My good friends Jerome and Debra Abrams were kind enough to offer up their beautiful large kitchen for me to have a cast iron cooking competition.
And so it was born…the first-ever Cast Iron Cooking Competition, sponsored by The Pan Handler LLC. This post will talk about the competition itself; posts to come will detail the different dishes the teams prepared, along with the recipes that were created by the teams.
Ten friends who were great sports participated in the event as teams: Bonnie and Doug, Mary and John, Anoushka and Rob, Debra and Jerome, and Linda and Chris. Pan Apprentice Linda agreed to serve as judge alongside me, and the very talented Sarah Lamb of S.Lamb Photography photographed the event. The photos in this blog post are courtesy S.Lamb Photography.
I sent out instructions and the score sheet in advance of the competition, so teams could see what they were in for. Each team would gather at the Abrams home, where they would pick a piece of paper to learn what course they would be assigned for the competition: 2 appetizer, 2 main, and 1 dessert. Each team would then pick to learn what pan they would be assigned to create their course. Teams were not told in advance what pans would be used. I warned teams that they would not receive a “typical” pan; i.e. they would not receive a size 8 skillet. I told them they might want to look at the “baking, gem, and muffin” pan category on the shop’s site because surely at least one team would be assigned a pan from that category.
Once team members had their course and pan assignments, they would be given $30 cash and 90 minutes within which to plan their dish and shop for groceries.
Teams were told that creativity would count for 25 points of the possible 100 points. The goal was to show an innovative and creative (but not crazy) use of the pan. Teams were also judged on mass appeal (15 points), taste (15 points), appearance/presentation (15 points), ease of preparation (10 points), recipe instructions (5 points) and team spirit (15 points). The teams were asked to dress and participate as a team; they sure did!
The big day arrived on November 7, 2015. Five cheery teams gathered, drew from a bowl, and learned their course assignments. We then headed outdoors, where there were 5 paper bags containing the pans. Teams drew, opened the bags, and learned what pan they would be assigned.
Bonnie and Doug: Appetizer, 6 #3 Skillets
Anoushka and Rob: Appetizer, Wagner E Bread Stick Pan
Debra and Jerome: Main, 6 Griswold Patty Mold Bowls
Mary and John: Main, 2 Griswold French Roll Pans
Linda and Chris: Dessert, 2 Griswold Aebleskiver pans
After receiving their assignments, teams huddled and planned their dish, and then headed off for groceries. Teams then returned, organized their course of action, and off they went! Everyone began cooking and chopping and rinsing and processing and baking. Oh my, it was a site to see!
Soon, the kitchen was filled with wonderful smells. My stomach began to rumble. Sarah took some videos of the cooking process; here they are!
After an hour or so, the dishes began to come to completion and be presented for judging. The first dish we sampled was Bonnie and Doug’s. They had created delicious chicken empanadas in the size three skillets for their appetizer, topped with avocado and tomato. There was enough for everyone to get a taste; Linda and I sampled and scored. Our friend Jim came by too, and helped with sampling and scoring.
Next up was Mary and John’s spectacular mini beef wellingtons, created in the Griswold French Roll pans. Mary has been a very close friend of mine for many many years and she knows my food weaknesses. Talk about playing to my weaknesses – I was particularly fond of the mini beef wellingtons!
Anoushka and Rob had gone all out and purchased fresh crab legs (teams were permitted to spend more than the $30 given them, but it came from their pocket). They created fresh crab sticks with aioli and dill sauce in the Wagner bread stick pans. I do not eat crab, so Linda’s score on taste for this dish also counted as my score for taste. Linda tells me that the crab sticks were very delicious – she loved them!
Debra and Jerome gave their dish a lot of thought. They knew I was interested in appealing to some of my Southern clientele, so they worked hard to incorporate that into their creation. In the Griswold patty mold bowls, they made a lamb and beef Shepard’s pie, with fresh vegetables and a sweet and white potato topping, topped with roasted pecans. For those who liked spicy they added jalapeño; for those who didn’t they left out the jalapeño. They also prepared homemade biscuits to accompany the dish. Oh my were they good! I particularly liked the lamb/beef mixture and the seasoning they had used; there was; it had a great peppery taste. The flavors mingled beautifully.
Finally, we sampled Linda and Chris’s dish. They had been assigned dessert and the Aebleskiver pans. They were very creative in making the most use of their pan. They made puff pastry cups by cooking the cups over the cups on the underside of the pan. Then they roasted apples and spices in the muffin cup side of the pan. They created a wonderful deconstructed apple pie, and served it alongside cinnamon ice cream. We all oohed and aaahed. And gobbled it right up.
We tallied our score sheets. It was really hard to announce winners, because the scores were so tight and the teams all worked so hard and prepared wonderful tasty food in creative and unexpected ways. In the end, however, the creativity that Linda and Chris showed in the use of their pan won the day, and they took first prize. In a squeaky tight field, Rob and Anoushka took second with the creative use of their Wagner bread stick pan, with the crab sticks that Linda just loved.
Look for separate blog posts to follow with the dishes and recipes that the contestants created.
We had so much fun – I hope it will become an annual tradition!