Cooking Contest Central

bobby dean

One of my favorite recipe contest moments. Bobby Dean sneaks in a hug at the Beringer Great Steak Cook-Off

Lots of people ask me about how to get involved in recipe contests. I always recommend my favorite go-to web site for recipe contest information. It’s Cooking Contest Central or better known as CCC. Some may balk at the yearly $25.00 subscription rate, but truthfully my time is much more valuable. Instead of searching the web for contests or visiting other sites that may be free I prefer this easy to use up to date source. It has all the information I need including contest news, rules and regulations plus a forum to chat with other like-minded cooking enthusiasts. Not only that, but CCC often runs exclusive recipe contests for its members. A real bonus because who doesn’t want to win $500.00 on occasion. The contests are judged by real food experts and don’t involve the dreaded voting. I recently won a contest sponsored on the site by Mann’s. The contest required I use their broccoli slaw and I think I stood out in the field because I used it in two ways. I hope you like the recipe as much as the judges did.img_3524

Stir-Fry Shitake & Broccoli Slaw Burgers

For the slaw

1 (12 oz.) bag Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw, divided

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1-tablespoon olive oil

1 (4 oz) package stemmed and sliced fresh shitake mushrooms

¼ cup sliced scallions

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

For the burger

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 ½ cups Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw (reserved from slaw recipe)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 pound (80% lean 20% fat) ground beef

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup sliced scallions

4 brioche buns, toasted

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

4 crisp lettuce leaves

Reserve 1½ cups of broccoli slaw for burgers. Pour remaining slaw into a large bowl; toss with salt. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms have released their liquid and are just golden brown. Add mushrooms and scallions to slaw mix in bowl. In small bowl, whisk soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, honey, fresh ginger and sesame oil until blended. Pour dressing over slaw mixture; toss well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss again. Set aside while preparing burgers. In same skillet used to cook mushrooms, heat 1-teaspoon olive oil. Add reserved 1 ½ cups slaw and cook stirring 5 minutes or until softened. Add mirin, stirring, just until liquid evaporates. Cool slightly. In large bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, scallions and cooled slaw mix; blend well. Shape into 4 patties about ¾-inch thick. Grill, broil or pan-fry burgers 4 to 5 minutes per side or until fully cooked. Layer bottom half of toasted rolls with hoisin sauce, lettuce and a burger. Top with a generous amount of shitake slaw. Cover with bun tops and serve.

You can also check out the CCC Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/CookingContestCentral/

 

Summer View: Will’s Bench &Grilling Tips

Grilled Steak

juicy grilled steak

Will’s Bench at Lake Elise in Middlebury, CT  is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. Peaceful and filled with wildlife, the area is perfect for bird watching or fishing for large mouth bass. Dogs sniff the banks and often dive in for a cool swim. I especially love sitting on the bench on a summer morning having coffee with old friends. The kind of friends that are tried and true, have been around through thick and thin and after all these years are still willing to sit in silence and shed a few a tears or laughs recalling the antics of our kids. The morning mist rises off the clear water flecked with lily pads as the warmth of the sun breaks through.

BFF's Bev & Carol

BFF’s Bev & Carol

Friends like Bev and Carol are priceless. Every griever needs at least one Bev or one Carol in their life, but preferably both. They are the kind of selfless people who know how to step outside themselves for the good of another. It comes natural to them. Their simple presence creates a safe and comforting atmosphere that invites the sharing of feelings and healing. So much healing has taken place on this now weathered wooden bench on the edge of a lake–even on the day that bird pooped on my hand.

summer view from the bench

summer view from the bench

Another summer view

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IMG_0211Let me know if you ever get to Lake Elise, but until then let’s get grilling. We all love a good steak, so it being summer let’s share a few grilling tips plus a delicious recipe that also includes grilled watermelon. That’s right-grilled watermelon.

  1. Take the chill off your steak by removing it from the fridge 30 minutes before grill time. It will cook more evenly.
  2. Pat the steak dry with paper towels to avoid steaming the meat.
  3. Crank your grill up to HIGH. Lightly grease the grate.
  4. For gorgeous grill marks and delicious caramelized flavor follow the 10-2 rule of grilling (see recipe for explanation).
  5. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Grilled Steakhouse Rib-Eye & Watermelon Wedge

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup blue cheese dressing

4 (1-inch thick) ribeye steaks

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small, seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into thick wedges

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

2 green onions, thinly sliced on bias

8 fresh mint or basil leaves, thinly sliced plus additional sprigs for garnish

Heat grill to high. In small saucepan, over high heat, combine, wine, honey and Worcestershire sauce. Bring sauce mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency; set aside. Season steaks on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steaks on hot, lightly greased grill rack pointing one edge towards 10:00. Grill 2 to 3 minutes creating well-browned grill marks. Rotate steak so that same edge now points toward 2:00. Grill 2 minutes. Now repeat process on other side of steak. Reduce heat to medium. Grill steaks, 3 to 4 minutes more or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steaks to plate; cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season watermelon with salt and pepper; place on lightly greased grill rack for 2 minutes per side or until charred grill marks begin to form. Arrange steaks and watermelon on serving plates. Drizzle dressing over watermelon. Drizzle wine sauce over steaks. Sprinkle with green onions, herbs and blue cheese. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs.

