Un/fortunately, depending on your state of mind, this event was scheduled for the same time as the Super Bowl. (Or the Puppy Bowl - again, depending on your inclination.) Not a big sports fan, I wasn't too worried about missing any of the action. I was, however, pretty stumped about what to make - especially because I didn't decide to enter until the night before. The five obstructions were:
-Cannot contain onions or garlicAs you can probably tell, this cook-off was Valentine's themed. But instead of making something heartfelt (haha,) I instead opted to make something that one might find at the average Super Bowl party: potato skins. Artichoke hearts seemed the most sensible heart to include with my tater skins and roasted red peppers fulfilled a second requirement. After a quick internet search, I discovered that rosemary is associated with the goddess Aphrodite - that would work for my aphrodisiac. By using baby red potatoes, I was able to avoid any need for utensils - each half potato was it's own bite-sized portion. As for the onions and garlic, I didn't want to leave them out, but I did. Finally, I decided to add bacon. It's a natural for potato skins and would made the perfect garnish for the top of each little guy.
-Must contain hearts (of palm, artichokes, celery, an animal, candy hearts… you name it! Just don’t say you simply cooked it “with heart”)
-Must include an ingredient that is red
-Cannot require utensils to eat
-Must include an ingredient that is rumored to be an aphrodisiac
With my ingredients settled, it was just a matter of what binding to use for the filling. I went with cream cheese. Sour cream would have been a good choice, too, but the acid from the artichoke hearts and roasted peppers seemed like enough of a tart/sour flavor.
Once I got to the cook-off, I assembled all the pieces: I filled each little potato cup with a good scoop of the filling, and topped each with a square of crisp bacon. The other entries looked amazing: one couple made an octopus bruschetta on double-heart shapes cut out of pita. There were crostini topped with ricotta, basil and pomegranate seeds, a puff pastry with artichoke spears (phallically delicious!) and lavender chocolate truffles rolled in crushed conversation hearts. In the end, we were all winners - but my Super Potato Bowls edged out Mike O'Neill's yummy and lovely crostini by just a vote or two.
Super Potato Bowls
makes about 40
20 baby red potatoes, washed and dried
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, divided
coarse salt & fresh ground black pepper
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 lb bacon, cooked until crisp
1 can artichoke hearts in water, diced (discard any tough outer leaves)
1/4 cup diced roasted red pepper (rinse & pat dry before dicing)
fresh ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut each potato crosswise. Toss potatoes in a bowl with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary, salt and pepper. Arrange cut side down on a baking sheet and bake until tender, 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, put the cream cheese in a large bowl. Cut about half of the bacon strips into 40 3/4" squares, set aside. Crumble or dice the remaining bacon (you'll have about 1/2 cup,) and add to the bowl with the cream cheese. Add the diced artichoke, red pepper, remaining 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, ground black pepper and a pinch of cayenne, more if you like it spicy. (You might add a dash of your favorite hot sauce instead of the cayenne, if you prefer.) Mix well and refrigerate.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut a thin piece off the rounded end of each so they will sit upright. Using a spoon or small melon baller, scoop out the insides and reserve for another use. Arrange on a baking sheet and set the oven to broil. Broil the potatoes until lightly browned, 3-4 minutes, checking every minute or so. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Fill each potato bowl with a generous scoop of the cream cheese mixture. Top each with a square of bacon and serve warm. (You can wait until just before serving to broil the potatoes and then fill and serve. Or you might just like them at room temperature, too.)