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Top Chef: feeding the Super Bowl XLV 'taste' crowd

Star-Telegram reader Katherine Strickland, 24, of Fort Worth was the lucky winner in our Taste of the NFL tickets contest. To enter, readers had to submit a cooking-demonstration video, and Strickland cooked up some delicious-looking blackened tilapia tacos in hers. Judges praised her clear, detailed instructions (including scrolling the recipe's ingredients on the screen) and her general enthusiasm for her dish.

Winner

Katherine Strickland Age: 24 Fort Worth

Watch her video.

Runner-up: Most Creative

Zoe Courtney and Karl Stefansson Age: Zoe - 57, Karl - 58 Southlake

Watch their video

Runner-up: Future Food Network Star

Emilee Vergara Age: 11 Colleyville

Watch her video

Runner-up: Foodies' Favorite

Susie Feshold Age: 36 Arlington

Watch her video


Posted 2:16pm on Tuesday, Feb. 01, 2011

While Super Bowl XLV may officially be for sports fans, foodies don't have to feel left out. With every Super Bowl comes Taste of the NFL, a world-class tasting event with delectable bites prepared by top-tier chefs who fly in from across the country.

The charity event, which is Saturday at the Fort Worth Convention Center, benefits food banks nationwide. It is sold out.

What makes this more exceptional than a typical tasting event is the high-profile help the chefs get: They pair up with NFL players, with each booth boasting a player from one of the 32 NFL teams. Attendees not only get to wine and dine, they can schmooze with their favorite players.

Dallas chef Kent Rathbun, owner of Abacus, Jasper's and Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen, will represent the Dallas Cowboys, partnered with former defensive tackle Chad Hennings. And because this year's Super Bowl is in North Texas, Rathbun is also the host chef. Part of his duties include rounding up volunteers from area culinary schools and putting visiting chefs in touch with local purveyors. He also created the Taste of the NFL dinner series that took place in the fall at area restaurants such as Lonesome Dove, Grady's, Grace and Fearing's.

"That's the first time that's ever been done," he says.

Being a Taste of the NFL chef makes you part of a special little club.

"It's cool to catch up with these folks every year and to have relationships with chefs from other cities," Rathbun says, "but also to do something really great for people having trouble in their lives. Our goal is to write a check for Food Banks of America for $1 million."

This year is the 20th anniversary, so many of the inaugural chefs, who participated in the first Taste of the NFL in Minneapolis in 1992, will attend. They include Tom Colicchio, Nancy Silverton and Stephan Pyles. Country artist Martina McBride will perform, and there'll be appearances by Buddy Valastro from the TLC show Cake Boss, as well as the newly crowned Miss America, Teresa Scanlan.

There will be additional booths manned by Tarrant chefs such as Jon Bonnell (Bonnell's), Blaine Staniford (Grace), Grady Spears (Grady's), Michael Thomson (Michaels Cuisine) and Brian Olenjack (Olenjack's Grille) as part of a "Flavors of North Texas" effort.

At an event like this, with thousands of portions being served, you must choose your recipe carefully, Rathbun says. He's doing chipotle-cured pork-shoulder tacos.

"I will tell you that over the years I've seen certain chefs choose poorly, and I've been one of those," he says. "When I first started out doing this kind of stuff, I chose dishes that were a little more aggressive or too complicated. But you don't want it to take too long. When you're serving that many people, you have a narrow window of time, so you have to pick something really good and simple and quick to pick up. But the most important thing is that, when people walk away from your table, you want them to go, 'I want another one of those.'"

Here is Rathbun's Taste of the NFL recipe, as well as the recipes for the dishes that will be served by the chefs representing the Super Bowl teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.

Gnocchi with wild mushrooms, gorgonzola and toasted walnuts

For the gnocchi:

3 pounds russet potatoes (about 6 large potatoes)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg, extra large

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup canola oil

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 1/2 cups wild mushrooms, wiped clean, tough stems removed

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup grated Gorgonzola cheese

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, for garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the potatoes until they are tender. While still warm, peel and pass them through food mill or ricer onto clean, dry countertop or extra-large cutting board.

2. Bring 6 quarts water to a rolling boil in a 3 gallon pot. Prepare an ice bath with 6 cups ice and 6 cups water.

3. Make well in center of potatoes and sprinkle with the 2 cups flour. Place egg and salt in center of well and, using a fork, stir into flour and potatoes, just like making pasta. Once egg is mixed in, bring dough together, kneading gently until a ball is formed. Knead gently another 4 minutes until ball is dry to touch.

4. Roll baseball-size ball of dough into 3/4-inch diameter logs and cut logs into 1-inch-long pieces. Drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook 1 minute, or until they float. Immediately remove to the ice bath. Once cooled, remove from the ice water, drain and toss with the canola oil. Can be refrigerated up to 48 hours, or frozen until ready to use.

