Monday, March 5, 2012

Jalapeno corn cakes with roasted tomatoes

It's ProStart week!! Competition time is finally here! I am bringing more kids than ever this week--two culinary teams of four plus one alternate each and two edible centerpiece competitors. That means there have been a LOT of trips to the grocery store lately and I have my list pretty much memorized over the last two weeks because they practice the same dishes they're taking to competition in the final days. We'll spend Tuesday putting finishing touches on any dishes, doing a little knife skills practice, packing up all of our food and totes, then they go check their food in and bounce around in a playhouse for a few hours to shake off some nerves! On Wednesday, we have competitors pretty much all day, so there will always be something to watch. One of the students on team 2 was just recognized as the district's Culinary Arts student of the year, which was a pretty great honor. I'm excited to see what some of these kids do with their careers in the culinary world after high school.
Last week, they had their menus all set when they decided they needed to add something to their appetizer. I was thinking the same thing, but it's a STUDENT run competition, so I try to just give nudges in the right direction while letting them have the decision rights, which is sometimes difficult for me to do, but makes it really a student competition instead of the teacher's best dishes going up against each other. They were thinking something crunchy to go with their soup shooters (more on those another day) and they came across this recipe idea from Paula Deen. I get really nervous when they randomly search the internet for ideas, because although there are many good ones, anyone can post anything (yep, this blog is no exception, although I only post things I would want to make again) and I don't want to waste money on ingredients. Thankfully, these were delicious! We had to adapt them some since okra wasn't available in the store. After finding them from Paula, they searched the internet for other people who had made them and Annie from Annie's Eats had a beautiful picture. After combining ideas from both women, they're the perfect accompaniment to the soup and I'm proud of them for adding them to their menu!

Jalapeno cornmeal cakes with roasted tomatoes
makes 10 small cakes

roasted tomatoes:
~1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved and seeded (just give 'em a squeeze)
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 egg (beat a whole egg, then just use 1/4 of it)
~1/2  cup water
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
oil for frying

cotija or goat cheese for serving

To roast tomatoes (since the kids can only use two butane burners and no ovens), heat small saute pan over medium heat and toss tomatoes on. Cook for about four minutes, or until skin is blistered and slightly blackened, stirring occasionally.

For the cakes, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the egg and water. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until combined. Fold in jalapeno and garlic. Let stand while oil heats. Cornmeal will soak up water. Adjust water/cornmeal as needed for a consistency you can form into a shape to drop in skillet.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in small saute pan. Drop cakes in desired shapes into oil and cook for about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown. Remove to paper towel lined plate.

Top with cheese and roasted tomatoes and serve.

Adapted from Paula Deen and Annie's Eats

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