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Food Adventures At The Los Angeles Travel And Adventure Show

Last month, we were invited to take part in the Fiery Foods Challenge at the annual LA Travel and Adventure Show. Each year, thousands pack the Long Beach Convention Center to learn more about various travel destinations around the globe. While they’re there, folks sample foreign foods and beverages while enjoying entertainment from notable guest speakers, watching cultural performances of music and dance from just about every region of the world, and collecting more than enough travel brochures to plan the perfect vacation. This year’s show featured two Travel Channel hosts, Andrew Zimmern and Samantha Brown. There was even a rock climbing wall, zip line, and water activities for guests to try throughout the weekend of festivities. As you know, food and travel go hand in hand, so it only made sense that the Fiery Food Challenge would rock the stage during the show.

The travel show’s Culinary Stage is where I come in. Sadly, Chrystal was not able to attend, so it was just me this time around. The stage featured several live demonstrations to showcase all the unique flavors represented at the whole event, and it would be the location of the friendly cooking competition.

Amir getting the samples ready backstage.
The Culinary Stage is set, and my cooking demo has just begun.

I was one of the four local chefs and cooking aficionados to prepare a spicy recipe that represented a specific destination present at the travel show. My assigned place was Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite National Park. I was tasked not only to share a recipe selected by Tenaya with a live audience, but I also had to prepare 125 individual samples of the dish for audience members to sample after the cooking demo. Yep, 125.

Tenaya has such a robust culinary scene, offering a variety of foods from a selection of several eateries at the resort. The recipe they gave me was an original creation from their Executive Chef Frederick B. Clabaugh— Spicy Tequila Marinated Prawns. I was honored to be given the opportunity to represent him, his recipe, the Tenaya Lodge, and the Yosemite and Mariposa County Tourism Bureau. With a lot of prep work and planning the night before, I was able to get the samples completed without a hitch. In fact, to my surprise, I had a few extra ones that I was able to share with everyone backstage.

TV personality and food author, Mark DeCarlo, MC'ed the challenge and made a great assistant in the kitchen.

There are four main components to this dish. First, of course, was the tequila marinated shrimp. These little guys are soaked in a spicy tequila-lime bath before a final heating on the grill. Then, they are placed on top of a sweet corn pancake and topped with roasted red and yellow bell peppers. The whole thing is brought together with a simple cilantro-lime butter sauce. For the sake of the demo, I made them into an amuse bouche by cutting small sections of the corn cake out with the top of a shot glass. I thought it was the perfect serving size for the occasion. Chef Fredrick’s creation was so creative, simple, and tasty, it was only appropriate to share the recipe here. The corn cake adds a wonderful amount of sweetness to balance out the heat from the shrimp. The peppers also bring in a nice touch of additional sweetness, while the buttery sauce rounded the whole thing out with an added zesty punch of flavor.

The shrimp recipe was picked "Most Unique" by the audience!
Posing with SriAdriani 'Jenny' Martono from the Indonesia Tourism Board, Chef Tracey Augustine of Cashmere Bites, and host Mark DeCarlo.

Chrystal and I have done a cooking demonstration in the past, but this was my first time flying solo. I admit that I was nervous leading up to the event, but when it was all said and done, everything really did go off without a hitch. Everyone was a winner at the end of the challenge, as each cook was awarded a special title that was decided by the audience. Hopefully, Chrystal will be able to join me next year. Even better, hopefully she and I can make it up to Tenaya to thank Chef Fredrick in person and experience all the delights Yosemite has to offer. In the meantime, we’ll make sure to include this appetizer at our next meal gathering.

Spicy Tequila Marinated Prawns – Makes 18 individual servings (recipe courtesy of Fredrick Clabaugh)
18 raw prawns, peeled and deveined
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper

Tequila marinade
1 cup tequila
2 tablespoons siracha
4 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Sauce
1⁄2 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
Juice from 2 limes
1 750 mL bottle white wine
2/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Corn cakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 egg
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
1 ear fresh corn, peeled and cut from the cob
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk

1. In a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees, place bell peppers on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 18 minutes, or until blackened and charred on all sides. Place in a lidded, ceramic or glass dish, cover, and let sit for an additional 10 minutes, or until cooled to touch. Remove outer layer with your fingers, gently peeling way the thin skin. Remove stem and seeds and chop into thin strips. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the marinate in a large glass or plastic mixing bowl. Add shrimp, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

3. While the shrimp marinates, make the sauce. Heat half of a tablespoon butter a saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots and until become soft, about 4 minutes. Add lime juice and wine, and let reduced by 3/4ths. It will be a thick syrup. Stir in butter cubes very slowly, continually string until all are incorporated. Mix in cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Make the corn cakes. Heat an electric griddle to medium, or 325 degrees, or heat a large, flat pan over medium-high heat. Mix together all the ingredients for the corn cakes in a medium mixing bowl. Stir until just until wet and dry ingredients are well combined. The mixture will resemble a pancake batter. Ladle 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 1-3 minutes on each side, and cooked throughout. Remove from pan and let cool to touch. Using the top of a shot glass, cut out 1-2 inch circles out of each pancake. Set pancake circles aside.

5. Immediately prior to serving, grill prawns for 3-4 minutes on each side. To assemble each serving, place one prawn onto of one pancake circle. Top with a few strips of roasted pepper and drizzle sauce over the whole thing. Enjoy warm.

Click HERE for the printable recipe.

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8 thoughts on “Food Adventures At The Los Angeles Travel And Adventure Show

  1. This is so awesome! I’m so thrilled you all got to participate in it. I was asked to do the Atlanta show and had a scheduling conflict that ended up not happening, so I was in fact in town. Ended up helping the chef that took my place. And, she won!!! I featured her winning recipe on my blog, too! What a great show! Samantha Brown was at ours! Would love to do LA. Super and major congrats on the win!

  2. Congrats on the award! Looks like a fantastic dish. I’ve always admired how good you both are at competition cooking and have been meaning to get into the same.

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