Who took the challenge?

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2004

Dennis Adams' 'Corned Beef Hash - Red Flannel'

Dennis Adams' mother first served him Red Flannel Hash when he was 3. He was nauseated, but the dish soon became a once-a-month standard at his New England home. "Tastes change when you grow up," he said. The Douglas vacuum salesman, a September challenge participant and a transplant from Maine, adds Blarney cheese (a soft cross between cheddar and Swiss) to this regional tradition. Congratulations Boston Red Sox.

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Ernesta Ballard's 'Flaming Cowboy Christmas Pudding'

The outgoing commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Ernesta Ballard returns to the Food Challenge with a dish inspired by that icon of the great, wide West - the cowboy. "I was inspired by the image of the cowboy on the range with his saddle bags and open fire," she said. "Kettle cooking was often used - creating an "oven" by digging a hole, putting live coals in the bottom, lowering an iron kettle containing the pudding mixture into the pit and covering with more coals and dirt. ... Every cowboy has a can of corned beef hash in his saddle bag. This pudding would be right at home on the range." It serves six.

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Sharon Briggs' 'Stuffed Artichoke with Mango Butter' and 'Madison Memory & Spicy Mango Salsa'

Salmon and peanut butter pioneer Sharon Briggs returns to the Food Challenge with a vengeance - two testimonials to the undeniable great taste of corned beef hash and mango. For the first, she was inspired by a particularly striking assortment of artichokes. "They were beautiful," she said, "and then I thought of hash, and it's not beautiful. So why not combine them and turn a 'sow's ear' into a silk purse?" Her stuffed artichoke with mango butter does just that - it's a dazzling brunch dish, paced wonderfully with semi-sweet bread and champagne. Meanwhile, "Madison Memory" finds Briggs in a reflective mood. It's a tribute to her Mom's cooking during her family's camping trips on the Madison River in Montana.

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Shirley Carlson's 'MangoHash Stuffed Chicken'

Douglas part-time accountant Shirley Carlson thought about making a brunch recipe until she showed up for a bridge game on Columbus Day afternoon. She and three of her friends had the day off, and naturally, conversation turned to the Food Challenge. "Someone suggested pureeing the whole mess and using it for a milkshake," Carlson said. "That didn't go very far." But what did evolve was a simple but effective recipe for a stuffed chicken. "I kind of enhanced it by throwing on some fresh mushrooms," she said. "It had a surprisingly nice flavor."

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Koggie File's 'Quick Corn Beef Hash Pizza'

As the co-managers of Mendenhall Golf Course, Juneau's lone links, Tom and Koggie File leave their home at 7 in the morning during the season. They don't return until 8 at night. That leaves little time for cooking, one of Koggie's favorite pastimes. As a result, she often experiments with prepared foods that take little time to cook. She's found the Boboli crust to be one of the most versatile structures of all. You can put anything on it, and anything tastes better with roasted garlic parmesan alfredo sauce (another recent discovery). It made corned beef hash pizza a winner.

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Judy Hamann's 'English Hulas'

Nine and a half years ago, Judy Hamann was given the task of building the cream cheese section at the Valley Breeze In. Soon, she had invented 25 recipes. "My grandmother was a fabulous cook, and people tell me I'm a decent cook," said Hamann, now the store operations manager. "I don't ever say I'm good at anything, but you can give me combinations of food, and I'll come up with a recipe for it." She has the perfect mind for the Food Challenge, and it shows here, with a quick-and-easy, utensil-less breakfast sandwich: hash, cheddar cheese soup, crumbs, Mozzarella and mango on an English muffin. "I'm a farm girl," she explained. "Everything I make is meat and potatoes, farm simple." And farm-tastic.

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Rosemary Matt's 'Major Grey's Cheesecake'

Rosemary Matt was thinking about the Food Challenge one day as she paused to clean out her desk at work. Evidently, it was about time. Underneath her desk blotter was an Empire recipe from Friday, Aug. 13, 1999, for SPAM cheesecake. "It pretty much fit your criteria, except I took out the spam and put in hash," she said. Don't forget the chutney. This homage to Major Grey himself takes a long time to cook and cool, but the payoff, with its tequila-tweaked filling, is incalculable. It's a departure for Matt, who rarely eats meat.

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Gina Schmitz' 'Hash Stuffed Pork Loin with Curried Mango Pineapple Chutney'

Five or six years ago, Gina Schmitz was introduced to the almost unfathomable joy of the mango. She was hooked. "My kids just love it now," she said. "It's a Saturday treat for us." When she saw the ingredients for the Food Challenge, she had a recipe almost instantly. "Mango goes very well with pork," she said. "My thoughts then went to the bread and what I could do with that. Stuffing was the obvious answer, and then it was, 'What do you do with the hash?' I threw some in the stuffing to try it out." The scariest part of the dish? Her precision pork tenderloin pinwheel.

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Margaret Vrolyk's 'Mango Meat Loaf Patties'

As a single person with roommates, and a big fan of meatloaf, Margaret Vrolyk is often faced with a too-common crisis: Too much leftovers. Not enough time. That inspired a breakthrough. Vrolyk now cooks up a meatloaf with her choice of vegetables, smashes it into patties, freezes them on a cookie sheet and places the patties into a freezer bag. When ready to reheat, the patties can be combined with chiles, tomatoes, or an endless array of options, a patty plethora. The only problem with mango and hash was the mango she picked out wasn't very ripe. She stuck it in a blender and eventually made 16 patties, 212 inches in diameter.

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Dixie Weiss' 'Ranch Round Up Breakfast'

September Food Challenge participant Dixie Weiss was named for her grandmother, Dixie Walker, a ranch woman and turn-of-the-century teacher who once fended off a would-be attacker by shooting him. Walker often cooked for 20 to 50 ranch hands. She made her own butter, her own rolls, and of course, her own corned beef hash. Weiss' tribute starts with corned beef, potatoes and beets. She broils mango and jalapeño for a blistered homemade puree. And then there's the coup de grace -a buttered, hollow slice of bread, with an egg in the middle, covered with a slice of Mexican Asadero cheese. "Serve with your best coffee, Bloody Marys and all the camaraderie you can muster for breakfast or brunch!" she said.

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