Wednesday, September 29, 2010

South Carolina 2010 Campground Cook-Off second prize winner

Risotto is not something you normally think of preparing when camping, but Team Hell's Kitchen pulled it off in Lowcountry Chicken with Risotto to capture second prize. Stuffing the chicken breasts with crab meat and smoked Gouda provided us judges with another surprise.

 Team Hell's Kitchen Lowcountry Chicken with Risotto

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
25 Ritz crackers, crumbled
¼ cup butter

2 TBS parsley
¼ cup flour Garlic 

¾ cup milk


¾ cup chicken broth
8 ounces smoked Gouda

1/3 cup beer

1 small onion, chopped
½ lemon

2 mushrooms, chopped
½ lime

4 ounces crab meat

¼ cup olive oil
½ cup chopped onions
½ tsp ground turmeric [I would recommend a little less]
1 cup sliced mushrooms

8 cups chicken broth

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup white wine

1 cup Parmesan cheese

2 TBS butter

Fresh parsley
Rinse crab meat, then squeeze ½ lime and ½ lemon over it and set aside. Pound breasts with meat mallet to 1/8-inch thick.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in flour, milk, chicken broth and beer. Simmer and keep stirring until it becomes thick.

Sauté onions and mushrooms in separate skillet. Add crab, 15 crumbled Ritz crackers, parsley, garlic salt and pepper to taste, a handful of grated smoked Gouda and a couple spoonfuls of sauce.

Spread stuffing on chicken, then roll and seal with a toothpick. Place in a greased 12-inch Dutch oven. Pour remaining sauce over chicken. Cook for 1 hour around 350 degrees. After 1 hour, add the rest of the smoked Gouda over the top. Add paprika to taste and remaining Ritz crackers. Remove coals from bottom and add them to top. Cook 5 minutes to melt cheese and brown topping.


Heat olive oil in skillet and sauté the onion and turmeric until soft. Add mushrooms and sauté until liquid is absorbed.

In separate saucepan, heat broth and keep warm.

Add rice to sautéed vegetables and stir until all the grains are coated with olive oil mixture. Add white wine. Let cook until evaporated. Stir frequently. Add broth ½ cup at a time. Rice should absorb broth after each addition. Repeat until all broth is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add cheese, butter and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, September 27, 2010

South Carolina 2010 Campground Cook-Off Prize-Winning Ribs

I would have given Team Pooreboy Charcookers' 
Mark’s Quick Grilled BBQ Ribs with Vegetable Medley second place but when all the points were tallied, they took third place. Not too shabby considering the competition. The ribs were moist, tender and delicious and the vegetables were wonderful.

Team Pooreboy Charcookers' 
Mark’s Quick Grilled BBQ Ribs with Vegetable Medley
1 rack ribs
½ cup brown sugar-based dry rub
1 cup BBQ sauce (Johnny’s Pride)

1 cup apple juice
Hickory or maple chunks

Vegetables for grilling - Squash, okra, eggplant, onion, bell pepper, corn, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes work well. Pick your favorite combo.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Take membrane off back of ribs and rinse. Pat dry with towel. Rub ribs with dry rub. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6-12 hours. Remove ribs from refrigerator and get grill ready for indirect heat. Add wood chunks for smoke flavor. Place ribs on grill at medium high heat (400-450 degrees) 1 hour and 20 minutes. Spray with apple juice occasionally to keep ribs moist.

Change grill to direct heat for 30 minutes of grilling. At this time apply your BBQ sauce. This is the last cycle of grilling. Remove ribs from grill. Let stand a few minutes before cutting between bones and serving. Use leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, parsley and spinach as a garnish.

Vegetable medley
Cut up vegetables to uniform size so they will cook evenly. Put vegetables in a heat-proof bowl and add salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Mix and put on grill for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Remove from grill and splash with more olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Put on plate with main course.

Friday, September 24, 2010

SC Campground Cook-Off Recipes

Today's campers have come a long way from the open-can, eat-contents school of outdoor meal-making.

Consider this Honorable Mention-winning recipe from The Happy Vagabonds. The sweet-tart cabbage and apples is the perfect counterpoint to the dense meat and puckery pickle.

Honorable Mention: The Happy Vagabonds
 Braised Stuffed Beef Rolls with Red Cabbage and Apples


3 lbs top round steak
2 TBS flour
 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
6 tsp hot prepared mustard
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
6 slices bacon

3 dill pickles cut lengthwise into halves

3 TBS bacon grease
2 cups water

1 cup celery, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced (white part only)

1 TBS scraped parsnip, finely chopped

3 parsley sprigs
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS butter

Slice steak 1/2-inch thick. Trim all fat and pound to 1/4-inch thick. Cut steak into 6 rectangular pieces about 4 inches by 6 inches. Spread each rectangle with a teaspoon of mustard and 2 teaspoons of onion. Place a slice of bacon down the center. Lay a half of a pickle across the narrow end of each piece and roll the meat around it into a cylinder. Secure the rolls with toothpicks.

In a Dutch oven, melt the bacon grease and add the beef rolls. Brown the beef rolls on all sides and transfer to a plate. Pour the water into the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the celery, green onions, parsnip, parsley and salt. Stir and return beef rolls to Dutch oven. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer about 1 hour. Turn rolls once during cooking period.

Transfer rolls to plate covered with aluminum foil. Strain the cooking liquid left in skillet through a sieve. Press down on vegetables and then discard vegetables.

