Monday, May 7, 2012

At least you got a free pan. And a sunburn.*

Not to mention a great picture with my son and a fake cow.

But no trophies for us at this year's Grilled Cheese InvitationalAgain.

Not for lack of trying, mind you**.
After much experimentation...

Studiously applying the Scientific Method to Churro Grilled Cheese

Which cheese to use?  Mascarpone won.

The filling contenders: Mexican chocolate, cinnamon almond, clementine caramel

The orange caramel came out on top. 

...we were ready to hit the Rose Bowl.  (Or at least the parking lot next to the Rose Bowl).

At the competition, we wrapped each sandwich with parchment like this, sealed with a sticker listing the ingredientsClearly, we should have sealed it with a lottery ticket or a roll of twenties. 

The Cream Cheesy Penny
(aka Cheesy Churros)

For the filling:
8 oz. container mascarpone cheese
2-3 Tbs. homemade clementine caramel***, regular caramel sauce, or dulce de leche
zest of one orange, plus a squeeze of juice if not using clementine caramel
3 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the sandwich:
Buttermilk sandwich bread, or other sturdy, slightly sweet white bread
Plenty of softened butter

To assemble:
1/2 c. sugar
3 Tbs. good quality cinnamon

Mix all filling ingredients together by hand in a medium bowl until smooth.  Taste, and adjust for sweetness, amount of orange flavor, vanilla, etc.  It should taste just heavenly, basically.

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together, and place in a shallow container.  Set aside.

Trim edges from several slices of the bread, to form perfect rectangles.  You will have enough filling to make about four full sandwiches, but it keeps, so you can make one at a time if you like.  Butter one side of each slice very lightly, and the other side generously.  Place on a tray or paper towel, lightly buttered side down, while you heat up your skillet.

Heat skillet over medium heat for a minute or two, then place two bread slices in, lightly buttered side down.    Cook for about 1 minute, until just lightly browned.  Remove from the skillet, and place on work surface with the cooked side up.   Spread a generous amount of the filling onto one slice of the bread.  It will melt a little, but that's ok.  Just work with it.  Top with the other slice of bread, cooked side down on top of the filling, and return the filled sandwich to the skillet.    Cook for 2 minutes, until golden brown and crispy, then turn and cook the other side, 2 minutes more.  The filling may be oozing out a little bit.  That is OK.  Move the sandwich around gently to pick up any of the spilled bits and keep cooking.

An untrimmed tester, showing the little oozy part.  So yummy!

Remove sandwich to your work surface again, and allow to cool for 1 minute.  Slice (from top to bottom) into three or four pieces, forming long rectangles.  Using tongs, return the now smaller sandwiches to the skillet, and brown the each of the newly cut sides for about 1 minute each.  You should now have pieces that are toasty brown on all sides.

Place sandwiches in cinnamon sugar, and roll to coat generously.  Serve immediately, with Mexican Hot Chocolate on the side.

The hot chocolate on the right was an early test run.  It tasted good, but didn't have that thick, rich quality I was looking for. I suffered through several iterations until I was (fat and) happy with the results.  You're welcome.

Click to Print this recipe!

The Ultimate Mexican Hot Chocolate
This, not spatula (or the sunburn) was by far the best thing to come out of this whole misadventure.   One of my favorite restaurant desserts is the Hot Chocolate with Churros served at Senor Fred.  When I thought of making a churro, I knew I had to try to make that chocolate, too. After scouring the web for ideas, I finally found one recipe for Champurrado that seemed to be onto something. Pay dirt!  The secret is masa harina.  Thick, warm, not too sweet, with just a bit of spice...oh my! As one fellow contestant said (of their sandwich, not my sauce, but still) "C'est la Shite!"  It's incredible for dipping all kinds of things in. Like your fingers. Or a big ol' spoon.

NOTE: recipe can easily be multiplied to serve a crowd.

1 c. milk
1 tsp. masa harina****
3 oz. Mexican chocolate*****, chopped -or- 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cinnamon stick -or- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
pinch of ancho chili powder
dash of vanilla extract

In medium saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges. Stir in masa harina and chocolate, and whisk to combine until chocolate is melted. Allow to come to a boil, then lower the heat, add the cinnamon sticks/cinnamon, salt, and chili powder, and whisk again. Simmer for 5 minutes, until nicely thickened, stir in vanilla, and serve immediately.

Click to Print this recipe!

Enjoy the slideshow:

Read all about it here:
Full results and some great photos
The story of the Vegan HoneyPot winner, with recipe
An executive judge's favorites, with great descriptions and photos
Another executive judge's round up, with more photos

* Comment on my facebook page from my friend Darren after I announced our non-winning status.  He braved the sun, lines and crowds to come out and see us compete, as did several other good friends.  Love you guys!
** Or from lack of compliments from some of the executive judges and one of the founders of the event.  They were bringing friends over, and saying things like, "You all have done very well" while exchanging significant glances, etc.  Oh, the fleeting hope.  Ripped away like a bad band-aid.
*** I realize everyone is not lucky enough to have been given a jar of this amazing stuff for Christmas from a local chef.   It's a tough break, but you can still have a most excellent churro grilled cheese.
**** Corn flour used to make tamales. Available at Mexican grocery stores.
***** A big thank you to Cindy for dropping by with a bar of Mexican chocolate to get me started on this recipe!

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