About Last Night: Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Stove*

Ho! Ho! Ho! Open Stove celebrated Christmas in July.

On May, 4th the Open Stove contestants at Cook guessed that we would torture them with a Cinco de Mayo themed competition. But instead we gave them blue milk and Starburst in a memorable Star Wars themed battle. This month our kitchen warriors Malik Ali (Restaurant Neuf) and Bryan Tanczak (Bardot Cafe) were thinking hot dogs, hamburgers and maybe even apple pie as it was just past the 4th of July. But with the mercury well above 90°, we had a different idea, Christmas in July. So there was ham, plums, ginger snaps and since no one has chestnuts in the summer, water chestnuts. And to Ali and Tanczak’s credit, they embraced these secret ingredients with (ahem) aplomb.

Team Bardot, with smooth talking sous chef Eddie took us to the beach with black sea bass ceviche.

Team Neuf got things started with a profiterole filled with blue cheese, cashews and pistachio.

Then the fun began. A coin flip determined that Team Bardot would have to use the peppermint oil secret ingredient first. Our dastardly homage to the candy cane would have to play nice with a scallop salad that actually benefitted by the plums we forced both teams to use. It was a candy cane scallop salad with plum vinaigrette.

Ali and Neuf prepared a prawns dish served with the heads on. Scallops, always a crowd favorite versus shrimp with beady eyes? This seemed like an easy win for Bardot but those prawns were perfectly cooked.

As the Entree round began and the Christmas carols got everyone in the holiday spirit, we decided on another curveball. Each team had to gift the other from their pantry. Ali cleverly tried to give the peppermint oil back to Tanczak but that was vetoed. No re-gifting here. So it was tomatoes for avocados. The Christmas spirit must have been spreading because neither was a dastardly ingredient.

Neuf provided the a ha moment of the night as Ali crusted his chicken thighs in ginger snaps before frying them to crunchy perfection. The chicken was served with pork and kale, plus mint rice. Ali even reused his plum vinaigrette from the first course with the avocado.

Tanczak had brought pork and chorizo, so the secret ingredient of ham fit right in. The Three Wise Men of pork was served with a black eyed peas and a Granny Smith apple compote.

With the main plates cleared it was on to dessert.

Ali brought his dinner full circle as he ended the night with a cream cheese sherbet and gluten-free shortbread. It’s looking a lot like Christmas.

Tanczak went with a dessert of greek yogurt, grilled peaches and homemade granola.

After shots were had and applause given, the votes were tallied and Malik Ali and his sous chef Vinny emerged victorious. Played off into the humid night by Christmas carols, to all, it was a good night.

* Thanks to @Mugwhat for that glorious pun.