Paul Dauch, chef at the Wood County Senior Center, bravely stepped into the arena earlier this month, armed with a menu fit to make mouths water.
|Chef Paul Dauch with his watermelon and arugula salad, a People’s Choice winner. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Of course, so did his competition, a contingent of kitchen gurus from Sterling House Assisted Living in Bowling Green under Chef James Price.
The two groups faced off in the second annual Wood County Chefs Throwdown, a culinary competition held Oct. 19 at Penta Career Center.
Three celebrity judges and a crowd of 200 or more members of the public gathered to sample each chef’s three-course offering of appetizer, entree and dessert.
Weekdays, Dauch serves lunch that was prepared at the Wood County Production Kitchen “and I cook dinner here at the downtown site,” explained Dauch, who has been a fixture at the senior center building on North Main Street in Bowling Green for the past eight and a half years.
“Before, I was with Bob Evans” — first at the Bowling Green restaurant, then at Findlay, and finally as a corporate manager.
His throwdown menu began with a refreshing watermelon and arugula salad, for which Dauch won the People’s Choice Award in the appetizer category.
For the entree he served a sliced flank steak with smashed redskin potatoes and a popular sage roasted cauliflower.
Dauch is sharing both the salad and the cauliflower side dish recipes with today’s Cook’s Corner readers.
|Dauch (front) and Niese (back) work in tandem to prepare the food. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
|Dale Niese from the Wood County Committee on Aging prepares steak during the Wood County Chefs Throwdown at Penta.
|Seniors gather to sample various foods at the annual senior facility chefs’ competition.
|Joshua Scherger (left) and Jeremy England of Sterling House prepare chocolate cake and an appetizer during the Throwdown.
Price’s Sterling House menu, also based around a steak dish, won the judges’ overall championship as well as People’s Choice Awards for dessert and entree. He served up a crabcake with pineapple and orange salsa appetizer. His winning entree was beef chuck roast au ju with whipped potatoes with butter and chives, and a vegetable medley of steamed broccoli, carrot and cauliflower in a butter oil.
The dessert that wowed the crowd was a chocolate cake with raspberry mint topped with mascarpone cheese.
Last year was the first year for Chefs Throwdown, and both Dauch and Price took part in the 2012 event, along with three other chefs from senior-serving facilities in the county.
Price was featured in the Nov. 27 Cook’s Corner for a salmon croquette with lemon aoli sauce as well as an orange-glazed chicken.
Dauch has also been in the Corner once before, for a cherry-bedecked banana split pie.
This time around, his Throwdown dessert was Nutella and Banana Melt, which sounds like something Elvis Presley would have killed for.
“Those two items on the inside of white bread,” Dauch said, describing the preparation. “Grill it like you would grilled cheese, with butter and a little bit of brown sugar on the outside” so it gets it nice and toasty.
There’s nothing casual about his approach to the annual competition, despite the fact that the challenge is all in good fun.
“I start thinking about it like now, for next year. By summer I start pulling the actual menu together and getting recipes.”
This year Dauch went for totally original dishes, nothing he had ever served the local seniors before.
“But tomorrow night we have cauliflower (on the regular dinner menu) so I am going to go ahead and do the sage roasted” version from the Throwdown, he said one day last week.
For those who opt to make it as a side for their own dinner, Dauch offered a tip.
“Add color to this dish by using white, purple, and orange cauliflower,” he suggested.
As for the watermelon and arugula salad, it’s the kind of original idea that makes such good sense, flavor-wise, you wonder why nobody’s served it to you before.
“With any salad you are pre-dressing, wait until just before you serve to dress the salad,” Dauch cautioned. “This will keep the salad from getting too moist.”
Watermelon and Arugula Salad
½ pound arugula
2 pounds seedless watermelon, 1 inch diced
¼ cup candied walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ pound shaved Parmesan cheese
Combine the watermelon, arugula, and walnuts in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, in a small bowl. Toss the dressing into the watermelon and arugula. Shave the Parmesan cheese with a vegetable peeler. When ready to serve, divide salad onto plates and top with shaved cheese.
Sage roasted cauliflower
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup sage leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
6 tablespoons butter
1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
Heat oil in a small pan until hot. Add sage and fry, stirring until crisp. Lift out sage and drain on a paper towel. Transfer the oil to a large bowl. Let sage cool and crumble with fingers into a small bowl. Stir in salt and set aside.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place a pan with an inch of water in the oven. Add cauliflower to oil in large bowl and toss until coated. Spread out cauliflower onto a baking sheet and bake until browned, about 25 minutes.
Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat, stirring often. Cook butter until it smells toasty. Turn off heat and add the juice of the lemon; stir well.
Place cooked cauliflower in a large bowl, pour butter over and add lemon zest. Add half of the sage salt and toss. Taste and season with remaining salt as needed.
Tip: Add color to this dish by using white, purple, and orange cauliflower.