From left, Biscuit’s Josh Cohen powders his smoked PB&J; ChipShop’s Chris Sell plates his fried interpretation.Photo: Melissa Hom.
Next time you decide that peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich could use something extra, know this: Not only will Park Slope’s ChipShop deep-fry anything so long you make the request in advance (and suggest something that won’t compromise the oil) — it’s how fried macaroni and cheese wound up on the menu — but Fifth Avenue’s new barbecue joint Biscuit recently announced that they’ll "smoke anything!" (They charge $2 per pound and also require advance notice.) To help you decide whether that PB&J; should be fried or smoked, we had ChipShop owner Chris Sell and Biscuit owner Josh Cohen prepare the sandwich both ways and invited a couple of local food obsessives — Gabrielle Langholtz, chief editor of Edible Brooklyn, and Ben Schmerler, formerly a senior editor of the Zagat Survey and a onetime judge on Iron Chef — to evaluate the results. And since this was clearly an exercise in excess, we didn’t just leave it at peanut butter and jelly. Today, we present the first two rounds of this epic battle, with the remaining challenges (including White Castles, sushi, and rice pudding) to come tomorrow and Wednesday.
Challenge No. 1: Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly Sandwich
Judges Gabrielle Langholtz of Edible Brooklyn and Ben Schmerler, formerly a taster on Iron Chef.Photo: Melissa Hom.
Judge Gabrielle: This does not taste very smoked. If it didn’t have jelly on it and it were on a whole-grain bread and had really nice peanut butter and was super-smoked, I could get addicted.
Judge Ben: I would integrate some smoked sea salt. Definitely crank up the smoke.
Chef Josh: [Seeing the list of challenges] I was like, "I’m gonna get killed." I was surprised that the smoked PB&J; turned out okay. We try to do everything with a light smoke so it doesn’t overpower.
PB&J;: The B stands for batter.Photo: Melissa Hom.
Judge Gabrielle: This just tastes deep-fried, like at the state fair. I can’t even find the peanut butter and jelly. I want to keep eating it even though I’m sitting here saying I would never order this again. My brain stem is like, "Gorge on the fat while you can."
Judge Ben: It’s pretty good. I agree the treatment dominates too much. It’s not greasy enough to pass the schnitzel test — you can’t put it on your pant leg and see the impression.
Chef Chris: I knew that a deep-fried PB&J; sandwich would be good, because it’s hot bread. The batter is steaming the stuff inside.
Challenge No. 2: Ribs
The judges devour ribs done right. On the table, rib fritters await.Photo: Melissa Hom.
Judge Gabrielle: I love the fattiness of it, but I’m not like, "Wow, this is really smoky."
Judge Ben: It tastes savory and primal. The dominant flavor is salt and fat, more so even than the meat.
Chef Josh: We smoke our ribs with hickory and applewood — five hours at 185 to 210 degrees.
One for the textbooks: a cross-section of fried rib.Photo: Melissa Hom.
Judge Gabrielle: I’m just eating batter. I would take the batter off.
Judge Ben: "Batter" up! The meat’s more tender — a little tough. I’m less excited about this — I could take one bite.
Chef Chris: I cooked them in a smoker for four hours without seasoning, smoke, or rub, so it’s just very plain. But the batter is very salty, and to me it works great.
Tomorrow: The battle continues as the chefs gear up their smokers and fryers for — sushi?