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Several things struck me as remarkable about this particular Culinary Throw Down, in which last month’s winner, Allison, decided to once again set us all to scratching our heads in the vegetable aisle.
One: Not a single one of our ten intrepid participants (a Throw Down record number!) copped out with the ubiquitous leek and potato soup. How awesome is that!?! Instead, said participants looked up the meaning of intrepid up in the dictionary, rolled up their sleeves, and set about going the extra mile with gratins and pastas and vegetarian side dishes and sandwich spreads and even a leeked-out version of the British classic, Bubble and Squeak.
Two: Is there anything more difficult on this great green earth than cleaning these suckers? Maybe getting a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat to admit they were wrong about Obama? Oh come on now. You know I’d be saying the same thing about McCain if he were in office, so don’t get yer panties and briefs all in a twist.
Anyway, I think this was the toughest competition to judge so far. Everyone did a remarkable job. And I’ve got enough recipes to last a month. So, without further ado, here’s how the Leek Throw Down shook out:
Previous winner and host for this challenge, Miss Allison dug into the annals of Food and Wine magazine to craft a creamy dreamy Fuseli with Creamed Leek and Spinach main dish. As just about everyone involved has pointed out, how in the heck fire can you go wrong with anything that features a cream sauce? Okay, well, maybe if you’re Karl, who for some reason has a dislike for cream sauces, a puzzlement that surely demands further explanation, because isn’t that kind of like saying you don’t like chocolate or puppies or sunsets? Anyway, Karl aside, the answer is: Nope. You can’t go wrong with a cream sauce. Yay, Allison!
I think Aunty’s recent spa trip not only did her hair, skin, and nails a world of good, it also resulted in a brain so thoroughly rested, it was able to toss off this simply delicious looking, tres exotique, roasted veggie cous cous with leeks side dish to accompany a North African-spiced roasted lamb with hardly any effort at all. Aunty also points out in her post that the reason why French women don’t get fat (according to the book of the same name) is because when French women feel a bit of a pinch in their peg-legged pants, they simply resort to a three day semi-fast in which nothing is allowed in their stomach but a simple leek soup. Which, translated into terms we Americans can understand, means if we were to eat nothing but chicken broth for three whole days once a month, our asses would be tight as drums, too. But what fun is THAT?
It seems that nothing stops Boxer – not rain, snow, sleet, hail, IRS audits, long lines at Whole Foods, or simple lack of inspiration – from her duty as the all time greatest videographer of culinary tomfoolery working the blog circuit today. This video has it all: fratricide, cannibalism, and a soundtrack that makes me feel like I’m in one of those swell late 1950s comedies in which Doris Day spends the whole movie trading witty repartee with Cary Grant, with whom she is secretly in love but can’t admit it because she’s a proto feminist career gal, don’t cha know, and besides if she marries Cary, there goes her job and all those terrific outfits, not to mention the shoes.
Imagine the Energizer Bunny in cahoots with Travis Bickle, and that’s pretty much how I figure things must go down when Buzz starts flinging the pots and pans. Doesn’t matter the limitations of time, space, and individual tastes, he thoughtfully and fully completes each Throw Down challenge at hand and presents the resulting dish to his family for dinner. And if they don’t want to eat it? “You back talkin' to me? Well, here is a man who is not going to take it any more. Here is a man who is going to MAKE you eat your dinner!” Anyway, I LOVED his entry this week, a rustic tomato and leek tart that, in spite of a few things that needed tweaking, was easily one of my favorite dishes of the challenge.
From across the pond comes a vegan entry courtesy of Miss Cake’s multi-talented boyfriend, Ruf: steamed carrots with fried leeks all gussied up with a hint of lemon and ginger. So simple, yet so colorful and healthful, it sounds perfect all by itself or as the side side dish for just about anything. And is it just Moi, or do the rest of you get the feeling that Cake and Ruf regularly give the folks in the kitchen scene from 9-1/2 Weeks a run for their money?
We may not want to say the name of Chef Troll's entry more than once – BOXER REBELLION EAST-MEETS-WEST Uber-Healthy Vegan SOUP/SANDWICH and DESSERT – but I do believe most of us are going to scurry off at some point soon and make this for dinner. I know I will. Since I cook 24/7, there are quite naturally days when I’m about as desirous of turning on the stove as I am of poking my eyes with sharp sticks. In those instances, the ol’ soup/sandwich/salad combo reigns supreme at Moi’s table. And this one is about to get thrown into the rotation. Brilliant, simply BRILLIANT idea to substitute leeks for the garlic in the avocado spread for the tempeh sandwich. But am I missing something here? Was Troll cooking for a vegan DATE?
Here’s what I like best about Karl. Firstly, he’s a gentleman, starting off each and every blog commentary with a salutary good morning, afternoon, or evening, whichever the case may be. I like that. Manners, after all, count. So does the way in which he approaches these culinary challenges, cooking not only full dinners, but ones in which it seems he puts a great deal of thought into pairing complementary flavors and textures. This entry, lemon roasted chicken with leek and herb stuffing accompanied by a sauté of leeks and spinach, boasts the craftsmanship and harmony of flavors that make it Sunday dinner worthy. Even if it happens to be a Thursday.
Try saying this fast, four times, while sipping a chilled glass of chardonnay: Bubble and Squeak with Leeks. I know, huh! Once again, Kym, the Potato Queen of the Culinary Throw Downs, weighs in with another comfort coated dish that I bet makes us all wish we could just motor on over to the OKC for dinner at her house tonight. ‘Cause you know, just know, girlfriend would be way too polite to protest. Instead, she’d pop open the door and greet us in that sunny-side-up way all Oklahoma born ‘n’ bred gals have seared into their DNA, hand us a plate, and assign clean up to the boys.
Because she cooks for a living, La Diva naturally holds herself to some pretty high standards. Nonetheless, she doesn’t shy away from laying it all out on the counter when things do go wrong. This time around she freely admitted that her entry, a leek, fennel, and poppy seed tart, fell a wee bit short of the mark. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that she’s presented us with a creative and interesting dish, one that we can all take into our own kitchens and tweak in our own ways, thus completing the circle in that cozy, verklempt-making way that I love without getting all hippie about it.
Sandcastle Momma holds the distinction of having crafted what I think I’m safe in calling the greatest disaster thus far in this culinary challenge: her infamous yardtrash smoked chicken dish. But she’s redeemed herself since then. This time, oh Lord, talk about a comfort dish! I swear, I could smell its creamy cheesy goodness wafting over to me right through the computer screen, all the way from Florida. Another chill-banishing side dish that I bet would pair smashingly with a nice juicy steak or fragrant pork roast. Sandcastle reports that it was even yummier the next day, thus proving my contention that left over gratins are most definitely fodder for next-day-lunch, served with either soup or a salad.
You know what? If I were to play a hippie on T.V. I would bestow upon each and every one of you a big blue WINNER ribbon and go merrily skipping on my way. Alas, the Teutonic half of my genetics is demanding I grow a pair and pick a winner.
So I have. And that winner is, once again, Karl, who won me over with a complete meal featuring dishes that incorporated the Throw Down ingredient in ways that made good sense and good taste.
There you have it. Karl, you are up to host the next Throw Down, pick the theme, and the date.
And now, if you will excuse ay Moi, I have to go make dinner. And think about Shamu's Dim Sum Sunday.