Dining Guide 2006 - Chefs’ Challenge

Oct 17, 2006 at 3:45 pm

Chef Challenge: photo by Ross Gordon
Chef Challenge: photo by Ross Gordon
For LEO’s 2006 Dining Issue, we issued a dare to a handful of local chefs. The charge was simple: figure out a unique dish (or dishes) they could prepare that incorporates the following ingredients: Cheez Whiz, persimmons, chipped beef and cassava (or manioc, which is known as yucca in Spanish).

Here’s a rundown of these ingredients for readers unfamiliar such delicacies.
Cheez Whiz: A thick processed cheese sauce that Kraft Foods introduced 1952; used to top off corn chips, hot dogs and Philly cheese steaks or in broccoli casseroles. But the product has other uses, as detailed in “Clean Your Clothes with Cheez Whiz” by Joey Green. These include being applied to skin as a substitute shaving cream and to the hair to prevent split ends.
Persimmons: Edible fruit native to this region; also known as kaki or Sharon fruit; they’re round, yellow and red, and up to 3 inches in diameter when ripe. The word persimmon means “a dry fruit” in the native Algonquian language. The fruit is often used to make pudding, preserves or jelly.
Chipped beef: Popular during WWII as the slivers of dried beef were easy to transport without refrigeration, and simple to use to prepare meals for multitudes of soldiers. The beef is actually dried, smoked and salted and sometimes compared to bresaola, an Italian air-dried beef product that is thinly sliced and often served with olive oil.
Cassava: Plant with large starchy roots that are often cut into pieces and boiled or grilled, much like potatoes, or peeled and ground into flour. Tapioca is made with cassava flour, for example, which can also replace wheat flour in conventional recipes. In 2002, 184 million tons of cassava root were produced, with 54 percent of that in Africa, 28 percent in Asia and the rest in Latin America and the Caribbean. WARNING: The root cannot be consumed raw, since it contains sugar-free and bound amino acids and an enzyme that combine to become cyanide. Cooking the root destabilizes this chemical make-up.

While the chefs were up to this particular challenge, they all avowed they would not be featuring these one-of-a-kind creations at their restaurants anytime soon. —Elizabeth Kramer

Federico Elbl

Federico Elbl: photo by Ross Gordon
Federico Elbl: photo by Ross Gordon
Cheez Whiz & Free Range Beef Empanadas
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbls minced parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
18 tsp. Cheez Whiz
1 tsp black pepper
1 chopped tomato (fresh)
10 empanada discs (found at ValuMarket,
Lotsa Pasta and Creation Gardens)
Deep fryer (375 degrees or pan with vegetable oil to fry)
Heat pan on medium; when hot, add the beef that has been mixed with the pepper, garlic and parsley; cook until brown. Drain.
Add fresh tomato.
Put  aside to cool for about 20 minutes, or lay flat in tray in fridge for 10  minutes.
When cool, put 1-1/2 tbls of beef, and top with about 1-1/2 tsps of Cheez Whiz in center of each empanada shell. Close dough together using a little  water on the rim to make it stick; press with fork around rim to secure. Heat pan with vegetable oil, put empanada in and use spatula to fry the  outside not covered by oil. After thoroughly bubbled outside is crunchy,  remove and put on paper towel to soak; serve immediately with sour cream for  dipping.

Port Salut Ravioli with Persimmons
and Strawberry Sauce

3 eggs, + 1/2 egg yolk
1-1/2 cups all purpose (or pasta) flour
1/8 cup sugar
4 oz. Port Salut cheese cut into extremely small pieces
6 oz. pureéd persimmons
2 oz. pureéd strawberries
powdered sugar
Take the flour and make a colander in it. Add the three eggs, the 1/8 cup of sugar and mix well into a ball; wrap in plastic and let rest for 15 minutes. Take the Port Salut cheese, put in bowl and mix with 1/2 yolk; set aside. Take the pureéd persimmons and strawberries, and mix together in a bowl; add powdered sugar to desired sweetness. Roll the pasta flat to about 1/16 of an inch flat. Take half the sheet, and add 1 tbl. of Port  Salut mixture for every 2-1/2 inch square area. Take other half, and lay it on  top. Cut out the squares with a knife. Press with fork all sides to secure the seal of the ravioli. Boil for about 5 minutes.  
While water is boiling, take the pureéd mixture, heat in a pan for about 3 minutes on  medium heat; skim some of the juice and spoon it onto the plates that are going to be used for serving. When the pasta is finished boiling, strain  water, put pasta on plates, and use a spoon to put the pulp on top. Finish with some powdered sugar on top, and serve immediately.