Measure 2 cups of liquid and set aside. Discard any remaining liquid. Melt the butter in the Dutch Oven and then sprinkle in the flour. Stir constantly until the flour turns a golden brown. Gradually add the 2 cups of cooking liquid using a whisk until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add the beef rolls and simmer over low heat until rolls are heated through.

Red Cabbage and Apples
1/2-pound head red cabbage
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 TBS sugar

2 tsp salt

2 TBS bacon grease

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/8-inch thick wedges
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1 whole onion, peeled and pierced with
2 whole cloves
1 small bay leaf

1 cup hot water

3 TBS dry red wine

3 TBS red currant jelly

Remove the outer leaves and cut the cabbage into quarters. Cut out the core and slice the quarters crosswise into 1/8-inch wide strips. Put cabbage in large bowl, sprinkle with vinegar, sugar and salt. Toss with spoon.

Melt the bacon grease in a Dutch oven and add apples and onions. Cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, whole onion with cloves and bay leaf. Stir and pour in hot water. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to very low. Cover and simmer about 1 ½ hours. Just before serving, remove the whole onion with cloves and bay leaf. Stir in the wine and jelly.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2010 South Carolina Campground Cook-Off

I missed the first two South Carolina Campground Cook-Offs but I won't willingly skip future ones having learned what amazing dishes dedicated campers can make over fire.

The cooking rules are simple: Everything must be cooked over a wood or coal fire, no gas. No more than two store-bought, packaged ingredients can be included. Fire prep and cooking begin at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday and one portion of each entry must be brought to the main stage area between 12:15 and 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Plates are provided and no decorations other than ingredients in the recipe may be added. Recipes are scored on creativity, taste and presentation.

This, the third year, 23 teams pulled into Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area to compete for the $500 for first, $300 for second and $200 for third place prizes in entrees and desserts. Special non-cash Judges Awards were given this year and having been one of the three judges, I can tell you it wasn't easy.

I'll start with those and work my way up to the winners. If I can get through tasting 23 different entrees, none of them bad, you can stand the anticipation.

Oh, and all of this is sponsored by the Old 96 District Tourism Commission, the same group that brought us the annual Peach-Offs (on indefinite hiatus) to celebrate the area's stellar peach producers.

Ol' Carolina Chili and Korn Bread, the entry of Team
Daddy Don's Gang impressed us all with its flavor, appearance and family-friendliness. It's something we'd like to make at home, really good comfort food.

Team Daddy Don's Gang Ol' Carolina Chili and Korn Bread
2 lbs hamburger meat
2 cans Manwich Bold
1 TBS Texas Pete
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Mix all together except cheese and cook. When ready to serve, top with cheese.

Korn Bread
3 cups self-rising corn meal
1 cup flour
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
4 Jalapeno peppers, chopped
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 large onion, chopped
3 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix all together and cook.

Serve with home made sweet pickles.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Florida Foodie Opportunities

So many areas hold restaurant weeks, food festivals and wine tastings that fall has become a great time to be a foodie.



Take note of these two for Florida-bound travelers.

As the nation's oldest city St. Augustine has had ample time and many cultural influxes to develop special cuisines. The month of October is when residents focus on the "Flavors of Florida's Historic Coast."

Oct. 1-31 enjoy month-long fixed price dining specials at 24 of the top restaurants.

Oct. 1 Aviles Street, the oldest street in the oldest city reopens with more authentic 17th century ambiance, including sidewalk dining.

Oct. 2-3 will be a hot time in the old town because of the Datil Pepper Festival.                            

Oct. 8-10 it's Opa! time at the 13th annual Greek Festival.

Oct. 16 celebrates Cracker Day with bluegrass music, horsemanship demonstrations and of course, barbecue.

Oct. 23 get your oompah on for the Oktoberfest Celebration.

Last and perhaps most hotly contested, Nov. 7  brings the 25th annual Great Chowder Debate.

Consider: an auction of 100 different bottles of 100-point wine. Down in Naples, plans for the 2011 Naples Winter Wine Fest have oenophiles salivating. Included are a bottle of 1955 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, a 1989 Chateau Petrus and a 1985 DRC Romanee-Conti, considered by many the best Burgundy ever made and valued at more than $11,000. You can see the entire list of 100 at in October.

A celebrity chef wine dinner brings in 17 masters of cuisine including Chef de Cuisine Lee Hefter of Spago

The cause is a good one - needy and at-risk children - and festival isn't until January 28-30 so you have plenty of time to get your financing in order, but contact them soon because tickets quickly sell out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tomato, to-mahto

Charleston, S. C., one of this country's great restaurant cities, begins restaurant week tomorrow, Sept. 8, through Sept. 19. One group of restaurants offer three courses for $20, another, including Charleston Grill and Slightly North of Broad, offer three for $30. Go to for details and menus from the 50 participating restaurants.

One restaurant not participating, FIG, as in the Food Is Good, and Executive Chef Mike Lata were recently featured by The Food Channel.

Naturally I wanted a recipe from chef. Given the season, why was I not surprised to get one for heirloom tomatoes?

                      Chef Lata's Heirloom Tomato Salad 
                       Serves 4

2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1 rib celery, peeled
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maklon sea salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper
1 cup day-old baguette, crusts removed, 1/2-inch dice

Coat the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil and warm over medium high heat. Add the croutons and begin to toast until golden brown. Season lightly with salt and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Using a mandolin, thinly slice heart of celery stalk and tear off celery leaves. Arrange sliced tomatoes around center of platter. Scatter celery slices, celery leaves and red onion slices over tomatoes. Top with croutons. Drizzle entire dish with extra olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt and cracked pepper.

Don't you just love food that tastes so good by itself all you need is a sprinkle of this and that?