Saturday, September 17, 2011

And the winner of the great Silver Lake cookoff is...

Niki's clams with chorizo

I was honored to be asked to judge a cook off between my tenants Christian and Tyler and their friend Niki, a longtime EatingLA reader. The cook off took place over two evenings, and there were no real rules except that no vegetarians were invited. Each contestant chose a starter, entree and dessert. This was a really fun format for a dinner party that encourages the hosts to stretch their cooking muscles. Here's how the judging went down. Each cook started guests out with a fruity sangria-like spritzer, a refreshing kickoff for the evening.
First course: 
Niki started with a cool combo of smoked trout and fennel salad. She bought the trout already smoked at McCall's, which seemed like a reasonable compromise -- accompaniments of a zingy horseradish sauce topped with sliced cornichons and a bright-tasting salad of sliced fennel, arugula and radishes provided crunch, heat and tangyness. Score: 5 out of 5
Tyler sneaked in an amuse-bouche before the starter -- hollowed-out cubes of watermelon were perked up with balsamic vinegar and basil. Tyler's gazpacho was super-fresh tasting; paired with a simple red-leaf lettuce salad, it was a great way to usher out summer.
Score: 3 plus 1 for the amuse = 4
Main course:
Niki continued her seafood theme with clams with chorizo, garbanzo beans and kale. The broth danced perfectly on the edge of saltiness, and the slices of toasted bread were terrific sopped up with the clam broth. Score: 5
Tyler roasted a chicken with lemon slices and paired it with a cool herb-inflected rice salad; his carving skill was evident in the nicely-portioned pieces on our plates. Score: 3
Niki made a caramel pot-de-creme topped with creme fraiche and salt crystals; it didn't have the impossible richness of a butterscotch budino but the slightly tart creme fraiche cut the rich custard nicely. Score: 4
Tyler went with a chocolate souffle with raspberries and whipped cream. Sometimes the classics are the best: Fresh out of the oven, the warm, deep chocolate flavor was a lovely way to end two nights of culinary skill. Score: 5
Both cooks turned out delicious meals with lots of thought, and I had a lot of fun judging the results. So next time you're inviting guests for dinner, why not make a contest out of it?
Here's the results:
Niki: 14
Tyler: 12
Congrats to Niki, winner of the Griffith Park Blvd. area dinner championship and future "Come Dine With Me" star!



yeah no vegetarians were invited because if they were, I would have won.

Amanda Campbell said...

Wow that mean sounds delicious! I am a big seafood fan, anything with lobster would have been a winner for me! The seafood theme with clams with chorizo sounds amazing though! I'm not exactly sure what chorizo is (I know I've heard it on Master Chef before) but I am obsessed with clams, espcially drenched in butter. yum!