A Little Bit of Chicken Fried at the World Food Championships

 

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It was 2008 when the Zac Brown Band came out with their hit “Chicken Fried”. The song was an instant Will Keys favorite with its uplifting country beat and lyrics of love for family, friends and the USA. I can still see him turn up the volume, hear him sing it out loud and flash that big smile of his. That song made him happy and inspired one of my best recipes, yet. Once again I am reminded that this blog is all about a celebration of his life, love and the healing power of food.

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Filled with self-doubt, but encouraged by my husband & daughter (#1 recipe tester…she has incredible taste buds) and supported by Team Saucy Mama, I ventured to the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama along with my long-time best friend and sous chef, Lynn Beamer. Never in a million did I think my signature dish, a little bit of chicken fried, would score a 99.625 out of a possible 100 points. It was the high score of the Recipe category and in spite of a few technical difficulties launched me into second place after three recipes and two rounds of cooking. Hats off to Team Canada who beat me by 1.2 points.

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WHOOSH ❤ Don’t you know that when I was accepting my Top 10 medal that Zac Brown Band song came blaring over the loud speaker. A Little Bit of Chicken Fried and a bear hug from above. Just like that William is up on that stage with me. It’s the most uncanny thing. I just believe and all the doubt washes away.  I will keep cooking because it keeps him close. Like the song says, “Feel the touch of a precious child And know a mother’s love”. He somehow never misses a beat when it comes to cheering me on.

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

And now for the best fried chicken sandwich you will ever eat. Asian inspired and served on a steam bun, it’s all about the crispy well seasoned coating and the juicy flavorful chicken inside. I suggest using boneless chicken thighs, but you can substitute boneless breast, if you must. Top it with the most magical black garlic hoisin, spicy slaw and a crisp sweet potato pickle and call it a winner. Oh, goodness-there is bacon in the mix as well.

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Asian Fried Chicken Steam Bun with Spicy Gingered Slaw & Sweet Potato Pickle

2 cups tempura mix

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

2 tablespoons Saucy Mama Sweet Heat Marinade

6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless

Lane’s BBQ Brisket Rub seasoning

peanut oil for frying

6 plain Asian steam buns

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup Jelly Queens Black Garlic Rosemary Sauce

toasted sesame seeds

Gingered Slaw (recipe follows)

6 slices cooked crisp bacon

Sweet Potato Pickle (recipe follows)

fresh cilantro

Whisk tempura mix and salt on a plate. Whisk buttermilk, egg and marinade in a bowl. Season chicken thighs with brisket rub. Dredge chicken in dry tempura mix then drop in buttermilk mixture to coat. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of buttermilk mixture into remaining dry tempura mix and stir with a fork forming small clumps. Dredge chicken again in tempura mixture pressing so clumps adhere. Heat oil to 375F. in large skillet. Fry chicken until a deep golden brown on all sides and cooked to an internal temperature of 165F. on an instant read thermometer. Cook buns in steamer basket until soft and heated through, about 5 to 8 minutes. Open buns and spread inside with hoisin sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Top with gingered slaw, bacon, chicken, sweet potato pickle and cilantro. Close with wooden skewer.

Spicy Gingered Slaw

½ cup mayo

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Saucy Mama Spicy Garlic Wing Sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for garnish

½ tablespoon packed grated fresh ginger

1 bag Mann’s broccoli slaw mix

½ teaspoon kosher salt

few grinds fresh black pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients; toss with broccoli slaw. Season with S&P

 

Sweet Potato Pickle

1 small red onion, sliced

1-cup Mann’s Sweet Potato Ribbons

1 star anise

5 peppercorns

½ cup water

½ cup white vinegar

1/3-cup sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place vegetables in heat proof bowl. Add star anise and peppercorns. In small saucepan, bring remaining ingredients to a boil, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Pour hot mixture over vegetables; let stand until ready to use. Drain. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

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Big shout out to my Team Saucy Mama. You ladies are my family and I love you to the moon and back. So blessed to have your support and encouragement. I also need to thank the Mann’s Company for their recipe contest that qualified me to get back to the WFC and for their amazing fresh cut vegetables that saved me so much time in the kitchen arena. I made it to the judges table with 1 second to spare in round one. WHEW!

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hugging the winningest sous chef of 2017

 Further thanks to Springer Mountain Farms and The Jelly Queens for sponsoring the Recipe category this year at the World Food Championships. Amazing products created with love and great care here in the USA make the best food.

Cooking Contest Central

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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/

 

Scallops, Shrimp, Calamari, Oh My!

Scallops with fennel-apple salad

scallops with fennel-apple slaw

No words of wisdom today. Just recipes from my 7 fishes Christmas Eve feast as requested by a few readers. Since there were so many courses I did small plates, so I recommend 3 scallops per person for the first dish.

Hint: only buy wild-caught “dry” sea scallops. DO NOT buy scallops sitting in a preservative. Ask your fish monger if you are not sure. The difference in taste is incredible. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season them (both sides) with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Swirl a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil (I have been using avocado oil lately as it has a high smoke point, but vegetable oil will do) in a skillet (I like cast iron) over medium-high heat. Sear your scallops about 2 minutes per side or until just opaque. Serve with the slaw which I found on Epicurious.com. I did swap out apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar only because I wanted the slaw to be a little sweeter. And to get really thin slices of vegetables use a mandolin if you have one. Mound some slaw in the center of the plate and place the scallops around the slaw. Your taste buds are going to be so happy. You are welcome.

Fennel-Apple-Celery Slaw

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala, or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds, and apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shrimp & Stuffed Calamari Fra Diavolo (sauce is adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

prepare the stuffed calamari first (see recipe below)

1 1/2 pounds (26 to 30 count) shell on shrimp, peeled and deveined, reserve shells

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry white wine (I like Bogle Chardonnay)

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (just depends how spicy you like it)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 anchovy fillets

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Toss shrimp with salt; set aside. Pour tomatoes in a fine mesh colander set over a bowl to drain for about 5 minutes. Transfer drained tomatoes to a bowl and reserve the juice. Do not rinse colander. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add reserved shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 4 minutes or until skillet starts to turn brown. Carefully, add wine and simmer 2-4 minutes or until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Add reserved tomato juice to skillet; simmer for 5 minutes. Pour contents of skillet into colander set over a bowl. Discard shrimp shells; reserve liquid. Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano, stirring for 1 minute. Add anchovies, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes and reserved tomato juice mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add stuffed calamari, cover and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, turning once, or until tender. During last 5 minutes of cooking time add shrimp. Stir in basil and parsley. Serve over pasta or with a nice piece of crusty bread. Fry up some tentacles as a garnish to really gild the lily. Serves 6.

shrimp & calamari fra diavolo

shrimp & calamari fra diavolo

Stuffed Calamari

6 tablespoons butter

2 cloves, minced garlic

1/4 cup squid tentacles, minced

1/4 cup chopped clams

juice of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

6 squid bodies

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, tentacles and clams; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Scrape contents of skillet into a medium bowl. Add lemon juice and panko; mix well. Fill the squid bodies with stuffing (use your hands); secure ends with wooden toothpicks. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add stuffed squid and brown on both sides–just a minute or two per side.

P.S. I know you all are wondering about that framed Christmas card–it was made by my very talented friend Betsy.