Olympic fever has struck the culinary world. And Jim Hughes is in serious training to compete for a chance at the 1988 Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, West Germany.
Hughes, executive chef at the J.W. Marriot Hotel, has returned triumpant from the Delaware Valley Chefs Association Culinary Arts Salon in Philadelphia. The salon is the largest culinary show on the East Coast with more than 200 professional entries from New Jersey all the way to Ann Arbor, Mich. In category B, "Hot Food Presented Cold," he walked away with first place, two gold medals and a special judges' award for overall presentation.
Among his winning entries were Venison Loin with Juniperberry Sauce, Fruit de Mer (a shellfish dish served with saffron cream sauce), Stuffed Veal Loin Julio (veal stuffed with veal force meat), scallop mousse, spinach mousse, salmon mousse and Loin of Lamb Rosemary with Red Pepper Coulis.
Each dish was served cold, lightly covered with aspic. The trick to the competition, Hughes said, is "when you pick the items, you should use as much of the animal as possible and tie it into the dish. That's how you get points." An example he mentioned was his Veal Chop Isabella, where he stuffed the chop with calf's liver and napped it with a morel sauce.
Based on that show, Hughes has been asked to try for the U.S. Culinary Olympics Team, which is sponsored by the American Culinary Federation Inc. and the National Restaurant Association. The competition, which takes place March 19-21 in Ann Arbor, Mich., will be very tough as more than 120 chefs will be vying for 12 slots.
Hughes' interest in cooking has a family history. "My family has been in the business for 40 years in Long Island and New Jersey." He graduated from Johnson and Wales College, School of Culinary Art in Providence, and has been with the Marriott company for 6 1/2 years.
If you want to compete with your friends or just put on a show for your family, here is one of Hughes' lamb recipes and a recipe from Martha Stewart's "Entertaining" (Clarkson N. Potter Inc., 1982).
You will need oil and butter on hand before you venture into the Express Lane.
EXPRESS LANE: lamb loin, rosemary, garlic, lamb bones, shallots, potatoes, whipping cream
LOIN OF LAMB WITH ROSEMARY SAUCE (4 servings) 1 1/2 pounds lamb loin, deboned
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rosemary
3 cloves garlic
2 1/4 cups oil
2 tablespoons clarified butter
2 1/2 to 3 pounds lamb bones
2 tablespoons shallots
Marinate the lamb loin in 2 tablespoons rosemary, garlic and 2 cups oil for 1 1/2 hours.
Drain and saute' in clarified butter over moderate heat for 30 minutes; finish in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes until medium.
For the rosemary sauce, take all the trimmings and bones and saute' in 1/4 cup oil and 2 tablespoons shallots until brown, about 30 minutes. Pour off excess oil. Cover with 2 1/2 cups water and let reduce down to dry, about 30 minutes. Add 2 cups water to cover and simmer for 45 minutes. And 3/4 cup rosemary and reduce to two-thirds. Strain and serve over sliced loin.
GARLIC SCALLOPED POTATOES (4 servings)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup whipping cream
Rinse sliced potatoes in cold water. Pat dry with a towel.
Rub a shallow earthenware dish generously with 1 garlic clove and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Slice the other 2 cloves.
Arrange the sliced potatoes in layers with the sliced garlic in the dish and season with salt and pepper. Dot with remaining butter and pour the cream over the potatoes.
Bake at 325 for about 1 1/2 hours; it is very important that the temperature be low enough so that the cream does not curdle as it is absorbed slowly into the potatoes.
During the last 10 minutes, turn the heat up to 400 degrees to brown the top. Serve directly from the dish.