In retrospect, it seems no surprise: Fried Thanksgiving Dinner won the prize for Most Creative at the 2013 Big Tex Choice Awards, the annual fried-food contest hosted by the State Fair of Texas.
Less predictable, given the wide field of tempting-sounding candidates, was winner for Best Taste: Deep Fried Cuban Roll.
The fried food contest has become the State Fair's favorite way to stoke fever for the fair, which begins this year on September 27. Eight finalists were announced on August 27.
With its clever combination of all of the flavors of Thanksgiving, Fried Thanksgiving Dinner seemed like a shoo-in for Most Creative.
Following State Fair tradition, the judging took place on Labor Day, when two winners were announced out of the eight finalists. All finalists are offered at the fair, along with the revered Fletcher's corny dog and other standard fair fare.
At the judging, KRLD radio personality Brad Sham served as emcee. This year's three judges were a Belo-heavy trio: Dallas Morning News staffers (and real-life married couple) Jacqueline Floyd and Mike Hashimoto, plus third wheel Corby Davidson from The Ticket.
The order they chose for judging seemed unusual. They began with Fried Nutella, whose sweet flavor profile might suggest it come at the end of the tasting like a dessert, and not first. Wouldn't common sense demand that you start with the appetizer-sounding Spinach Dip Bites?
Second came Chicken-Fried Meatloaf, followed by Fried Thanksgiving Dinner, Texas Fireball, Cuban Roll, Spinach Dip Bites, Deep Fried King Ranch Casserole and — last but not least — Golden Fried Millionaire Pie.
With its clever combination of all of the flavors of Thanksgiving, including sides of cranberry sauce and gravy, Fried Thanksgiving Dinner seemed like a shoo-in for most creative.
The judges were given five minutes between each entry to evaluate. Unlike some prior judging panels, these three were a stoic group who offered little comment. But judging seemed to come swiftly. The winner announcements were made at 9:47 am.
Full descriptions of the finalists are as follows:
Awesome Deep Fried Nutella – Cream cheese and Nutella are whipped and spread over flaky phyllo dough sheets, rolled up and deep fried. Served with a drizzle of honey and shaved almonds.
Southern Style Chicken-Fried Meatloaf – Homemade meatloaf slices are coated in an authentic Texas chicken-fried breading and deep fried until golden brown. Served with garlic mashed potatoes, Texas cream gravy, and a ketchup-brown sugar glaze for dipping.
Deep Fried Cuban Roll – A filling of slow-cooked pork shoulder, chopped ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and secret sauce is spread onto a slice of Swiss cheese, rolled up in pastry dough and deep fried. Roll is served with a side of mojo sauce for dipping.
Fernie's Deep Fried King Ranch Casserole – This stick-to-your-ribs, Texas-shaped creation is cheesy, salty, spicy goodness dipped in zesty Southwestern egg wash, coated in panko bread crumbs, and deep fried until golden brown. Served with a side of red, white and blue tortilla chips and your choice of our homemade “salsafied” sour cream or queso.
Fried Thanksgiving Dinner – Mama’s homemade stuffing and diced roasted turkey are rolled in a ball. Next it’s dipped in Southern cream corn, rolled in seasoned cornmeal and fried to a golden brown. Served with old-fashioned giblet brown gravy. The zesty orange cranberry sauce fills your dipping needs and results in a complete Thanksgiving dinner — fried.
Golden Fried Millionaire Pie – Sweetened, fluffy cream cheese filling is loaded with golden pineapple and Texas pecans then wrapped in a flaky pie crust and fried to a golden brown. Topped with whipped cream, toasted coconut and candied pecans.
Spinach Dip Bites – Creamy and delicious spinach artichoke dip bites are coated with crispy tortilla chips and flash-fried until golden brown. Bites are served with salsa for an additional kick.
Texas Fried Fireball – Pimento cheese, pickles, cayenne pepper and bacon are rolled into a ball, dipped in buttermilk, covered with a jalapeño-infused batter and deep fried. Served with chipotle ranch for dipping.
The 2013 State Fair of Texas runs September 27-October 20 at Fair Park in Dallas.