Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Iron Chef America Recipe: Team White House Sweet Potato Pie With Honey Meringue

The recipe for the winning dessert
The Obamas' favorite root vegetable got a lot of attention on the special White House episode of Iron Chef America.

"We're sweet potato lovers," First Lady Michelle Obama told the celeb chefs who visited her Kitchen Garden at the the White House, for their own private harvest festival. Sweet potatoes were duly dug.

And the chefs kept the insider info in mind when competing in Iron Chef America's Kitchen Stadium as created quintessentially American dishes that highlighted vegetables. Team White House, chef Bobby Flay and White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford, beat Team Citizen, chefs Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse by a close five points.

Team White House's Sweet Potato Tart got lauds from the show's judges, and the White House has just released the recipe in pie form. The winning tart was a sweet potato custard in a sweet dough, with a lightly broiled Honey Meringue topping that paid homage to the White House Beehive. It was a crowd pleaser, according to the guest judges, who were served it accompanied by candied cranberries and pecans, with a side of ginger ice cream. (At top: White house Executive Sous Chef Tommy Kurpradit, l, joined Flay and Comerford in the Kitchen Stadium competition)

The recipe has a lot of steps, and a lot of ingredients, so gather them before you begin your kitchen adventure. During the Fall Kitchen Garden Harvest, Mrs. Obama was taking two-to-four pound sweet potatoes out of the ground, and this recipe has these in mind--so if you can't find sweet potatoes that large, you'll need to double the amount of sweet potatoes called for (in photo, the massive sweet potatoes that came from the Kitchen Garden--and Mrs. Obama in the background, pulling up fennel).

Also keep in mind that there are two "resting periods" for the dough, and the sweet potato purée requires a cooling period before it can be turned into custard. And as most excellent pie makers recommend--and especially White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses-- the bottom pie crust is pre-baked. The Honey Meringue topping for the pie is a fairly tricky business even for an experienced home cook, because it requires mixing hot honey with stiff egg whites, and your chances of disaster are fairly high unless you're an old hand at meringue. Give it a shot, or take that other ultra-American avenue, and top with some good old fashioned, old-school unsweetened whipped cream.

Iron Chef America Team White House Sweet Potato Pie
with Honey Meringue

Dough Ingredients
1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 egg yolks
2 ½ cups all purpose flour

Filling Ingredients
3 sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut in half lengthwise (these need to be fairly large)
4 sticks cinnamon
5 star anise
1 orange, quartered
2 tablespoon melted butter

Custard Ingredients
3 cups crème fraiche
4 whole eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

1. For the pie dough, mix the sugar and butter until it is light and fluffy.

2. Add the dry ingredients and gently mix. Incorporate the vanilla, lemon zest and egg yolks.

3. Form the mixture into a ball and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

4. With a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a quarter inch thick circle. Lightly drape the dough over a 12-inch tart or pie pan. Fit the dough and trim any remaining dough.

5. Cover with parchment paper and let rest in the refrigerator for another half hour.

6. In the pre-heated oven, bake the pie shell covered with parchment paper topped with baking beads (or you can use dry beans or rice) for 12 minutes.

Filling
1. Place the sweet potatoes, cinnamon, star anise and orange on a baking sheet and drizzle the melted butter over everything. Bake at 350 degrees until the sweet potatoes are tender.

2. Scoop potatoes out of their skins and pass through a sieve or strainer so it turns into potato purée. Discard the spices and orange. Set the potato purée aside to cool.

3. In a bowl, mix all the custard ingredients until blended, then fold into the potato purée until fully incorporated. Pour this mixture into the cooked tart shell and finish cooking until set, about 35 minutes.

Honey Meringue Topping
3 egg whites
2 cups honey reduced by half

Heat honey over low heat, stirring constantly, until it is reduced by half. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff, and then incorporate the hot reduced honey. Top the cooked sweet potato pie with the mixture, and then place under a broiler until the meringue becomes a pale golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Related: Chef Comerford blogs about her experience on Iron Chef America here. The recipes for Comerford/Team White House are: Sweet Potato Pie, the winning dessert; White House Kitchen Garden Herb Chicken with Braised Greens and Cauliflower Gratin are here. A video clip of the judging is here. A full recap of the competition is here. The show got the highest ratings ever in Food Network's history.

UPDATE, Jan. 13: The issue of the use of stunt vegetables on the show, instead of vegetables harvested form the Kitchen Garden, is rocking the Internet.

 UPDATE 2: Stunt vegetables turns into a huge issue on the internet, and makes it onto television: Here's a clip from Fox News, and Stephen Colbert does a send up of the nonsense here.

*Sweet potato photo by Obama Foodorama; Iron Chef photo courtesy Food Network