Right on the heels of participating in the Marx Foods Integrale Gauntlet I found myself drawn into yet another recipe competition sponsored by this informative and inspiring site. This time, they had me at the utterance of the word “chiles”. I simply LOVE hot and spicy foods! However, it soon became clear that this was no regular chili competition. There would be no huge pots of slow cooked meats and spices. In this contest, participants were challenged to make a dish that is not only hot and spicy to the tongue, but cold and crisp to the touch. Read the contest rules and guidelines below for the breakdown on what I was about to get myself into.
Fire on Ice Rules
That’s right, we want you to put some fire on ice in our newest chile recipe contest that’s all about cold dishes with a twist…
We’re challenging bloggers to create an original recipe for a dish that features chiles, but is meant to be served cold. Ice cream? Sure. Gazpacho? Absolutely. Salads? So refreshing. Cocktails? We love ‘em. Add some spice to anything chilly – we want you to push the boundaries of cool.
We have a huge sampling of dried chiles, from mild and fruity to hot and milk-chugging worthy. We will mail out a mixed range of chiles for each blogger to play with.
So, if you want to get spicy with us, here’s how to get in on the action:
1. Email your name, mailing address and blog URL to Katie at kwallace(at)marxfoods(dot)com by Friday, June 29.
2. Justin and Katie will select the participants for the challenge and mail them chile samples by Friday, July 6.
3. Create an original recipe using at least one of the chile varieties we sent you for something meant to be served cold (chilled or frozen, not just room temperature) and email the link to Katie by Sunday, 7/29.
4. We will publish links to all of the submitted recipes on the Marx Foods blog by Tuesday, 7/31.
Two winners will be selected – one from a public poll, and one via an internal vote amongst the participants and Marx Foods staff.
Both of the winning bloggers will get their choice of one of the following prizes to either keep things cool or heat them up: 2lbs of Frozen Huckleberries, a case of Passion Fruit, a Japanese Juice Sampler, an Ultimate Chile Head Sampler, or 5lbs of Fresh Horseradish. The 2 champs will be announced around Monday, 8/6.
As you now see, this was going to require some creativity on my part. So I sent in my email entry to Katie at Marx Foods and began to mull over what I would make in anticipation of receiving my shipment of dried chiles. (A note on Marx Foods: Katie and her partner Justin are simply wonderful, extremely helpful and literally human compendiums of information about gourmet foods and culinary supplies. I strongly encourage anyone searching for that special ingredient or three to check out their offerings).
I figured that the most logical impulse would point contestants toward salad, ceviche and gazpacho. My first inclination was to do a ceviche. As luck would have it, I just returned from a trip to the Florida Keys and was in the possession of some freshly caught spotted sea trout. This fish is light in flavor and full bodied, so I knew it would work well when chemically cooked in citrus juices (in this case lime juice). While in the Keys, I was also able to play around with preparing Florida avocados, which are much larger and firmer that their more popular Californian cousins. So when I returned home from my trip and found a box of beautiful dried chiles on my doorstep, I knew I was heading in the right direction.
Here is a quick breakdown of the chilies that were included in the shipment, along with the brief descriptions of heat and taste that came with each one.
Since the only chili in the shipment that I had worked with previously was the Thai chili, I figured that it would be best to test each one out to see what type of flavor and heat they had and how each variety reacted to re-hydration. I knew that I wanted to use the Ghostface Killah beer from Twisted Pine Brewery as part of the marinade for the trout, so I decided to rehydrate each chili in a small amount of this spicy brew to see how the flavors might compliment or compete with one another. With all the peppers sampled I was able to put a plan in place for this 3-part chilled chili recipe. I hope you like it.
Ingredients for Trout Marinade
Ingredients for Sherbet
Fruit & Vegetable Ingredients for Ceviche
Ingredients for Aioli
Trout and Marinade
The first step is to filet two whole trout and get the meat placed in marinade so it can “cook” overnight. Since this is a ceviche, we will be using the acid from lime juice to chemically cook the trout.
When fileting your trout, be sure to remove the skin and all bones. This can be a bit tricky and may take some practice to be able to get as much of the fish flesh as possible while being sure that none of the smaller bones find their way into the marinade. The most important tool for this stage of the process is a razor sharp filet knife. I hone (fine sharpening) my filet knife every time I use it and give it a full coarse sharpening at least once a month to make sure it maintains the edge needed to get right up to the bone when cleaning fish.
Once you are finished fileting your fish, you should be left with two intact fish bones (head and backbone) and a good bit of skin. Don’t throw this away just yet. Take those left over fish parts and throw them into a pot with just enough water to barely cover the bones. Add some kombu or nori, a little salt and some soy sauce and let the mixture sit on low for at least 6 hours, but overnight if possible. Once your stock has been fully cooked, strain the contents of the pot through a chinoise or fine sieve, keeping the liquid and discarding the rest. Though we won’t be using this mixture for our recipe today, the result will be a wonderful fish stock that you can freeze and use at a later date.