5. To make the sauce, in a large saute pan, melt butter and saute garlic, shallot and mushrooms until tender, about 4 minutes. Add white wine, reduce for 1 minute, then add cream and reduce 4 minutes. Stir in Gorgonzola.

6. Add gnocchi to pan, toss well, and top with toasted walnuts and season to taste.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 538 calories, 29 grams fat, 61 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 63 milligrams cholesterol, 309 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber, 46 percent of calories from fat.

-- chef Anthony Zallo of Bigelow Grille, Pittsburgh, representing the Pittsburgh Steelers

Wisconsin cranberry walnut frangipane turnovers with spiced cranberry broth and maple cream

1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and dried

2 tablespoons currants, heated and plumped with 1 tablespoon brandy

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarsely

1/3 cup sugar for rolling out puff pastry

1 sheet puff pastry

Frangipane (recipe follows)

Egg wash (1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream)

Cinnamon sugar (1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

Maple cream (recipe follows)

Spiced cranberry broth (recipe follows)

1. Combine cranberries, plumped currants, 2 tablespoons sugar and walnuts in a bowl and set aside.

2. Sprinkle cutting board with 1/4 cup sugar, place puff pastry on top and sprinkle the puff pastry with the remaining sugar; this ensures the pastry will not stick to the board or the rolling pin. Gently roll the pastry into a 12-by-12-inch square about 1/4-inch thick. Roll evenly, letting the rolling pin do the work. Cut the square into eight 3-by-3-inch pieces and place in refrigerator to rest for 15 minutes.

3. While dough is resting, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and spread about 2 teaspoons frangipane in the middle of each square, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Spoon cranberry-currant mixture on top of frangipane. Lightly brush borders with egg wash.

4. Lift one corner to meet opposite corner to form triangles, the classic turnover shape. With fingers, press edges to seal. Lightly brush each turnover with egg wash, trying not to let it drip over sides. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon sugar over each turnover. With tines of a fork, once again press down edges of dough. Cut one 1/2-inch slit in top of turnover to let steam escape while baking.

5. Place on baking sheet and bake in pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake to a deep golden brown, checking for doneness at 15 minutes. Turnovers should be crispy and fully cooked. Place on cooling rack.

To assemble: Set up eight soup bowls and place a good dollop of maple cream in the center of each bowl, top with turnover and ladle spiced cranberry broth around the cream.

Nutritional analysis per serving (with maple cream and spiced cranberry broth): 663 calories, 36 grams fat, 74 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 111 milligrams cholesterol, 179 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber, 50 percent of calories from fat.

-- chef Sanford D'Amato, Sanford Restaurant, Milwaukee, representing the Green Bay Packers

Maple cream

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1. Chill a large bowl and a whisk. Just before serving, stir the ginger into the chilled cream and using the chilled bowl and whisk, whisk cream constantly, until very thick.

2. Drizzle in the syrup and whip into soft peaks.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 129 calories, 11 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 12 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 75 percent of calories from fat.

Frangipane

1/4 cup almond paste

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature, cut into chunks

1 small egg, room temperature

2 tablespoons flour

In a food processor fitted with metal blade, grind almond paste with sugar. Add butter and process until smooth. Add egg and emulsify. Pulse in flour until just combined -- do not over-mix. Reserve and refrigerate.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 123 calories, 8 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 39 milligrams cholesterol, 66 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 59 percent of calories from fat.

Tomatillo lime salsa

16 ounces tomatillo

tomatoes, peeled, washed

and quartered

1 tablespoon kosher salt, separated in half

2 tablespoons jalapeño, stemmed and seeds

removed, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and coarsely

chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, peeled and coarsely

chopped

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, washed

4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1. In a mixing bowl, use half the salt to salt tomatoes and let marinate for one hour, then drain excess liquid.

2. Once tomatoes are drained of excess liquid, mix with rest of ingredients and grind in food processor.

Charred corn pico de gallo

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut off the cob

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons jalapeño, stem and seeds

removed, finely diced

4 tablespoons red bell pepper, stem and seeds

removed, finely diced

4 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped

4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1. In a medium-hot cast-iron or thick-bottom skillet, add corn and saute until corn starts to brown on edges.

2. Remove charred corn from skillet and transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool.

3. Thoroughly mix corn with olive oil, jalapeños, bell pepper, cilantro, lime juice and salt.

Spiced cranberry broth

Two 12-ounce bags cranberries, washed, drained and juiced in a juicer

2 cups dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh ginger root, washed and coarsely chopped

1 small cinnamon stick

1/2 bay leaf

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed

1/2 teaspoon whole allspice, crushed

3 star anise

1 clove

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch salt

1/2 cup sugar

1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring up to boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer. Using a ladle, skim and discard the scum. Simmer slowly for 20 minutes.

2. Strain mixture through a very fine strainer or double layer of cheesecloth. Chill for at least 2 hours before using.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 135 calories, trace fat, 25 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 271 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 2 percent of calories from fat.

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