Fort Wayne – Loren Martinez, 15, has been cooking from a young age. His grandmother, Sandra Gose, remembers when the two families lived next door and she would have her grandson in the kitchen helping her bake.
“You were less than a year, and I’d put you on the bar. I’d say, ‘put the flour in,’ ” she recalls.
Martinez, son of Fort Wayne residents Luciano and Hannah Martinez, was recently named the winner of the teen category of the “Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge,” a contest sponsored by Reliable Water Services and Indy’s Kitchen.
Gose says that by the age of 2, Loren Martinez was learning to level off the measuring cups and even cracking eggs.
Smiling, he replies, “I remember that.”
Martinez says he heard about the cooking contest – his first – from his grandmother. He thought she read about it in the newspaper.
Asked what his reaction was when he heard of the results and Martinez says, “Surprised? Yeah, I was.”
“He called me as soon as he heard,” his grandmother says.
He says, “I was giving it a shot. I didn’t know.”
According to Christel Henke of Reliable Water Services, in addition to his recipe, Martinez was selected because his entry described his grandmother as the inspiration behind his cooking.
As he looks at her, Martinez says, “She taught me a lot of the family recipes. My mother, of course, too, but Grandma taught me, too.”
On Friday, Martinez will be at Indy’s Kitchen in Indianapolis showcasing his winning recipe, Brussels Sprouts and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. There he will receive $500 from Reliable Water Services, a culinary course from Ivy Tech Community College and cooking classes at Indy’s Kitchen.
Q. Grits aren’t too common in this area, what made you decide to use a recipe with them?
A. I wish I was a country boy. I like the versatility of grits. That’s one thing that’s homey to me. Grandma makes yellow grits but they’re hard to find around here.
Q. How did you come up with the winning recipe?
A. Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes roasted in rendered bacon fat and drizzled with molasses glaze. One day we had a bunch of Brussels sprouts and my mom asked, “Can you make something with these Brussels sprouts?” I kept working on the reduction sauce. I made it multiple times. We have the nuttiness with the toasted almonds, the salty with the bacon and the molasses glaze to give it sweetness. They loved it.
Q. What vegetable do you eat most often?
A. I love fresh carrots and cucumbers. I like cucumbers a little more. We made a salad – a sesame oil cucumber salad. We had it with braised oxtail.
Q. Who does most of the cooking at home?
A. When (mom’s) not here, it’s me. Every couple of days, my dad makes Mexican. My brother, Lucio, likes to cook too.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. Knife, definitely. So versatile. You can even open a can with it. It’s just not good for your knife.
Shrimp and grits
6 strips of bacon, cut-up
1 pound shrimp, cleaned and patted dry
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Pinch or more red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons smoked paprika, more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 scallions, sliced
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Fry the bacon pieces until crisp, remove and set on paper towel. Reserve some of the bacon drippings and fry the shrimp until it is pink. Add the onion and tomatoes, pepper flakes, paprika, salt and pepper. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes. To serve, spoon out grits among four bowls. Then spoon the shrimp mixture over the grits (recipe follows). Top with bacon, scallions, parsley and few dashes of the smoked paprika sprinkle over the dish. Makes 4 servings.
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
Pepper, to taste
1 cup any grits (not instant)
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
My Mother’s Shepherd Pie
1 pound ground beef or lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 heaping tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup beer (Mom uses Smithwick’s)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup frozen peas
Brown meat; add the onion, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, salt and pepper; sauté 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour; will look thick and clumpy. Deglaze the pan with the Worcestershire and beer. Stir until thickened. Add the rosemary and the whole sprigs of thyme then the peas. Pour into a 3.1-quart casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes (recipe follows). Dot the top with a little butter. Bake uncovered in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
8 potatoes, diced
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
Boil potatoes 20 minutes or until tender; drain. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter; until butter is melted. Pour over drained potatoes and add salt; mash.
Creamy Broccoli Soup
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium leek
2 large heads of broccoli, chopped
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup cream
3 strips of bacon, fried and crumbled
Chop the broccoli and potato into medium-sized chunks. Slice the leek thinly. In a 4-quart pan, sauté the leek until softened. Add broccoli, potato and bay leaf and continue sautéing for about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf, add the broth and milk; bring to a simmer and cook until all the vegetables are soft. Purée everything. Return to pan stir in cream for richness. Bacon pieces. Makes 6 servings.