Friday, May 29, 2009

BEK Country Cook Off in Wilton

The big day arrived and my crew and I headed down to the site. First we ate the grilled food at the charity feed. The food was a hot dog or brat, chips and pop. The charity was the Wilton fire department. Let me say a few words about the Wilton fire department. The Wilton fire department consists entirely of volunteer fire fighters. These brave people volunteer to risk their life and health and donate their time to keep me and the surrounding rural area safe and we all appreciate it. I appreciate it so much more after the scary wildfire on the plains a few years ago. There was a combination of high winds and dry grass land after a summer with high temperatures and little rain. A wood fire that had been extinguished one full month earlier reignited due to the strong winds. The fire covered an area one mile by six miles. While the Wilton fire department was fighting the fire, the winds suddenly changed and the fire was now headed right for the fire fighters. Three were injured, one quite severely. Knowing this, people still volunteer for the job. I want to thank them.
It was now time for the big event. "Ooooh! This is so exciting." Said my Mom's friend Karen. I was thinking the same thing. I glanced over at my Aunt Gayle. She's originally from Wilton, but has lived most of her life in California. I could see that exciting wasn't necessarily the adjective she would choose, but she was still into the spirit of things. The people at BEK told us to watch the camera man to know when to clap during comical breaks, and to clap loud. The people at my table clapped our hearts out for all the commercial breaks. We also too turns Wooooo!-ing. I woooo-ed more in that hour then I have for years. When I came home and rewatched the event on T.V. I was dismayed to find that not one of our Wooo!s was audible. I could have saved my energy and just clapped. Oh well.
I was there to root on my neighbor Sue Lofthus who was competing with a recipe that was inspired by my grilled pork loin recipe. She added and changed so many things from my recipe that her pork loin makes mine pale in comparison. They began interviewing people about what they were cooking. My initial over confidence in Sue's recipe faded. The competition was clearly strong. Chicken with mango salsa, steak and cedar plank fish, steak Oscar with walleye replacing the crab, and Sue's stuffed pork loin. It would be a tough competition. All the contestants did a great job throughout the evening speaking on camera. That's not easy for an amateur cook to grill with a time limit and give entertaining interviews. Sue, who is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, looked radiant on camera. She was also gracious enough to mention me by name on camera. Thanks Sue. Cameron, who was a year behind me in High School, described his former job as sue chef at The Old Broadway in Fargo. He said it was jungle cooking for 400 people per night. Michelle was cooking with her step son even though the both like to be in charge on the grill. And Tom kept the ingredients of his secret marinade a secret.
The host went into the audience to interview people. As he approached Don W. I thought "watch out". Don's entertaining, but he's trouble. Then they interviewed the judges. One was Deb Strand, who's kids I
used to babysit. All the judges talked about how nice it was to see so
many colorful fruits and vegetables. Now it's time for a commercial break. Here's a commercial that ran during the show that cracks me up.

Attention Hunters! Are you tired of stores where every gun is locked
away and you have to wait for a clerk to find a key? Stop in and
check out our great selection of rifles, scopes, shot guns, hand guns,
binoculars, and hunting knives. Located one block east of the court

As the time clicked down, I got very nervous. "Hurry up Sue and get the food on the plate. You're not gunna make it." She knew what she was was doing and got the food plated in time. The pictures below are after the jugdes were done with them.

Michelle Pich's Entry
Steak. Grilled cedar plank walleye with watermelon and black bean
salsa. Grilled vegetable kebabs. Grilled garlic bread with roasted
garlic. Grilled corn. And Grilled cream cheese stuffed jalapeno

Sue Lofthus's Entry
Grilled stuffed pork loin. Grilled fresh pineapple with lime zest and
honey. A home made bread stick that was then grilled. And grilled mixed
vegetables consisting of three colors of peppers, asparagus,mushrooms,
potatoes, and onions.

Cameron Boechler's Entry
Steak Oscar (steak with Bearnaise sauce) with local walleye replacing the traditional crab. Candied pineapple. And grilled peppers, onions, and asparagus.

Tom Gigante's Entry
Chicken marinated in a secret balsamic marinade with mango salsa
(mango, jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, and garden garlic chives) and
asparagus bundles.

