There is this Facebook page called “The Original Cast Iron Hellraisers”. There’s even a “warning” on the page. Once you start reading the comments- you understand why. F-Bombs everywhere. If that doesn’t bother you, or you can overlook it – you’ll find some good cooks and great people who have a love of food and cast iron. Started by James Ortiz, he gathered quite the following (& members) on a page that shows how to care for your cast iron cookware and what & how to cook in it. Every 2 weeks, a food item is identified as the required ingredient in the cook off. It must be cooked in cast iron and not just used as a garnish. There are prizes worth $50. One time, James gave away a mixer for the winning dish! I’ve entered 13 times. One time I came in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and last place several times. The time I came in 3rd- was happy until I found out last place got an apron because we hit 30 entries. Missed it by a week! (I should have cooked chicken beaks and duck’s feet) But as my husband likes to advise me- “baby, most people don’t eat like we eat.” I’m usually beaten by a delicious comfort meal with tender meats &” taters”. I still like to participate as it forces me to think of non-traditional ways to use ingredients. Would have never made these meals without the cook-off. It’s a challenge eagerly accepted!
So what have I entered?
There was the French Toast cook-off. I used slices of French bread topped with cream cheese & a drizzle of habanero jelly. Added fried Yukon & sweet potatoes, a sunny side up egg and chorizo sausage & bacon. I thought the sweet, spicy & savory worked together. Last place. Pretty sure I lost because I didn’t do more with the toast. Like stuff it, or crust it, or covered it with something like gravy.
Carrot and Mushroom cook-off. I baked a portobello mushroom filled with butter and pesto sauce and filled it with cooked ribbons of zucchini, carrots and cheese tortellini in an Alfredo sauce. Made creamy carrot soup and a mushroom tart. In the bottom with this one.
Orange cook-off. This is orange chicken piccata. As you can see, it’s on a bed of oranges you can eat to cleanse your palette along with a strawberry & orange salad and a wonderful orange jello. The chicken was floured & pan seared and then cooked in a reduced white wine & orange juice sauce. The husband loved it. The cook-off- right in the middle.
Fish. I fried salmon & shrimp patties loaded with fresh herbs, served with zucchini fries and a refreshing tangerine. 4th place.
Soup & Bread. This is potato & corn chowder with a rosemary skillet bread. Not quite last place.
Anything Stuffed. I stuffed a chicken breast with cream cheese & poblano peppers. Made a corn souffle and avocado toast. Added a heirloom tomato salad with a cilantro lime dressing. This was one of my favorite meals. 6th place.
Peppers. Third place. A pork chop is pan fried and placed on a bed of tri-colored sauteed peppers. A creamy poblano pepper sauce is added. A cheese fill jalapeno is baked inside a red bell pepper filled with Spanish rice, corn & cheese. Jalapenos are cut in half and filled with cornbread and baked. The heat (400) of the oven decreases the heat in the jalapeno making it a great appetizer. (you can add bacon to the mix and top with your choice of cheese in the end)
Super Bowl cook off. I think I should have won this one, but the other dish won by a landslide. Second place for me, with my votes not even getting half of the winning dish. Oh well- we enjoyed eating it! Drumsticks were buffalo and paprika flavored. Loaded macaroni bites, Sonoran hot dogs, Hasselback potatoes with cilantro butter, crab dip and fried cinnamon doughnuts. Everything could be eaten with the hands, so no one would get a fork in the eye as their team made a touchdown! 2nd place.
Thanksgiving Leftovers. I expected this one to do better, but it didn’t. Was in the bottom again. The turkey was made into a mini-turkey pot pie. The sweet potato leftovers were made into a quick bread and cooked in my cast iron duck mold. My cutest duck in the world was swimming in cranberry sauce and leaving a wake of toasted marshmallows. This was fun to eat and make.
Christmas Leftovers. This was great but didn’t translate to great in the contest. I was in the middle with this one. The leftover turkey was rolled into a crescent with cranberry sauce and cream cheese. The mashed potatoes were combined with the cauliflower goat cheese au-gratin and fried into patties. The creamy soup was made with leftover carrots & sweet potatoes and then garnished with beets & butternut squash. I ended up using ALL of my leftovers and it was delicious.
Fish. Brussels sprouts with carrots, cheddar biscuits and potatoes were delicious next to a rich salmon covered in herbal butter. Last place.
A Birthday Celebration. Birthdays are special occasions so I used a leg of lamb and made an herb crust and baked it to medium. Butternut squash had a sweetness and roasted kale added an earthy flavor. Made a herbal cream sauce and it really put the meal over the top with flavors. My favorite meal so far. Got one vote. (but not dead last) The leftovers? A Shepard’s pie coming up!
Hot dog. My least favorite as I don’t eat hot dogs. Had to be an ordinary wiener dog and no bun. At first I entered the potato, onion, pepper, kale & hot dog skillet meal. But then after eating everything in the skillet (except the hot dog) I did a BLT style hot dog with a corn & bean salad. Made a slit in the dog and stuffed with jalapeno, wrapped it in bacon (cooked it) and then wrapped it in a lettuce leaf with tomatoes & mayo. I think I got 1 vote for this one.
So far, I have yet to win although I have come close a couple of times. If I can get the votes of the chefs who are members, that is good enough for me. Of course, when you lose to a worthy dish- it doesn’t sting at all. Chances are, I voted for them too.