CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cooking is fun! That's my mantra, and it was totally validated the night of Feb. 7. I witnessed firsthand a roomful of extremely diverse cooks, hard at work, and they were all having fun.
I know what you're thinking -- "What did I miss?!" Well, here's the scoop: The final event of last month's Live Well Charlie West workplace wellness initiative was a corporate cook-off, a chance for area businesses to break out of the office and bond with their co-workers over the camaraderie of the kitchen.
Ten intrepid teams, five locally sourced ingredients, 60 minutes and only one trophy. The teams started their timers -- and their cooking -- 10 minutes apart, with Team Simmons Family Chiropractic hitting the stove first.
As each team arrived, they were ushered to a waiting area so the mystery ingredients wouldn't be prematurely revealed to them. At their designated 10-minute interval, they approached their makeshift kitchen station where their ingredients were poised for action.
Lean pork tenderloin from Sandy Creek Farms; just-picked kale, carrots and green onions from KISRA; hand-harvested salt from JQ Dickinson Saltworks; and West Virginia maple syrup. Then their one-hour countdown began.
Some chose to brown and braise their whole pork tenderloins. Others sliced the raw pork into medallions before browning and cooking them.
Team Dow made a tenderizing yogurt marinade from available pantry ingredients. Team Robinson & McElwee created a sizzling stir-fry. Such a variety of delicious dishes, all quickly prepared, in a very lively atmosphere.
"It was so much fun!" an enthusiastic Margie Cooper from Team WV Symphony Orchestra announced.
"I was feeling a little nervous going into it, but the fun quickly took over," she added.
Her team came prepared with a case of special cooking instruments and indicated they would be back for future competition.
Future competition? Indeed! Don't fret if you missed out on this initial cook-off opportunity. The cook-off will return this summer, featuring more friendly competition with bounty from our local farmers.
Start practicing. This town is full of outstanding cooks, and bragging rights could be yours. Even if you don't claim the top prize, you will have had a unique experience with your officemates and an incredibly fun evening in the process.
Here is the meal prepared by the winning team:
Pan-Seared Medallions of Pork with Maple-Jalapeño Glazed Carrots
This prize-winning pork dish was created on the fly and under the gun by the City of Charleston Engineering Team, led by Tony Fish. Makes 4 servings.
3/4 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch-thick medallions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 cup white wine
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal (baby carrots can be left whole)
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup maple syrup
SEASON the pork medallions on both sides with salt and pepper.
HEAT a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil.
BROWN the pork, in batches, about 3 minutes per side, until just cooked through (just a touch of pale pink in the center). Add oil to the skillet as necessary.
REMOVE the pork to a plate and set aside.
REDUCE the heat to medium and add the green onions, garlic, and ginger to the skillet and stir 1 minute.