by Linda Marrone
A couple of weeks ago, Ralph and I were judges for a culinary competition at Carson High School. It's an annual competition put on by the National Restaurant Association.
In my opinion, all the kids who competed in the Pro Start culinary competition were winners. In this day and age of fast food and busy lifestyles, anyone who can put a gourmet meal together in an hour is truly a winner.
All the kids were amazing. They had to come up with their own menus and original recipes then make a list with all the ingredients and everything else they needed to prepare the meal on two Bunsen burners.
If it wasn't on the list, it wasn't at their work station.
They had to prepare an appetizer or salad, an entree with a starch and vegetable, and a dessert in one hour from start to finish. During this time, people from the community walked around, judging them on sanitation, cooking procedures and degree of difficulty. The judges also asked questions about what they were cooking and their technique. I know that it would have been a hard task for me to cook in front of all those people with Charlie Abowd from Adele's asking me what I was doing.
The kids were doing all this on a not-very-big table with an audience. After they completed cooking the meal, it was plated. One plate was put on a table for everyone to see the finished product, and another was taken back in the kitchen for the next round of judges to taste and critique.
I thought that being a judge was going to be easier. It was a grueling competition, and some four hours later, we were finished. It was exciting to watch the kids put skills that they have learned in Penny Reynolds' culinary classes into action.
The top two finishers will go to Las Vegas to compete in a similar regional contest.
I was amazed at what these kids could do. There were first-year students and others who have been in the program and will be graduating this year.
Reynolds does a remarkable job with the kids, and it seems like they all have an enthusiasm that is contagious.
We should all be so lucky to catch that bug. I'm hoping I'll be asked to judge next year's competition.
One of the teams to win this year was Team 6 with Enrich Cid, Megan Kronenberg and Harry Deuer. They have all been in the program for three years. They won with an Orange Glazed Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Orange Rice; a Corn, Jicama, Pear and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Sauce; and a wonderful Vanilla Sauterne Poached Pear.
I will share those recipes with you in my next couple of columns because it would make a great Valentine's dinner or any other special evening.
With the Super Bowl coming up, I thought I would share with you a couple of other recipes from the competition that I really enjoyed and that you might like to fix if you are planning on having a party or maybe want to take an appetizer if you are going to one. I'm sorry that I didn't get the names of the students whose recipes these were, but with 13 teams competing, there was some confusion. The first recipe is from Team 10.
1 zucchini, grated
2 T. olive oil
2Ú3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 T. flour
1 tsp. salt
1Ú2 tsp. pepper
1Ú2 cup sour cream
1Ú4 tsp. lemon juice
1 T. diced tomatoes
2 T. diced red and yellow peppers
Dash of Tabasco
Shake of pepper
Squeeze the zucchini to remove any excess liquid, then combine with the cheese, egg, flour, salt and pepper. Heat enough oil to cover bottom of frying pan and add 2 tablespoons of the mixture for each fritter. Cook for two to three minutes on each side or until golden; drain on paper towels and keep warm while you cook rest of fritters.
For the sauce, finely chop the vegetables. Mix the sour cream, lemon juice, Tabasco and pepper; add the vegetables and mix until combined. Serve the fritters with the sauce and garnish with grated zucchini.
There were no yields on this recipe, but depending on the size of your zucchini, it probably makes 4-6 fritters. You could easily double this recipe.
The next recipe comes from Team 14.
SPINACH-AND-MUSHROOM STUFFED WONTONS
2 T. butter
1 red onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups sliced mushrooms
7 ounces baby spinach
Pinch of nutmeg
4 T. heavy cream
12-14 wonton (wrappers, I'm assuming)
Melt butter in skillet. Add onion and garlic. Saute over low heat, stirring for 3-4 minutes or until onion is softened. Add mushrooms, spinach and nutmeg. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Stir in heavy cream, mixing thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Stuff wontons with mixture and fry in oil until crisp. Sprinkle with poppy seeds when out of pan.
Note: They didn't say if they folded the wontons over and sealed them, or if they used two to make a square. Use your best judgment.
More recipes from the competition coming in my next column.
Linda Marrone has lived in Carson City since 1973, and with her husband, Ralph, formerly operated Marrone's Restaurant in Carson City and Somethin's Cookin' Catering.