The Iowa Egg Council’s 26th Annual Cooking Contest concluded on Saturday as we ten finalists measured, stirred, cooked, baked and presented our individual recipe creations to a panel of 4 judges at the Botanical Center in Des Moines.
I took 2nd Place, good for a $400.00 check. This was pure fun, mixed in with perhaps a few butterflies when it looked like the table-top gas plate wasn’t going to boil the water for my pasta and the ovens were not keeping up with our baking requirements.
You will be able to access a copy of all the contestant recipes and view pictures of the Cook-Off Event on the Iowa Egg Council web site at www.iowaegg.org within a few days. I am not allowed to post it here as one of the stipulations for entering the contest was that the recipes become the property of the Iowa Egg Council for their marketing/promotion for the egg producing industry in our state. This doesn’t bother me in the least—I believe in supporting our local people and small business owners to the max.
200 recipes were submitted for this year’s recipe competition. From those the field was narrowed to 30 which were then tested in the kitchens at Iowa State University. Ten finalists were selected from that pool to compete at a live cook-off. There were two classes for this contest: Junior (6th -12 grades) and Adult—anything over 12th grade. ☺
It was a brand new experience for me as the event was open to the public, and people were welcome to come up and ask us questions and watch as we cooked. That not only added to the fun but to the challenge, because one didn’t want to forget to dump in the right amount of flour, or forget to stir in the parmesan cheese, yet one wanted to expand on and answer the questions about one’s recipe. You find out how well you function and respond under pressure, and I highly recommend challenging yourself in this fashion at some point. You may surprise yourself.
People wanted to know how I came up with this idea of creating an egg-bound angel hair pie crust that I then filled with a different type of quiche filling that used no milk or cream. Instead, I combined havarti/dill cheese with cottage cheese and sour cream, tightened with a little bit of flour with crispy bacon and pimento thrown into the mix. It worked. The quiche pie has a chewy al dente crust that underscores a creamy, tangy filling.
The process for creating new recipes isn’t a whole lot different than coming up with story ideas for writing. The new recipe idea came to me from a lifelong habit of reading cookbooks and other people’s recipes. I pulled something from one recipe, along with a unique element from a still another source, and then my desire to have a different kind of crust instead of the usual pastry type, and thus Angel Hair Pasta Quiche came into being.
The usual trial-and-error system comes into play for cooking or baking something new the first time, just like the beginning drafting work on a written piece. If something bakes crooked, or refuses to reach the done phase, you toss it out and start over again. Just like the writing process. If the sentences won’t come together to make the point you thought they would, you pull up a clean sheet and take another whack at it.
The Food Network logo is indelibly embossed across our flat screen. My husband and I follow many of the shows and we learn something new practically every time we tune in. New food combinations are happening because people aren’t afraid to try using baking spices along with beef, or combine Italian spices into muffins or cake mixes. The old rules are acknowledged, but free-spirited creative souls realize that old rules must be broken if anything new is to come about. This is where breakthroughs are born.
I will continue to read cookbooks, and study their beautiful pictures and descriptions just like I read and study other novelists, columnists and poets, allowing their input to blend with the way my brain works until one day—Voila! There will be a new idea waiting at the bottom of the mixing bowl to be left there or to be added to and finished into something. The choices or decisions will always be mine.
The competition bug has bitten. I’m ready for another cooking competition. As I tried to lure my adrenaline-soaked brain to sleep Saturday night, a few ideas for the next egg recipe competition started swirling.
The invigorating magic that happens when you befriend the creative juices inside your cranial cavity is worth the possibility of failure, because one day something clicks, and there is just nothing quite like it when that happens.