Caramel apples, cotton candy, deep fried frog legs, giant turkey legs, deep fried Klondike bars, funnel cakes, zucchini wienies, and last but not least…cinnamon sugar kissed- Churros. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about “fair food”. As many of you know I work as a private chef which allows me the freedom to explore a variety of different opportunities. Most recently I was asked if I might be interested in working at the Orange County Fair here in Southern California. With naivety and childish anticipation I agreed. The fair opened last Friday, and I’m not sure I’ve caught my breath. In a nutshell this has turned out to be, by far, the largest catering event I’ve ever been a part of.
Weeks before the fair actually opens the fairgrounds begin to buzz and day by day from the ground up the fair becomes a city of it’s own. Busy streets, lights, music, racing golf carts, cranes and trailers. Until all hours of the night, each branch of the fair is hustling to create something magical. I’ve experienced more in the last 4 weeks than I can even begin to wrap my mind around. We transformed our 22,000 square foot empty airplane hangar into a culinary arena, including a kitchen stage, ice museum, and a replica of Julia Childs’ kitchen. As soon as we had finished this monumental transformation, our attention shifted to a 6:30AM shift of receiving jams, pickles, jellies, brownies, cookies, and cakes for the contests. I have to admit that judging day was my favorite. I learned from women who had been cooking for 50-60 years how to taste a pickle and how to know if a strawberry was fresh when it was made into preserves.
I’ve also learned that people LOVE pie eating contests and winning a first place blue ribbon for your peach jelly is priceless. I have a new found respect and genuine adoration- let’s call it… a love a “fair” that I never would have imagined. The fair is so much more than rides, music, art, and food…It’s a gathering of the community, it’s tradition. I am proud to say that I am the 1st “Orange County Fair Chef” 2010. Yup that’s me, Louise Mellor – chef – carny- fair folk. It was only fitting that my first demonstration on stage would pay tribute to the fair, so I did – Churros with Cinnamon Orange Dipping Sauce.
1 cup water
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
In a medium sauce pot bring water, butter, salt and sugar to a low boil
Add in flour and stir until mixture comes together and begins to roll into a ball and becomes shiny
Turn off heat and continue to cook, stirring for an additional 2 minutes
Remove from heat and allow to cool
Once cooled but still warm stir in eggs and vanilla one at a time until incorporated ( you may use a mixer or stir by hand)
Place dough into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip
Heat 2-3 inches of canola oil to 375 degrees in large heavy bottom pot or a shallow saute pan with high sides
Carefully squeeze 3 inches of pastry dough into the hot oil, cutting off each churros by swiping off at the tip with your finger or a knife.
Oil will bubble around the churros vigorously- when bubbles begin to die down and churros are golden- flip over and repeat, about 1 minute on each side.
Place cooked churros onto paper towel to drain off excess oil and toss in sugar and cinnamon
8 oz of semisweet chocolate
8 oz heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of 1 orange
In a small sauce pot warm cream with cinnamon stick and zest- for about 5-10 minutes
Place chocolate into a bowl and pour strained cream over the chocolate- allow to sit for 5 minutes
Whisk smooth and serve warm