Battle Ginger: Luck of the Draw

In Iron Chef land, winning is everything. Well, winning and spending time with friends, is everything. A win is a true testament to your culinary skills, your creativity, and in some cases, your hard work. And if that wasn’t enough, winning entitles you, as Iron Chef, to select the theme ingredient the next time around. It is a daunting, but coveted, task. When that task is yours, you take advantage and choose wisely, not knowing when, or even if, you’ll ever get that chance again.

Unless that is, you are as busy as Emily, our past reigning Iron Chef and one of our founding competitors. Up to her eyelids in work events and such obligations, she was forced to surrender her title prior to battle, unable to even select the ingredient, let alone defend her throne. Bummer, huh?

As a result, our ensuing party was ingredient-less, and we were in need of a quick fix given our decision to forge ahead, otherwise put off IC for another two months. So, someone was about to get lucky; we decided to draw a name and that person would choose, and that person was Rachel. To my excitement, she chose well, and in no time, Battle Ginger was upon us.

Ten Iron Chefs in, I’ve learned to choose a dish quickly, unwaveringly, and with confidence. I was ready on Wednesday, knowing sushi would be made, along with a strange dessert I’d never heard of, ‘oeufs à la niege’ which for those who either aren’t French or haven’t taken a couple of semesters of it in college, means ‘eggs in the snow’.

You start out by separating a few eggs, and with the egg whites you whip them with sugar and ginger into a smooth silken bowl of firm, shiny peaks. And instead of slathering the meringue onto the base of a key lime pie and then breaking out your blow torch, you poach said meringues, dollop by dollop, in milk that’s flavored with cardamom and a generous amount of ginger – or if you have a crowd of lactose-challenged people, you use almond milk instead, which works perfectly.

After the little meringues are poached and literally resembling hard-boiled and peeled eggs, you turn that almond milk into custard using the remaining milk and egg. Sure, you could use that custard to spin up some ice cream, but then these little eggies would be snow-less, and that’d be a sad state of affairs.

Especially if those eggs-in-custard win you back your Iron Chef title🙂. Just sayin’.

Left to right: vegan ginger chocolate cupcakes with ‘cream cheese’ icing, ginger chocolate cookies, ginger ale & vodka, ginger-garlic shrimp and asparagus with ginger rice, ginger rogers cocktail, crunchy shrimp sushi roll with ginger-soy sauce and pickled ginger, ginger and pecan stuffed apples, vegan butternut squash and ginger chili, ginger crab cakes with tomato-ginger jam.

The Top Three:

  1. Ginger-Cardamom Oeufs à la Niege (dairy & gluten-free)
  2. Butternut Squash & Ginger Chili (vegan & gluten-free)
  3. Ginger Crab Cakes w/ Ginger-Tomato Jam


In Chi-town and wanna join? Holler! Next IC: 7/10/10.

Ginger Cardamom Oeufs à la Niege
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2008; makes 8

i’m so not kidding here – this is an easy dessert that can be made well in advance, and the recipe is easily adaptable to other flavor variations. i picture a chocolate-basil version, and now i’m drooling. and if you’re not lactose-intolerant, feel free to use whole milk instead of almond milk. to halve the recipe, use 3 eggs (2 whites and 2 yolks + 1 whole), a little less sugar, and half the milk.

printable version

4 eggs
3/4 c sugar, divided
1  t ground ginger, divided
4 c almond milk
1 chunk of fresh peeled ginger (size of your thumb)
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/2 t cornstarch
1/8 t salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 c shelled pistachios, chopped

Line bottom of a small sheet pan with parchment paper.

Separate 3 eggs; put yolks in a large bowl and whites in another. Add remaining whole egg to yolks.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Add 1/2 c + 1 T sugar and 1/2 t ground ginger in a slow stream, beating at medium-high speed until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.

Meanwhile, bring almond milk to a bare simmer with remaining ground ginger, fresh ginger, and cardamom in a wide 4-quart heavy pot over medium heat.

Drop 8 large dollops (or 16 small, depending on what they’re being served in; if large bowl use large dollops) of beaten whites into milk and poach at a bare simmer, turning once, 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to lined pan (reserve milk). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whisk remaining 3 T sugar, cornstarch, and salt into yolk mixture. Add hot almond milk in a slow stream, whisking until incorporated, then return to pot. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170 F. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla. Drop ginger back into mixture and allow it to continue to steep in hot custard until ready to serve.

Quick-chill custard by setting bowl in an ice bath and stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or refrigerate until ready to use. Remove ginger chunk and ladle chilled custard into 8 bowls (or cups) and put a meringue in each. Sprinkle with nuts.

8 thoughts on “Battle Ginger: Luck of the Draw

  1. Katherine says:

    So you are the WINNER, right? Congrats!🙂 I’m intimidated by poaching, but you’ve convinced me that I should try.

  2. Allison – thanks! I’d never heard of it either, so go figure😉

    Jessica – too funny. i found it on epicurious while searcing for ginger, and modified from there!

    Katherine – yes, I’M THE WINNER! muah ha ha. and poaching is easy. do it up.

  3. Wow – so sorry I missed this epic battle! And I have never heard of this dessert, but now I’m intrigued!

    Ginger is the order of the day for me today – endless cups of hot, brewed ginger, lemon and honey to try and shake a cold. Ugh.

    Jenn – that hot tea would have been perfect and gingery! hope you feel better🙂. LOVED the NY pics!

  4. Teresa says:

    I am not very good at recipe substitutions. How would this be changed to chocolate/basil. That sounds awesome. i can’t eat ginger.

    Teresa: Good question. For the basil, I’d steep it in the poaching liquid, about 1 handful, and when you pour the milk into the egg mixture, I’d pour it through a strainer at that point. For the chocolate, I’d use 4-5 oz of dark chocolate, chopped roughly and I’d add it in after the eggs go into the pot to cook to custard. stir to melt and then continue with the rest of the recipe. let me know if you try it – i bet it’s a great combo!

  5. Kate says:

    HOW do you not weigh 500lbs???!!? I miss Chigaco, I miss you and I lust for the food you describe! Come see me in Massachusetts, we’ll cook up a storm!

    I miss you too Kate! I was talking about you the other day and how i missed you so🙂. I would love to come see you – we need a reunion anyway, don’tcha think?!

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