August 21, 2008
By Mandy Valencia
Ashland Daily Tidings
ASHLAND, OREGON — Dragonfly is known for some cutting-edge, original cuisine, and now chef Neil Clooney — the man behind the menu — has proven his skill at the state level, winning the Iron Chef Oregon competition.
Clooney, head chef and part owner of Dragonfly, in November won the Food and Wine Classic, a regional cooking competition. He earned a seat competing in Portland on Aug. 7, for Iron Chef Oregon, a charity-based event benefiting the Special Olympics.
On the first day of the competition Clooney was up against the regional champion from Tillamook. Like in the “Iron Chef” television show, the chefs’ challenge was making a dish with a mystery ingredient in 30 minutes or less.
The first mystery ingredient was Asian lingcod.
“I preferred the dish I prepared the first day,” Clooney said. “I made a crispy version of the pan-seared Asian lingcod with celery root and tarragon potato hash browns with caper gremolata and balsamic au jus.”
Clooney, wanting to really impress the judges, went above and beyond what was required and made a second dish with the cod. “For my second dish I made a ratatouille with poached cod and basil foam.”
The final mystery ingredients were swordfish and blackberries. Clooney’s winning dish was pan-fried swordfish, caramelized fennel, blackberry and ginger marmalade, rolled up and shredded fresh pasta with cilantro and lime.
Celebrity chef Kat Cora was the guest master of ceremonies. With no pasta maker on hand, Clooney took Cora’s ouzo bottle and used it to roll over his handmade pasta and shred it into strips.
Now that Clooney is reigning Iron Chef of Oregon, he holds the seat until next year’s event, where he will only make one dish in the final round that the runner-up will try to beat.
“I love doing things like this,” he said. “It gets you out of the restaurant.”
Clooney will demonstrate his skills next at the Food and Wine Classic, Nov. 14-16 in Ashland. The event features local chefs creating cuisine focused on local produce and products. For more information, contact the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.
Smithfields Restaurant and Bar is located at 36 S. 2nd Street, Ashland, Oregon. Call 541-488-9948.
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