The Edible Bracket 2011

Last year's winners of the MNCAAPG Best Bracket contest are back. This March Madness season, we will be documenting foods associated with the competing schools. Consider it March Madness, Top Chef Edition.

Penn State Nittany Lions (State College, PA): S’Mores

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Were s’mores invented in Pennsylvania?  Maybe not.  But they’ve certainly become associated with the state, given that Hershey bars—born and bred just down the road from Penn State—break into the perfect sizes to fit onto graham crackers.

We had a hard time getting golden brown marshmallows, given our lack of an open flame, but we did the best we could on on stovetop.

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S’Mores

1 marshmallow

1 graham cracker, broken in half

2 pieces of Hershey chocolate

Place pieces of chocolate on top of half a graham cracker.  Place toasted marshmallow over chocolate.  Press second half of graham cracker on top.

University of Georgia Bulldogs (Athens, GA): Chocolate Pecan Pie

pecan pie_finished

Pecans are a popular nut in Georgia.  There’s a Georgia Pecan Commission, UGA’s Convention Center has a room called the Pecan Tree Galleria, and downtown Athens is home to a pecan company, evidence that Georgians—and Athenians in particular—are nuts about…pecans.  (Though it should be noted that the Commissioner, despite being a diehard Athenian, is no fan of the pecan.)

pecan pie_anna and pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie


from Food and Wine


To save time, we used pre-packaged pie crusts. 

Filling


1 1/2 cups pecan halves (we didn’t chop them when we made the pie, but probably would if we made the recipe again)

4 tbsps. unsalter butter

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

3 large eggs, beaten lightly

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pre-packaged pie crust.

2. Toast pecans by placing on a baking sheet, and placing in the pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan lightly a few times.

3. Melt butter and chocolate by heating in the microwave in a microwave-safe glass bowl.  Stir until smooth.

4. Mix in brown sugar, then eggs, corn syrup, vanilla and salt, and finally, lightly stir in the pecans.

5. Pour filling into pie, and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until center of pie is set.

We are skeptical of Kentucky Eggnog; then sample it and enjoy it.

Laura does a shot for the bracket.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels (Las Vegas, NV): Tequila Shot

las vegas tequila

Now we are getting down to the serious drinking part of this bracket madness. When you think of Las Vegas, you think of partying on The Strip, gambling, and the ubiquitous phrase “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Our immediate idea to honor the Vegas lifestyle was to do a simple shot of tequila. And then we found this fitting piece of local news that made this an even better drink pick to honor the Rebels: local businessman, George Harris, running for Las Vegas mayor on the TEQUILA Party ticket. I mean, these guys are way past the Tea party — they are liquored up and ready to rule.

The recipe here is: pour a shot of tequila. Put it down.

University of Kentucky Wildcats (Lexington, KY): “Original Kentucky” Mint Juleps

kentucky mint juleps

Mint Juleps are associated with the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky’s most famous sporting event (when the Wildcats aren’t playing, obviously).  We made our mint juleps using the recipe we found in Mark Kurlansky’s The Food of a Younger Land:

"Original Kentucky" Mint Julep
from Frankfort Distilleries

12 sprigs fresh mint in bowl, covered with powdered sugar and just enough water to dissolve the sugar, and crush with wooden pestle.  Place half the crushed mint and liquid in the bottom of a crackled glass tumbler, or in a sterling silver or pewter tankard.  Fill glass half full of finely crushed ice.  Add rest of crushed mint and fill remainder of glass with crushed ice.  Pour in (trade name omitted) whiskey until glass is brimming.