Chipped Beef Southwestern Lasagna
2 oz. chipped beef thin sliced
1 large tortilla shell or 4 small tortilla shells (flour)
2 oz cream cheese
2 Roma tomatoes diced
1 tsp cilantro minced
1 tsp minced red onion
1/8 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the tortilla and cut into 4 equal slices. Mix the tomatoes, onions and cilantro together in a bowl. Place the first slice on a butter- or spray-coated baking pan, and spread the cream cheese on the tortilla; top with another slice of tortilla. On the second layer, add the chipped beef, and cover again with another slice; on the third layer, add the “salsa” mix, and cover with final piece of tortilla. Put in oven for 8-10 minutes, and serve when hot.

Grilled Shrimp and Garlic Cheese Cassava “Grits”

1 cassava, peeled and sliced into equal pieces
5 shrimp
1/2 tsp garlic
2 tbl cheddar cheese shredded
1 tbl Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp minced parsley
2 tbl. lemon juice
Take the cassava and boil it until it easily falls about with a fork; drain and add garlic, parsley, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper and the cheeses, and blend with a food processor or blender. While the cassava is boiling, and about finished, put shrimp in bowl, toss with lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper, and grill until finished (the color should be an  orange hue). Serve immediately with cassava “grits.”

Dan Thomas

Dan Thomas: photo by Ross Gordon
Dan Thomas: photo by Ross Gordon
Cheesy Cassava and Chipped Beef Adobo Tamale with a Persimmon Mole
After reviewing the ingredients, I came up with this, AHEM (let me clear my throat here), recipe. While I really think this would be a tasty dish, I doubt I would ever put it on the menu.
I was familiar with all of the ingredients except the cassava. After asking a few people and doing a little research, I found out that it has no flavor and is very starchy. I figured that after boiling it and mashing it like a potato and adding some Cheez Whiz, it can act as a masa (a fine maize dough made from corn boiled with lime, and ground). You can emulate the texture of masa by adding a little bacon fat. (I’ve had success in the past using canned hominy in the food processor in the same fashion.)
For the “chipped beef adobo,” soak the chipped beef with some dried ancho chilies and put it into the food processor. Pulse the processor until the mixture has a shredded-beef texture.
Cook the mixture with vinegar, cumin, cinnamon, tomatoes and onions.
Prepare tamales with the “masa” and fill them with the adobo.
A persimmon would be a wonderful addition to any standard mole recipe, by substituting persimmons (pushed though a food mill) and some maple syrup or sorghum for the chocolate.

John Castro

John Castro: photo by Ross Gordon
John Castro: photo by Ross Gordon
Roasted Fall Squash Soup with Chipped Beef, Sage, Cassava, Persimmon
2 kombucha squash (cut in half and remove seeds)
1 persimmon pulp
2 cups of cassava (cut to the size of a pencil eraser)
¼ cup vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons sage, chopped
¼ can of chipped beef, chopped (pancetta can be used as a substitute)
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3½ cups of strong chicken stock
3½ cups of water
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Roast squash at 400 degrees until tender. (Time will vary depending on type of squash used.) Cook chipped beef in hot oil until crisp. Add onion, cassava, persimmon pulp, garlic and sage. Allow to cook for 10-12 minutes. Add the roasted squash and liquids. Simmer for 45 minutes and puree. Adjust the consistency with chicken stock or water to desired thickness. Finish with croutons, fried sage, sherry vinegar and fried chipped beef. Serve with Cheez Whiz on your favorite cracker. For a real treat, do the Cheez Whiz shooter bacon cheddar flavor, of course.

Mike Hungerford

Mike Hungerford: photo by Ross Gordon
Mike Hungerford: photo by Ross Gordon

Chipped beef and Cheez Whiz fondue with thinly sliced cassava chips. The persimmons should be brunoised
Mike Hungerford: photo by Ross Gordon
Mike Hungerford: photo by Ross Gordon
and placed as a garnish.








Dave Clancy

Dave Clancy: photo by Ross Gordon
Dave Clancy: photo by Ross Gordon
Chipped beef: While usually relegated to toast, chipped beef can be chopped and added to Bison Chili to give it texture and add a certain aged quality.
Cassava: After mashing it into a powder using a mortise and pestle, it can be used just like starch, mace or arrowroot to thicken sauces.
Persimmons: Used primarily for pudding and cake, I like to cook it off with a sweet wine and reduce it, pass it through a chinois, and then use it as coulis. It lends itself well to seafood dishes.
Cheez Whiz: In addition to using it as an aphrodisiac, I like to add flame-roasted habaneras to it and add it as a garnish for my black bean soup.