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Do you have what it takes to be a local Iron Chef?

July 20, 2011|By TAYLOR ECKEL | taylor.eckel@herald-mail.com
  • Teams compete during last year's Washington County Ag Expo & Fair Iron Chef. This year, the Iron Chef competition will be on Saturday, plus there will be an Iron Chef Burger contest Sunday.
File photo

This weekend, area chefs will have the chance to test their culinary skills and creativity in the second annual Washington County Ag Expo & Fair Iron Chef Cook-offs.

The Iron Chef 2011 Cook-off will be from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23. For those whose specialty is a burger, the Iron Chef Burger 2011 Cook-off will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 24. Both cook-offs will take at the Twigg Cycle Activity Tent on the grounds of the Washington County Agriculture Education Center.

There is a $50 registration fee for the cook-off and a $30 registration fee for the burger cook-off. Rules and registration forms can be found at www.agexpoandfair.org.

"The Iron Chef is designed to draw attention to the availability and accessibility of local products," said event organizer Leslie Hart. She said the first Iron Chef competition at the Ag Expo and Fair was held last year.

"I wanted to start it in Washington County because many people don't realize how much they can buy (locally)," Hart said.

The Iron Chef Burger competition has been added this year. Contestants will receive 1 pound of ground chuck at noon Saturday, and the competition will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday. Contestants may prepare their burgers, sauces and condiments at home, but all grilling must be done on location during the competition, and burgers must be completed by 5:55 p.m.

In the regular Iron Chef competition, teams of three to five contestants will receive nine mystery ingredients at noon Saturday, and the food must be ready for judging by 6:25 p.m. Charcoal grills and a bag of charcoal will be provided for each team.

"They get three meats, three veggies and three fruits," Hart said. "All of those items must appear in the meal."

She said contestants may take their food home to begin preparations, but all team members must be on location and ready to finish their meal preparations no later than 4 p.m. The official rules state that each team must prepare three servings each of an appetizer, a main dish including a vegetable, and one dessert. Contestants are free to use additional ingredients from home that need not be from the local area, but participants must submit a list of additional ingredients.

Jeff Weimer, a member of last year's winning team, said he prepared some of his own ingredients ahead of time.

"We knew going into it we would be given local foods, and knowing what is in season in the region, we were able to do some menu planning," said Weimer, a former professional chef.

"I made a demi-glace, and that was kind of my secret ingredient," Weimer said, and added that a demi-glace takes more than 24 hours to prepare. He also made a pastry shell and lemon curd in advance to use with whatever fruit was given to him.

Although he has not worked as a chef for eight years, Weimer said he still cooks frequently, and he and his wife enjoy cooking with vegetables and herbs from their garden.

"I tried to save as much (preparation work) as I could, to make a little bit of a show," he said.

Weimer said he partnered with his wife, Anne, and his colleague and former chef Mark Pastoral and Pastoral's wife, Anna to form the team "Chef X."

Weimer said Chef X served the judges a grilled chicken quesadilla with peach salsa, squash in a tomato boat with pesto sauce, thinly sliced, grilled ribeye steak with a roasted garlic demi-glace, potato rosti and a grilled peach tart with a mixed berry sauce.

"It was a very good experience," Weimer said.



Grilled chicken quesadilla with peach salsa

1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded

2 ounces cream cheese, softend

4 8-inch flour tortillas

1-6 ounce chicken breast 

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder 

1 teaspoon olive oil 

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced



Combine cheeses to spread on tortilla. Set aside. In separate bowl, combine cumin, ancho powder and oil. Rub on chicken breast. Grill chicken until done. Remove and chop chicken into cubes. Layer chicken between cheese and tortillas with jalapeño and return to grill. Once cheese is melted, remove. Top with peach salsa. Serve.

Makes two quesadillas.

Cook's note: Can be built ahead of time and cooked on the grill over low temperature.

— Recipes courtesy of Jeff Weimer



Peach salsa

6 tomatoes (see cook's note)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 jalapeno, finely diced

2 serrano peppers, finely diced

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/3 cup red onion, finely diced

2 medium peaches, diced



Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds and excess water. In blender, combine half of tomatoes with vinegar, peppers and cayenne pepper. Blend till smooth mix in bowl with salt, remaining  tomatoes, and the rest of the chopped ingredients.

Cook's note: Number of tomatoes depends on size and variety of tomatoes.



If you go ...

What: Iron Chef 2011 Cook-off

When: Cook-off 4 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23; Burger cook-off is 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 24.

Where: Twigg Cycle Activity Tent at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center, off Sharpsburg Pike, west of Hagerstown

Cost: $2 admission to the Washington Ag Expo & Fair. There is a $50 registration fee for the cook-off and $30 registration fee for the burger cook-off

More: Go to the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair website at www.agexpoandfair.org for official rules and an entry form.

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