Cooking in Cast Iron
The use of cast iron cookware in the competition is also significant. Cooking with cast iron pots, pans, and skillets is an authentic Appalachian method dating back to frontier days. Using cast iron cookware also offers certain culinary advantages. Cast iron can withstand high temperatures and its nonstick surface makes it a great choice for frying, searing, or sautéing.
While observers look on, the judges get up close and personal with the dishes prepared in the competition. Each team prepares four plates: one for the presentation table and three for tasting by the team of judges—dishes like Chef Urbanic and his team’s mouth-watering meal featuring West Virginia Arctic char chowder, West Virginia farm-raised quail stuffed with West Virginia-made chorizo and served with winter root vegetables, and West Virginia buttered hickory nut ice cream.
“These foods were chosen because they are as local as we could get,” Urbanic said. His team won the 2010 Best Use of Cast Iron award.
These observations on the cast Iron Cook-Off are excerpted from New Appalachian Cuisine The Cast Iron Cook-Off, an article by Travis Vandal in Wonderful West Virginia, published by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Travis Vandal is a seventh-grade English teacher and writer who traveled to all 55 counties in West Virginia in 2008. A photograph book of his travels is in the works.
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