Cat Cora Reveals Iron Chef “Secrets” At Central Market Cooking Class

Cat Cora's new book, "Classics with a Twist."

You’ve probably seen Cat Cora kicking butt left and right on Iron Chef America. Maybe you’ve dined in one of her restaurants in Cali. Or maybe you’ve even whipped up some dishes from one of her two previous cookbooks. And if you were lucky enough, you went to her cooking class this morning at Central Market. If not, I got you covered. Jump for deets.

Cora was there to show off some original recipes from her new book, “Classics with a Twist,” and even shared some Iron Chef secrets. She’s reinvented some of her favorite recipes by seasoning them in a new way (the twist) and shortening the prep time. Each dish is budget friendly and all the ingredients can be found in a regular grocery store. Serve these at a dinner party and your guests will be impressed. “It’ll look like you’ve been in the kitchen all day, but it actually only takes 20 to 30 minutes,” Cora said.

Grilled guac.

On today’s menu: grilled guacamole and grilled chile-lime flank steak soft tacos. Cora was running late from the airport (they lost her bags), so we didn’t get to see her prepare the guacamole appetizer. It consisted of onion, tomato, garlic, and, of course, grilled avocado. The twist: jalapeño peppers. Cora said she normally de-seeds the peppers, but I think one slipped in my first bite because my mouth was literally on fire for at least five minutes. After chugging some water, I was finally able to taste again. The guac was good. It was fresh and, minus the aforementioned seed, had just the right amount of spice.

Flank steak tacos.

Up next: flank steak tacos served with pineapple salsa. She likes working with flank steak because it’s inexpensive and easy to work with. She marinated it in a mixture of chile powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and lime juice. The salsa contained fresh and uncooked ingredients like grilled pineapple, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, rice vinegar, and optional jalapeños. The flank steak was served in corn tortillas and topped with the salsa. What made this dish was the salsa. The grilled pineapple added the perfect amount of sweetness to the spicy steak.

She made it look so easy I think even I could prepare this on my own. Trust me, I’m not the most gifted cook in the world. (I may or may not have burned my Amy’s frozen meal yesterday at lunch, if that tells you anything).

A smoky Cat Cora.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for (drum roll)… Iron Chef secrets! I have to admit that this show kind of boggles my mind. How do they come up with elaborate dishes with no time to prepare and only an hour to cook? I always assumed crafty editing played a role like in so many other reality shows, but according to Cora, it’s not that way at all. What you see is what you get. No smoke. No mirrors. Well, there is smoke, but that only comes from the grill.

The iron chefs know when (for scheduling purposes) and who they’re battling. As for the secret ingredient, they’re given four options but they don’t know which one it is until about 10 minutes before the battle begins. They don’t have extra time to cook – the battle really does last one hour. Cora says there’s no way to prepare specific recipes, so she’ll pick a type of cuisine and just figure out ways to work in the ingredient. “My rule of thumb is to do what I’m comfortable with,” Cora said. “If you know how to cook it right and season it well, it will taste good nine out of 10 times.”