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In the video above, BU mascot Rhett hounds 15 student chefs who shared their recipes during the fourth annual Iron Chef competition at Warren Towers Dining Hall.
Never underestimate the power of fat, carbohydrates, and a dash of hot sauce.
Buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese reigned supreme at the fourth annual Boston University Iron Chef competition, defeating traditional favorites such as tacos and beef lasagna and the less conventional chicken ondine and platanos con salami.
Sponsored this year by Warren Towers Dining Hall, the contest gives aspiring chefs an opportunity to try new recipes on a captive — and hungry — audience. Last week’s event drew more than 1,500 students, most of whom welcomed a change from the dining hall’s typical menu selection.
“I eat here every day, and it can get tiresome,” says Konstantinos Frantzis (SMG’13). “Even though most of the stuff they served tonight used similar ingredients, the dishes they came up with were really unique. I was surprised at how tasty everything was.”
After sampling all five recipes, Frantzis declares the platanos con salami his favorite. “It’s uncomplicated,” he says, munching a fried plantain. “I like the simplicity of it.”
Student votes and a panel of three judges determined the evening’s winners. This year’s judges were Stephen Baldwin, food service director, John Battaglino, executive director of the Student Activities Office, and Kim Hannon, Dining Services executive chef for residential dining.
Five teams competed, each made up of three Dining Services student employees. A few of the contestants plan to pursue careers in the nutrition and hospitality industries, but most were in it simply because they like to cook. “And we like to eat even more,” says Courtney Neagle (SHA’10), with a wink.
Neagle, along with Hector Oseguera (CAS’10) and Esteban Yepez (CAS’11), prepared platanos con salami, a traditional Latin American dish of deep-fried plantains, fried salami, and sautéed peppers and onions. “I think people were initially skeptical about trying it,” Yepez says, smashing plantains with a metal mallet. “But once they do, they come back for seconds.”
By mid-evening, the group had gone through 100 pounds of plantains. “I’ve never cooked for this many people,” Yepez says, wiping his brow. “And I’m never going to do it again.”
A few stations away, Tim Duffy (CAS’12), Olivia Herrera (ENG’13), and Sabrina Pratts (SMG’13) are serving chicken ondine, a recipe Duffy’s mother adapted years ago from a restaurant in upstate New York.
“It’s probably the most complicated dish here,” Herrera says, pointing out the various ingredients: breaded chicken cutlets, rice pilaf, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and garlic.
“I’m impressed with the variety,” says Caroline Jolstad (CAS’13), taking a bite. “You don’t often see sun-dried tomatoes in the dining hall.”
Brittney Shillan (CAS’11) learned to make Terrier taco chili during an Alternative Spring Break trip to Fort Smith, Ark. “I believe it’s a Weight Watchers recipe,” she says, scooping a spoonful of chili onto a fried tortilla. “Except we added so many ingredients that it’s probably not low-fat anymore.”
“Probably not,” agrees Amanda Miller (COM’11), eyeing vats of shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and homemade chipotle sauce.
The line for the beef lasagna and garlic bread, prepared by Thomas Lee (CAS’13), Kelly Matos (COM’11), and Jonathan Orrala (MET’13), stretches across the dining hall. “Lasagna is always popular,” Lee says. “It’s a comfort food, like pizza.”
The lasagna’s thick layers of pasta, ground beef, tomatoes, and ricotta cheese earned high praise, but the dish was no match for the buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese. The brainchild of Edward Connors (CAS’11), Alison Krause (SAR’11), and Meghan Devereux (SMG’12), the gooey concoction won by a landslide.
“Students love macaroni-and-cheese and buffalo wings,” Connors says. “So we figured, why not combine the two?”
The idea was ingenious, according to Kevin Wu (ENG’13). “I have to hand it to them for being creative,” he says. “It was different and delicious.”
The recipe is simple: combine cubed chicken breast with macaroni and spicy buffalo sauce, mix it with a creamy sauce of melted sharp cheddar and American cheese, top with crumbled bleu cheese, and broil for two minutes.
“We haven’t calculated the calories,” Connors says. “Let’s just say it definitely isn’t Sargent Choice.”
Winners received $50 American Express gift certificates and a chance to share their recipe with the entire campus: buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese will be served at all five dining halls on Wednesday, April 14, from 5 to 8 p.m.
This year’s Iron Chef proved so successful that next year Warren food produce manager Joe Cacciatore plans to open the event to all dining halls, with the winners facing off at a final competition. “I can see this getting really huge,” he says. “It was by far the most exciting thing we’ve ever done.”
Buffalo Chicken Mac-and-Cheese
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces shredded American cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
16 ounces buffalo sauce
1/3 cup crumbled bleu cheese
Carrot and celery sticks
Cube and cook the chicken and boil the macaroni. Heat the butter and flour in a heavy saucepan to make a roux. Add the evaporated milk and milk; stir until well-blended and allow to thicken. Add the American and sharp cheddar cheese; stir until melted. Add the onion and garlic powder and buffalo sauce and mix well. Add chicken and mix well. Pour the sauce mixture over the macaroni and blend. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle bleu cheese on top, and broil until cheese is melted. Serve with carrot and celery sticks.