Riverside's own Laureen Pittman has been selected as one of four finalists in Ocean Spray's Ultimate Cranberry Recipe Contest consumer category. On October 5th, Pittman will face off against the three other finalists in New York City for the chance to win $25,000. SquidInk recently chatted with Pittman about her recipe and the underground world of amateur cooking competitions.
SquidInk: What was the inspiration behind your "Savory Blue Cranberry Shortbread with Caramelized Onion Cranberry Jam" recipe?
Laureen Pittman: I love this shortbread recipe with blue cheese that I've made for years. I don't really have a sweet tooth, so I wanted something savory.
SI: What else other contests have you competed in?
LP: I entered the Pillsbury Bake-Off last year on a whim. I ended up making the Bake-off finals in Dallas with an upside down cake recipe with one of their refrigerated biscuits. Then I got on the Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown where they put home cooks up against each other.
SI: What's the cooking contest circuit like?
LP: It's a whole world I didn't know about. I've met some great friends through the contests. We keep up in online cooking chat rooms. And you know, there can be a lot of good money in it.
Laureen's Savory Blue Cranberry Shortbread with Caramelized Onion Cranberry Jam
Makes 20 appetizers
8 ounces crumbled Stilton or Gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup Ocean Spray® Craisins® Dried Cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
1/2 cup Ocean Spray® Cranberry Juice Cocktail
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
TO MAKE SHORTBREAD:
Combine cheese and unsalted butter in large mixing bowl with paddle mixer or in food processor bowl; mix or process until creamy. Mix flour, kosher salt and pepper in small bowl. Add to cheese mixture, a little at a time, beating or pulsing just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add dried cranberries; mix or process just until moist clumps start to form. (If dough is not coming together to form clumps, add 1 tablespoon water to dough and blend or process until moist clumps start to form.)
Transfer dough to large sheet of plastic wrap; knead gently with palms and heels of hands until dough holds together. Shape dough into 5 x 2 1/2-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour or up to 3 days.
TO MAKE JAM:
Melt 1/4 cup butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sautée for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden and tender. Stir in remaining jam ingredients; increase heat to high. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes or until cranberries burst and mixture is thickened to consistency of loose jam. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheet.
Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. If baking both sheets at once, rotate halfway through baking time. Cool on wire racks. Serve with jam.