On Aug. 1, BenitoLink reported on Mike Fisher winning the “Garlic Showdown” at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The Hollister native walked away with a $3,000 prize from the Iron Chef-style competition.
This week we swung by Fisher’s Delicatessen, his restaurant in downtown Hollister, to learn more about the contest and see if he would share the winning recipes. When he was just starting out, Fisher worked at The Inn at Tres Pinos. He realized that cooking it was in his blood, and headed off to France for some classical training. He now runs his own restaurant and catering company in downtown Hollister.
Fisher had never been in a timed contest before the Garlic Festival competition, but it didn’t take him long to get into the swing of things.
He told BenitoLink, “It was pretty nerve-wracking until I saw the pantry they gave me,” referring to the ingredients he was provided for the contest. “They told us to bring our own tools. It was like having someone say, go fix a car without knowing what kind of car it is or what is wrong with it,” Fisher said. “So I brought my knives, cutting board, favorite sauté pans and blender. That’s pretty much all I need to create something.”
“When I saw the pantry I thought, ‘Ok, I know where I’m going to go with this.’ I wanted to use recipes that played off the restaurant and would complement what we are doing there,” he said.
The big, juicy heirloom tomatoes were a good start in the salad direction.
Fifteen minutes later, organizers revealed the other ingredients that he was required to use, including already-cooked garlic sausage,”orange fresh melon,” (aka cantaloupe) and Cracker Jacks. Yes, Cracker Jacks.
Fisher said, “I immediately had an idea with the sausage. I took it and diced it and then really crisped it up for texture. “ He made two dishes, Fresh Tomato-Cantaloupe Salad with Prawns and then his Quinoa with Golden Brown Calamari. He said, “On the cantaloupe, I used rice vinegar and olive oil, which gave an instant, lightly-pickled flavor.” He said he appreciated the plentiful supply of fresh herbs provided to the contestants.
Fisher used the sausage, Cracker Jacks with the dressing on both of his finished dishes, the recipes for which are below:
Quinoa and Calamari:
1 cup quinoa
2 cup water
Calamari, garlic sausage and canteloupe
Bring water to a boil then add quinoa. Cook until quinoa is tender (about 5-10 min). Drain excess liquid if any, set quinoa aside.
Dice one garlic sausage and fry in a small amount of oil to make it crispy. Dry excess oil on a paper towel and set aside.
Cut 1/2 pound of calamari in thin strips and sauté in oil until cooked through and set aside with sausage. Dice 1 cup of cantaloupe and season with rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
1/8 cup Cracker Jacks (very optional!)
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cup olive oil
Combine all dressing ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon quinoa on to plate. place calamari, sausage and cantaloupe over quinoa. Drizzle dressing over everything. There will be extra dressing, so save for another date. Garnish plate with fresh chopped herbs of your choice (parsley, cilantro, chives etc.), sliced radish, finely chopped shallot, or anything else that sounds good!
Fresh Tomato and Canteloupe Salad:
The tomato and cantaloupe salad was simply cubed fresh tomatoes, cantaloupe and cooked prawns with garlic and olive oil, using the same dressing over it. Sprinkle with herbs of your choice.
“I really have to complement my sous chef, James Maldonado, because I couldn’t take the time to explain what I was doing. I didn’t really know, I was just doing it. Maldonado just went with the flow. They used a lot of things that were similar to our restaurant, so that helped, too,” Fisher said.
Fisher said that in the future he’d be up for another challenge. “The first half hour was stressful but once I saw the pantry and got working it wasn’t bad,” he said. “There was some very good talent, so I was really honored by the award,” Fisher said of the Gilroy Garlic Festival contest.