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It was a decade ago I was contacted to be a judge at the first pie-baking contest sponsored by Downtown Hammond when the popular Bizarre Bazaar festival launched.

I recall a small camping tent set up on closed-off Hohman Avenue for that first 2006 Saturday gathering and about half a dozen pies collected awaiting my critique. The winner was a chocolate peanut butter pie from Jessica Klidaras, of Lowell.

Autumn officially begins today, welcoming a favorite season for baking.

The 10th annual Pie Contest at Downtown Hammond's popular Bizarre Bazaar was Saturday.

Once again joining me for judging duties were chef Terry Zych, of Ivy Tech, and Eloise Valadez, my columnist colleague at The Times.

The 2015 10-year anniversary event was at Harrison Park on Hohman Avenue and attracted dedicated contestants with baked goods entered in the categories of flakiest crust, best savory pie and most unusual flavor or creative use of ingredients, in addition to the one overall best pie winner.

Contest coordinators Karen Maravilla, Downtown Hammond Council president, and Mary McClelland, of South Shore Arts, did a fantastic job.

Patty Grigutis, of Lansing, took home the top honors in the "savory pie" category with her scrumptious and very satisfying Taco Pie, which was every bit as good from the first to the last bite. It also features a clever crescent roll-dough crust seasoned with crushed Doritos for added texture and taste.

Congrats to all the winners and participants. I'll feature the remaining winners and recipes in my first column of October.

Taco Pie

Crust:

1 (8ounce) can of crescent rolls

1 1/2 cups crushed Doritos

Filling:

1 pound ground beef

1 envelope taco seasoning

1/2 cup water

1 cup sour cream

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1 1/2 cups crushed Doritos

1/4 cup salsa

1/2 stick melted butter

DIRECTIONS: Brown ground beef, drain and return to pan. Add taco seasoning mix and water to meat and simmer until water has boiled off, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Spray a 9-inch pie dish with nonstick cooking spray. Unfold crescent roll dough and separate into the divided triangles. Press each of the triangles into the bottom of the pie pan with the triangle points toward the center. Press the seams to seal and form dough to the sides to complete the crust. Spread the 1 1/2 cups of the crushed Dorito chips onto the crescent dough. Spoon the ground beef over the chips layer. In a small bowl, combine salsa with sour cream and mix well before spooning over the meat layer. Cover sour cream layer with the shredded cheese. Top pie with remaining 1 1/2 cups crushed chips. Drizzle the 1/2 stick melted butter over the final crushed chips layer. Bake pie at 400 degrees until crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Makes 8 slices.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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