Iron Foodie Contest: Allez Cuisine!


What I really want to do is bounce around with a placard yelling EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! But this will have to do.

Santa Marx has opened the polls for voting, so if you missed the elections, get you fix there. Click on this linkĀ to go to Marx’ post and choose your favorite use of the secret ingredients. I will tell you there are 25 fabulous entries, yes, I’m including mine. Go check’em out and vote for me your favorite one. It’s one vote per IP address, so be choosy when you imagine me spending those $200 on Marx goodies.


Just before Thanksgiving madness started, I mentioned I had thrown my apron into the Iron Foodie contest hosted by Marx FoodsĀ (aka Santa Marx)Ā and Foodie Blogroll. It was too tempting to pass it up. The challenge was set up a la Iron Chef / Chopped; we would receive mystery ingredients that we would then incorporate into an original creation.

Ā Let me tell you, there was all kinds of excitement at home for about a week. It all started out with the Iron FoodieĀ contest. I had to submit the application post and wait a few days (read: eons) to learn if I had been selected. Once selected, I waited another few eons days to receive the mystery box. We knew we would receive a total of 8 items and had to use at least 3 in the recipe.

The waiting was killing me, so in the meantime I decided to torture myself with the offerings on the Marx site. That’s when it happened. I found their blog… and another opportunity for freebies. I tell you what, I was like a crack addict. Every time I saw the UPS or FedEx or USPS trucks I would start pacing around, hoping for that hit, I mean knock on my door. And when I received all my deliveries, I yearned and longed for the knock again. OK, sorry.

This post is about what I did with the mystery ingredients. Once I had the hot little box in hand and discovered what was in it, I went from giddy with excitement to totally freaked out in about 2.2 seconds. Some of the ingredientsĀ left me dumbfounded i.e., Dulse Seaweed???? Others, I had heard of but never tried before: Fennel Polen, Maple Sugar. At first I wanted to try making something sweet because I don’t seem to offer you enough desserts, but the sweets just don’t speak to me.

I will tell you that I made an earlier attempt which included the seaweed, chile panca, vanilla bean and peppercorns. I kept thinking about a savory flan and because the seaweed is, well, from the sea, I went with shrimp. I incorporated the maple sugar and TelicherryĀ peppercorns in the bacon. It was good, but I should’ve made a sauce for it and, overall, I didn’t see myself making that dish ever again. Back to the drawing board I went.

I had planned on a dessert and I WILL make it in the next few days, but then I was struck by a thought or a memory or something. I love Chinese Salt & Pepper Shrimp or Calamari. I’ve never made it, but I loooooove it. So I thought, I could make that with the Smoked SaltĀ and TellicherryĀ peppercorns! That’s how this came to be. Instead of deep-frying, I pan-fried. Instead of shrimp or calamari, SALMON! I finished it up with a creamy sauce incorporating the chile pancaĀ and fennel polen. YUM!

Salt & Pepper Salmon with Fennel & Panca Cream

Salmon fillets, skinless
Smoked salt
Telicherry Peppercorns
Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cp heavy cream
1 small chile panca, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel polen
Smoked salt
Telecherry pepper

Though I love salmon skin, I chose to have it removed for this application. I started out with 2 fillets cut from the thick part of the fish, those fillets were then halved into 2-inch sections (approximately).

Grind the peppercorns; if you don’t have a spice grinder (like me), place them in a baggie, put the bag over a towel and use a rolling pin to break the peppercorns. Another alternative is to use a mortar and pestle. Combine about 1 tablespoon smoked salt and pepper.

Dip the salmon pieces in the salt/pepper mixture (top and bottom).

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat, add a swirl of olive oil and sear the salmon pieces on both sides–about 2 to 3 minutes per side depending on thickness and how done you like it. Set aside and keep warm.

Rinse out the skillet, heat over medium and add a bit of olive oil. I removed the seeds from the chili before chopping, I wasn’t looking for heat, just the fruity flavor.

