Horsing Around With Horseradish: Passover Iron Chef at the Jewish Museum of Maryland

Carrie Murphy

I recently had the pleasure of acting as a judge at the Jewish Museum of Maryland's first annual Passover Iron Chef competition. The competition, which was put on as part of the JMM's First Thursdays Happy Hour series, was modeled after the popular Food Network show "Iron Chef." To wit, the competition lasted an hour and required participants to prepare dishes with a secret ingredient. But instead of single chefs, teams of three or four people competed for the title, and the teams were only required to make two dishes (a savory and a sweet) rather than the customary five. 

While the teams got to cooking, I wandered around the museum, which was open after hours for viewing. Coincidentally, the current exhibit centers around Jewish food. I enjoyed seeing artifacts that ranged from a full kosher kitchen to a authentic vintage ads for now-defunct Baltimore Jewish delis. Museum staffers provided kosher finger foods (including Oreos! Who knew they were kosher?) and kosher pizza from "Baltimore's best" Tov Pizza, as well as Heavy Seas beers. 

Once the hour was up, the heat was on. My fellow judges, Stephanie Hershkovitz from Hersh's Pizza & Drinks and Mike Volpe of Stratford University, and I sat down to taste the dishes from the four competing teams. I was impressed with the chutzpah of the chefs, as they didn't have a conventional kitchen to work with. That meant muffins cooked in a toaster oven and greens sauteed over a hot plate. But I'm sure you'd like to know what the secret ingredient was: horseradish! Traditionally, this spicy vegetable has acted as a stand-in for bitter herbs during the Passover seder, and represents the suffering of Jews when enslaved in Egypt. The horseradish used for Passover Iron Chef was provided courtesy of Tulkoff, which has been making the condiment in Baltimore since the 1920's. 

The teams presented their dishes, which ranged from mushrooms sauteed with peanut butter and horseradish to horseradish mango ice cream (strangely delicious, I swear!) and a berry-horseradish smoothie. My fellow judges and I scored for taste, creativity and use of the secret ingredient. Oddly enough, the winning team consisted of all gentiles (non Jewish people). Their dazzling dishes were a stuffed pepper and a chocolate quesadilla with creamy horseradish sauce. And the prize? A tour of Baltimore-based Heavy Seas brewery!

The next food-related event at the JMM will take place on May 20th. That's Knish History 101, a discussion and tasting of the traditional Eastern European knish. Knishes not your thing? Hold out for Cheese, Cheers and Celebration on June 7th, which will feature a cheesemaking demonstration by organic Kayam Farms and a kosher wine tasting.

View more photos of this event online here

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