Sometimes, taking a risk pays off. Thursday evening at the OC Fair, OC Weekly food blog contributor Dave Lieberman chanced throwing down against chef Jason Quinn of downtown Santa Ana’s The Playground, to emerge victorious. In this home cook vs. professional chef challenge, the two competititors had to make use of the ingredients in a mystery box, supplemented with a generous array of fresh foods and pantry staples.
The mystery ingredients were lamb shoulder chops, pre-cooked beets (a Melissa’s Produce product), habanero chiles, and matzo meal. From my vantage point at the judges’ table I immediately assessed two sticky wickets: lamb shoulder’s need for long cooking, and how in the world to work matzo meal into the picture?
Quinn dusted shallot slices with matzo meal before sizzling them to crispness as a component of the warm-salad plate he created, a brilliant application. Lieberman used matzo to bread the lamb shoulder chops before setting them to braise, and put together a plate in which a chutney-like fruit compote with a good hit of habanero garnished the meat, and carried the day.
You still have time to take in the fair; it runs through Sunday. On the fried fair fare front, before leaving I tried the notorious beer-battered bacon from the Bacon-a-Fair stand. Surely this, finally, would be too over the top? Nope―at least in small doses. I’d hardly recovered from the sensory overload when I was already hatching a plan to replicate the idea at home, in a hopped-up BLT. Can’t you just see it?