Varli Food Festival Cook-Off
Ok, I have been a little quiet the last couple of weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I was asked to compete at the Varli Food Festival cook-off. The Varli Indian Food Festival, that rolled out it’s first ever food festival last year in NYC has certainly made its stamp on the culinary map.
This year, the event was kicked off with Padma Lukshmi, host of Top Chef, as she introduced the evening. The night was young and spirits were high and The Metropolitan Pavilion never looked more beautiful.
Nothing less than a wonderland of Indian food, panache seemed to be the prevailing theme behind the chefs creations with Chef Jehangir’s Zucchini hummus pizza, Heritage of India’s butter chicken with basil pilaf and of course Chef Prasad’s Butter Pepper Maine lobster with Himalayan Pink salt and cilantro micro greens.
Yet for some reason, I couldn’t fully focus. The next day was the Varli cook-off, judged by very illustrious names in the business and hosted by none other than Iron Chef Contestants – Maneet Chauhan and Jehangir Mehta. I was one of the eight contestants.
I was nervous but the victory was in putting that aside for a few hours. In the bigger scheme of things, what an opportunity! There I stood at my cooking station listening out eagerly for the first round’s mystery ingredient. It was shrimp. I love shrimp, but could I get the judges to like mine. With a few initial glitches of not knowing how to turn on the stove, it was ready, steady and COOK. Inspired by North End Grills ‘black pepper shrimp’, I made my own spin using the ingredients available to me. I butterflied my shrimp and reached for spices to make my dry rub. Breakdown 1: There were only black peppercorns and no equipment to break them down. I tried to break them up using the palm of the pan but those rascals wouldn’t ‘give’ – instead, they dispersed all over my station and floor and started to make me look and feel very clumsy. I substituted with carom seeds for the heat to which I added coriander powder and salt. I made 4 portions on a bed of citrus salad and ready to be judged. The judges feedback – nice presentation but too salty. I tried it and my mouth felt like it had been plunged in to Antarctica’s saltiest lake. The Verdict: I made the cut for round 2!!
1 lb shrimps, deveined and butterflied
1 tsp coriander seeds, chunkily ground
¾ tsp salt
1 pinch of red chili powder
½ cup onion, julienne
2 tomatoes, julienne
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Dressing: 1 part lemon, 2 parts olive oil whisked together, Salt
Heat the pan with 3 tbsp oil
Coat the shrimp in the dry rub of coriander seeds, chili powder, salt
Add shrimp to hot oil for about 3 minutes until they turn orange, promptly remove and drain on paper towels
Combine salad components, toss with dressing (reserving a little drizzle for the shrimp)
Stack the salad in the center of the plate
Place shrimp around the salad and drizzle shrimp with a little dressing
Nothing else is required with this appetizer
Pearls of wisdom
Do not over cook shrimp. As they turn orange, pull them off as they continue to cook in their own heat