Innovative or Wacky

While my passion for Iron Chef America has waned over the last few years, I am, for various reasons, amazed by the Next Iron Chef American competition and glad that Alex Guarnaschelli is doing so well again this season (go Team Alex). What has inspired me this week were two things: the chairman’s challenge for this past week of innovation and my friend Warren Caterson’s post on Facebook about this being Wacky Wednesday. Personally, I think he created this day, but I can always use a “reason” to be wacky.

For those of you who did not watch this episode, there were three global street foods, tacos, falafel, and bahn mi’s. The chefs were assigned one of these three street foods and then told to be innovative and create a new approach to it. While Chef Faulkner’s bahn mi pasta did not appease the palettes of the judges, her idea reminded me of bruschetta pasta I had made once that was really quite good. So here is my innovative, and perhaps wacky, creation, bahn mi ravioli. Staying with the pan-Asian ingredient profile, I am using wonton wrappers in lieu of pasta. I have used them before when making a butternut squash tortellini and they worked fine, so why not try them for a bahn mi ravioli or tortellini.

The process of even thinking about this brought me back to my homiletic classes with Dr. Gail Ricciuti at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. One of her pieces of advice to us, especially in her advanced homiletic classes was to discard every way we have heard a scripture preached in the past and read it and learn from it anew. The scripture itself is the same, but when you look at it with innovative eyes then you begin to hear it and understand it in a way you had not heard it before. I remember the day I preached a sermon in one of her classes on the transfiguration. I remember her first comment to me afterwards was thank you. She had been trying to find a new way of preaching this scripture after 20 plus years and my innovative approach to telling the story made it fresh and new for her.

There are foods that we all enjoy. Sometimes there is something comforting about eating the same thing repeatedly. At the same time, there is something refreshing about having flavors we recognize presented in a way that is comfortable, but innovative. For Dr. Ricciuti, my sermon on the transfiguration had that feeling of comfort because she knew the scripture, but innovative in that it was wrapped in something different. I think that is what the judges were looking for when they ate the banh mi’s, falafel, and tacos that night; an element of recognizable street food presented in a way they had never envisioned or experienced.

So in celebration of Dr. Ricciuti who taught me to be innovative in my sermons, this is my first attempt at bahn mi ravioli.


1 tsp vegetable oil
2 ½ tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 ½ lbs ground pork
½ cup minced onions
4 large canned water chestnuts, minced
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon Korean Kimchee
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp sesame oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1 English cucumber julienned
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
4 jalapeno peppers, julienned
2 limes, juiced
½ cup sugar
½ cup distilled white vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups shredded carrots
60 wonton wrappers


  1. The carrots need at least 2 hours to marinate, so start them early. Mix the sugar, white vinegar, and salt together until dissolved. Add carrots and set aside in the refrigerator to pickle.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the ground pork, minced onion, water chestnuts, cornstarch, chopped cilantro, kimchee, soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, egg, water, vegetable oil, and fish sauce. Let marinate in refrigerator for about an hour.
  3. Place about 1 tablespoon filling in center of each wonton wrapper. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water to seal shut around the filling
  4. In a bowl, mix the English cucumber, cilantro, fresh mint, jalapenos, and lime juice
  5. Boil the ravioli for a few minutes until they float to the top and gently toss with pickled carrots and cucumber, mixture.

Hope you enjoy my innovative and hopefully attractive idea for bahn mi ravioli, or fold it different for a tortellini.

In any case, what this has reminded me is the importance of never being so comfortable in my spirituality that I forget to think outside the box and try something new, even if it is not a Wednesday.