<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By Mary LeFevre

The hubby and I attend any number of picnics, parties, reunions and graduations throughout the summer, but none as unique as the Pig Roast and Pepper Contest held at our friends' home in Cambria. This annual event began in 2005 when friends, after seeing an "Iron Chef" episode where hot chili pepper was the secret ingredient, began testosterone-fueled bantering about who could make the best pepper dish -- which ultimately resulted in the Virgin Pepper Contest.

Any of the invitees may enter the pepper contest. The rules are straightforward: one entry per person or team, which can include any number of dishes, however it is judged as one entry; the entry must contain peppers; and the dish must be personally presented to the judges.

Entries are judged by Aristocratic Appearance, Aroma and Presentation (0-5 points), Regal Texture (0-5 points), Stately Tang and Spiciness (0-5 points), Royal Pepper Taste (0-10 points), and Illustrious Prevalence of Peppers (0-10 points).

The contest begins as co-hosts John and his lovely wife, Carmine, decked in Mexican garb, proceed to the stage, where later in the night the band will be jiving. John sings an incredibly funny original ditty that he's composed embarrassing past winners and "almost wons," and proclaims the pepper contest open.

One by one, the chefs offer their dishes to the judges. Five judges taste and rate each dish, and what's left over is given to the masses. This year, two of the judges were Kansas City Barbecue Society Certified Judges.

Believe me, the chefs take this contest seriously, and the dishes are incredibly inventive and amazingly tasty. The competition is heated -- as are the dishes!

The top five winners receive goofy pepper-themed prizes, but the grand-prize winner receives the coveted pepper crown, robe and staff, as well as the right to use the title Pepper King/Queen of the World and Ruler of the Pepper Kingdom until the next contest.

Then it is time to eat. Dinner is a whole pig that's been smoking for 12 hours over a combination of ash and apple woods and smothered in 100 heads of garlic (yes, heads, not cloves), then slathered with a spicy dip mop. Everyone brings a side dish or appetizer, so the spread is extraordinary. Attendees are asked to chip in $10 for the cost of the pig, beverages and other overhead -- quite the deal!

The pork was incredible -- so tender, juicy and flavorful. The combination of the smoke and spices made for one of the tastiest meals I've had in a long time. Side dishes included Caesar salad, all kinds of pasta salad, taco salad, Carmine's famous hamburgers and a zillion different desserts.

OK, the pepper contest winners:

Fifth place: Mike, with Johnnie Pepper Seed's Mexican Experience.

Fourth Place: Steve, with Pepper King's Screamin' Stuffed Jalapenos.

Third Place: Alex, with Hot Hors d'oeuvres.

Second Place: John, with Chiles Rellenos -- roasted Anaheim chili peppers stuffed with sharp cheddar and pepper jack cheese, coated with flour and dipped in tempura batter, then fried and served with a fresh relleno sauce made from plum tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapenos, chipotles, salt, chili powder, lime juice and cilantro.

And -- drum roll -- First Place went to yours truly, with my famous pepper-stuffed spiral chicken.

Here's the winning recipe: Pound and flatten boneless, skinless chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, layer with chipotle and roasted Anaheim peppers (skin, seeds and membrane removed), orange slices and brie cheese. Roll, and then bake until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Meanwhile, saute exotic mushrooms in butter, stir in flour to make a roux, add orange juice and chicken broth. Stir in cream, honey, and pepper marmalade. I served this dish with a bright and refreshing side of mango, jalapeno and Serrano chili salsa.

Now that the 2010 Pig Roast and Pepper Contest is behind us, planning and conniving begins for the 2011 event. Can this Pepper Queen of the World and Ruler of the Pepper Kingdom be toppled? Stay tuned.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com August 31, 2010