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If ever there was a cookbook on a particular food from a certain region, most people would associate competition-worthy barbecue from a Southern chef. Chef and caterer Jenn de la Vega is out to change your mind about that. Known on the competition circuit and for her blog, Randwiches, Jenn creates uniquely flavorful and approachable barbecue that belongs at any Smorgasburg.
Make eccentric, yet mouth-watering barbecue with or without a smoker, including the specialty side dishes, sauces and pickles that go along with them. This competition cook goes one step further to provide recipes for what to do with the leftovers, too. This book has 100 recipes and 60 photos.
|Publisher:||Page Street Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||7.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Jenn de la Vega is a private chef and caterer, as well as the founder of Randwiches, a curated food blog. Jenn has participated in many Brooklyn-based food competitions, including the 2014 Brooklyn Chili Takedown and won The 2013 Brooklyn Bacon Takedown and 2012 Project Parlor Summer BBQ Competition. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Read an Excerpt
- Showdown - Comfort Food, Chili & BBQ
Bold Flavors from Wild Cooking Contests
By Jenn de la Vega
Page Street Publishing Co.Copyright © 2017 Jenn de la Vega
All rights reserved.
Before we get started, this isn't an ordinary cookbook of winning recipes. In fact, many of them were losers. Therein lies the beauty of innovation! I've taken everything I learned and transformed them into winners. In this chapter, I will expound upon a particular frame of mind, tools and supplies that have helped me throughout my culinary journey.
INTERVIEW WITH MATT TIMMS
"There is something about people wanting to watch competition," says Matt Timms, founder of the Takedowns.
Matt was a self-described dilettante, hosting events in Brooklyn while trying to act, make films and create art. A constant was that he always wanted to have friends over at his house and "be the center of attention."
"I love chili; used to make it all the time," he explained. He redeemed cigarette tabs for a copy of Marlboro Chili Roundup Flavor It Up: 50 Winning Recipes One Burning Question — which Matt eventually cooked in its entirety. The appeal of chili is its abundance: when you were low on cash, it could last you a week.
Matt loved chili so much, he joined the International Chili Society (ICS) to judge competitions. He took issue with the strict adjudication and started throwing minicompetitions at home. Later, Matt brought the chili cook-off idea to a trivia night at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn.
"I wanted chili to be 'anything goes,'" he declared. No measuring the cube size of the meat or banning beans. At the Takedowns, Matt focused on amateur cooks for their enthusiasm and range, which reminded him of the camaraderie of the parties he threw. It was about showcasing these cooks in an unpretentious way.
With no-holds-barred, the only element Matt insisted he control was the metal music playing while the audience sampled every chili creation. When the Takedowns expanded to other dishes like mac 'n cheese, salsa and bacon, Matt quit his temp job to run these contests full time around the country.
In fourteen years, Matt has seen six people get married and has hosted events in San Francisco, Austin and Minneapolis. He sums up that the competitors "give such a sh*t," in their cooking and bring heart and soul to the table.
WHAT IS COMPETITION?
I am so unreasonably motivated when people think I can't do something. Even more so when I'm told a food idea doesn't fit into a traditional paradigm of cuisine.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines competition in three common ways:
1. The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.
2. An event or contest in which people take part in order to establish superiority or supremacy in a particular area.
3. The person or people over whom one is attempting to establish one's supremacy or superiority; the opposition.
The act, event and competitors are all a part of this. Early on in my cooking career, I took losses harder because I was acting alone and had not yet connected with my rivals. Later on when we became friends, we consoled, we commiserated, we lost together. The competitive experience soon became cooperative. Camaraderie is what keeps me coming back, to see what my friends are doing and to catch up.
I'm competitive because I believe in the possibility that I can win. Sure, I could lose, but I think the idea of winning far outweighs the fear of defeat. When I do lose, I am inconsolable for a short period of time. I already know what went wrong and am already calculating in my head how I will do it better next time.
Another definition of competition is the ecological battle for natural resources, like water, food and space. At the root of it all is survival. Many people compete in formal contests or in everyday life to gain an advantage, be it monetary or social. I will admit, I've been lured by the glory of winning. Having my photo on the Internet with a giant trophy feels pretty good. Prizes like free knives, pans and a year's supply of bacon are great, but the outcome was far more impactful on my life's path. For me, the knowledge of how to be successful was an advantage. The repetition of entering and preparing for these culinary bouts gives me structure. I didn't know what I wanted out of a food career when I started to compete in the Takedowns and other local cook-offs. Losing drove me to hone my skills and refine my recipes.
Winning has its own challenges. What exactly does one do with a year's supply of bacon? How can you top your last winning dish?
You don't have to enter cook-offs to innovate and experience the rush of excitement. Ultimately, I think a little contest between friends is healthy. What new foods are we going to experience? How will our experiments move our ideas of food forward?
Late one night in my Greenpoint apartment, Matt Kiser said to me, "You know, you could do this."
I was puzzled. "Do what?"
"This grilled-cheese thing! It could be a zine, a food cart and ..." he went on. I zoned out on the rest of it because up until that point I never considered an actual cooking career. We were cleaning up the empty beer bottles and plates from my latest grilled-cheese night. I was working at a small music promotion company and moonlighting as a TV researcher. My Sunday night grilled-cheese parties were a relief from the New York hustle, a time for my friends from both worlds to get together and veg out. I hated serving and eating the same sandwich twice. Every Sunday for two years, I cranked out odd and interesting interpretations of grilled cheese.
Some of my creations were queso de mano and pico de gallo toasts, Wenslydale and cranberry, as well as truffled robiola and chive. As time went on, I needed to learn about more cheeses. I applied to be a cave intern at Murray's Cheese Shop and began reading The Cheese Primer by Steve Jenkins. Matt's comment was a push in the right direction, and I quit my office jobs later that year.
After I finished reading about cheese, I had my nose stuck in The Escoffier Cookbook: A Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery for two years to keep my mind harnessed to cooking techniques. Along the way I started blogging. It came naturally to chronicle my food adventures in this manner ever since Mr. Hill assigned "the sandwich project" in seventh grade. We were tasked to write out explicit instructions on how to make a sandwich, from which face to apply the mayo, to its physical assemblage. If you succeeded, Mr. Hill would have to eat the sandwich, if not, you had to eat it. Many of my cohorts failed and attempted to spike their recipes with "gross" combinations like anchovy and peanut butter (strangely enough, together in a winning recipe, Whose Bacon? Nacho Bacon!. To be safe, I went for a simple ham sandwich with mayo, lettuce and tomato. I even made him smooth out the air pocket in the plastic baggie so that the sandwich would last until lunch hour. Little did he know how significant this skill became for me.
I scoured Craigslist for cooking jobs. I lacked enough experience on paper or was too afraid to apply. There was just one listing that didn't request a resume or photo. (Ew.) It simply asked, "Please send us a paragraph on why you'd like to work at a wine bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn." Cracking my knuckles, I quickly responded with my lack of experience but need for structure to support all of my reading at home and cheese internship.
Honestly, I was shocked I got a response.
Walking in to Tini Wine Bar was a dream. The walls matched the dress I was wearing. I brought a wheel of Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco, not knowing that Monica Byrne and Leisah Swenson were from San Francisco. I trailed Monica in the kitchen for two weeks before she left me alone for dinner service.
I stayed with my "Moms" for a couple years as they expanded the restaurant, renamed it Home/Made and moved it down the street. We catered weddings with me in the kitchen, Monica arranging the flowers and Leisah orchestrating the layout. I remember overhearing one catering consult, "Oh! Jenn's Filipino; she can make lumpia." I poked my head out and stared as if beaming the message, "What?! No I can't ..." We did our research and pulled off a Filipino wedding menu for 150 people. Even the father of the bride visited me in the kitchen to thank me. It was one of those moments that made all the panic worth it.
I like to challenge myself. Even now, working in an office enviornment at Flipboard, I revel in cooking limitations. Can I make a gourmet lunch for myself with just a microwave? I'm not competing with anyone but myself in these situations. Personal challenges jumpstart my brain, help me keep my skills in check and push me to learn something new.
ABOUT THE RECIPES
We don't talk about failure enough. All of the advice in this book is lessons I've learned from attempting to fry grit cakes on-site at an outdoor venue with no running water or transporting gallons of chili in a New York City cab. The portions were originally made for large crowds and for competition. I've scaled them down for your convenience and to enjoy at home.
You will also find the extremes of meat heaven and restrictive veganism. For a couple of years, I would deliver random sandwiches to hungry worker bees all over New York City. My Randwiches project had no menu and was a creative exercise in catering to a variety of diets, palates and allergies. I got to explore my city and meet many lovely people who love sandwiches. Some of my best ideas are in this collection.
Before you get started, here is some advice for how to use this book.
1. Read the recipes all the way through before shopping or beginning to cook.
2. Vegetables are to be washed in cold water before cutting. Herbs are unbundled and soaked in at least two changes of water to remove sand or grit. Mushrooms should be cleaned with a dry brush or paper towel.
