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NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a new cookbook celebrity chef Bobby Flay recounts what he learned from other chefs in a television cooking competition show in which he often loses to his opponents.
In each episode of "Throwdown!," the celebrity chef goes head-to-head with another cook. Flay serves up his twist on the other chef's signature dish and the two versions are judged.
The 45-year-old New York native spoke to Reuters about the new cookbook, "Bobby Flay's Throwdown!," reworking other chefs' recipes and how one cook turned the table on him.
Q: How do you and your assistants create a version of your competitor's recipe?
A: "Stephanie (Banyas), Miriam (Garron) and I sort of conference ... They do the research and I drive what the flavor profile would be. We just go to the kitchen and mess around a little bit. We don't try to perfect it in there. We just get used to the technique or the ingredients. There are certain ingredients and flavors I'm more gravitated toward so it sort of has my signature on it."
Q: Which is your favorite challenge?
A: "I loved doing one with sticky buns with Joanne Chang of Flour bakery (in Boston). Then there were the puffy tacos in San Antonio with Diana Barrios Trevinos (of La Hacienda de Los Barrios). That was great. There was the macaroni and cheese in Philadelphia. There were so many. I could just go on and on."
Q: As a professed non-baker, are the baking contests the hardest for you?
A: "Anything with baking elements is always the toughest ones for me. I think the toughest one was to decorate a wedding cake -- that was baking and decorating, which is not in my wheelhouse at all."
Q: You really don't mind losing most of the contests?
A: "I don't mind. 'Throwdown!' really is not about winning or losing. It's about showcasing these people more than anything else. When I first pitched the show, it didn't have the results. You watch people taste and give their reactions. At the end, it fades to black and lets the viewers think what really happened. It's like a good movie. These days with television, you have to give the results."
Q: Were you ever surprised on the show?
A: "I was actually surprised by (pastry chef) Francois Payard with the Buche de Noel throwdown. I didn't know he knew what was happening and then when I showed up to do the throwdown the crowd was there and he was gone. He came in from the back and kind of turned the table on me."
Gulf Shrimp and Grits (Serves 4)
4 cups shrimp stock, or more if needed
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
8 ounces thick-cut double-smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch-long matchsticks
20 large (21- to 24-count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 green onions (green parts only), thinly sliced, for garnish
1. Bring the shrimp stock and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking every few minutes, until the grits are soft and have lost their gritty texture, 25 to 30 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick add a little more stock.
2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until it is golden brown and crisp and the fat has rendered, about 8 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.
3. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the skillet, and return it to high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp, garlic and thyme in batches, if necessary, to the skillet and saute until the shrimp are light golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp to a plate. Reserve the garlic oil left in the skillet.
4. Stir the cheese and heavy cream into the cooked grits and whisk until smooth, season with salt and pepper.
5. Divide the grits among 4 bowls, and top each with 5 shrimp. Drizzle with some of the garlic oil from the skillet, and sprinkle with the green onions.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney