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Advice on ideas for recipe contest

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I have recently applied to NECI, and as it turns out they are running a recipe contest for a 10,000 dollar scholarship. So I figure that I'll enter, got nothing to lose, andit may even help pay for school a little if I do good.

I have several ideas that I am formulating, and I would appreciate any and all constructive and honest feedback from pros and knowledgable amatuers alike. Here are the constructs of the contest.

"Create an original recipe for an entrée or dessert that features ingredients native to New England. Recipes must list all ingredients in exact common U.S. household measurements in order of use, step-by-step preparation instructions, cooking times and all utensils. Entrée should serve four to six. Recipes will be evaluated on the following:

- Balance of ingredients
- Originality of the dish
- Use of ingredients native to New England
- Taste and flavor
- Presentation (a photograph of the dish is optional)
- Minimum 50-word essay on the inspiration for the dish
- Ease of preparation "

Now before I get to some of my ideas, I don't want to let anyone think that I am soliciting professional's recipes, or trying to let you guys make up the recipes for me. I am just difering to your superior experience, as many of you may have tried similar things in the past with +/- results. I basically don't want anyone to think I am trying to cheat, just trying to get feedback. OK disclaimers over.

Here are some of my ideas:

3 pan-seared scallops with 3 garnishes.

Basically, 3 u-6 scallops (or biggest I can get) seared and served with 3 different garnishes.

1 cornmeal crusted seared scallop on top of a fresh corn puree (simply cook corn, puree to consistency with a little of the cooking liquid added if needed, season with salt and pepper) with a watercress salad next to it on the plate--dressed with a very simple vinaigrette. Sweet corn and sweet scallop should match well, and salad simply ro lightly contrast and refresh pallate.

1 pepper crusted scallop on a fresh asparagus puree, with a diced mushroom saute served next to that. Meant to contrast the sweetness of the scallop with earthy asp and mush.

Last scallop crusted with fennel seeds and served on a fennel/apple slaw (prob apple cider, apple cider vin, s + p) OR served on a fennel/apple/honey compote.

Problems with this is that all scallops are basically served the same way. I dabbled in the idea of doing like a "ceviche shooter"--pea puree, scallions, scallop shooter. But that kind of thing isn't really gonna go with an entree.

I was also thinking about doing something with duck.

Like a duck breast seared med-rare served with a port-wine reduction and mashed sweet potatos (butter, sweet pots, and maple syrup). The duck could also be topped with any kind of various sauces--apple sauce, a similar fennel compote to the scallop idea, or a cherry sauce.

Maybe duck ravioli, stuffed with duck meat, mush, asp, and sage. # big ravioli portion with a watercress or arugula salad on teh plate next to it. Wouldn't know what kind of sauce to top on it though. Maybe, instead of stuffing the rav. with mush and asp, could saute the mush and asp and us a wine reduction as a sauce. I would want to to "pop" with flavor but be kinda light and restrained.

Anyways, sorry for the long post, and I look forward to hearing your ideas. Anyone ever do anything similar and what were teh results? THanks in advance for the replys.

~Someday
post #2 of 26

menu

When I think New England, I think lobster. I went to a restaurant here in Italy that had a creative menu, called hard, med and extreme. they took traditional ingredient and made them three ways and used varying levels of creativity or tweeking. Just a suggestion.
post #3 of 26
I've held contests, judged contests and entered contests (and won).....ALWAYS go back to the instructions....Local NE food products, try seasonal. When is your contest held? Recipes due?
Corn is not in season when apples are around here.....
asparagus is May....
Check out farmer's markets and farm stands to see what will be in season.
I entered one recently that has a vague "this fall" for judging....So I entered a dish that is great during berry season (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or any combo) but can also use frozen (not optimal but a concession to the contest). The ingrediants are listed with the farm names...ie Goatsbeard chevre, St. Hill Norton, etc....that could be apart of your 50 word essay.

Most recipes are poorly written, REALLY! even and especially from some of our top chefs. Take your time and write a clear clean recipe. Use well written cookbooks as guides for wording.

Add an interesting twist, a spice or herb that goes well but is not typically pairred with a dish.

Taste is everything! at the end of the day practice over and over again how to prepare your dish. It will pay off in a contest.

Presentation.....no over worked dishes....I had a young chef enter a tomato contest with " Saffron couscous with tomato confit and foie gras mousse"
The ONLY tomatoes we found were on the side as garnish with wedges cut out and mango pieces put in as decoration....it was overworked and had every froofy exspensive ingrediant in the house (foie, truffle, saffron) PLEASE, not only did it look over worked (fingered) but it had no salt and more importantly tomatoes were not a main ingrediant.
Needless to say his sous chef (all of 19 years old) won with an heirloom tomato tart that had parmeson,lemonzest and pepper in the great tart shell and an assortment of YES tomatoes. Second place went to a 65 year old grandma with an interesting catsup.

One contest I entered sweet potato crepes with bourbon praline sauce (filled with orange cream cheese.....it was for a professional Mardi Gras contest.
The twist of course was using sweet potatoes in the crepes.

The next year I made Shrimp Creole Arincini.....basically risotto using creole spices, veg and shrimp/shrimp stock, then fried around a mozz ball with creole tomato sauce around.....
again a twist on an old recipe
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 26
Someday, good luck with the contest. I will add my own opinions from experience at NECI as well as in contests.

Keep the plate simple both in presentation and technique. Too many people try to wow the judges with the latest trends and show how much they know. You are entering a contest for a scholarship to school, if you try to come off using advanced techniques I believe it will fail, especially at NECI. If you could cook like Keller you wouldn't be applying for this. They are looking for people with a passion and a clue! In other words "don't try too hard"
When you think of New England think of Vermont (in this case) NECI is also big on this.
As an example Pan roasted Monkfish fillet w/ Fresh Cranberry and cracked pepper relish. Sauteed Brussel Sprout and Vermont Cheddar baby souffle.
Show plenty of white on the plate. I am attaching this particular picture as an example of how simple the presentation should be:
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My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thank you all very much for the replys. Manglilao, unfortunately, I don't think lobster is a good choice, because it would be way to expensive for me to test out, and I think that there might be a lot of other students doing lobster. Although I agree with the natural NE/lobster connection.

Shroomgirl, I was basing a lot of my knowledge of when season products are available using this chart www.vermontagriculture.com/seasonalchart.PDF#search='vermont%20asparagus'

The recipe is due in october, so I thought that it looked like apples and corn shared at least one month together. Now asparagus, on the other hand, appears to only have a very short growing season. I'm not trying to argue with you, and the info I researched could very well be wrong, and I'm going to difer to your experience since (I think) you live there, just letting you know where my info came from.

Anyways, I think I am scrapping my scallops idea. I think they had a good chance of being good, but I don't like the idea of eating 3 scallops for an entree.

I am kind of right now leaning toward a duck ravioli. Are duck legs really tough? I haven't had much experience cooking duck, but I often see recipes where the legs are braised. I'm thinking I could braise a couple duck legs in a mixture of chicken stock/wine/aromatics, shred the meat very fine, and use a mixture of duckmeat, dried cherries, mild goat cheese, sage and maybe some veg like peas. Use a reduction of the braising liquid as a base for a mushroom/port sauce. Top off with some pistacios for crunch and color, and serve with a garnish baby green salad dressed simply. Portion size would be porbably 3 large ravioli.

Chrose, thanks for the info. It's a great idea to keep it simple. Don't think the ablove idea is too complicated, and the plating would look good but be simple still. How'd you like NECI by the way? Worth it...?

Thanks again all.

~Someday
post #6 of 26
Chrose, you're making me laugh with a BYU catering photo. BYU is just an hour south of me. They do have some good food there. And some bad for the students too.

Phil
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #7 of 26
Good decision on the scallops. Do you have any idea what balance of ingredients might mean? The scallops dish was terribly unbalanced. Remember that this is an entree. (hint)

As for the duck leg idea. Is this about the best way you can use duck legs? Will you have leftover ingredients?

Balance is getting better.
post #8 of 26
I think you are headed in the right direction. One thing you might want to play up more though is cheese. NE has some of the best cheeses in the country, from goat and sheep's milk cheeses to some of the best cheddars produced in the US.
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Yeah I love scallops but I could tell that it wasn't the best idea for an entree. As far as leftover ingredients with the duck legs...it all depends. If I get a whole duck, then yes, I'll have leftovers. Otherwise, I'm gonna try and utilize all the duck meat for the ravioli filling. I don't know exactly how many it will take, but I imagine 2-3 will be enough for 12 large ravioli...along with the other ingredients for the filling. If not, I'll scale accordingly.

Of course, if you meant doing something like using the leftover meat and bones to fortify the sauce, then I may look into that. But wouldn't the meat and bones from the legs pretty much give most of their flavor and body to the braising liquid, which will be the base for the sauce? Course, again if I have a whole duck then I can use other bones/wings/meat to flavor the sauce and make a fortified sauce.

Also, though, one of the criteria for the contest is ease of preparation. I'm sure that using the meatless thigh bones for the sauce would be great, but putting in a duck stock from the whole duck would be out there.

So my question is--is it worth it to use already braised duck leg bones to fortify the sauce?

Thanks for the ideas and feedback everyone, keep it coming.

~Someday

EDIT: What do you all think about doing mashed sweet potatos mixed with butter and maple syrup? May sound funky but actually tastes really good...might even work with some nice NE squash, too. We do something similar at a place I work.
post #10 of 26
Cooking time is important....the rules should state if you have to prepare everything within a specified time/site for x number of people/judges. Can you braise duck legs, make pasta (let rest), stuff and cook within the alotted time?

Prepare something your familiar with.....or can be. A couple of my food editor friends judge national contests and they continually say the ones that win have made the dish alot and the practice shows.

Oct. winter squash, roots, maple syrup, eggs, cheeses, brussel sprouts, reginal nuts, meats (from Vt. farms) apples, apple cider, duck?, quail eggs?,
Cranberries?, liquor from the area.......something that has a history in the area? Oct should be pretty lush in vegetation....corn is July/Aug
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post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
I don't have to cook this recipe for anyone other than myself to test it...this will be sent in to the school. It's not a cooking competition, it's a recipe contest. So as far as I know I just write the recipe and send it in. I'm sure they shortlist some and maybe have volunteers cook the recipes.

I actually think I'm good at writing recipes. I placed as a runner up in a student avocado recipe contest a year and a couple months back. I will of course let people see the finalized version and make notes if they wish.

Thats weird that I edited mine to say maple syrup/sweet potatos or squah and you posted that at the same time. Thanks again.

~Someday
post #12 of 26
Thread Starter 
So it's official I am trying too hard and getting too fancy.

This is the idea I'm gonna try tommorow. I'll let you all know how it goes.

Braised duck legs with squash and apple saute and watercress salad.

Gonna braise the duck legs in a mixture of chicken stock, white wine, sage, rosemary, onion, carrot and garlic.

Will use the braising liquid as the base for a wild mushroom port wine reduction sauce.

Served with a saute of med. diced winter squash (may have to use some other squah to test the recipe, as winter squah doesn't make it to texas until like march), med. diced apples. Start the pan with butter and onions, add squash and apples, cook until tender but not mushy, finish with a little bit of maply syrup and caraway seeds.

Served with a simple side salad made with an apple-cider vinaigrette, possible will use the goat cheeese, pistacios, and dried cherries in the salad. Haven't decided yet.

To plate: Mound of squash saute in ceter, braised duck legs on top overlapping a bit, sauce drizzled on top and around plate, salad off to the side--about noon on the plate.

Thoughts?

~Someday
post #13 of 26
Hope I am not putting my foot in my mouth here...
To get back to the "scallops"... How about what I call a "Tuxedo Scallop" as a centerpiece to the others since you feel that they are cooked all the same way...
Originally sliced thinly in 3 with thin slices of black truffle in between and wrapped artistically with Filo dough (like a bow on top or a wrap type design)and a delicate sauce just drizzled... the truffles (to - the cost) could be replaced with a local firm cheese and herbs that would barely melt considering the short baking time (high temp) needed...
Just a thought...
Be well...
Ara
Personal Chef Ara
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post #14 of 26
Salad sounds like an afterthought. You're not sure what to do for a vegetable.
post #15 of 26
I'm surprised that for $10,000 they won't have the top # cook their recipes for sampling.
Check out local nuts and dried fruits....or even better do something fun as garnish with the roots. There are a whole lot of interesting roots that time of year....parsnips, rutabegga, carrots, and the farmers are coming out with some fun pumpkin type squashes.
Wild shrooms are also prominent in Fall.....hen of the woods (maitake).....
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post #16 of 26
Thread Starter 
Well, I mean it's prospective student contest, and it'd be hard for me to fly out to NE to cook it in front of them. Again, I don't know how/if they even test the recipes, but you'd think they'd have to somehow.

Instead of doing a salad, I was looking on the season Vermont chart, and apparantly brussels sprouts come into season right about the same time as everything else. I could easily do brussels with buerre noisette (sp?) and some sort of toasted nuts. Shroomgirl, what kind of nuts grow in Vermont or NE? Never been before so I have no idea.

~Someday
post #17 of 26
I'm sorry thought you were in the NE area. The charts that dept of Ag put out are usually lame, they are way to generalized and pretty much have to be I guess. I live in Mo. and own 2 farmer's markets.....recieve e-letters from major markets around the country each week. What's interesting is that each area has generally the same season we do, except New Orleans which is way ahead of us, but SF, Wisconsin, Wash DC all have products specific to their areas but also the "regular stuff" about when we do....
Vermont, I'd check out the web for info, there is a huge movement in that area for small farms and local foods restaurants (wanna say Barre) they probably have a "Food Circle" or non-profit that would have specific info on what's grown there. Menus from Vt restaurants specializing in local food.
If you were in the area I'd say visit a farmer's market and ask questions.

Off the top of my head I'd say hickory nuts, maybe walnuts?, not sure how far north pecans grow nor how far east hazelnuts grow....persimmons are very Fall.

I've not seen the rules for the competition but they normally spell out all the particulars, especially if $10,000 is riding on the line.
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post #18 of 26
Vermont is also known for "maple syrup"....could you incorporate it into a sauce?

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post #19 of 26
Thread Starter 
How about braised duck legs, served off the bone, on the mound of diced apple, squash, caraway seeds and maple syrup, served with a baked cherry puree, dried cherries, and a frisee salad with a roasted shallot vinaigrette?

Sound good? You guys getting tired of me yet?

~Someday
post #20 of 26
or maple powder.....I've had some in my cabinent since visiting Union Sq. Market upteen years ago with the Cheftalkers....

I keep thinking your dish needs crunch. Are you going to ring and stack it?
Acid for sure somewhere to cut the sweet and the rich fattiness....
Watch the caraway seeds, sometimes they are annoyances getting stuck between your teeth....possibly look at powdering them.
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post #21 of 26
Just a random thought, but if you're interested in doing seafood but want an affordable one to test on, why not cod? That's as New England as you can get!
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post #22 of 26
Thread Starter 
I think that cod would be a good idea, but I also think that a lot of people will use cod. Also, the winner a couple of years ago was haddock, which if I'm not mistaken, is either a type of cod or very similar.

I could add some toasted nuts for crunch...they would go well with the new england theme (what kind of nuts grow there, anyone know?) as well as the salad...and add crunch at the same time.

I'm not familiar with maple powder, what is it exactly, and do you think it would be better than actual maple syrup?

~Someday
post #23 of 26
maple powder is syrup that has been cooked down until it's a dry condensed powder. Depends on how you use it.

If you check the web I bet you can find restaurants in VT then check and see if they have menus up. The state dept of Ag can fill you in on what nuts grow locally...they should have a website or 800#

I love your use of caraway....it's not used alot and it adds alot to fall/winter flavors.
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post #24 of 26
Got word late Friday afternoon that I'm a finialist in the MoAG contest with the chevre filled crepes with Mo wine, berry sauce.....now to find the recipe and scrounge red raspberries before they disappear. No further info other than they want to schedule a tasting. I'll let you know the fall out.

*Basically, look at who is holding the contest and why.....this is a professional contest held by the state dept of agriculture to promote Mo. wine and products. So, I have 4 ingrediants that are named (producers)
that is usable for food service and yet works for home cooks that have a modicum of skill. The ingredients can be used from a frozen state if necessary....so I covered my butt in case they had the tasting in the middle of winter.
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post #25 of 26
Thread Starter 
Here is the outline of the recipe I am going to submit.

Pepper crusted Duck breasts (MR) served with baked cherry puree, new potatos cooked in duckfat (just S and P), with boiled brussels sprouts with toasted pecans and a maple/butter glaze.

Made it today and besides some tweaking it was pretty darn good.

Wanted to add port wine to the sauce but unfortunately they don't sell it where I live so I have to drive a bit to get some.

~Someday
post #26 of 26
Beautiful. Good use and balance of ingredients, simple but also naturally showcases the ingredients.
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