For the past three years, we have been taking quite possibly the most perfect family vacation you could imagine. We head out to California over Labor Day and spend about a week with our good family friends. We met them in the culdesac we lived on in Citrus Heights, CA over 20 years ago. I remember one of the first parties we had. It was a 4th of July party and about 30 minutes in the parents ended up tearing down a portion of the fences on either side so we wouldn't have to go from front door to front door to move between houses. There was also karaoke, drunk karaoke, yummy food, dancing, and - at the end of the night - skinny dipping (so we are told). It was a fantastic party and was only the beginning.
Those great neighbors have now been a part of our lives for over twenty years. They are truly incredible people which is proven in the fact that they allow our clan to complete invade their house for a week every year. This year we had a total of 9 of us at a certain point during the week. And as crazy as that might sound, it is fantastic. There is swimming, sunbathing, games, movies, billiards, and of course wonderful food.
Kitty and I are able to bring our niece and nephew along with us each year and we have a great time. This year, they wanted to step it up and help with dinner in a less traditional way. We decided we would have an Iron Chef Challenge and it was a BLAST. I can't even tell you how much fun we had! The kids raved about it afterwards and decided we need to make it an annual event, something we quickly and happily agreed to.
June and Macy (our family friend, or more correctly our second mom, and our sister-in-law) decided on one secret ingredient for the main dish and a secondary secret ingredient for our dessert. I know that on the real Iron Chef, they use the same ingredient throughout but since we are not masters and our judges actually had to eat these things, we decided to have two secret ingredients. We also gave ourselves an hour and a half to complete our dishes. Luckily June's dream kitchen includes a 5 burner stove and two ovens so we gave each team two burners and an oven to use. Everything else was shared between the teams.
Kitty teamed up with our niece to create her dish and despite what you might see in some of those pictures, she never yelled at her. I might have been loud with my nephew but I am all about competition. Don't worry though, we still had a great time.
And now for the secret ingredients **drumroll....** Pistachios for dinner and Cream Soda for dessert.
Kitty and our niece created a pistachio crusted chicken on a bed of sauteed spinach, red onions, and garlic topped with a cream cheese and cream crushed red pepper sauce. For dessert, they made a yellow cake with cream soda soaked peaches and cream soda whipped cream. Both dishes were incredible! It was our nieces idea to crust the chicken with the pistachios and it turned out great. The judges were really impressed with the taste and cohesiveness of the dishes.
My nephew and I went with a red potato gnocchi. We made a goat cheese asiago sauce with chopped pistachios and a little pepper. We marinated some butternut squash cubes in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and pepper. We grilled those in aluminum foil for about 30 minutes. For dessert, we made a cream soda bread bed topped with a grilled pineapple slice and cream soda whipped cream. The gnocchi was a huge hit and had a great flavor. The butternut squash was awesome.
The judges (June, Jeff, and Macy) tried all our dishes and deliberated. They brought us out and had the kids describe the dishes and how they prepared them. It was adorable. Then they named the winner...
And the winners were ...
They totally deserved it and we had a great time! Don't worry though, my nephew and I will clench the title next year.
If you and your family enjoy food and cooking, I would highly recommend having an Iron Chef challenge together. I can't even describe how much fun we had. Even though my nephew and I were running around like mad men at the very last minute, it was worth it.
**Quick note from Kitty here, since I am more of a baker and not much of a cook, I have to gloat for a second. It was pretty freaking awesome to win! My niece was an excellent partner in this challenge. I look forward to destroying Rachel and my nephew again next year. Also, I will be posting the recipe for the Pistachio Crusted Chicken - it was pretty amazing!