Something hot: Cook-off brings in the exotic | CraigDailyPress.com
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Something hot: Cook-off brings in the exotic

Christina M. Currie

According to Mark Smith, the elk green chili he served Monday at Grand Olde West Days is the best west of Oak Creek.

Smith didn’t have anything to do with the preparation of the chili. He didn’t provide the recipe. But he and his “silver tongue” were elected to be the dish’s promoter.

He was also a party to some good-natured underhanded dealings in an effort to win first prize at the Wild Game and Roadkill Cook-off.

“They’re all cheating,” event coordinator Mike Gush said.

In an effort to garner votes, some cooks were giving away free samples of their dishes. Others said they’d strip for votes. Some were even lending the dollars to buy votes.

“If we come in last place, it’s not because we didn’t try, and we sure had fun,” Bonnie Mann said. Mann, Smith’s mother-in-law, provided the recipe for the elk green chili and the time needed to

cook it.

All said they were having a great time.

Nine cooks signed up for the annual cook-off and more than 250 people paid $1 to vote on the winner. Elk was a favorite meat served, but participants did have the chance to sample more exotic fare.

Both rattlesnake and alligator were on the menu.

Brittany Forbes and Melissa Nicoletto, dressed in olive green shirts and safari hats, provided deep-fried alligator.

“It’s a cross between rattlesnake and chicken,” one judge said in an effort to convince those weak of stomach to give the dish a chance.

Fifteen pounds of alligator were shipped overnight for the cook-off. The alligator was breaded with a recipe from the company that sold the meat.

“We’re providing Craig with a cultural experience we wouldn’t have before,” Nicoletto said.

Residents, judging by the votes cast, were pleased with the “cultural experience.” Nicoletto and Forbes won first place and the $250 prize.

That didn’t come close to covering the cost of the meat, Gush said, but that didn’t matter. Offering something rare is the essence of the cook-off, Gush said.

A spicy chili served by Kelly Dunlap, Stephanie Allred and Kerry Kelly won the $150 second-place prize and Mark Smith and his family took third place, and $100.

Smith will share his winnings with his wife and mother-in-law, who said she got the prize-winning recipe from a Mexican woman she met in Arizona.

Mann said she doesn’t cook with wild game much, but has always talked about entering the cook-off, and it’s a good thing she decided to. Smith, on his own, wanted to make skunk hamburgers, “or something like that,” he said.

The elk used in the green chili came from Montana.

“We begged and borrowed. We didn’t steal any, but we had friends making phone calls,” Mann said.


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