I honestly didn’t think it was possible for the state fair to get any better.
Boy was I wrong.
You may have seen Lisa Prince on TV. She hosts PBS’s show, Flavor NC. She also appears on WRAL’s Friday noon news alongside Brian Shrader, cooking recipes from viewers. Recently, she asked me to be a food judge at the fair this year.
I hesitated for approximately .0025 seconds before I said, “Heck yeah!”
On opening day with an empty stomach, and excitement in my heart, I showed up for the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association PB&J contest. There were 27 entrants.
When I heard this, I almost fell off my chair; with all that food, I was hoping they’d have a rescue squad, or at least a wheel barrow standing by. But luckily, they divided the judges into two teams. We each sampled half of the batches, then exchanged our top picks, to determine first, second, third place, and honorable mention.
The grand winner was the only savory dish with which we were presented. In a neat twist, the winning cook was from Durham; Gretchen Van De Carr. Her PB & J wontons were terrific; savory, spicy, salty, and what we thought expertly fried snacks were actually baked. Pick up a jar of Sarah Foster’s pepper jelly, and make a batch. They’re perfect for game day or party munchies.
*A side note: my fellow judge, Buck, from Lumpy’s Ice Cream in Wake Forest and I decided they would extra yummy served with a dipping sauce of honey and soy. When I mentioned it to Gretchen and her escort, they both agreed.
1 cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
1 cup pepper jelly (as hot as you like it!!!)
24-36 wonton wrappers
3 tbsp. olive oil
Course sea salt and cracked pepper to taste.
Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Lay out wonton wrappers on parchment paper leaving a little room to work between each.
Place 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of peanut butter in the center of each wonton.
Place 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of pepper jelly on top of the peanut butter in the center of each wonton.
Get a small bowl of water.
Dip your fingers in the water and run them along all edges of a wrapper. Then fold that wrapper into a triangle and press edges together. I like to use a fork to help press edges (optional, but pretty).
Repeat with the rest of the wonton wrappers.
Brush the tops of the triangles with olive oil. Sprinkle wontons with course sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Bake for 17 – 20 minutes. LET COOL for at least 5 minutes. Enjoy warm or cold.
Any leftovers store nicely in a zip-lock for up to a week!
Congrats Gretchen, and thanks for a fun new recipe.
After the judging was finished, Petey and I wandered around the fairgrounds to see the sights and stuff our gobs some more. In the Education building, I made a very happy discovery.
D’Vines was there. They make my favorite sassafras jelly, and at the AgFest each year has a booth which sells wine and cups of their insanely delicious grape slushies. Unfortunately they only sell sassafras jelly at the Raleigh farmers market, but they had plenty of that purple frozen treat.
When we were at the Agfest last May, Anthony Anderson, star of the new show Black-ish, was there filming a segment for his other show on Food Network about food served at local celebrations. One of the purveyors he spoke with was Grannies, from Icar, NC, out west.
Petey had also visited Grannies that day to get himself a chicken-fried steak sandwich. A plate sized slab of meat, nestled into a standard-sized hamburger bun, lathered with white gravy. He loved it and was excited they were at the fair.
I hadn’t planned on eating more after the contest, but when I saw another sandwich on thier menu, my resolve crumbled. It was freshly fried green tomatoes covered with lashings of pimento cheese.
It was absolutely amazing. I’m going back on closing day, and guess what I’m having for lunch?
Hope to see you there.
Thanks for your time.