Once your fish have been fileted and deboned, cut the trout into 1/2 pieces, trying to maintain as much uniformity in size as possible. This will ensure that all the fish is evenly coated with the marinade and cooks uniformly. Place the trout into the marinade mixture consisting of buttermilk, lime juice, coconut water, beer, peppercorns garlic and herbs. If you don’t have access to Twisted Pine’s Ghostface Killah Ale, use your favorite light bodied ale or lager or simply add more buttermilk and coconut water in even parts. Cover you fish and marinade and place in the refrigerator for 12 – 24 hours. You will know that your fish is fully “cooked” when all the pieces are white and firm. The longer you let the fish sit in the marinade (maximum 48 hours), the more taste will infuse into the flesh.
The next step is to prepare the mixture for your sherbet, as this too will need to sit overnight so that the flavors can fully mix. A note on my choice of peppers for the sherbet: The three chilies that I selected for the sherbet were chosen for their mild to medium heat and smoky/sweet/fruity flavor profiles as I knew these would lend themselves well to a desert without add overpowering heat. The idea is to end the meal with a soothing take on chilies that will serve to cool down some of the heat that your will get from the ceviche.
Slice the Aji Panca, New Mexico and Mulato chilies into 1/2 sections. Be sure to retain all the seeds as these will add flavor and a touch of heat to your sherbet. Combine lime juice, buttermilk, ginger ale and vanilla-infused sugar in a glass bowl and add the sliced peppers. Cover and store the bowl in the refrigerator for 12 – 24 hours. Once again, the longer the mixture soaks, the deeper and more complex your flavors will be.
It is important to choose a high quality ginger ale for this recipe. I tend to shy away from generic brands that you will find in your typical soda aisle. Splurge a little and select an ale from one of the smaller companies that make ginger beverages. For this recipe, I chose Reed’s Original Ginger Brew Jamaican Style Ginger Ale. The touch of pineapple juice in this ale blends well with the tropical flavors that I wanted to include in my sherbet. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Marx Foods, I had some whole vanilla beans that I won in conjunction with the Integrale Gauntlet that they hosted last month. At their suggestion, I stored these beans in some raw cane sugar. Not only does the sugar help keep the vanilla dry and fresh, the beans lend their flavor to the sugar. I use this sugar to make sweet vanilla ice tea and various deserts, replacing what I use with more raw sugar.
With all your initial prep work done, sit back, relax and give your marinade and sherbet mixtures time to soak and blend flavors. Tomorrow you will be cutting up the fresh fruit and veggies to flesh out the ceviche and creating an amazing aioli from the left over marinade.
Ceviche Part 2 – The Veggies
Today it’s all about taking those wonderful concoctions (ceviche marinade and sherbet mixture) that you created the night before, adding a few more fresh ingredients and putting Fire On Ice for your friends and family.
Begin by skinning two whole bulbs (yes, I said bulbs, not cloves) of garlic and placing the individual cloves into a bowl with fresh squeezed lime juice. This will soften up the cloves a bit and remove some of the harshness that is typically associated with consuming raw garlic. Place this bowl to the side as we are not done with that lime juice just yet.
Chop up the Florida avocados, Vidalia onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers and Cubanelles and place them in separate mixing bowls for now. A few notes on the choice of Florida avocados and their selection: I chose to use Florida avocados because they 1) Come from the same area as the trout that I caught and I like to keep regional consistency in my recipes where possible & 2) Florida avocados tend to be a bit firmer and have a wonderful, fruit-like (think cantaloupe) flavor when properly ripened. Here is a tip to choosing ripe Florida avocados – pick them up and shake them. You should hear/feel the pit moving freely around on the inside of the fruit (yes, avocados are indeed fruits), yet feel that the outside is firm to the touch. If you don’t hear that pit, or if the fruit feels a bit soft (similar to what is often sought after when choosing California avocados), put the avocado back and try another one.
It is important to try to keep consistency with regard to the size of the chopped ingredients. This will ensure that the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the final dish, preventing one in particular from overpowering the presence of the others. Now take the lime juice that you used to soak your garlic in earlier and pour just the juice over the chopped avocados. This will help to keep them from browning as they are exposed to air.
At this point I was thinking a bit about plating and wanted to have a few options. So I cut two large Cubanelle peppers in half, removed the seeds and pith, lightly coated them in olive oil and quickly seared them (open side down) on the grill over hardwood charcoal to get a little smoky flavor into the flesh. My plan was to use these peppers to serve as a serving vessel for the final ceviche mixture.
Marinade Into Aioli
At this point, check your fish and marinade mixture. If all the fish pieces are white and firm, remove them from the marinade and save the left over liquid. You are going to use that flavorful marinade to make one stunning aioli (all due respect to Gordon Ramsey, I have always wanted to use that line). But first, it’s time to throw all those wonderful chopped veggies and fruits in the food processor so that the ingredients are finely chopped and evenly mixed. Once this is done, transfer the mixture into a large glass or metal bowl and place into the refrigerator to chill. Do the same with the fish that was removed from the marinade. The final dish will be served by laying the fish on top of a bed of the chopped fruit & vegetable mix and accenting with the stunning (there’s that phrase again) aioli that you are about the create.
