Column, Living the Dream

Locals chefs compete on hibachi tables

We didn’t have time to practice so this first time was going to have to be the best time. Well, you don’t get to really practice anyways because it’s not like you can go in and use the hibachi tables while no one is looking. The only experience you can garner is from watching the hibachi chefs themselves cook a meal or by entering the Iron Chef competition at Sushi Yoshi almost every year since it’s begun.

Of course, it’s hard to focus on the cooking part when they’re lighting onions on fire and trying to throw zucchini pieces into your mouth. Or that one guy who could toss an egg into his grand bonnet after making it dance on his spatula. That was pretty neat and definitely something beyond my skill level. I’m more at the toss the vegetables around with the spatula and a knife kind of person.

But this past weekend, we got to cook on the Hibachi grills in a winner takes all competition and raise money to relieve some of the medical bills for a good friend and his adorable dog, Arlo. And so the community gathered to watch some of the best (and worst) amateur chefs in the community try their skills on the flattop — which is not as easy as some might think.

The middle is hot. I mean really hot. So hot that if you don’t pay attention, you’ll be burning the whole thing before you’ve even noticed you had food there. Then the outside is warm, not hot at all, so if you try to actually cook something out there, it’s going to take forever and you won’t get your dish finished within the 30 minute time frame.

I love this event. I am a foodie. I certainly am not a chef by any means. But I love trying my hand at this grille, the pressure of the time clock and the crowd cheering you on. It’s less about the final product as it is about trying to make something special and unique while entertaining the crowd.

This year, the BF drove halfway to Maine, where he met his dad for the lobster handoff. As in lobsters so fresh that they were out of the water for 7 hours before we surprised everyone by dumping them unceremoniously onto the hibachi table to die. We put them in the middle, right over the hot spot and then covered them with fresh maple sap and an upside down pot.

That’s right. Steamed in Maple Sap. One of our ski buddies generously donated a bunch of his beautiful maple sap so that we could steam the lobsters, bringing out a crazy maple flavor that. It was banging and honestly, I never want to use water for lobster again. This was magnificent and we used homemade maple butter to toast the rolls. 

The second ingredient was Taylor PorkHam Roll that New Jersey folks seem to love so much. We made a golden and red beet hash with that and then topped it with an egg that the BF poached in the maple sap. Egg poached in maple sap. That was something I had never heard of before we literally decided to do it at the hibachi table.

Finally, we threw together a quick lobster stew, similar to the one from the Jordon Pond House in Acadia National Park. Using chunks of the lobster tail, cream, sherry and a little paprika made for a simple yet amazing dish. 

One of my favorite parts was watching the BF dismantle those lobsters with ridiculous speed and precision. He definitely proved his Maine roots that night. He was fast and impressive to watch.  It would have taken me the entire 30 minutes to get all four lobsters shelled. 

Because we just made it. With 9 seconds to go, the BF placed the last maple sap poached egg on top of the Taylor Beet Hash and I threw on the micro greens. We had made it. We managed to steam lobster, make and plate three dishes on the hibachi grill in 30 minutes. I don’t know how we manage to do that every time. It always amazes me how somehow it all comes together at the last minute. 

It’s a crazy evening, with frantic teams trying to throw down the best they can think of while cooking on something that they’ve never get to. In a town full of restaurants, it’s always fun to push the limits of imagination and creativity, while trying something bizarre. It’s honestly one of my favorite events of the year — and we’ve already started planning our dishes for next year! 

Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident, bartender, KMS coach and local realtor. She can be reached at femaleskibum@gmail.com

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