Iron Chef Canada recently returned to the Food Network for its second season, and in this week’s third episode, Montreal chef Nick Hodge went home with a win against a prominent Canadian-American Iron Chef.
Texan-born Hodge, who owns Plateau Tex-Mex restaurant Ice House and former Village restaurant Kitchenette, beat out this episode’s Iron Chef, Canadian-born, Georgia-based Hugh Acheson — Acheson’s Southern approach to cooking has gained him major prominence (he’s the author of three cookbooks, with multiple appearances on the American version of Top Chef, and owner of four restaurants) making him a formidable opponent.
The secret ingredient for the episode (which can be viewed online) was goat — hardly a staple of Southern or Tex-Mex cuisines, although early in the episode Hodge declared it an ingredient that’s “right in his wheelhouse”.
Hodge’s confidence was well-placed — his team’s winning first dish was a chèvre de paillot and chèvre de neige queso fundido, with tomatillo, dried chili, tomato, garlic, and tortilla chips, plus as a nod to Quebec, as he served it with straw wine on the side. (the competitors were allowed to use other goat products like milk and cheese, not just meat).
Meanwhile, Acheson stepped out of the Southern box on his first dish: a goat tartare with kimchi, peanuts sautéed in goat fat, pickled green tomatoes, and shiso leaf, which met a generally positive reception, although the judges questioned whether goat was a meat that lends itself well to tartare, even if the dish mostly worked out. That first dish scored Acheson 10 points, while Hodge eked out the win with 11.
Then, working with full goat carcasses, Acheson and Hodge whipped up another four dishes — Acheson said his goal was to showcase as much of the goat as possible, with dishes like crispy brains with goat cheese gnudi with lettuce, and a broth made with everything bagel spices on the plate; and goat loin and liver with chanterelles, lingonberries, and crab apple butter. He finished off with a Mexican-style goat birria (a spicy stew) with a mango salad, and for dessert, a goat cheese panna cotta and goat milk ice cream, with berries, chili, and almonds.
For his dishes, Hodge presented a goat tartare with pecorino and goat butter saltines and grilled vegetables, then an old school hard-shell taco with ground goat. Grilled goat shoulder with goat cheese grits and fried Brussels sprouts and a dessert of citrus-based ambrosia with goat cream. He drew compliments for well-rounded dishes with a strong sense of place, and defeated Acheson in every category except originality (where the contestants tied).
One more Montreal chef is set to compete on this season of the show — Fisun Ercan, chef-owner of Verdun restaurant Su, will take on the Iron Chef in a future week.
- Iron Chef Canada: Battle Goat [Food Network]