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Issue Date: November 9, 2008

Recipes from the Iron Chefs:
Meet our Holiday Food partners
Scallops With Warm Ginger Vinaigrette
Roast Salmon With Ancho Chili-Ginger Sauce and Saffron Roast Vegetable Couscous
Ginger-Mango Rice Pudding With Toasted Macadamia Nuts and Thai Basil
Pork Shoulder Braised in Ginger Beer With Pepper-Ginger Slaw
Gingerbread Cupcakes With Caramelized Mango Buttercream Frosting
Ginger-Soy-Lime- Marinated Shrimp
More holiday recipes and hints:
CookSmart: Lighter, low-cal Thanksgiving dinner recipes
Pam Anderson's checklist for avoiding holiday overeating
Up the flavor: Using herbs and spices
Hundreds more recipes in past holiday features

Iron Chefs tackle Ginger

Cover: Iron Chef
Win an Iron Chef goody! Enter to win a stockpot signed by Flay, Symon and "The Chairman"!

We get to the root of great seasonal dishes with this zesty tribute to a recipe zinger.

By Food Network host Alton Brown

A chef told me, "Ginger is a soft kiss from a girl who likes to bite."
-- Alton Brown

What do we know about ginger? Culinarily speaking, "Zingiber officinale" is quite unique. Depending on whom you ask, it's a spice, an aromatic vegetable, a source of starch and a tonic. And it's a perfect choice as the "secret ingredient" in today's holiday-themed face-off between my "Iron Chef America" colleagues Bobby Flay and Michael Symon. As in our TV show, the two chefs have used ginger in creative ways to wow USA WEEKEND readers with six great recipes on the following pages.

But I digress: Our secret ingredient of choice can be ground, sliced, minced, candied, grated, pickled, dried and juiced, and although ginger is ubiquitous in Asian cuisines, American cooks rarely take full advantage of its many talents. Here, a few facts to help rectify that:

The ginger that we eat is an underground stem or rhizome that grows in "hands," which are made up of nodes or "fingers." Fresh ginger comes in two forms: young and mature.

Young ginger is quite tender, with a paper-thin skin that doesn't require any peeling. Although it's usually only available in Asian markets in the spring, its soft fragrance and subtle flavor make it well worth seeking out for salads and stir-fries.

Mature ginger is more fibrous than young, with a heavy, tan skin and a sharp flavor that one chef I worked for referred to as "a soft kiss from a girl who likes to bite." That bite comes from gingerol, a chemical related to capsaicin, which gives chilies their heat.

Ginger was considered a cure-all in ancient China. As it turns out, gingerol is a powerful antioxidant and possible cancer fighter. And as anyone who has munched gingersnaps on the high seas can tell you, gingerol helps relieve the nausea of motion sickness.

When shopping for fresh ginger, pick "hands" that are firm with unwrinkled, unblemished skin. Candied or crystallized ginger should be soft and pliable, not hard and rocky. Powdered ginger should be bright yellow and smell slightly of black pepper.

Although a knife or peeler can be used, mature ginger is best peeled with the bowl of a tablespoon. Raw, unpeeled ginger should be stored unwrapped in your refrigerator's crisper drawer. To store peeled, sliced or minced ginger, toss with a little vinegar and refrigerate in a tightly sealed glass jar.

Although the flavor of ginger ale usually only hints at the presence of its namesake, ginger beer is ... let's just say "curiously pungent." And, despite its name, alcohol is rarely part of the party.

So what is ginger like from an Iron Chef's standpoint? Let's turn the discussion over to today's competitors. Bobby Flay says ginger can be a hard ingredient to use, but he loves what the spice can bring to a dish: "Ginger is a spectacular ingredient that can be bold, sweet and spicy all at one time, but it is one of those ingredients that really must be respected. It truly is a one-of-a-kind ingredient." How, then, to include it in a dish? "One of the best ways is to use it in sauce and to allow the sauce to complement what you are cooking," Flay says.

Michael Symon agrees that ginger isn't the easiest ingredient, especially because "it can really overpower a dish if you don't watch it," he says. "The good thing is, ginger is very versatile and can be used in everything from an appetizer to a dessert." And what are Symon's favorite ways to incorporate ginger? "Use it in a broth, or you can try to pickle, candy or fry it. All of those techniques allow you to get some great flavor without all of the spicy bite [of raw ginger] that people don't like sometimes."

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Meet our Holiday Food partners

Food Network's "Iron Chef America" tackles our secret ingredient.

Once again, USA WEEKEND and the Food Network have teamed up for our annual holiday food issue. This year, we're putting a special "Iron Chef America" twist on it.

