4-H cooking team captures competition
New Orleans — They went up the mountain. Or at least down Interstate 10.
Either way, Pointe Coupee Parish 4-H’s state-competition winning seafood cook-off team members found the guru in chef Tenney Flynn of GW Fins in New Orleans.
The team decamped at the renowned French Quarter restaurant the Monday before the competition, hoping for a few pointers. First up, the recipe.
“We’ve got to get rid of the hospital food,” Flynn said, referring to the fat-free yogurt included in the team’s recipe for a Louisiana Seafood Appetizer medley.
Grant Jourdan, 15; Katie LaCour, 15; Annie Gosserand, 15; and Natalie Hardy, 16, were to face teams from around the South, including a second team from Louisiana. Their recipe, which includes a shrimp and corn soup and crawfish cakes with a cream sauce, was difficult to get under the 500-calorie rule.
Jeanne Glaser, a graduate assistant with the LSU AgCenter, said the team improvised a lot.
“There’s seafood and cream and under 500 calories,” she said. The recipe comes in at 492 calories.
Team members said they practiced the appetizer dish more than 20 times.
“It showed,” Flynn said of their state-competition-winning performance. “It’s a tough environment to execute in and you guys did well.”
Which is not to say there wasn’t room for improvement. Flynn and other GW Fins staff gave the team pointers on knife skills, quality of ingredients and on plating and presentation. Flynn offered the team cryogenically frozen crawfish from the restaurant’s own supply.
“They hold up a little better,” he said.
He also spiced up the herbs in the crawfish cakes, offering a bunch of fines herbes, a mix of herbs that includes chevril, chives and parsley, instead of the team’s plain bunch of parsley.
The team also must prepare the recipe in under an hour.
“Isn’t it amazing that it takes an hour,” Flynn said. “If it was 40 minutes, it would take 40 minutes.”
The recipe is an amalgamation of recipes from the teens’ families, AgCenter staff and their own ideas.
The crawfish cakes are a LaCour family recipe and the sauce came from an AgCenter agent. The salad, they said, is something they came up with on their own. The creamy sauce was the toughest nut to crack, Natalie said.
“We went through a few sauces,” she said.
The team’s been working together in the seafood cook-off for two years, and many of the techniques came from last year’s preparation of a larger crawfish dish.
Flynn kept a careful eye on the team members as they prepared their three dishes, offering gentle advice and honing the team’s technique.
“I’ve competed a time or two, but most importantly, I’ve judged a time or two,” he said. “I wanted to see Louisiana win. I wanted to see Louisiana beat the other people.”
And with Flynn’s instruction, the Pointe Coupee team did just that, taking first place and $250 in prize money for each of its four members. Jackson County, Miss., won second and Ellis County, Okla. came in third.