It Smells Like Curry In Here!

posted in: Cook-Offs, Events, Recipes | 6

At the first-ever Curry Takedown, that is! And what a blend of spices we ate and smelled on Sunday. Forget the phrase curry in a hurry, these chefs were none to take the easy road, drop a Golden Curry cube into their pot and let it spread. What I saw was really a work of slow-simmered art — a United Nations of Currydom, convened at the Loki Lounge in Park Slope.

Chili Takedown founder Matt Timms’ sister Zoe works for the Women’s Education Project, a non-profit that enables women in South India to receive education. So it seemed natural to choose curry as the theme for a cook-off in its benefit. What is chili but America’s answer to curry anyway? Okay, maybe it’s not an exact translation. But even more so than the cowboy favorite, curry can be embraced with a multitude of meats, vegetables, spices and national cuisines. There was even one curry that played on the classic Takedown dish, a hybrid called “Cowboy Curry.”

ForkThis Melissa’s take on Thai Khao Soi, topped with crunchy fried noodles

a classic Sri Lankan chicken curry made by Skiz (the spice wiz)

a loaded dish of spicy delights

Indian Culinary Center‘s Geetika Khanna made lamb and turkey meatballs in a savory tomato curry

I think we were all educated on curry on Sunday, women and men both. And then some not-so-classic adaptations: most creative in the field should definitely go to the team of Becca and Sam, who blended up fresh fruit for Sri Lankan curry smoothies on the spot (Sam) and baked Malaysian curry muffins to pair (Becca). Becca is a self-confessed savory muffin fanatic, so a curry batch seemed like a no-brainer. Local cookoff wunderkind Noah Berland turned Japanese for his two versions of curry with and without meat: a thick potato and pea Japanese-style veggie curry with panko-crusted bacon slabs deep-fried on location, and delicious pickled radishes and cucumbers for toppings. Mike O’Neill displayed his decidedly simple style (“this risotto has radish”) with an herbal lentil and okra curry, and veteran cook-off competitor Shana Wright returned on the scene with an interesting blend of quinoa with cashews, peppers and her own “coconut creme fraiche” made of coconut milk and buttermilk.

chefs introduce their specialties

judge Keavy and I compare Moleskine notes

I got to judge. Joining me in the judges’ decision was Keavy Landreth, of Kumquat Cupcakery. We had four prizes to give away, and ultimately awarded them to…

4th Place Judges’ Award: Noah Berland – “Katsukare/Kare Raisu Curry”
3rd Place Judges’ Award: Geetika Khanna – “Lamb & Turkey Meatballs”
2nd Place Judges’ Award: Melissa Sands – “Khao Soi Meow Curry”
1st Place Judges’ Award: Kate Bryant – “90 Spice Garam Masala with Cocktail Wieners (and Tofu)”

A newcomer prevailed! For Kate’s first attempt at making Garam Masala, she slaved over two versions of her entry: one with the unusual (but, we decided, delightful and innovative) choice of cocktail wieners, and one with the same spices, and tofu. We loved the universality of the duo, but were impressed by the bold spices in them the most. Her curry is pictured at the top of this post, with hunks of cinnamon stick and red chiles afloat. Some people complained of getting a blast of whole coriander seeds or something with their bites, but if you ask me, it’s a Curry Takedown, and frankly, I want to get my mouth bombarded with cardamom pods and such. She also topped each portion with a generous pinch of fresh, finely chopped cilantro for garnish. Brava! (And she’s offered her recipe, below!)

first-time judges’ champ Kate

Next, the audience spoke:

3rd Place Audience Award: Noah Berland – “Katsukare/Kare Raisu Curry”
2nd Place Audience Award: Sasha Dizard – “Red Thai Beef with Grilled Pineapple Curry”
1st Place Audience Award: Melissa Sands – “Khao Soi Meow Curry”

It was a really close match. And there were so many delicious curries to go around not mentioned. I will have to attend Geetika’s classes sometime to figure out how she made those meatballs so tasty, and check out the book and spices by Skiz (who was, for all his reputation, unflinchingly gracious despite not placing). Hanging out with some of the contestants and eaters for the rest of the afternoon, it was agreed by many that this was one of the nicest cookoffs they’d attended, with neighboring contestants offering a hand at serving when one had to run to the bathroom, and generally making the whole affair a friendly, fun competition. And thanks to everyone’s donations at the door, the Women’s Education Project received close to $1,000 in extra funding. Bravo, brava.

