Coconut Curry with Jumbo Shrimp and Lobster Mushrooms 
vs. 
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Chanterelle-Truffle Risotto

Watching re-runs of Top Chef the other night, the Quick Fire challenged the chefs to buy five ingredients from the farmer's market on a budget of $20 and cook a tasty dish using just those five ingredients and oil, salt, pepper, and sugar if needed.  Kyle and I turned slowly to one another, looked into one another's eyes simultaneously threateningly and on the defensive, and it was on.  Saturday, we would do our own five ingredient face-off.  And so we did.

We weren't allowed to plan out meals in our head before time, nor were we allowed to begin consulting recipes for inspiration or guidance.  We drove to Plum Market, each grabbed our own cart, and outlined the rules:

1) You can't make something you've made before
2) You're confined to 5 ingredients and you have to purchase all of them here
3) You can only use butter, oil, salt, pepper, and sugar from home to prepare and season your dish
4) You can't spend more than $30
5) It has to be a complete dish, not just a protein or vegetable

And off we went.  And it was really hard.  And overwhelming.  So many vegetables and fruits: mango, donut peaches, avocado, basil, sprouts, kiwi, bok choy, tomatoes of countless varieties, and on and on.  So I ventured to the fish counter.  Beautiful sushi-grade ahi tuna.  Mahi, swordfish, oysters, clams, shrimp, shrimp, and SHRIMP!  And not just any shrimp.  Huge, succulent, dark grey and red veined monsters.  And that is where it began.

I ran into Kyle several times, both of us running back-and-forth between produce and meat and canned aisles.  And 30 minutes later, we regrouped - ingredients set, paid, and headed for home.

On the drive home, we talked about our frustrations and panic attacks
I ran into Kyle several times, both of us running back-and-forth between produce and meat and canned aisles.  And 30 minutes later, we regrouped - ingredients set, paid, and headed for home.

On the drive home, we revealed our dishes:


Mine: coconut curry with jumbo shrimp and lobster mushrooms. 

Kyle’s: crispy chicken thighs with chanterelle-truffle risotto. 

We talked about our frustrations and panic attacks… (Mine: Why did I pick curry?  I can't make a curry base with only 5 ingredients.  I am an idiot.  Kyle: How do I make a risotto creamy?  Cream?  Cheese?  Both?  Neither?  Argh!!!)

…and our glory moments (Mine: I can use a jarred curry sauce!  It might suck, but at least it will be a curry!  Kyle: Oh my god…salty cheese with truffle shavings?  I win.) 

Once home, we unloaded our bags in the kitchen and got to work.  We didn’t really speak to one another during the entire preparation.  We were too focused, pulling our dishes together on the spot.

My ingredients:

1) 6 Monstrous crustaceans masquerading as shrimp

2) 2 Lobster mushrooms (kiwi-sized, salmon-colored, tough, knobby, and with a strong, woody, reedy, earthy smell [though you could describe most mushrooms as smelling this way.  I need to start developing my mushroom palate like my wine palette so I can articulate the distinct flavors of a particular varietal of mushroom])

3) Panko bread crumbs (to dust on the shrimp for crunch)

4) Cherry Tomatoes (to both cook in the curry and serve raw with sea salt for a cool, refreshing counterpoint to the rich, creamy curry)

5) Coconut Curry Sauce (kind of a cheater move, I know.  But we didn’t outlaw prepared foods.  Plus, curries can be really hit or miss.  In fact, we’ve never bought one before that we’ve bought a second time, so it was a real risk.  Thankfully, this one was super-yum and married well with the other flavors.)

Kyle’s Ingredients:

1) Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (bone-in for flavor and skin-on to crispify in a hot skillet of butter)

2) Arborio rice (the best for risotto and paella….basically, it’s just the best in general)

3) Fresh chanterelle mushrooms (stems diced and fried up with the chicken and caps sautéed and stirred into the risotto)

4) A hard, salty cheese with truffle shavings (for the unique and luxurious truffle flavor)

5) Chicken stock 

The Completed Dishes:

Coconut Curry with Jumbo Shrimp and Lobster Mushrooms (Liz): 

Shrimp marinated in curry sauce, coated in panko bread crumbs seasoned with salt, and fried in a mixture of butter and olive oil.  Skewered with raw cherry tomato halves sprinkled with sea salt.  Lobster mushroom caps roasted in olive and oil and sea salt and finished at a slow simmer in the curry sauce.  Plated with a drizzle of curry sauce and topped with raw cherry tomato halves and a sprinkling of sea salt.  Lastly, Accompanied by a coconut curry with olive oil-sautéed lobster mushroom stems and burst cherry tomatoes. 
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Chanterelle-Truffle Risotto:

Chicken thighs and diced chanterelles cooked in hot olive oil, salt, and plenty of cracked black pepper until browned and crispy and topped with pan sauce.  Accompanied by a creamy risotto made with chanterelle caps, chicken stock, and salt-truffle cheese.  
Picture
We paired the risotto with a dry, appley riesling. The curry we paired with a light, crisp beer.
As we tasted one another’s dish and our own, we critiqued our workmanship using three criteria:

PRESENTATION:

Curry: Colorful with the pops of red, though some fresh green basil would have brightened up both the flavor and color of the dish.  Too many things going on in terms of plating: curry in a bowl, shrimp on skewers, mushroom on a plate.  Plating was not cohesive.

Chicken & Risotto:  Nice textural contrast of the crispy chicken and creamy risotto.  A lot of beige on the plate, though.  Like the curry, adding a green vegetable like a salad or asparagus would brighten up the dish.

FLAVOR:

Curry: Amazing.  Tangy curry sauce is mirrored in the shrimp; you can taste just a hint of the marinade on the shrimp.  The shrimp is juicy and succulent with a nice crunch with the panko.  The cherry tomatoes brighten the creamy sauce and the woodsy mushroom lends earthiness and depth to the plate.  Yum yum yum.

Chicken & Risotto: So good.  Comfort food at its best.  The salt-truffle cheese gives the dish depth but doesn’t overpower the chanterelles or chicken.  The chicken skin is perfectly crispy and flavored.  The risotto is flavorful thanks to the mushrooms and cheese.  The chicken is tender and juicy. 

EXECUTION:

Curry: The mushrooms didn’t come out like rocks!  Yay!  I cooked the hell out of them: the sauté pan, roasting pan, sauce pan…I had to soften those suckers up.  The shrimp was perfectly cooked; the breading was browned a crispy. 

Chicken & Risotto:Unfortunately, we cut into the chicken and it was not cooked.  So, Kyle had to nuke it before we could eat it.  That was a bummer.  Otherwise, the risotto, which can be tricksy, was pretty dang flawless.

The Winner: 

 Me!!!  I mean…the curry!!!

Coming down off of our culinary high, we agreed that it was super fun and challenging and that it got us to try dishes we might not have otherwise put together.  And most importantly, we have two new recipes to add to our repertoire that we’ll make time and time again, I’m sure.  Of course, with an additional green vegetable to combat the beige. 
 


Comments

Megan McGuffin
09/09/2012 4:36pm

Very cool, Liz! You could also try a chopped competition where a family member or friend picks 3-5 ingredients that you both must include in an appetizer, entree, or dessert.

Reply
Grandma
09/29/2012 12:37pm

I am so impressed and already thinking of ways I can adapt this in the future - it sounds so enjoyable.

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