Monday, September 10, 2012

Iron Pig Championship Cook-off at Daybreak

Last Saturday I judged one of the best-tasting food competitions that I can remember  -- the Iron Pig Championship Cook-Off at Daybreak.  Club founders Tom and Teresa Akagi organized cook-offs during the year, where members cooked and then judged each others' dishes.

The winners of those contests competed in this final cook-off, held during Daybreak's FizzFest.  
In my estimation, these cooks could be the "farm team" for Food Network cooking show.  Every one of the entries was top-notch, and it was extremely hard for judges (Matt Gephardt of KUTV-2 and me) to choose the winner.
The theme was "gourmet street food," which opened the door to a lot of creativity.  The aroma of sizzling peppers, onions, steaks and seafood wafted around the area, luring in many bystanders.

Laraine Hunt, winner of Iron Pig Championship Cook-Off

Winner Laraine Hunt and her assistant, Sarah Clark, went with a tropical theme: a "shrimp boat" appetizer served in a baby South African pineapple, and crostini topped with ricotta, jalapeno preserves and edible flowers. 

Her entrée was a sandwich of Pacific-rim glazed tenderloin steak, tender spicy corn on the cob, and crispy, chickpea-and-poppy-seed-butter-fried zucchini sticks. 

Dessert was a honey-grilled banana split with chocolate raspberries.

Veteran food judges have often told me that if there's a certain dish that you want to keep going to back to and taste again, that's likely the winner. 

The problem was, I wanted to go back and taste EVERYTHING again! It was all so flavorful. As a judge, you really have to pace yourself.... take a couple of small bites of each dish, so you can give each entry the proper attention without getting too full. And you need to sip water in between for the all-important "palate cleansing." 

Here are some of the other great cooks and their dishes:

James Packard

James Packard served three different types of seafood tacos (mahi-mahi, lobster and shrimp); crepes filled with wonderful things like goat cheese and spinach; Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich); and a "farmer's market" grilled orange with fresh-picked raspberries.  

His entry was the last that we tasted. I wanted to keep those flavors going in my mouth the rest of the night! 

David Hong

David Hong had an Asian theme going with satay chicken skewers and a nice peanut dipping sauce, Singapore noodles with plump shrimp. For dessert: deep-fried sesame balls that were nicely crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and filled with bean paste.

Sarah Molloy

Sarah Molloy made fried plantains and Venezuelan Arepas, or corn cakes with savory pork and chicken fillings and a luxurious green dipping sauce  of avocado, parsley and cilantro.  Dessert was a colorful sweet Columbian fruit salad with a homemade ice cream base. They also served a cool, refreshing watermelon "agua fresca" drink.

Hailey Fawson

Hailey Fawson served up thick-cut French fries dusted with shredded parmesan, nicely spiced shrimp tacos; and skewers of strawberries and churros stuffed with thick, sweet dulce de leche.

Tony Castillo

Tony  Castillo did "Steak Three Ways:" a Philly cheesesteak with a mellow smoked cheese topping, a carne asada taco, and teriyaki steak.  In every case, the steak was tender and perfectly seasoned. 

Here are two of Laraine's winning recipes:

Pacific Rim Tenderloin Steak Sandwich on Cheesy Bread
2 tenderloin steaks
1 cup bottled teriyaki marinade
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 large clove garlic, finely diced
½ cup diced onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
½ cup honey
Mix marinade well.  Pour over steaks and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Grill over medium heat until meat thermometer reaches 140 degrees.
Take off heat and wrap in foil, and let rest for approximately 10 minutes prior to slicing for sandwiches.
Cheesy Bread
1 French baguette, halved lengthwise and cut into 4 inch pieces
Brush bread with olive oil and cut side on grill.  Flip over and add grated Monterey Jack cheese, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Remove from grill to platter, top with sliced tenderloin.  Garnish with orange slices, fresh rosemary sprig, top meat with a few chopped scallions.

Pineapple Shrimp Boat with Fruit Salsa

2 pounds cleaned and deveined raw shrimp
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cups diced red bell pepper
2 cups diced onion
1 teaspoons minced jalapeno
1 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoons minced ginger
Mix together all ingredients and chill 30 minutes. Meanwhile, take a fresh pineapple, cut in half and remove core and discard, make the fresh fruit salsa using the rest of the pineapple.  Salsa recipe to follow.
After marinating for 30 minutes, in a large saucepan, over high heat look shrimp mixture.  Sauté until shrimp turn pink and glaze thickens.  Transfer to pineapple halves and top with fruit salsa
Fruit Salsa
Pineapple meat from 1 pineapple diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon seeded and finely chopped fresh serrano pepper
1 tablespoon minced ginger
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Combine well and serve over shrimp boat.

No comments: