to be a tough decision." I was caught off guard, panicked and began speaking in cliches like an athlete during a halftime interview. Being witty at home in front of your computer in your underwear is much easier than ad-libbing in front of a crowd and camera.

The difference was also noticeable between the two chefs, Chef Clime was very good as he described his dish and process, but he lacked the pedigree that comes with a Food Network education. Chef Zakarian's charisma, interaction with the crowd, timing and comedic sensibilities were more refined than his gazpacho recipe. He really did a good job working the room and you could see why he would be asked to do TV.

The best part of the event was talking with the chefs after the competition and got some insider information. Chef Zakarian was wearing band-aides all over his hands because he had filmed an episode of Iron Chef the night before and cut himself hacking at some meat. Confidentiality agreements prevented us from learning who the winner was. We spoke with Chef Clime about his restaurants and the recent closing of TenPenh. He told us that the FBI wants to keep the area around Pennsylvania and 10th next to the J Edgar Hoover building as  deserted as possible even going as far as to limit street lighting to create a dark and deserted corner of the city. TenPenh struggled with the low foot traffic and inability for patrons to catch a cab (it is a pain at night) and eventually closed. He said that our favorite restaurant, Central, is struggling with similar issues.

All in all the Cadillac was a great experience, we cant wait to try these recipes and work on our on-camera banter.

Chef Geoffrey Zakarian
White Gazpacho and Peekytoe Crab Salad

  • 1/4 cup fennel, large dice
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/4 cup seedless green grapes
  • 1/4 cup toasted Marcona almonds
  • 1 oz white verjus
  • 1 oz sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Crab Salad Garnish
  • 8 oz peekytoe crab, shell fragments discarded
  • 1 oz creme fraiche
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/4 cup sliced chives
  • 8 seedless green grapes halved for garnish
  • 8 toasted marcona almonds, halved for garnish
  • 20 large yellow celery leaves for garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
  1. Combine fennel, cucumber, grapes almonds, verjus, vinegar and syrup in a blender
  2. Puree on high and drizzle in the olive oil
  3. Taste and season with salt
  4. Pass it through a fine-mesh chinois
  5. Combine the cleaned crab, creme fraiche, lemon zest and chives in a stainless steel mixing bowl
  6. Taste and season with salt
  7. Place a small amount of the crab salad in each serving bowl
  8. Randomly place four grape halves, four almond halves, and four celery leaves around each bowl and drizzle with olive oil
  9. Pour the gazpacho over the crab salad garnish

Chef Chris Clime
Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and Sweet Corn Chow-Chow

Crab Cake
  • 1 lb Maryland jumbo lump crab meat
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs (not made from bread crust)
  • 1 tbsp grape seed oil
  • drawn butter

Sweet Corn Chow-Chow
  • 3 ears yellow or white corn
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp chiffonade cilantro
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • tartar sauce and fresh chives, as condiments
Crab Cake
  1. Carefully pick the crab meat and refrigerate until needed
  2. In a mixing bowl combine Tabasco, lemon juice, old bay, chives, salt mayonnaise and egg. mix until all ingredients are well combined
  3. Gently add about 2/3 of this mixture to the chilled crab meat, carefully folding in so you don't break the lumps
  4. Check the seasoning, you want to add just enough wet mixture to the crab so that it is well seasoned without adding so much that you have to add extra breadcrumbs
  5. Gently add in the breadcrumbs to bind the mixture together
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  8. Divide the mixture into 4 portions and form crab cakes, you can also do mini crab cakes
  9. Add 1 tbsp grape seed oil to a non stick pan and saute the cakes until golden brown on both sides
  10. Transfer the cakes to a baking sheet, top each with a little drawn butter and finish in the over for 5-7 minutes
  11. Serve on sweet corn chow-chow

Sweet Corn Chow-Chow
  1. Roast the corn in the husks at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, shuck and slice kernels off ears
  2. Combine corn, oil, vinegar, peppers onions and cilantro in a bowl
  3. Season to taste with oil and vinegar

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