As if we will never have done with The Next Iron Chef...and no, we won't, because I really like this show and it makes a lot of good points about food, cooking, being a chef and the zeitgeist as reflected in the way we eat now...I came up with a purely fictional recipe after watching last night's premier.
"Fictional" means in this case that I have not prepared it, or eaten anything like it, or seen it prepared, or even heard about it through an unsubstantiated rumor on Grub Street. I just thought it up, and here's how.
Contestant Traci des Jardins, a noted chef/restaurateur and a winner on an earlier Iron Chef challenge (I mean, this lady knows her stuff) was given the assignment of creating a dessert with a non-sweet component--in this case, salmon roe.
But Chef des Jardins used it only as a kind of garnish, not really an ingredient of the dish she created. By Iron Chef standards, a good dish is one in which the key ingredient is fully integrated and its flavor is not masked. Even--maybe most of all--when that ingredient does not seem to be a good match for the purpose of the dish.
Therefore, Chef d.J. was booted from "The Next Iron Chef"--to the amazement of herself, her competitor/colleagues, and the rest of the foodie universe.
And yet her loss was justified. She simply didn't do what the challenge required.
Now, I am not a chef. I eat voraciously and adventurously and I read a lot about food, but most of the food I eat is prepared by me at home because I think I will like it, it has good left-over potential, it's fairly inexpensive, and the ingredients are locally available--I don't mean I'm a locavore, I just don't send away for things.
Still, I thought up the recipe below.
There might be several good reasons why this recipe wouldn't work. For example, would the acidic pomegranate juice "cook" the salmon roe, like an escabeche? Even I know that cooking caviar, with either heat or acid, is far less kind than just throwing it out.
Or would it just taste like a creamy, fruity dessert in which a fish had decided to do its reproductive business?
I haven't even tried to make this recipe, because I can't afford the somewhat expensive ingredients right now.
So heaven knows that I am not promoting my food prep and judgment skills over those of Traci des Jardins. Nor do I know what purpose this recipe would serve, outside of making the judges oust Michael Symons instead (the famous and expert Cleveland chef was the other competitor who came close to losing last night's challenge). (Bacon-flavored ice cream, if you must know).
But pomegranate seeds are tiny sacs of intensely flavored (sweet/sour/tangy) liquid. And salmon roe are tiny (about the same size, in fact) sacs of intensely flavored (savory/salty/rich) liquid. And creme fraiche is creamy and gentling to sharp tastes, and is used as an accompaniment to both sweet and savory dishes. So here goes.
The Salmon and the Pomegranate
A non-existent Middle Eastern Fable in recipe form
A half-tablespoon of salmon roe
A tablespoon of creme fraiche
In a very small bowl, perhaps a 1/2 cup prep bowl or a custard cup, layer the creme fraiche at the bottom.
Add pomegranate seeds on top, hiding the creme fraiche.
Sprinkle salmon roe on top of that. You won't be able to hide the pomegranate seeds, but don't mix them.
Serves one adventuresome (and somewhat wealthy) Iron Chef wannabe.