'Blackened' Ice Cream: The Winning Dishes (and recipes) from Chefs at NOWFE 2015

By Judy Walker | NOLA.com| The Times-Picayune
Photo credit: Romney Caruso

For a while now, trend-spotters have noted elevated chicken dishes on restaurant menus. This week, a chicken dish takes the "Best of Show: Savory" award among the 2015 NOWFE Fleur de Lis winners.

For the fourth year in a row, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune is announcing the Best of Show winners, with recipes, on the first day of the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience.

The Fleur de Lis awards are given to the dishes chefs will present Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Grand Tastings at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. NOWFE takes place annually over Memorial Day weekend. Thousands of wineries, and food lovers, come from all over the world to attend.

Some dishes are presented just one day; some are presented both days of the tastings.

Judges also pick a "Best of Show: Sweet" winner, and it's Mirliton Tarte Tatin with "Blackened" Ice Cream, a collaboration between the chef and the food and beverage director of the newly renovated Intercontinental Hotel.

The chicken dish is from Broussard's executive chef Neal Swidler: Fricassee of Joyce Farms Chicken with Creole Corn Maque Choux, Tomato Jam and Smoked Oysters. It was one of two dishes in the annual competition that combined meat or poultry with seafood, said Kendall Gensler, the founder of Culinary Concierge who leads the judging panel.

"The judges felt it was the combination of all the flavors, the smokiness of the oysters, the mixture of the chicken, on a piece of Leidenheimer French bread. They liked that it wasn't heavy," Gensler said.

"It was a substantial portion, but all the flavors blended and it was still light.

"The tomato jam is an item that blew the judges away. That one component was their wow moment."

The sweet winner, Mirliton Tarte Tatin with "Blackened" Ice Cream, has ice cream with blackening spices, such as cayenne, plus the traditional sweet brown spices, swirled with caramel through the custard. The Intercontinental Food & Beverage director who created it is Jonathan Emerson.

The mirliton dish is an elevation, as well: Mirliton mock-apple pie is a homespun heirloom recipe in New Orleans. Chef Jonah Nissenbaum re-created it for 2015 and NOWFE.

"It was beautiful and it worked," Gensler said. "I think everybody was excited to see mirlitons used in a dessert like that. A lot of chefs say mirliton is kind of tasteless, but it will take on the flavors of everything about it. It drank in all the yummy brown sugar and butter."

The recipe will be a great addition to the Thanksgiving table, Gensler said.

She always makes note of the trends and oddities the judges see as they meet with each chef and sample each dish. This year, there was sea asparagus in a salad with octopus and shrimp, with a blood orange vinaigrette, from chef Chad Matrana at Amici, which won a silver medal. The judges were wowed by it, Gensler reported. Duck ruled in the meat and poultry category, and there was (still) lots of pork belly.

One of the biggest trends: Balls. Chefs made all kinds of calas, boules, fritters, boulettes and even an escargot hush puppy. Several were winners, including chef/owner Jeffrey Hensell at Oxlot 9 in Covington, who won a bronze for Crawfish Boudin Balls.

Mauricio Gutierrez, executive chef of LMNO, the new restaurant in Le Meridien New Orleans, won a silver for Yuca Andouille Fritters.

Martin's Wine Cellar had submissions from two chefs that were part of the trend. Scott Maki did a Smoked Gulf Seafood Boudin Boulette with Caramelized Okra-Sweet Corn Chowchow, and Crawfish Boil Aioli. Chef David Bockstruck made an Abita Gumbo topped with Cornbread-Tasso Calas.

Two chefs did a riff on botargo (also spelled bottarga), the ancient/newly trendy dried roe, or eggs, of mullet. Gensler said chef Sara Toth of Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse made batarga of speckled trout roe and grated that on top of Shrimp and Crab Tortellini. Similarly, chef Todd Pulsinelli of Restaurant August dried, pressed and grated lobster tomalley to make Gulf Shrimp Tamalley Stozzapreti, served with Harissa Rouille.

This year, there were so many dishes in the seafood category that it was split into two, hot and cold dishes. The entries were heavy on crawfish, Gensler said, because it is in season when the judges visit.

But only six dishes were entered in the desserts category, Gensler said. It always draws far fewer entries than the other categories.

"Sometimes you see chefs recognize that and submit a dessert, on the chance you can get best of show or gold if you put it out there," Gensler said. There may be more (desserts) at the Grand Tasting, because some sign up after the culinary awards deadline."

She may do a push to get more pastry chefs to compete, Gensler said.

"I think it's going to be a great year," Gensler said of the Grand Tastings. "The level of food is really fantastic."

Click here to see a list of all the NOWFE Fleur de Lis medal winners.

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The Mirliton Tarte Tatin can be made in individual ramekins, as indicated in the recipe, or assemble it in a large tart pan. If you want to bake this for Thanksgiving, assemble as directed in the bigger pan, but increase cooking time to 15 to 20 minutes.

Mirliton Tarte Tatin

Makes 6 servings

PÂTE BRISÉE

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 pound unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 cup water, ice cold

Mix flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Add butter through the tube on the processor lid, pulsing until small crumbles form. Through the tube, slowly add cold water, pulsing, just until dough ball forms. Be careful not to overmix.

Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate. Dough is ready to use in 90 minutes.

MIRILTON AND SYRUP

3 cups sugar

3 large miriltons, peeled, halved, seeds removed

1/4 pound unsalted butter

Cut mirliton halves into long strips, each about 1/8 inch wide.

Melt sugar over medium heat in heavy saucepan. Heat until sugar is a light caramel color.

Carefully add butter and mirliton strips. Cook in the caramel just until fork-tender. Remove from heat.