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule

Happy Food Memories & A Give Away

IMG_2632It is incredible when a simple scent or taste of something evokes a childhood memory. The moment is warm and wonderful and happy. Hopefully, the moment is also delicious as was the case for me when I made some Asian baby back ribs using Butcher Block’s Rib Sauce. Before we dip into the sauce let me give you a bit of history.

me and the kids making some food memories

me and the kids making some food memories

Growing up in a traditional Italian home my mom cooked nearly every night for all 7 of us. Having only raised two, I honestly can’t imagine how much work it was for her to cook for 5 children, 4 of them being very hungry boys. I am not certain she really liked to cook, so when she got a Friday or Saturday night off it was a total treat for her. And when Mama’s happy everybody is happy! Dining out in our household meant one of two things: Chrone’s for pizza or Chu Dynasty for Chinese.

Asian style ribs

Asian style ribs

My dad adored Asian food and I am certain my love for the same came from him. It certainly wasn’t any kind of food that was ever prepared in my mom’s kitchen, so going to Chu Dynasty on route 22 was always pure delight. Dad always ordered “family style” from column A and column B. Everything from wonton soup to lobster cantonese and always, always, always spareribs (or as we joked “spare-libs”). Those were his favorites. The ribs, as I recall, were always meaty, juicy and falling off the bone….and an odd shade of red. How did they make them?

simply natural and delicious

simply natural and delicious

Time to dip into the sauce. Many years ago I became familiar with the Butcher Block brand when I tried their teriyaki sauce. It is better than homemade with simple ingredients like sugar, soy sauce, water, fresh garlic and fresh ginger. It is delicious and convenient and has been the secret ingredient in a number of my recipe contests wins. Check out the Harley Davidson motorcycle I won using the sauce in a salad dressing. Trust me it is the sauce that is the winner.

me and my cherry apple red Harley

me and my cherry apple red Harley

So when Diane over at Butcher Block headquarters in Boston asked me to try their rib sauce and blog about it I was all in. I had never seen the rib sauce before and was curious. When I opened it up and caught a whiff I knew I had seen that shade of red before. It had Chinese BBQ spareribs written all over it. In fact, it is the original as noted on the jar and one bite of my simply prepared ribs brought me right back to those family dinners at Chu Dynasty. I would have loved to have been able to make these for my dad.rib sauce

It only takes 4 simple ingredients.

Asian BBQ Ribs

Asian BBQ Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

–as many slabs as you need (no trimming necessary)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Butcher Block Rib Sauce

Heat oven to 500F. Fill a roasting pan (I used my oven broiler pan) with 1/2-inch of water. Place a rack on the pan. Season ribs generously with salt and pepper; place on rack. Cover the ribs with heavy duty foil, forming a tent so the foil isn’t touching the ribs and seal the foil tightly around the edge of the pan. Place in hot oven for 1 hour. Cool in tented foil for 1 hour. Remove from pan, wrap in foil and chill until ready to grill. Grill ribs, over medium heat, turning and basting with rib sauce, until hot and glazed. Be careful as the meat will be falling off the bone….YUM!

Asian candied bacon

Asian candied bacon

Just for fun I also used the rib sauce to candy some bacon. All I did was dice 6 slices of bacon, cooked it until it was crisp (draining the grease as needed) and then added 1 tablespoon of rib sauce to the pan, stirring until the bacon was glazed. It was a big hit on top of these sliders which I also glazed with the rib sauce.

Asian Pork Sliders with Candied Bacon

Asian Pork Sliders with Candied Bacon

I hope I have inspired you today to make some food memories with your family and maybe even a recipe contest winner. If you would like to try any of the Butcher Block products you can order them on-line at http://www.butcherblocksauces.com or you can give them a call at 1-617-269-1105. I imagine if you are lucky enough to live in the Boston area you can pick them up in your local grocery store. And if you are feeling lucky then please leave a comment so I can enter you into today’s give away sponsored by Butcher Block. What fun it would be to win a prize pack of these delicious sauces. Good luck.