In case you haven't heard, Portland's own Vitaly Paley laid the smackdown on an episode of Iron Chef America that aired on Sunday night, skewering his competition in a battle with radish — 11 varieties of them, to be exact — as the theme ingredient.
After months of preparations, "practice runs," and attempts by the Food Network to throw the chefs off the scent, Paley calls the ingredient reveal "a sense of... being relieved," he tells Eater. "Not in a sense that I got what I wanted, but in a sense of, 'Okay, I know what I have to work with.' And honestly, I was more comfortable with a vegetable like that. They can throw some esoteric ingredients at you, and that's really tough." (Recent battles have included items like sparkling wine and barracuda as the theme.) "That said, radish is also really tough. Most people slice radishes into their salad and that's it... I'm looking at the alter and there are 11 varieties of radish, [and the challenge is] to try to be able to use them all."
As promised, all this week at his eponymous spot Paley's Place, Paley is recreating his Iron Chef menu. "The network's timed it perfectly, actually, because radish season is upon us," Paley says. "The good side about it is that the plant itself is really tasty, and through the process we went through — figuring out the difference of tasting one radish to the next — I definitely became a better cook."
All five courses — including, yes, the radish sorbet, recreated by pastry chef Kristen Murray — are available either as a la carte dishes or as part of a tasting menu. "What we are doing is interspersing them through the menu, pretty much doing it verbatim [from what was served on the show]," Paley says, noting that the restaurant completely sold out of radish-related dishes during yesterday's service. "It's a little more challenging because you're cooking for 75-85 people, but it's not impossible. The one interesting problem with concentrating on just one ingredient is it's counterintuitive... we're all used to creating balance on the plate."
The Iron Chef menu will run all this week, with some of the more popular dishes (wethinks it'll be that stuffed pork) making recurring appearances throughout the month. And after that: "I think I'm going to give the radishes a rest after this menu is done."
Image courtesy Antoinette Bruno / StarChefs.com