By Lori Powell
Every year on the third weekend of August, I volunteer to help run the food stand at the Hurley Corn Festival from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. The festival is held down the road from my house in Upstate New York.
This was the 32nd annual festival and each year, it helps to support the Heritage Society. (I was a board member until I moved to Pennsylvania.) I used to also process the vendor applications, find new vendors and then place them at the festival. Not an easy task. I was happy to give up those duties, along with my seat on the board, to Mr. Eric as he is known to his students (he teaches seventh grade history at a local school in Ulster Country).
It takes an army of board members and the help of about 30 volunteers to get this festival up and running. Set up starts the day before the festival. The day of the festival begins around 7:30 a.m. and extends all day until it’s time to pack it up. It was around 6:30 p.m. when we finally finished putting away the last of the signs, kitchen equipment, tables, chairs and tents for yet another year.
All of the hard work paid off. This year’s festival was a big hit with a record number of attendees and the best weather that we have had in the past seven years…sunny but not too hot and without the usual thunderstorm that roll in, sometimes forcing us to close early.
I also do a cooking demo almost every year and this year was no exception. Since there is a corn husking contest earlier in the day I always have lots of corn on hand to use. This year I made a quick warm corn salad, which was basically a sauté of corn in a teensy bit of butter with fine chopped shallot, minced garlic, chopped poblano peppers, chopped fresh tomato and then a toss of fresh cilantro at the end. It was a huge hit…so much so that I was grilled afterwards for the recipe. My kind of grilling! I still have to get that recipe written.
Back to the food stand...we got lots of help that day from Chef Tom Schneller, who teaches Meat Identification and Fabrication at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and his students. So most of my work on pre-festival day was shopping and making my now-famous Corn Festival Slaw.
I introduced Pulled Pork Sliders to the event three years ago in an attempt to modernize the menu and offer something new that also complemented all of the other corn dishes that are sold, such as Hurley’s super famous corn chowder (some people just come for the chowder and buy it by the quart), corn muffins, and the ubiquitous corn on the cob. About that famous corn chowder…a couple of volunteers start making the gallons needed on Thursday afternoon before the festival day and slice and dice their way through the night…now that is dedication!
Needless to say the sliders are still a huge hit and now my slaw is, too. We purchase 60 pounds of the delicious pulled pork from a local restaurant, Hickory BBQ and Smokehouse. They are experts on the BBQ front. We serve the pork sandwiched between a small bakery bun, garnished with a drizzle of Hickory’s amazing BBQ sauce (choice of sweet or spicy) and then my crunchy poppy seed, pepper and mango slaw. Great combo of moist smoky pork, tangy sauce and then the crunchy slaw is a win-win.
In an effort to fulfill the many requests I get for my slaw recipe (I make about 14 pounds of the stuff each year), I had to remake it to scale down to yield 12 cups. When I am not cooking/developing recipes for my day job as food director at Prevention magazine, I never write down what I do…rather I cook food by taste, texture and appearance, always tasting, tasting, tasting.
So below is the refined version of my Festival Slaw. I start with a base of pre-packaged shredded coleslaw mix and then plus it up with the remaining fresh ingredients. Make the slaw your own and omit or add ingredients to suit your taste. Keep in mind that it looks like a lot of slaw at first but do allow time for the flavors to marry; the slaw itself wilts and reduces by about a third in volume.
Enjoy this slaw with fried chicken, on top of a po’ boy, chicken sandwiches or with fish.
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Corn Festival Coleslaw
Yields about 12 cups (shrinks to 8 cups after it sits overnight)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bag (16 ounces) shredded cabbage for coleslaw (6 cups)
2 cups shredded red cabbage
2 small assorted bell peppers, sliced (about 2 ½ cups)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 mango, peeled and pitted, cut into matchsticks (about 1-1/4 cups)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
3 tablespoons poppy seeds, toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Whisk together vinegar, lime juice, and honey in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in oil in a slow stream until combined well.
- Toss in remaining ingredients. Season to taste with more vinegar, lime juice and salt and pepper.
- Chill slaw for at least 3 hours or overnight. Re-season and serve.
Yields about 12 cup when first made and then 8 cups after it sits overnight and continues to wilt.
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