3. Assume that I'm using kosher salt, unless otherwise noted.
4. Dry beans are to be soaked and drained. That liquid is not accounted for in the final recipe.
5. Mincing is chopping finely with a knife. Grating is with a cheese grater. Microplaning is super fine grating.
6. Sautéing and browning assume that you are stirring the food every couple of minutes to prevent sticking, unless otherwise noted.
7. Whisking requires quick incorporation. Folding is more delicate; you must run a spatula around the edges of a mix and then lift from underneath.
8. Anything to do with pickles requires sanitized jars. Steam glass jars and metal lids for two minutes or dip them in a hot water bath before using.
9. Roux is a French paste for thickening sauces. In the case that you do not have flour or butter, a mix of 1:2 cornstarch and cold water will also work.
10. My food processor holds five cups (1.2 L). Consider that if you have a smaller one! You will need to blend multiple batches.
I develop recipes as a remix of something that I know already. Always start with the ingredients and all of the different ways you can prepare them. Once you know the methods, compare all of the flavors that could go with it as well as benefit from the same type of cooking. Explore the overlaps.
What I want to teach you is that you don't just make a recipe and then be done with it. Use what you've learned to apply it and combine with other dishes.CHAPTER 2
Bring it to a Boil
My roommate Steven Valentino encouraged me to enter an amateur cook-off called the Chili Takedown in 2007. It was hosted by Matt Timms at the now closed Mo Pitkins in the Lower East Side. There were no prerequisites except a fifteen dollar entry fee. I puffed up my chest and was confident my mole chili was going to knock everyone's socks off.
I vividly remember panicking that my stockpot didn't have a lid while calling a car service to drive me and my friend Yan Yan from Greenpoint. Fifteen cocktail tables were arranged in a half circle with foil trays and Sterno cans. We observed the scene as other teams unpacked their streaming concoctions. There was Ida, who always had Star Trek–themed dishes, and Tony Santoro, who I later learned worked on lighting for Sesame Street. When the doors opened, a horde entered, grabbing our small plastic cups of chili samples. I was getting nervous because my Sternos were not hot enough to reduce my very thin looking chili. After the event ended, Yan consoled me as I stirred the leftovers sadly. Everyone else's trays were empty. Matt Timms knew it was my first time, and he encouraged me to try again.
I totally did.
My first chili was very thin. Doubling a known recipe does not always mean doubling the volume and flavor.
Consider your containers when transporting liquids. Make sure they have lids! If they are hot, you'll need insulation, like dish towels, and the right tools to serve.
The sting of losing my first contest was even stronger when I realized how much money I spent on ingredients. Budget and track expenses. Even if you win a cash prize, it may not feel like it if you spent too much on fancy ingredients.
HOLY MOLE! STEAK CHILI
MAKES: 4 servings
TOTAL TIME: 5 hours, 30 minutes
I'm really not sure where I got the confidence to enter a chili cook-off. I'd never even made a chili from scratch. Most had been glammed up from a can. In my head it wasn't impossible, and that was an excellent (maybe dangerous) place to start.
What would win? It was a great question, but perhaps I had not done enough research to know the right answers. At the time, steak was the answer. Who doesn't love a steak? Well, in chili situations, I learned the hard way that steak should be cooked quickly or forever. Here is an adjusted recipe for my very first competition chili. The marinated steak is an umami bomb on top of hearty, tomato-y chili.
1 lb (0.5 kg) skirt steak
1 tbsp (15 ml) soy sauce
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 cloves garlic, grated and divided
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, divided
¼ cup (40 g) fresh cilantro
2 tbsp (22 g) sesame seeds
1 medium onion, diced
1 (14-oz [415-ml]) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can, chopped
1 quart (950 ml) beef broth
1 tbsp (10 g) corn meal
1 tbsp (7 g) cocoa powder
1 (16-oz [475-ml]) can cooked pinto beans
1 tsp (5 g) salt, plus more
½ cup (120 ml) sour cream
Marinate the steak in the soy sauce, lemon juice and zest, and half of the garlic and half of the olive oil for at least 4 hours or up to 24 in the refrigerator. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
After washing the cilantro, cut off the dirty root ends and discard any discolored leaves. Chop the stems like they are chives and keep the leaves whole. Set aside.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pot on medium heat for 2 minutes. Once they release their oils and become a light brown color, add the onion with the other tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Once they are browned, add the tomato, the rest of the garlic, jalapeño and chipotles. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. When the tomatoes have reached a dark red hue, stir in the beef broth. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Add the cornmeal and cocoa powder.
Rinse the pinto beans in cold water and drain, make sure none of the slimy can liquid sticks to them. Fold the beans into the chili with a teaspoon (5 g) of salt, place a cover on the pot and reduce the heat to low. If the mix is still bubbling, move the pot halfway off the heat.
