You know what would make any 28-day dry aged New York strip steak even better? Hot dogs. At least that was the working theory last night, at the 26th Foobooz Open Stove Night at COOK. The battle went down between up-and-comers Geno Betz of Stateside, assisted by Blaise Sideris, and Alex Busch of Brauhaus Schmitz, assisted by Dan Britt.
So let’s see how it all shook out, shall we?
Both teams arrived ready to compete, armed with pre-made terrine, sous-vided steaks, and pre-julienned organic vegetables. They each started out strong with amuses bouches. Team Brauhaus offered a refreshing beginning, three dainty little balls of melon in mint oil with pickled red onion and salted pistachios, but Stateside won diners over with a buttery triangle of brioche, duck confit and pickled mustard seeds.
Things got interesting when our own Jason Sheehan announced the wild card ingredients for the appetizer course: 100 Barnegat Bay Oysters, 50 for each team, and a single oyster knife with which to shuck them. And what goes best with oysters? Why, champagne, my darling! But instead of some vintage bottle from France, Sheehan unveiled the champagne of beers: Miller High Life. Five per team.
Team Brauhaus got right down to shucking and heating olive oil, while Team Stateside had a little chat. Then something happened where shots of rum--followed by shots of Betz’s homemade limoncello--were distributed in shot glasses made of ice, one of which wasn’t entirely frozen. In no time at all Stateside was plating up a colorful salad: heirloom carrot, red onion, watercress, tomatoes, and watermelon radish. It was topped with olive oil fried oysters and a High Life reduction. While Brauhaus’ salad was colorful, and their oysters very nicely fried, the execution on round two suffered from some very stemmy watercress.
On the other end of the counter, Betz and Sideris were plating up a bit of a duet: grilled oyster, High Life mignonette, grilled cuttlefish and basil oil. I’m not gonna lie. The fragrance of this dish was similar to that of what I imagine the recycling bins at Oyster House smell like, but they sealed the deal with a beverage to accompany it, a Riesling sangria with peaches and cherries.
Sheehan taunted the Brauhaus team, “What, were you guys gonna put up a salad no matter what the secret ingredient was?” To which Britt replied, “I thought hot dogs were showing up in there for sure, man!”
HE SPOKE TOO SOON. Secret ingredients for the entree course, in keeping with tomorrow’s grandest picnic day of the year status were: potato chips, pickle relish, yellow mustard, and, yes, beef franks.
Betz shook his head and immediately pulled the lamb neck terrine from his station, crumbling it into a pot to cook down. Busch pulled his strip steaks from the immersion circulator and began crusting them with crushed potato chips. Perhaps my favorite moment of the night was when Betz emptied the black pepper out of his grinder, filled it with potato chip crumbs, and made it rain freshly ground potato chip dust onto the lamb tenderloins heading for the grill.
In the end, the tenderloin appeared alongside a canapé of potato chip topped with lamb neck and hot dog rillette, black trumpet mushroom and pickle relish confit, patty pan squash, hot dog jus, and a red verjus gel. Yeah, read that whole sentence again and tell me you're not sad you missed out on the fun last night.
It was a protein-heavy spread on the Brauhaus side as well. Potato chip-crusted steak, foie gras and yellow mustard sauce, and pickle relish butter, served over a rendered hot dog brunoise with garlic and watercress.
Both teams put up a blueberry pie for dessert, so I call that a draw.
Though Sheehan’s favorite bite of the night was Alex Busch’s relish butter, (“Seriously, that should be on a menu somewhere!” ), the crowd favorite--and the victor of the evening--was Geno Betz from Stateside. Congratulations, chef! And to you, gentle readers, may your fourth of July potato chips be crispy, your potato salad without harmful bacteria, and your hot dogs surprisingly delicious with watercress.
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