And the judging...Cameron's Steak Oscar wins. My friend Sue tied for second place.
This next comment means no disrespect to Cameron. He is clearly and excellent cook and achieved a well deserved win. The judges are just like the rest of us. They spoke repeatedly about he health and nutrition of the fruits and veggies on the grill. But when push came to shove, they (like us) pick the red meat topped with a butter and egg yolk sauce. It's truly a hard to beat combination.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

BEK community cook off

If you subscribe to BEK cable, tune in to BEK channel 8 today (Thursday) at 7 p.m. They are having a live grilling competition from Wilton. You will be rooting for my neighbor Sue. She's the one grilling pork loin. She used my grilled pork loin recipe as a jumping off point. I don't know what anyone else is grilling, but I think she's gunna win. She described her recipe to me and it sounds yummy. If she doesn't win, I'd love to see the recipe that actually beats hers. If your in Wilton, BEK invites you to come early for a free will donaton charity brat and then to watch the live competition. You might also be interested in Sue's tobasco popcorn recipe.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shockingly Quick Macaroons

Without the chocolate, these are shockingly quick and easy (20ish minutes including prep). They are still easy with the chocolate, but just not as quick. You have to wait for the chocolate to set. I would NEVER make these without the chocolate however. They are nowhere near as good without the chocolate. The original recipe called for semi sweet chocolate. I highly recommend very dark chocolate. It is the prefect pairing with the sweet chewy cookie. The cookie is like a mounds bar, but the coconut is toasted (bonus). The recipe also called for a half dipped cookie. I hate wasting leftover dipping chocolate. (It wouldn't actually got to waste. I'd sit down and eat it all with a spoon) So, in order to use chocolate more efficiently, I only dipped the bottoms. When I was nearly out of chocolate, I spread the remaining melted chocolate on the final cookies with a knife. This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated The Quick Recipe.

Shockingly Quick Macaroons

yield 10 cookies
Can be doubled

1 large egg white
1/3 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 c coconut
2 T cornstarch
4 oz semi sweet chocolate chips or most of a Hershey's 60% dark chocolate bar.

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray the parchment with a nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the egg white, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Toss the coconut with the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Be sure to coat the coconut thoroughly. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened.
3. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.
4. Bake until light golden brown, 12-14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through the cooking time. Cool the macaroons on the baking sheet 2 minutes. Us a spatula to transfer the macaroons onto a cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes. You can stop here if you wish.
5. The original recipe says to melt 3/4 semi sweet chocolate in a microwave on half power. Start at 1 1/2 minutes, stir, and add 30 seconds at a time as needed. Add the remaining chocolate and stir until smooth. Dip the macaroons halfway into the chocolate mixture. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set.
I melted the dark chocolate in the microwave in a ramekin barely bigger then the cookies. I dipped and twisted only the bottoms of the cookies. Then I placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and put them in the fridge.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cranberry Cornmeal Cookies (scones)

Well, I wouldn't call these cookies exactly. They are more like a cornmeal scone or something of that nature. America's Test Kitchen suggests, and I agree, that these should be served with a cup of chamomile tea or coffee. These are the kind of thing I would serve at high tea if I had any idea what high tea was or ever actually had a high tea. I do really like these, but I don't think they are the something I will crave. They are not exactly my thing, but they would definitely be someones. This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated The Quick Recipe. The only change I made is the original recipe called for light brown sugar. I only use dark brown sugar. I like the flavor better. Hey, bonus: you don't need a mixer.

Cranberry Cornmeal Cookies
Yield 12 cookies
1 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 c sugar, plus 1/3 c for rolling
1/4 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
3/4 c dried cranberries
2 eggs
1/4 c vegetable oil

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, 1/2 c sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the orange zest and whisk to combine. Add the cranberries and using a rubber spatula, toss to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil. Stir in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until evenly moistened.
3. Fill a small bowl with cold water and place 1/3 c sugar in a 8 or 9 inch cake pan. Dip your hands into the water and roll about 2 T of cookie dough into a rough ball. Drop the ball into the cake pan with the sugar and toss to coat. Place the formed, sugar-coated cookie on the prepared pan, leaving 1 1/2 inches between balls. If your hands become sticky, dip them into the water and shake away the excess. I didn't find the water necessary. This should give you 12 cookies.
4. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet until slightly set, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack. Cool 15 minutes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Taco Shells from Corn Tortillas

Happy Cinco de Mayo. I'm actually timely. I totally planned that and it is not a weird coincidence. I've found a few ways to make taco shells. The first way is to deep fry a corn tortilla in oil. (not pictured) Make sure to fold it into shape while it's still frying. Delicious? Yes. Likely to make me fit into shorts? Not so much.
The second way to to make tacos it to heat a nonstick pan (I'm guessing other pans would work) over medium high heat. Add a small amount of oil (I'd guess 1-1 1/2 tsp). Add the corn tortilla to the pan. Spin the tortilla in the pan to distribute the oil on the tortilla. Immediately flip and then spin the tortilla again to get the oil on the other side. Fry on one side. Flip and fry on the other side. Fold immediately when you take the tortilla out of the pan to make taco shell. If it cools at all it won't fold, it will just break. By the way, that's yogurt in the picture and not sour cream. That would be a lot of sour cream for just one taco.
The last way of making taco shells is to toast a corn tortilla directly on a gas burner. Be sure to keep the gas flame smaller then the circumference of the tortilla. When it begins to get some color, flip and toast the other side. (I actually flip the tortilla a few times.) When you are done toasting and flipping, take the tortilla off the heat and fold.