Prepare a grill pan or cast iron skillet on high heat for 10 minutes. Cook the skirt steak on each side for 4 minutes or until a thermometer reads 145°F (63°C) for medium doneness. When I flip steaks, I like to pour in the marinade for extra drama. Once done, let the steak rest on a cool plate or pan with high sides. You don't want to lose all of that precious juice.
When the chili is ready to go, taste it and salt as desired. Stir in the cilantro stems before serving. Garnish each bowl with sliced steak, cilantro leaves and a dollop of sour cream. Congratulate yourself, because this is just the beginning of your chili adventure.
Excerpted from - Showdown - Comfort Food, Chili & BBQ by Jenn de la Vega. Copyright © 2017 Jenn de la Vega. Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
An Interview with Matt Timms 11
What is Competition? 11
Personal Challenges 12
About the Recipes 13
Bring it To a Boil 17
Holy Mole! Steak Chili 18
Geri Halliwell, You Know, Ginger Spice! Chili 20
Cocoa Coriander Chili 22
Dirty South Biscuits 'n Gravy 25
Dirty South Pot Pie 26
Advieh Bolognese 28
The Smokemonster* 29
Leftover Chili Casserole 31
Lazy French Onion Soup 32
Black Bean Soup 34
Hot Ham Water Dashi 35
Hot Ham Water Ramen 36
Tonkotsu Broth 37
Nanay's Arroz Caldo* 39
Roll With It 41
Fuzzy Five-Spice Meatballs 42
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Pasta 45
Black Bean and Pepita Balls 47
Cherry Chocolate Meatballs 48
Gimme Kibbeh 51
20K Meatballs Under the Sea 52
Meatballin' Tribute 54
Chinese Sausage 55
Spicy Longaniza Champorado 59
Winner, Winner, Bacon Dinner 61
How to Cook Bacon 62
Bacon Vinaigrette 63
Fatty Fat Tortillas 64
Bacon Chili Oil 67
Whose Bacon? Nacho Bacon!* 68
Shumai, Oh My 71
Crispy Bacon Jianbing 72
Make Your Own Damn Bacon 75
Bacon Tartine 76
Peanut Curry Mazemen 78
Homemade Tasso 79
Light It Up 81
Smoking Vegetables and Fruits 82
Came Asada* 83
Pulled Chicken Mole* 84
Chicken Mole Torta* 87
Grilled Flakey Flatbread* 88
Roasted Stuffed Poblano Flatbread* 91
Poblano Fried Rice 92
Brooklyn Bulgogi* 93
Korean Sub* 95
Crunchy Elote 96
Korean Dip 98
Miso Curry Onigiri 99
"I Like It Shallot" Burger 100
Baa-daass Burger 102
Black Bean Burgers* 105
Adobo Wangs* 106
Buttermilk Chicken Skewers 109
Whole Lemongrass Chicken* 110
Grilled Stone Fruit 113
Crowd Control 115
Cinnamon Black Beans* 117
Herb Slaw* 118
Potato Salad with Wasabi Sesame Seeds* 120
Bitters Melon Salad 121
Chopped Chickpea Sandwich 123
Spiced Ham Butter 127
Wild Mushrooms 128
Mushroom Hoagie 129
Hen of the Woods Bouquets 130
Wonton Fruit Cup 133
Lumpia Chips* 134
Miso Gritty 135
Lob Gnarleys* 136
Devilish Old Bae 139
Wham Bam Thank You Lamb!* 140
Grand Finale Finishers 143
Advieh Spice Mix 144
Chicken Dust 144
Miso Pesto 145
Ancho Achuete Oil 145
Whole Grain Mustard 146
Pickled Chive Buds* 147
Mustard Crème 149
Kimchi Apples* 151
Whipped Ssamjang* 152
Savory Yogurt* 152
Meyer Lemon Mayo 153
Toasted Sesame LMAO' 153
Romantic Romesco 154
Black Bean Spread 154
Miso Dressing 155
Nuoc Mam Cham* 155
Dandelion Pesto 156
Tomato Salt 158
Sweet & Savory Surrenders 161
Chocolate Bark 162
(Not Sorry) Berry Shortcakes 165
Thiiiick Apple Pancakes 166
My Favorite Cheeses 168
Vegan Whipped Cheese 169
Mozzarella Purses 172
Grown-Up Handi-Snacks 173
Shropshire Blue Queso Fundido 174
Chèvre Brûlée 177
Pantry Items 178
Tools and Travel Kit 180
Staying Organized 182
Menu and Party Ideas 185
About the Author 187