When events are around as long as the Oklahoma City Arts Council's Festival of the Arts, change tends to occur slowly.
When Linda Whittington was tapped to join the organizing committee, she came with a big idea: Make the culinary arts portion of the event a showcase for the culinary artists beyond International Food Row and the many concession stands around the grounds.
The result is the Culinary Arts Demonstration Stage on which local chefs will demonstrate various dishes and techniques in a tent, just south of the Stage Center building, with capacity for an audience of 75.
Local chefs will demonstrate a variety of recipes and offer samples to those in the crowd. The 45-minute demos are scheduled for 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. through Saturday, and 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.
The highlight of the week comes at 11 a.m. Saturday, when the Festival Cook-off is planned. Chef Tabb Singleton, an Idabel native who recently left Emeril's NOLA in New Orleans and was a $10,000 winner on Food Network's “Chopped” last fall, will take on Saturn Grill's Joseph Royer.
While Singleton might appear to be the favorite, he might be running into a buzz saw. The competition is sponsored by the Pork Council and pork will be the featured ingredient. Royer is a two-time national champion in the Pork Council's Taste of Elegance competition. Royer won the national cook-off in consecutive years, which triggered the Pork Council into changing its rules. Basically, Royer was so good, they had to exclude him from competing any further. So watch out, Tabb.
The lowlight of the event might be at 1 p.m. Friday, when yours truly demonstrates carne guisada. I will tell you the recipe is excellent and the samples will be great, but I can't vouch for the performance.
During a career day in high school, I hung out with a bunch of radio guys from Austin newsradio station KLBJ-AM. They took me to lunch for Mexican food and we began talking about how we judge good versus bad. One of the guys said he judged Mexican restaurants by the carne guisada they served.
He said because its a common dish it will tell the story of the person who conceived the menu and give a good overview of their potential or lack thereof.
Carne guisada, which translates to stewed meat, is a staple of home kitchens throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Also called guiso, it's rarely done properly in restaurants, as the extended cooking time needed to soften the beef is rarely engaged.
Look up “carne guisada recipe” and you'll find as many versions as there are households from San Antonio to the Guatemalan border. It's as mom-centric in Mexico as fried chicken is in this country.
There is no one way to make it — I have half a dozen different versions myself. Today, I'll share the quick-and-dirty version and the version I make when I have a little more time. Neither is an all-day affair, and like Texas chili, it's even better the next day — especially for breakfast with a fried egg on top and warm tortillas with which to scoop it.
Hope to see you out at the festival on Friday.
Quick carne guisada
2 pounds stew meat or any roast cut, sliced into 1-inch cubes