Just like the hit Food Network program, we've pitted two of the show's regular culinary gladiators -- Bobby Flay and Michael Symon -- against each other, but this time there isn't a challenge from an outsider. Their task: to create exciting recipes for you to serve over the coming holiday season using our secret ingredient, ginger.

Iron Chef Flay, known for his inventive sauces and Southwest-inspired meals, created two seafood-based dishes. Iron Chef Symon stuck with one of his favorite ingredients, pork, for his entree; he rounded it out with a scallop appetizer. For dessert, both chefs paired mango and ginger. Flay created mango buttercream-topped gingerbread cupcakes; Symon made a ginger-mango rice pudding.

Be sure to tune in to the Food Network on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET as Iron Chefs Flay and Symon team up to challenge Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Cat Cora in a special Thanksgiving-themed "Iron Chef America."
-- T.J. Walter

Want to know about Iron Chef USA?


Scallops With Warm Ginger Vinaigrette

Says Michael Symon: "The key to working with ginger is balance. Here, I like the pop of the ginger against the sweetness of the scallop, with the peppery watercress and sweet, slightly acidic orange." Ask the fish store for these jumbo scallops.

2 Tbs. olive oil
8 U-10 size dry-pack scallops
2 Tbs. julienned fresh ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. minced shallot
Juice of one lemon
Juice and zest of one orange
1/2 cup lobster stock (or use white wine)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tb. chopped mint
1 orange, cut in segments
1 bunch watercress

Set large sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 Tbs. olive oil. Season scallops with salt; cook 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Return pan to heat; sauté ginger, garlic and shallot for 1 minute. Add juice, zest and stock, and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Whisk in mustard, sesame seeds and 1/2 cup olive oil; bring to a simmer. Remove sauce from heat and add mint.

Place 2 scallops on each salad plate; add orange segments and watercress. Drizzle with warm vinaigrette.

SERVES 4 As an appetizer
PER SERVING: 426 calories, 17g protein, 12g carbohydrates, 35g fat (4.8g saturated), 30mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 186mg sodium

More recipes: Ginger

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Roast Salmon With Ancho Chili-Ginger Sauce and Saffron Roast Vegetable Couscous

"Salmon is such a rich and flavorful fish that it practically begs to be served with a bold sauce such as this one -- with its play of earthy, sweet and spicy ancho chili powder and fresh, pungent ginger," Bobby Flay says. "Honey's mellow sweetness and rice wine vinegar's light acidity keep all the elements in perfect balance."

Ancho Chili-Ginger Sauce

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1 Tb. ancho chili powder
1 Tb. honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Roast Vegetable Couscous
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch dice
1 yellow squash, 1-inch dice
1 zucchini, 1-inch dice
1/4 pound haricots verts or small green beans, cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
3 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups vegetable stock
Pinch saffron
1 tsp. salt
2 cups plain couscous

Garnish: 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley


4 6-ounce salmon fillets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Garnish: 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

Whisk the first five sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl. Then season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss vegetables with oil in a medium baking dish, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes until just cooked through. Cover to keep warm. Boil stock, saffron and 1 tsp. salt for 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until all liquid is absorbed, 8 minutes.

Turn up oven to 425 degrees. Place salmon on a heavy baking sheet and rub with some olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Roast until medium-well, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Fluff couscous with fork and transfer to a bowl; add vegetables and parsley. Put fish on a platter, sprinkle with cilantro and drizzle with some sauce. Pass the rest separately.

PER SERVING: 957 calories, 52g protein, 83g carbohydrates, 46g fat (4.7g saturated), 97mg cholesterol, 8g fiber, 783mg sodium

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Ginger-Mango Rice Pudding With Toasted Macadamia Nuts and Thai Basil

"This dessert is a refreshing way to finish your meal and highlights ginger in two forms -- both fresh and candied," Michael Symon says.

1 cup short-grain rice
2 quarts whole milk
2 Tbs. fresh grated ginger
2 cups sugar
1 mango, diced

Place short-grain rice, milk and ginger into large saucepan and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring often, until milk is fully absorbed. Then, stir in the sugar and mango.

Remove from heat, let cool, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve pudding cold, garnished with Thai basil, toasted nuts and ginger.

PER SERVING: 898 calories, 19g protein, 172g carbohydrates, 16g fat (9.2g saturated), 49mg cholesterol, 2g fiber, 197mg sodium

Garnishes: Thai basil leaves, toasted macadamia nuts, candied ginger

Garnishes: Thai basil leaves, toasted macadamia nuts, candied ginger

Cover and refrigerate the pudding for 1 hour. Serve pudding cold, garnished with Thai basil, toasted nuts and ginger.

