"Everything's better with coffee", "I think therefore I had my coffee", "Life begins after coffee". If money makes the world go round, coffee comes in a close second. Espresso, French press, pour over, drip: the fact that there is an entire industry dedicated to the roasted bean demonstrates its appeal and versatility. But what about cooking with coffee? Considering how much we love the drink, why don't we incorporate it more into our recipes?
Since 2010, that's the challenge S&D Coffee & Tea poses to the culinary students of Charlotte's Johnson & Wales University during their yearly S&D Culinary Challenge. The object of the contest is for students to create original recipes featuring S&D ingredients. The competition is judged by leading Charlotte chefs and other industry experts with a grand prize of $5,000.
Attending this year's semi-finals was a fun opportunity to taste all sorts of delicious food and learn a few useful tips along the way.
Pacing is Key
Several of my food writer and blogger friends have judged culinary competitions in the past and mentioned that pacing is key. With this in mind, I reviewed the semi-finals menu and determined that I should have no problem finishing all 10 of the samples listed. It wasn't until the 7th dish that I realized the menu was double-sided with 10 additional entries! Oops! Next time, I'll limit myself to 2-3 bites of each... even if it tastes delicious.
Marinades and Brines
We don't often think of coffee for marinades but boy is it good! After tasting these two dishes, I'll definitely be using it more to brine and marinade my meats.
Gravies and Sauces
If you've spent time in the South, you may be familiar with red-eye gravy, which is prepared with pork drippings and black coffee. It is most often served with country ham, and as I discovered, also works well with fish like this rainbow trout. Coffee was also a nice touch in the jus and glaze accompanying the duck breast and blinis.
Coffee and Shrimp
If you think coffee and shrimp don't make a good pair, think again! These coffee rubbed shrimp were excellent and the Low Country Jamm'in dish received rave reviews.
Baking with Coffee
We all know coffee and chocolate were created to go together, so it's no surprise that everyone loved the chocolate coffee cake. A more unusual yet successful combination was the coffee and cinnamon biscuit with sweet potato ice cream.
It was great fun to have the opportunity to taste the students' creations and learn about the many ways one can incorporate coffee into cooking. Congratulations to the ten J&W culinary students who earned a spot in next month's finals!
2016 S&D Culinary Challenge Finalists - (Photo courtesy of S&D Coffee and Tea)