Place the left over marinade mixture into a food processor and add your chopped Puya and De Arbol chilies. Process this mixture until the chilies are finely chopped and evenly distributed. While the food processor is still on, add 1/4 cup olive oil and the yolk of two eggs to the marinade and chilies and continue mixing until you have a thick, creamy sauce.
Remove your aioli mixture from the food processor and place in a large glass bowl. Add a touch of Old Bay seasoning and Himalayan pink salt (I chose this variety for its unique and slightly smoky flavor) to taste and hand whisk until the entire mixture is foamy and has a nice, thick consistency. Cover and place in the refrigerator for plating.
Let’s Kick Around a Ball and Make Some Sherbet
Remove your sherbet mixture from the refrigerator. The tannins from the peppers should have given the butter milk and coconut water a rich brown color. This will add an amazing smoky, fruity and slightly spicy flavor to the final product.
Now, as much as I wish I owned one, I currently am not in possession of an automatic ice cream maker (it’s on my short list of kitchen appliances to purchase, trust me). Since I work in the outdoor recreational industry and love to spend as much time outside as possible, I do however own an Ice Cream Ball.
What exactly is an ice cream ball you ask? If you are from my generation (mid-40′s) you probably remember your parents, neighbors or some other family member lugging the old ice cream churn out of a basement or dusty shed on a hot summer night to make fresh ice cream from scratch. The kids would take turns cranking the churn and after about an hour all your hard work was rewarded with some of the best tasting ice cream you ever tasted. There is little doubt that the work that we as kids had to put into the process made it taste that much better.
Well, an ice cream ball is a much smaller, more ergonomically efficient version of the old fashioned churn. This device uses the same ingredients – cream, sugar and flavoring in one end and ice and rock salt in the other. However, instead of feeling like singing chain gang songs while toiling away at the crank, in this case you just throw the ball to your kids and tell them to have at it. A half an hour later you have one cup of freshly churned (or kicked) ice cream. Same result, much less whining from the youngins about forced labor issues.
Since my wife and I currently don’t have kids, and our neighbors were a bit dubious when I asked if I could borrow theirs to make ice cream, I enlisted the assistance of our trusty mascot Jackson to help me “churn” my sherbet mixture. At first he was intrigued and excited lend a paw. However, his interest soon waned and I found myself kicking the ice cream ball around by myself and having flashbacks to grade school recess periods. Lucky for me I had a Plan B and placed the ice cream ball directly in my freezer to solidify.
While my sherbet was hardening up in the freezer I decided to play around with some plating ideas. I knew that I wanted to use the grilled peppers as a vessel to plate my fruit/veggie mixture and ceviche. Since this contest literally challenged the participants to put “Fire on Ice”, I decided to have a little fun. I placed ice cubes on an oval dish and laid the grilled Cubannelle pepper on top of that. Next I spooned some of the fruit/veggies mixture into the pepper and layered the fish ceviche on top of that. Finally, I drizzled some of the aioli over the contents of the pepper and added some additional marinated Tepin peppercorns for little extra fire. Then I let my artistic side run and attempted to create a flame design around the entire dish using a little more of the aioli. Let me know what you think about this presentation. Even though it is lacking the sherbet, I really like the resulting look of the plate.
Once my sherbet was fully solidified it was time to do the real final plating for my dish. I chose a colorful plate that I frequently use to serve sushi and replicated the pepper > fruit & veggie > ceviche > aoili > peppercorn combination that I used in the previous plating. I chose to serve the sherbet alongside the pepper is a small crystal dish and played around with accenting the plate with more aioli drizzle and some fresh ground herbs (sage and oregano). Let me know which presentation you prefer as I am torn between the two. I love the aioli flames and ice in the first one, but was so blown away by the taste of the sherbet that I really couldn’t justify leaving it out. So you, my readers, get both versions! Win Win I say.
As luck would have it, I had quite a bit of my sherbet mixture left over, so I decided to play around just a little bit more and make a fresh frozen cocktail to go along with my ceviche dinner. I placed the remainder of the sherbet concoction into the freezer in a shallow pan and let it solidify. Then I transferred the refrozen sherbet into a blender and added an additional 1/2 cup of coconut water and 1/2 cup of buttermilk and mixed until smooth. The result was a delightfully light frozen drink that complimented the meal very nicely. Of course, you could also add a bit of rum to this mixture, if you were so inclined, to make a fresh summer cocktail.
So don’t forget to vote for these recipes HERE if you like what I did and feel that I successfully placed Fire on Ice. One winner will be chosen by public pole and one by the folks at Marx Foods. Voting will begin on Tuesday, July 31st and the winners will be announced on Monday, August 6th.