August 24, 2012

2012 Minnesota State Fair

What did I just get myself into? 
It's Official!! 
I am cooking at the 
Minnesota State Fair
August 28th @ 11:00am 
Creative Activities Building.

When my friend Danny Klecko asked me to do a cooking demo at the Minnesota State Fair I thought is he kidding; he was not.  Next question was what was I going to make?  Klecko said this year's theme is "Bars, Bundts & Hot Dish" I do not do a lot of baking so I chose to do a hot dish.  

Being a Minnesotan I am very versed in hot dish.  For my non-Minnesotans a hot dish is a variety of casserole that typically contains a starch (potatoes, rice, pastas), meat, canned or frozen vegetable, and a can soup (usually cream of something).

Over the last few months I went through a lot of recipes for various hot dishes.  I wanted something new. Let's face it, in Minnesota I don't know many people who cannot make the ever popular Tater Tot Hot Dish.  I wanted a hot dish I could make a small serving to fit with the theme of my blog. I thought about creating a deconstructed version of the Tater Tot Hot Dish, but my attempts didn't turn out as planned.  I wanted to make sure it was something that any home cook could do that was not time consuming.  This idea has been moved to the back burner to work on perfecting it.  

My searched continued... I looked at recipes of some of my favorite chefs; chefs like John Besh of New Orleans, Jon Ashton of Chicago and Brian Duffy of Philadelphia.  I made their recipes, they were delicious but didn't change them into a hot dish. I made a mental list of my favorite foods to see if any of them could be converted into a new hot dish. 

Then it hit me...AH HA!!

My first job was at a Chinese restaurant; Chung King Gardens in Burnsville, MN (It has since closed).  It was during this job I fell in love with Mu Shu Pork. It is a dish I frequently order when I am at a Chinese restaurant or ordering take out.  

Could this be made into a hot dish?? Sure, why not!  I began testing, tweaking, retesting, tweaking again, retesting.  

On August 5th I served it for the first time; who better to pick than my toughest critics and biggest supporters - my parents. I felt I needed to try it in a different kitchen. I headed to their house and made it in their kitchen. I took along all my own ingredients and tools to makes sure I had everything I need.   I will have only 30 minutes when I demo it at the fair so I needed to make sure I can go from start to in the oven within that time.  I also wanted to leave time for questions.  Occasionally my mom would come in and say "It smells wonderful." I was still nervous because if they didn't like it it meant I needed to tweak it again or come up with something new. 

The result...They LOVED IT!  We actually ate the entire pan (typically would have served 6 people). My dad said "Make this dish for the fair!" I did have one small extra dish that I left in their refrigerator; a week later my dad sent me a text message "I forgot to tell you that the hot dish you made was still delicious for lunch today.  Stick with it for the state fair. ***** Five Stars!" It is great to know the hot dish held up and tasted good a week later.  
My Kitchen at the Minnesota State Fair

Next week on August 28th at 11:00am I will be making the dish a the St. Agnes Baking Company kitchen in the Creative Arts Building at the Minnesota State Fair.  I have been rehearsing my presentation in my kitchen and even in my car. Trying to remember all of the tips & advice that viewers of shows like "Next Food Network Star" see the contestants getting from their mentors like Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentiis, and Alton Brown.  "Have a point of view." "Tell a story." "Personality"

The full recipe will be posted next Tuesday!  Until then I have a few more days to practice.

Thank you to
Saint Agnes Baking Company 
for having me!

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