Earlier this month the N.C. Mountain State Fair was held in Fletcher, right outside of Asheville. Just like at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh, the western N.C. version features cooks competing for blue ribbons and bragging rights in special cooking competitions. Check out the winning entries below.
The N.C. Cattlemen’s Beef Council sponsored a contest featuring unique recipes made with ground beef. Sharon Gates of Buncombe County won with her “Munchable Mini Beef and Mushroom Pies” recipe. She earned a blue ribbon and $200 in prize money.
MUNCHABLE MINI BEEF AND MUSHROOM PIES
Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll out pie crust on a floured countertop. Using a biscuit cutter, cut rounds of crust a bit larger than the wells on your muffin tin. Line the muffin cups with crust and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef until no longer pink. Add the mushrooms and onions, and cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add spices, soup mix, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 3-5 minutes.
Spoon beef filling into lined muffin cups. Sprinkle each pie with cheese and French fried onions, and bake15-18 minutes until crust is golden brown.
The N.C. Egg Association featured the “Incredible! Egg Salad” cooking contest. Gates won $200 for her “Green Goddess Egg Salad.”
GREEN GODDESS EGG SALAD
Place eggs in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by at least 1 inch. Place over medium-high heat and bring water to a rolling boil. Turn off heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 12 minutes until hardboiled. Drain and cool eggs under cold water. Peel and chop the eggs. Place chopped eggs into large bowl.
In a food processor, combine mayonnaise, basil, parsley, scallions, cheese, salt and pepper. Pulse until combined, about 30 seconds. Pour herb mixture over chopped eggs and stir to combine. Garnish as desired.
Serve with crackers or as a sandwich.
The N.C. Pecan Growers Association sponsored the “Anything Pecan” cooking contest. The contest was open to any dish featuring at least one cup of N.C. pecans. Gates continued her streak with another first-place finish for “Practically Perfect Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bars.”
PRACTICALLY PERFECT PECAN PIE CHEESECAKE BARS
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 stick of melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking pan. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat with hand mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add cream cheese mixture to graham cracker crust. Bake in oven 30-40 minutes until set.
While bars bake, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, cream and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in remaining vanilla and pecans.
When cheesecake bars are done, pour pecan mixture on top and spread to cover. Chill bars until ready to serve.
The fair also hosted the “Pork Loin Tar Heel Pork Challenge,” sponsored by the N.C. Pork Council. Justin Pegg won over the judges with his “Enchilada Casserole.”
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine enchilada sauce and tomato sauce. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add pork loin, green chilies and onion. Heat until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add taco seasoning, cayenne pepper and garlic. Add 1 cup of water, and continue to stir until all ingredients are combined. Remove from heat. Stir in corn and black beans until combined.
Place two tortilla shells on the bottom of a greased 13×9 baking pan. Cover with a layer of pork mixture, followed by a layer of enchilada sauce, then a layer of cheese. Continue to make layers until all the pork mixture is used. Finish with a layer of cheese on top.
Place pan in oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until cheese starts to bubble. Top with favorite garnish and serve.