News from the Tennessee Valley Food

CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH: from The Backe Door Gourmet.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
from The Backe Door Gourmet

It's your lucky day! Sample almost 60 mouthwatering dishes at Monday's
Taste of the Valley

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

What's your favorite taste?

Twenty-one restaurants will bring their best crowd-friendly dishes to Taste of the Valley on Monday, hoping to win awards for both food and decorating for the theme "Celebrate St. Patty's Day."

From 6 to 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Decatur, food lovers will get to sample everything they can stuff in at this 20th fundraiser for the Volunteer Center of Morgan County.

The restaurants and several catering, ice cream and cake businesses, will be divided into the following categories for judging: appetizer, salad, side item, sandwich, beef and pork entrees, chicken and seafood entrees, cake and pie desserts, and desserts such as cookies, puddings and pastries.

Representatives of several restaurants brought samples to a planning session and talked about what’s popular and what they expect to serve.

Mark English of Hard Dock Café at Riverwalk Marina plans to bring Crawfish Etouffee, a new dish on the menu, as well as a crab appetizer. Their blackened catfish plate is their most popular dinner, he said, but those attending Taste of the Valley will enjoy trying the Crawfish Etouffee.

English shared that recipe, noting that “some people like it with a little more spice, so you can add hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste.”

“This is a good way to let the public know what we have to offer while also having fun, joking and laughing,” he said.

Mandy Backe of The Backe Door Gourmet considered serving her popular sun-dried tomato chicken salad on marble rye, tortellini pasta salad with Kalamata olives, homemade cinnamon clove sweet pickles and Pollyanna’s Mounded Cherries.

She was also pulled toward her Brunswick stew with jalapeno cornbread and perhaps banana pudding. Then she decided on white chicken chili and Asian slaw.

Backe, who likes to keep her restaurant and catering recipes a secret, shared a version of Brunswick stew her mother and boating friends often make, because it is a good family-size version suitable to make in a large slow cooker.

She opened her restaurant on Grant Street Southeast in December 2005 and said last year’s event gave her a lot of visibility.

“This is fun to do and a good cause,” she said.

Louie’s restaurant at the Holiday Inn is a long-time participant in this fundraiser. Chef Willie Bell, food and beverage director Johnson Ogun and general manager Andy Safiano are getting ready and deciding what to offer tasters this year.

“This event is good for us and good for the community,” said Safiano.

They shared a couple of their recipes, such as Tortilla Crusted Tilapia, which is on both banquet and regular restaurant dinner menus, and Louie’s Herb Chicken from the banquet menu.

They are getting more requests for fish now, and their baked tilapia topped with crushed tortilla chips is healthy and low-calorie, Ogun said. They offer more side vegetables such as sweet potatoes and sugar snap peas, too.

Here are the recipes shared by the three restaurants:

Crawfish Etouffee

11/2 cups diced green bell pepper
11/2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced red onions
1 cup chopped fresh green onions
2 cups diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup Rotel with green chiles
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound crawfish tails
2 tablespoons flour

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Saute all veggies just until they are limp. Add tomatoes with juice and Rotel. Simmer over medium heat.

Add crawfish tails. Mix flour with water for a thick paste. Add to mixture slowly until desired thickness is reached.

Simmer slowly for 20 to 30 minutes. Do not scorch. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve hot over rice.

Tortilla Crusted Tilapia

Tilapia fillet
Tortilla chips
Garlic powder
Dry red and green crushed bell pepper
Egg wash
Melted butter
Herbs and spices

Grind half of the tortilla chips into meal and add flour, garlic, herbs and spices; mix well.

Dip tilapia fillet in the egg wash and then in the dry flour mixture and place on a baking pan.

Sprinkle dry red and green crushed bell pepper, crushed tortilla chips and paprika on top of the fish. Drizzle fish with melted butter and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Louie’s Herb

Chicken breast
Salt and black pepper
Melted butter
Diced potatoes
Green onion

Mix flour and the dry herbs and spices together. Bread the chicken breast and place on a baking pan. Drench with liquid butter and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Set aside.

For the gravy:

Saute raw diced potatoes and green onion until potato is partially cooked. Add water and demi-glaze mixture. Stir until smooth and then add sauteed mixture.

For presentation, lace half of the plate with brown gravy and place cooked chicken breast on top. Add side starch and vegetable. Garnish and serve.

Brunswick Stew

1 chopped onion
2 cans Castleberry barbecue pork (or 1 pound barbecue pork)
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 cans chunk chicken (or 1 pound diced cooked chicken)
1 roll frozen cream corn
1 package frozen baby lima beans
1 package frozen cut okra
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of hot sauce
Chicken broth as needed*

Combine all ingredients in a Crock-Pot and cook on high setting for 11/2 to 2 hours. Add chicken broth if needed. *May be frozen. Serve with cornbread.

If you go

What: Taste of the Valley fundraiser for the Volunteer Center of Morgan County

When: Monday, 6 to 8 p.m.

Where: Decatur Holiday Inn

Tickets: $20 in advance and $25 day of event (free for children 3 and under); advance tickets available at the Volunteer Center, 355-8628, Jimmy Smith Jewelers, Holiday Inn, The Decatur Daily, Café 113, Colonial Mall and Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce

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