Add the pancaĀ chili, stirring constantly. Add the cream and fennel polen, season with smoked salt and ground pepper. Remember the salmon will be heavily seasoned, so don’t add too much salt to the sauce. Allow it to come to a soft boil for a minute or two. Run through a blender before serving.

I grilled a few asparagus spears, poured the cream on the bottom of the plate, then came the asparagus and salmon over that. This salt is incredibly flavorful, the salmon tasted as though it had been smoked. And the peppercorns are strong! They really wake up your palate.

Finally, the creamy sauce brought it all together. It was silky, rich with a hint of sweetness from the fennel, but not at all overpowering. This one goes in the archives and you, you should really try it.

For more shots, click here.
Cookingly yours,


I just can’t help myself.

I really can’t. I don’t exactly know when this happened, but I can’t pass up a contest these days. I never thought of myself as the ‘competitive type’. Although my friends have scary stories involving me, a Taboo deck, taunting and blocking the exits. I really have no idea what they could possibly be talking about. But here we are. Again. Entering another cooking contest.Ā  Gulp.

I just submitted an entry to the Today show, I have a list of other contests I’m working on, but then it happened. I got an email from The Foodie Blogroll, see their badge down on the right? Earlier in the year I participated in their Foodie Joust, which were so much fun. And now they are partnering with Marx Foods–do check out that website, it’s a foodie’s equivalentĀ to George Clooney… HOT! They are toying with my emotions and my Shun knives and opening the doors to an Iron Chef style cooking contest or Chopped, complete with a basket filled with secret ingredients. Swoon.

Yep. I’m in. I need to tend to the business part and answer a few questions. You get to see those answers too.

Why do you want to compete in this challenge?
It seems Iā€™m a natural born competitor, I just didnā€™t get the graceful loser gene. Iā€™m an Iron Chef/Chopped/Top Chef junkie and wannabe. I play this game at home but call it Whatā€™s in the bag.

Limitations of time/space notwithstanding, whose kitchen would you like to spend the day in & why? Julia Child, Thomas Keller, FerranĀ Adria, James Beard, Marie-Antoine Careme, or The Swedish Chef?
May I split my day with all of them? Except for the Swedish Chef, the MuppetsĀ give me the creeps. If I really must pick only one, Iā€™ll go with Julia. I know youā€™re probably thinking of the Julie/Julia Julia, but thatā€™s not why. I grew up watching Julia Child cook, or rather, love and dote on food. I loved to see her ā€˜just whip upā€™ a dish effortlessly, all the while letting you know that the worst thing you could do was not try toĀ recreate it yourself. To me Julia was a version of my mother on TV. Cooking up a storm of decadent, delicious and involved meals without breaking a sweat and convincing you that you could do it too.

What morsel are you most likely to swipe from family & friendsā€™ plates when they arenā€™t looking?
Fatty bits of pork, ripe plantains and properly made rice. Oooh, seafood, especially le shrimp.

Sum your childhood up in one meal.
Seriously? Iā€™m from Panama and my mom loved to cook, I canā€™t do one meal! My mom was an incredible cook, but Iā€™ll go with the basics. Some stewed chicken, coconut rice with pigeon peas and tajadas (ripe fried plantains). That can be my last meal any day of the week.

The one mainstream food you canā€™t stand?
This response is rated R for violence and strong language. Mango and coconut flavoring. I should say artificial flavoring. I donā€™t know who came up with the recipe for either one, but I donā€™t really think they had a real mango or coconut; Ā like EVER. Even the scent ofĀ the artificial stuff nauseates me. And the thing that saddens me the most about it is how many people have formed a negative opinion about these 2 delicious items without ever tasting the real thing. YUCK! Oh, let me add fake crab to that. Ok, Iā€™m ok now.

This should be interesting. Stay tuned.

Competitive cookingly yours,