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A Trip Around the World, Sweet Potato Style

ASAP was thrilled to be asked to attend and blog about another 2013 WNC Chefs Challenge, especially because the May 19 challenge secret ingredient was grown by New Sprout Organic Farms of Asheville! Keep reading to learn what chefs Cary Shackelford of Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community and Greg Kilpatrick of Appalachian Grown partner restaurant HomeGrown created during battle sweet potato…

Photos by Camilla Calnan Photography

For battle sweet potato, the night’s secret ingredient was the North Carolina-bred Covington tater—grown by Asheville’s New Sprout Organic Farms. The competing chefs could have easily gone Southern; after all, we love our sweet potato pie and casserole. Instead, they took us on a culinary tour around the world!

Crab and Salmon CakesThe tour started with a trip to the Chesapeake Bay: twin cakes of crab and salmon with sweet potato-avocado salsa and garnished with fried ginger sweet potato fries by team Deerfield. Diners cleaned their plates, earning the dish the coveted number one spot of the night and putting to rest any rumors that good crab cakes can’t be made outside of Maryland.

Then, team HomeGrown headed to Africa: African sweet potato and peanut soup with a carrot-ginger puree and beet chips. This time, attendees licked their spoons and bowls clean, earning the dish the vote of second favorite.

Pot de CremeTo close out the culinary circumnavigation, both teams visited France. Team Deerfield created a sweet potato soufflé with apple brandy glaze and crème anglaise—the night’s number three dish (pictured above). Team HomeGrown opted for a sweet potato pot de crème with candied pistachios and espresso mascarpone whipped cream. The dish sparked lots of discussion about the meaning of “pot de crème,” as most diners had only ever enjoyed it made with chocolate. According to the technical French definition, it’s a loose custard, one that’s looser than other custard cousins like flan.

Of course, Southern inspiration was evident on the menu, chiefly in HomeGrown’s braised pork belly with a sweet potato hash and celery avocado salad. Although, the dish’s coconut curry sauce conjured flavors of India and Thailand.

The variety of preparations really excited New Sprout’s owners and operators, Michael and Michelle Porterfield, who attended and voted along with the other diners. “The sweet potato is extremely versatile,” Michael shared. “It can be used, as we’ve seen here tonight, in sweet and savory dishes. What’s more, it’s healthy and tastes great!” New Sprout sweet potatoes can be found locally in Ingles and Earth Fare stores now.

Ultimately, the judges and the audience agreed on the winner—with their scores coming in identical to one another. The quarterfinal slot went to Chef Shackelford and team Deerfield. The quarterfinals begin April 16. So far, Chef Shackelford joins Chef Daniel Wright of Tomato Jam Café, Chef Dan Moore of DoubleTree Catering, Chef Mike Fisera of Lexington Avenue Brewery, and Chef Steven Goff of Zambra.

March 19 Menu

Team Deerfield

-Twin cakes of crab and salmon with sweet potato-avocado salsa, garnished with fried ginger sweet potato fries
-Beef strip loin with a blue cheese sweet potato stuffing, red wine gastrique, and red and gold beet slaw with candied pecans
-Sweet potato soufflé with apple brandy glaze and crème anglaise

Team HomeGrown

-African sweet potato and peanut soup with a carrot ginger puree and beet chips
-Braised pork belly with a sweet potato hash, celery and avocado salad, and a sweet potato coconut curry sauce
-Sweet potato pot de crème with candied pistachios and espresso mascarpone whipped cream

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