It was touch and go there for a bit. Mario Batali's Ultimate Grilling Challenge encountered technical difficulty with its vote-counting mechanism before wrapping up the competition Sept. 29. Still, we remained optimistic about St. Petersburg Times copy editor Jim Webster advancing to the semifinals. We had tasted his entry, after all: Pig-Wrapped Pig-Stuffed Pig.
Homemade pork sausage flavored gently with orange zest and toasted fennel, stuffed in a pork tenderloin which is then wrapped tightly with pancetta and grilled. What could charm "Molto Mario" more than this Italian spin on turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken)?
And indeed, our own culinary titan has triumphed, his recipe and accompanying cooking video advancing to the semifinals, to be judged by Batali himself, with the winner announced on-air on a Rachael Ray show sometime this month. Beyond bragging rights, Webster's quarterfinal win netted him two pairs of Crocs, two autographed cookbooks, a grilling stone and a lot of Uncle Ben's rice. Now, for advancing to the next level with two fellow competitors (one with a pork butt recipe, the other with grilled squab), Webster wins cookware, an array of kitchenware, a panini grill and a year's supply of Viva paper towels.
Stay tuned for the full recipe of what we hope is Webster's winning dish. The grand prize winner receives a trip for two to Fort Worth, Texas, to cook at a tailgate party with Batali and Ray at a NASCAR race — not to mention the privilege of being grill master at every future party he's ever invited to.
Find more contest information at www.mariobatali.com.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293.