Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lodge Cast Iron contest on Facebook

Lodge Cast Iron is running an interesting contest through Monday morning. I generally don't play along in mystery basket contests. You know the genre. Shows like Food Network's Chopped ask cooks to produce a five-star meal from odd, mismatched ingredients in the basket.

On one recent episode, the two surviving chefs were challenged to produce a dessert with fresh pasta sheets, plum tomatoes, basil and white chocolate (dessert round in "Redemption Competition" of Season 10). While I enjoy each of the components for the Chopped dessert, I wouldn't prepare a dessert with them. Yet, this is one of Chopped's tamer mystery baskets. I'd probably prepare a layered sweet dessert of some sort.

Lodge's contest is grounded in reality, not like the so-called reality shows. The premise is simple: You must prepare six meals from a list of 15 ingredients. Since you're snowed in, you can't run out to the market. And unlike Chopped, where common pantry items help the cook, Lodge limits you to listed ingredients.

Here are the details their Facebook page:
New recipe contest: Pretend you're snowed in for the weekend and only have eggs, vegetable oil, corned beef, chicken, bacon, onions, flour, lettuce, celery, carrots, salt, pepper, garlic, raisins and canned peaches available to prepare six meals. Water and ice are available.

The only pieces of cookware are a Lodge 12-inch Skillet and a 5-quart Lodge Dutch Oven. What are your six recipes?

Winning entry will be sent a copy of the Cornbread Festival Cookbook and a Lodge Wedge Pan.

The contest begins now and ends at 8 a.m. CST Monday morning.
The mire poix (diced onion, celery and carrot) jumped right out at me. With chicken and garlic, I figured that I prepare a rich stock. Other than salt, the list leaves little to season a stock. Being snowed in, I'd make due.

I was hoping they'd allow some old spices. Every cabin has a ready supply of outdated spices and leavening agents. I asked. The answer was no. The good news: I can participate as a chef. We'll see if my status helps or not.

The lack of leavening agents made the list suspiciously cleaver. This is where it'd be good to have MacGyver as a neighbor. He could make baking soda out of fireplace ash or paint chips or whatever.

Yet we do have eggs. Whipped egg whites provide leavening when gently folded into a batter. I initially thought to work up a sourdough started, but ruled it out. It'd take too long to let nature yeast and bacteria do their thing in a cold environment. Plus, two days wouldn't give me enough time.

The list gives me enough ingredients to prepare flatbread for breakfast, spaetzle at dinner and egg noodles in a rich chicken broth. Other dishes are certainly possible. Among them popovers and soufflés -- all leavened with eggs and steam.

Once I lined out the bread and bakery items for the six meal meals, filling in the remainder of menu was as simple as filling in the blanks. Being snowed in would yield a lot of time. One presumes television, satellite and cell connections are among the first casualties in a blizzard.

With two (or more) days devoted to cooking, survival could be fun. Why not go all out and prepare a series of snowbound feasts. The way I look at it, you can make anything taste good with salt, pepper and garlic.


Breakfast: Eggs & bacon strips with flatbread & raisin jam; bacon first cooked in 12-inch skillet, flatbread browned second & eggs third; raisins cooked down in 5-quart Dutch oven for jam.

Meanwhile, bone chicken & set meat in ice; place bones & mire poix (diced onion, carrot & celery) in Dutch oven; brown chicken & vegetables; add water; simmer for several hours to form stock for soup & sauces.

Lunch: Chicken noodle soup with fresh handmade pasta in 5-quart oven; garnish soup with shreds of carrot & celery; save some stock for dinner.

Dinner: Corned beef cutlet served over spaetzle; cutlet floured & lightly browned in skillet; spaetzle cooked in boiling water in Dutch oven; quick garlic sauce made in skillet from chicken stock.

Breakfast: Bacon pancake (leavened with egg whites) cooked in skillet; peachy syrup made from peach juice & raisins in Dutch oven.

Lunch: Savory peach & corned beef soufflé cooked in Dutch oven.

Dinner: Chicken roulade stuffed with caramelized onion-carrot mixture, roasted garlic cloves & lettuce; chicken is browned in skillet & finished in Dutch oven; while chicken rests, prepare peach cobbler in Dutch oven from last of peaches.

Enjoy the menu. I've already posted my menu to the Lodge Cast Iron Facebook fan page. You have a day and a half to name your six meals. Have fun.

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