Remove mirilton from syrup and set aside to cool. Return syrup to heat and reduce until syrup thickens and is reduced by about one-third.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat six 4-inch ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.

Shingle mirliton strips into a pinwheel design inside each one. Carefully pour about 1/3 cup syrup over the strips.

Roll dough out 1/4-inch thick and cut into rounds slightly smaller than ramekins. Place rounds over the caramel.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove when tops are golden brown. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Place dessert plate on top of ramekin. Flip dish over and allow the tarte to fall into place before carefully removing the dish. Serve while warm with Blackened Ice Cream.

Blackened Ice Cream

Makes 2 quarts

SPICED CARAMEL

1 cup half-and-half

Sweet Blackening Spice Mix: 1 teaspoon EACH sea salt, cayenne, white pepper, sweet paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup Steen's 100% Cane Syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Over low heat in a saucepan, steep spices in half-and-half for 10 minutes. Add brown sugar, syrup and butter. Raise temperature to medium-low and gently stir until caramel thickens and spices are evenly distributed, 7 to 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, empty into glass jar and cool to room temperature.

ICE CREAM

3-1/2 cups heavy cream

2-1/2 cups whole milk

1-2/3 cups sugar

Pinch smoked salt

Pinch sea salt

10 egg yolks

2 vanilla beans

In a large saucepan over medium heat, completely dissolve sugar and salts into simmering cream and milk, stirring occasionally. Once sugar is dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat, leaving cream mixture in the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk yolks. Very slowly, add hot cream to the yolks, whisking constantly, until about a third of the cream has been added. It's important to add it slowly and keep whisking so the egg yolks do not cook too quickly.

Whisk the yolk mixture back into the remaining cream.

Return the cream/egg mixture to medium heat. Cook until thickened and temperature reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat.

Split the vanilla beans. Add seeds and pods to the cooked cream. Allow this custard to steep, refrigerated, for 45 minutes.

Remove vanilla pods and strain custard through a fine sieve. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Churn chilled custard in an ice cream machine.

"I think everybody was excited to see mirlitons used in a dessert like that."

To assemble: Place a metal 9-by-13-inch pan into a larger pan filled with ice water.

With a rubber spatula, spread a 1/4-inch layer of ice cream into the cold, empty pan. With a spoon, drizzle spiced caramel over the ice cream layer. Repeat layering of ice cream and caramel until pan is filled.

Cover ice cream and place in freezer at least 4 hours before serving.

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This recipe is lengthy because it has so many components. The creative home cook can pick and choose any part of the recipe to make if you don't want to cook the entire dish.

The tomato jam in the Best of Show dish was the ingredient that wowed the judges, Gensler said. You could also smoke your own oysters; make the maque choux for a vegetable dish; or cook just the chicken in the Diablo sauce.

Broussard's Chicken Fricassee With Creole Corn Maque Choux, Tomato Jam And Smoked Oysters

Makes 6 servings

PLATE COMPONENTS

2 dozen smoked oysters (directions follow)

2 cups Tomato Jam (recipe below)

2 cups Maque Choux (recipe below)

1-1/2 cups Diablo Sauce with chicken (recipe below)

Garlic Crostini (recipe below)

3 green onions, cut on the bias, for garnish

To assemble: All ingredients should be warm. Heat bowls by warming in a 200-degree oven.

Spoon Diablo Sauce and chicken into hot, shallow bowls. Mound warm Maque Choux in center. Place Garlic Crostini on Maque Choux. Spoon warm Tomato Jam onto the crouton. Place Smoked Oysters atop warm jam. Garnish with green onions.

SMOKED OYSTERS

2 dozen shucked oysters

Salt, pepper and paprika

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Season shucked oysters liberally with salt, pepper and paprika.

Create a smoker with charcoal and wood-smoking chips. Hot smoke the oysters until just cooked, about 15 minutes. Toss oysters with olive oil and garlic.

GARLIC CROSTINI

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 (6-inch) loaves French bread, sliced into three rounds each

Salt and black pepper, as needed

Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush on slices of French bread. On a baking sheet, bake the crostini in preheated 325-degree oven until just golden brown.

TOMATO JAM

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger

1 clove minced garlic

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch red pepper flakes

Pinch ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground star anise

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups diced canned tomatoes, drained

In a large saucepan, heat canola oil. Add onion, ginger and garlic, and sweat for a few minutes without coloring. Add brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, spices and salt and sauté 2 minutes. Add tomatoes. Reduce over a simmer, stirring often, about 20 minutes, until sticky.

MAQUE CHOUX

4 ears fresh corn

1/4 cup canola oil

1 jalapeno, deseeded, minced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning mix

2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire

1 tablespoon Crystal Hot Sauce


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and roast corn in its shucks for 30 minutes. Remove shucks and cool. When cooled, cut kernels off the cob. In a large saucepan, heat canola oil and sauté vegetables, garlic and Creole seasoning mix until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with Worcestershire and Crystal Hot Sauce. Reduce to evaporate liquid. Mix in the roasted corn.

CHICKEN IN DIABLO SAUCE

6 skinless boneless chicken thighs

Creole seasoning

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon Korean chile powder

2 tablespoon Crystal Hot sauce

3 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle chicken liberally with Creole seasoning. In a high-sided skillet, sear thighs in canola oil just until browned. Add wine, stock, garlic, shallot and bell peppers and simmer 10 minutes, until thighs are done. Remove the chicken from the sauce.

Add Korean chile powder and Crystal hot sauce. Simmer 2 minutes. Add cream and simmer 5 minutes, until translucent and glossy. Puree mixture in blender (or with a stick blender) until smooth. Dice the chicken. Place with Diablo sauce in a sauté pan. Swirl together.