PER SERVING: 898 calories, 19g protein, 172g carbohydrates, 16g fat (9.2g saturated), 49mg cholesterol, 2g fiber, 197mg sodium

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Pork Shoulder Braised in Ginger Beer With Pepper-Ginger Slaw

"In this dish, we introduce ginger in several ways," Michael Symon says. "The braised pork gets great underlying tones of ginger from the ginger beer and the fresh ginger root in the braise. It also gets a nice pop of pickled ginger [usually eaten with sushi] in the slaw, which helps cut through the richness of the pork."

Ginger Slaw

1 red pepper
1 green onion
1/4 cup pickled ginger
1/4 cup daikon radish
1 cup cilantro leaves
Juice of two lemons
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tb. olive oil

Pork Shoulder

1 4-pound bone-in pork shoulder
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, left whole
1 Fresno chile or jalapeno, split
2 ounces fresh ginger root, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 Tb. toasted coriander seed
3 12-ounce bottles ginger beer
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or chicken broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice vegetables for slaw. Toss with remaining slaw ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Season pork liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown meat for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to platter. Return pan to heat; sauté all vegetables and coriander seed for 4 minutes. Add beer and stock; return to simmer. Add pork to pot, cover and cook in oven for 4 hours, or until tender. Remove pork to platter; strain sauce and return to pot. Simmer until it's reduced by half. To serve, cut pork into 4 pieces and top with slaw and sauce.

PER SERVING: 691calories, 55g protein, 20g carbohydrates, 40g fat (11.6g saturated), 187mg cholesterol, 4g fiber, 293mg sodium

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Gingerbread Cupcakes With Caramelized Mango Buttercream Frosting

This recipe's secret twist? Ginger-infused simple syrup is poured over the baked cupcakes. "It not only adds another layer of fresh ginger flavor, but it also makes them incredibly moist," Bobby Flay says. "Sweet and fruity mango buttercream icing gives these cupcakes a tropical twist."

Ginger Syrup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tb. ground ginger
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 Tbs. butter, melted
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 Tbs. molasses
3/4 cup water

Caramelized Mango Buttercream Frosting
1 Tb. butter
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely diced

Boil syrup ingredients until thickened. Let sit 30 minutes. Discard ginger.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup tin with paper liners; lightly spray liners and top of the pan with vegetable cooking spray.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Whisk melted butter, oil, brown sugar, eggs, molasses and water. Add dry ingredients; stir until smooth.

Fill each paper liner with 1/3 cup batter. Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick comes out clean, about 15 to 18 minutes. Brush tops with syrup. Let cool on a baking rack.

Sauté mango in 1 Tb. butter over high heat until caramelized, 4 minutes. Process in a food processor, then press purée through a strainer. Let cool.

Beat 1/2 cup butter, milk, vanilla and half the sugar with a mixer on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add remaining sugar (you might not need it all) until frosting is smooth and fluffy. Beat in mango and ginger. Frost cooled cupcakes, then refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

PER CUPCAKE: 455 calories, 3g protein, 78g carbohydrates, 15g fat (7.3g saturated), 63mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 185mg sodium

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Ginger-Soy-Lime- Marinated Shrimp

"Ginger and soy sauce are both used extensively in Asian cuisine, and their strong flavors make an ideal marinade, especially when brightened with a healthy dose of fresh lime juice," Bobby Flay says. "Lots of garlic, shallots and green onions give this marinade an extra flavor punch, more than enough to permeate the shrimp through their shells."

2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, from about 4 large limes
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp, shells and tails on

Place shallots, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice and sugar in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add the green onions and oil, and blend until combined. Season with black pepper, to taste.

Place shrimp in a large bowl, pour the marinade over them, and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Preheat grill to high. Remove shrimp from the marinade and place in a single layer on a grill pan. Set on grill; cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, turning shrimp once. (Or, shrimp can be pan-cooked: Heat 2 Tbs. canola oil in a non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to pan and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until pink and done.)

To serve: Transfer shrimp to one large platter -- or 8 salad plates -- as a peel-and-eat appetizer.

SERVES 8 as an appetizer
PER SERVING: 87 calories, 17g protein, 3g carbohydrates, 1g fat (0.2g saturated), 147mg cholesterol, 0g fiber, 845mg sodium

Photos: Cover and Cover Story photos by George Lange for USA WEEKEND
Food photos: Scallops, pudding, salmon, cupcakes by Brian Leatart
Alton Brown, Courtesy Food Network.

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