Melissa, Mike and Sasha serve outdoors

Kate Bryant’s Cocktail Wieners with 90 Spice Garam Masala BBQ Sauce Curry
(in 3 parts)

Part I: Tomato Sauce
Part II: BBQ Sauce
Part III: Masala

•    1 can whole peeled tomatoes

Pour  tomatoes with liquid in a heavy bottom pan. Salt lightly
Break up the tomatoes.
Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer until tomatoes are soft and juice is absorbed.

(Based on Basic BBQ Sauce, from Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition by Steven Raichlen)

•    3 tablespoons vegetable oil
•    1 medium-size onion, minced
•    1 clove garlic, minced
•    1/2 cup ketchup
•    1/2 cup tomato sauce (recipe above or use pre-made)*
•    3 tablespoons cider vinegar, or more to taste
•    3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
•    1 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce, or more to taste
•    2 tablespoons molasses
•    3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
•    2 tablespoons prepared mustard of your choice
•    1 teaspoon dry mustard (I used half dijon/half yellow)
•    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
•    Salt

1. Heat the oil in a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until softened but not brown, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in the ketchup, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, molasses, brown sugar, prepared and dry mustards, black pepper, and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more water.

3. Remove the barbecue sauce from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt to taste and more cider vinegar, hot sauce, and/or brown sugar as necessary; the sauce should pack a punch with first taste.

Variation based on recipes by Julie Sahni and Madhur Jaffrey

•    2 Tablespoons cardamom seed
•    3 dried bird’s beak chiles
•    4 whole cloves
•    6 curry leaves
•    1″ cinnamon stick
•    1 Tb black mustard seeds
•    2 teaspoons black cumin seed
•    2 teaspoons cloves
•    1/4 teaspoon mace

1. Toast cardamon, chiles and cinnamon over medium high heat for several minutes (sorry for the in-exact times; you should be able to smell the aromas mingling though), stirring constantly.
2. Add remaining spices, continue stirring until mustard seeds pop open.
3. Remove from heat, let cool.

(I wanted to grind the spices, but food processor didn’t quite break it up enough, but I would recommend it if you have a coffee grinder, to grind it at this point.)

Now for the weiners….
Okay, it’s really 5 parts.

•    1 package of cocktail wieners (I cut up some Nathan’s and Sabrett’s)
•    1 cup BBQ sauce  (recipe above or I’d recommend Bull’s Eye which is HFCS-free)
•    ½ cup chopped onion
•    ½ tsp turmeric
•    chunk of butter or dab of oil (I used both)

1.    Preboil the weiners in water for a couple minutes so the sauce doesn’t get too hot-dog taste infused. Set aside.
2.    Heat the fat until sizzle-hot. Stir in the masala seasoning, and cook until it smells right
3.    Add the onion and cook them until they’re soft.
4.    Sprinkle in turmeric. Add the weenies and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
5.    Pour the barbecue sauce in the crockpot, followed by the contents of the pan. Simmer for at least half an hour and up to 2 hours or more.

Or the tofu…
Six parts I guess if you’re making meat and veg version and you’re keeping count….

1.    Freeze it. Then defrost it, either in the microwave or in the fridge overnight.
2.    Cut into cute cubes.
3.    Squeeze out as much liquid as you can by pressing tofu between two cutting boards or by hand, (or however you can) so the tofu will more readily absorb the sauces.

Total cooking time: You’ll probably want to make this a day ahead.

Cost Calculator, Health Factor and Green Factor respectfully omitted for guest recipes

6 Responses

  1. aaron

    Wow, this looks wonderfully delicious. Im a big fan of Japanese curry. Not blog you have here.

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