EATON — A new feature at this year’s Preble County Fair was a wild game cookoff co-sponsored by the fair board and Spic and Span Pots and Pans 4-H Club of West Alexandria. The submissions offered an international variety of dishes made with wild turkey, salmon, and venison.
The event was a family affair for the Chesneys of West Alexandria. Mother Wendy entered an Indian dish, korma, made with wild turkey. Eldest daughter Audrey made a middle eastern staple, shawarma, also with wild turkey. Middle daughter Liberty went Asian with venison stir fry, and youngest daughter Kira took top honors for her salmon with yogurt dill sauce.
“We were all in the kitchen cooking our stuff at the same time,” said Kira, 10, who’ll enter fifth grade at Twin Valley South this fall. “We had to cook really fast because we were in each other’s way,” she said with a laugh, “but it was fun. I like cooking. I especially like making pumpkin bread a lot.”
“Stir fry is one of my favorite foods,” said Liberty, 13, and headed into 8th grade. “It’s something that’s fun to make, so I tried it with venison this time.” Liberty was awarded top prize in the venison category for her dish.
Audrey, 16, received raves and won the turkey category with her shawarma cutlets. “I got the wild turkey and breaded it with tempura batter, then fried it and put shawarma sauce over with tomatoes and feta cheese. It simmered a while to absorb the flavor.”
Wendy’s turkey korma won kudos from the judges, with sliced heirloom tomatoes adding a unique complexity to the flavor. “It’s a mix of earthy spices like cumin and coriander,” she said, “and butter and chicken broth and stuff.”
Wendy expressed pride in her daughters’ culinary skill. “We cook together all the time,” she said. “They’re involved in all the 4-H food and nutrition shows, and their entries go to state all the time.”
Regarding the international scope of their submissions, she said, “I like to expose them to other cultures. My oldest daughter’s food and nutrition project this year was ‘global gourmet,’ and she had to make dishes from other countries. It was right up her alley because she likes languages and takes two at school.”
Other dishes included a sunny rosemary salmon with fresh peaches, a savory turkey with apple stuffing that had judges longing for the holiday season, a beautifully balanced wild turkey spinach saltimboca, venison kebabs with heirloom tomatoes that brought people back for seconds and thirds, and a venison marsala with bold wine reduction flavor.
Fair manager James Mays, who served as a judge, said of the competition, “We wanted to offer something new, something different, to keep things fresh. We didn’t just keep it in the county, either; we put it out there for anybody who wanted to come and enter.”
Organizer Matthew Lunsford of Spic and Span said, “Kids, adults, it didn’t make any difference. James helped us get it scheduled in the home economics building here at the fair, and we had four judges. Some were involved in 4-H, and are outdoorsmen and hunters. One is the commander for this district for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources game wardens.”
“We judged on presentation and taste,” said Mays. “The overall winner was the salmon with dill because we were able to get the taste of the salmon clearly. We got both flavors and they didn’t override each other; the transition was smooth.”
“It was a great contest,” he said. “It’s something to get people’s interest, and we hope next year we’ll have a whole lot more people taking part.”
“This is our first time doing this,” Lunsford said, “but hopefully our first annual.”
Reach Duante Beddingfield at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @DuanteB_RH.