Gilroy’s Adam Sanchez unable to repeat Great Garlic Cook-Off
title at festival; Harris-Murphree wins $1,000 prize
Nearly everyone envied the judges, but no one wanted to trade places as they sampled the mouthwatering garlicky creations prepared by eight contestants at the Great Garlic Cook-Off Saturday.
“It was really hard to pick (the favorite),” said Amy Traverso, a first-time judge and food editor at Sunset Magazine, before the winner was announced. “I want to give them all a prize.”
But a cook-off champion had to be declared. As her name was announced, an elated Mary Beth Harris-Murphree, of Tyler, Texas, rushed to the front of the stage to claim her garlic crown and $1,000 prize.
“The dishes here were amazing. I am really in shock,” she said, clutching the first-place plaque to her red apron. She won for her Basil and Garlic-Stuffed Sea Scallops Wrapped in Prosciutto and served with a Spicy Citrus Beurre Blanc. “The whole experience has been really great.”
Alice Hagopian, of Montclair, earned second place and $750 for her Garlic Appetizer De-Lites. Third place went to Bob Hayden, of San Francisco, for his Pancetta Wrapped Turkey Breast with Garlic and Wild Mushroom Stuffing with a Tuscan Pesto Sauce. Hayden’s hard work was rewarded with $500.
“I’m making it in my sleep at this point,” said Hayden, who cooked his dish once a week in preparation for the cook-off.
Gilroy’s Adam Sanchez whipped up “Gnock Out” Garlic Gnocchi, but failed to finish in the top three. He was attempting to achieve a first in the Great Garlic Cook-Off’s history – winning the nationally renowned competition twice.
“Of course, I wanted to do well,” he said. “This year, the bar was definitely raised. The quality of the dishes seems really incredible.”
In 2001, the owner of Al Sanchez Volkswagen-Mazda-Jeep-Eagle in Gilroy took top prize with his Garlic Marnier Duck Potstickers.
After waiting the mandatory three years, he returned to the cook-off stage Saturday with a different, more ambitious recipe. Sanchez had never prepared gnocchi before this year.
The labor-intensive dish involves multiple steps and ingredients, including 29 cloves of garlic.
His efforts were appreciated by the judges.
“Making gnocchi is not easy under the best of circumstances,” Traverso said. “It was a treat for us to have fresh pasta.”
Leslie Pew, of Lynn, Mass., also returned to the stage for the second time, after leaving empty-handed last year.
She cooked Baked Chicken in Garlic, Pears, and Champagne Sauce. Marion Stevens, of Rancho Mirage, prepared Garlic Flan with Lime Garlic Shrimp on Wilted Arugula; James Gray, of San Jose, made Curry Seafood Gumbo with Saffron Sake Rice; and Boni Passmore, of Antelope, baked Cosmopolitan Garlic Seafood Pie.
“I saw the show on the Food Network and decided I had to enter a recipe because I cook with lots of garlic,” Passmore said. “I said to my husband, ‘If there ever was a contest I should enter, this would be it.’ ”
Passmore’s cosmopolitan concoction was one of 474 recipes submitted to the contest this year.
Garlic Festival organizers narrowed the selection by reading the recipes to see which ones met their criteria. To qualify, recipes must include six garlic cloves, serve six, and take less than two hours to prepare.
Next, roughly 50 recipes were forwarded to Dee Carroll, a professional food consultant, for preparation in her kitchen. Wendy Brodie, who will be taking Carroll’s place as test cook next year, assisted. From there, eight finalists and two alternates were chosen.
Carroll and Brodie looked for dishes with creativity and variety that people can easily prepare in their own homes.
At the final contest, there were six celebrity judges – Carroll; Brodie, host of “Art of Food with Wendy Brodie”; Traverso; Andrea Froncillo, chef at the Stinking Rose Restaurant in San Francisco; Evelyn Miliate, head chef of the Bel Air market in Gold River; and Jay Minzer, a personal chef from Florida.
Among the eight finalists, Dan Murphree felt confident his wife would win, because he could smell victory – literally.
“I could smell hers above the rest,” he said. “To me that was good.”
Murphree, a contract medical education coordinator at a hospital in Texas, has entered several cooking contests, including the Build a Better Burger contest sponsored by Sutter Home wines with a recipe not surprisingly called “3 Times the Garlic, 3 Times the Flavor Burgers.” Whenever she cooks, Murphree cooks with garlic.
“I love roasted garlic. I eat roasted garlic at home,” she said. “I started stuffing it into burgers, pork tenderloin and fish. Eventually, I started stuffing it into sea scallops.”
Murphree’s recipe involves wrapping roasted garlic cloves in basil leaves, stuffing each clove into a scallop, wrapping the scallop with prosciutto, sautéing the scallop, and then topping it with a citrus sauce. The delicious result is a combination of garlic, basil, orange and cayenne flavors.
“I don’t know why it works, but it works,” she said, laughing.
The judges agreed. They were looking for dishes that scored high on preparation, flavor, texture, creativity, appearance, and use of garlic – with the latter being the deciding factor for one judge.
“Hers was a garlic-themed dish rather than a dish that contained garlic,” Minzer said. “The rest of it was the fact that she cooked it well. Her cooking and preparation were right on. She nailed it.
“The recipe gets you on the stage. It’s the skills that are going to get you the crown.”
By Jodi Engle Special to South Valley Newspapers
Winning recipe: Basil and Garlic-Stuffed Sea Scallops Wrapped in Prosciutto (served with a Spicy Citrus Beurre Blanc)
2 lbs. of sea scallops (24-30)
24-30 individually roasted garlic cloves*
Small fresh basil leaves (1 per scallop, reserve extra for garnish)
Thinly-sliced Prosciutto (enough to wrap the outside of each scallop)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbs. butter
Lay your scallops on a flat clean work surface. Place your hand on top of each scallop and using a thin sharp knife, cut a small pocket into the side of each scallop, taking care not to cut all the way through the sides. Wrap a roasted garlic clove with a basil leaf before inserting gently into the pocket of each scallop.
Then wrap the sides of each stuffed scallop with a thin slice of prosciutto to ensure the garlic stays inside the scallop; use a large toothpick to secure. Set aside; in a medium shallow dish, combine the flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Carefully toss the stuffed scallops in the flour coating all sides. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add your scallops gently in the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and keep warm until ready to serve.
Spicy Citrus Beurre Blanc
2/3 cup favorite white wine (Chardonnay recommended)
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. orange zest, freshly grated
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Combine wine, lime juice, lemon juice, orange zest and cayenne pepper in a medium sauce pan.
Heat over medium-high heat and let simmer until reduced by half. Stir in cream and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 8-10 minutes to reduce by half yet again. Turn heat to high and whisk in cold cut butter, until all butter is well incorporated. Keep warm.
To serve, place the stuffed and wrapped sea scallops on a large platter and drizzle with Spicy Beurre Blanc Sauce. Garnish with any remaining basil leaves, if desired.
* To roast individual garlic cloves, break garlic bulbs into cloves, leaving thin skins on the cloves. Place the cloves in a small oven-proof dish and drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of coarse black pepper.
Cover dish and bake in pre-heated 250° oven for 40 minutes, turning cloves over every now and then. Remove from oven and let garlic cool before carefully removing thin outer skins from each clove.
– Mary Beth Harris-Murphree, Tyler, Texas