On the evening of Friday the 13th, I had the auspicious honor of once again serving as a judge in the annual Moxie Recipe Contest at Lisbon’s wonderful Moxie Festival. My fellow judges, Garrett Mason and Jonathan Jones, were just as excited as I was to taste 2018’s Moxie-laced offerings and pronounce the winners.

Interestingly, the three contestants who won the competition weren’t from Lisbon, but they radiated the ol’ Moxie spirit as they enthusiastically took part in the contest held at Chummy’s MidTown Diner.

Tim Emery brought his barbecue sauce from Biddeford for the appetizers, salads and sauces category; Brian Lovering carted all the makings for his street tacos from New Gloucester for the main dishes category; and Barbara Warren balanced a tray of parfaits in her automobile all the way from Benton for the desserts category.

As we tasted the dishes laid before us, with the convivial crowd looking on, we considered the following: Is Moxie well-pronounced in the dish? Do the other flavors accent the flavor of Moxie? Could this dish make someone a Moxie maniac? The decisions were tough and the scores were close.

As we savored Tim Emery’s perfectly balanced sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, I really just wanted to tip up the small sample cup and pour the deliciousness down my throat, shooter-style. Emery said he made about six experimental batches before he incorporated arrowroot as a thickener. It was genius. This ingredient not only thickened the sauce, but gave it a shiny “gloss.”

Brian Lovering wowed the judges with his tacos, named after his loved one, Holly, who passed away recently. He explained, “Holly loved food trucks, so I wanted to make traditional, comforting street food.” Using Moxie to de-glaze the Dutch oven, simmering the beef in the soda, then stirring Moxie reduction into the taco sauce hit a homerun.

The judges all agreed that Barbara Warren’s parfaits were the ultimate when it comes to that burst of pure Moxie. This cool, layered dessert epitomized the Moxie spirit: bold, whimsical and decidedly different in a very good way.

One thing was clear: Making a Moxie reduction is elemental when it comes to pumping the famous elixir’s true flavor into recipes. Like boiling down maple tree sap to make syrup, it takes time, patience and practice. But so worth it.

The end product should be thick, dark and sweet. When you sip a spoonful, there should be distinctive Moxie-ness exploding all over your taste buds. That, and the ability to balance that flavor with other ingredients, was the secret to bringing home the prize this year.

See you next year, Moxie maniacs!

Karen Schneider, a writer and editor, has been a regular contributor to the Sun Journal for over 20 years. Contact her at [email protected] with your ideas and comments.

Holly’s Heavenly Street Tacos featuring a Moxie reduction was the winner in the main dish category, submitted by Brian Lovering of New Gloucester to the Moxie Recipe Contest at this year’s Moxie Festival in Lisbon. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

The judges of the recent Moxie Recipe Contest were, from left, Jonathan Jones, Garrett Mason and Karen Schneider, the author of this article. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Cassidy Therrien serves up a Moxie-flavored dessert to the judges at the Moxie Recipe Contest, which was held at Chummy’s restaurant in Lisbon. (Andree Kehn/ Sun Journal)

From left, Moxie officials Lucy Lajoie, Lisa Ward and Cassidy Therrien tally the votes in the annual Moxie Recipe Contest, hosted by Chummy’s Midtown Diner in Lisbon.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

The top scorer in the dessert category at the Lisbon Moxie Festival’s recipe contest last weekend was these Creamy Moxie Gelatin Parfait Floats made by Barbara Warren of Benton. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Tim Emery’s ‘Moxie Barbecue Sauce’

Makes 2 liters sauce

4 liters Moxie

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

3 bay leaves

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/2 -2/3 cup arrowroot mixed with enough water to make a thick, smooth paste

In a large pan over medium heat, boil down Moxie until it is reduced to two liters. This takes about 2 1/2 hours.

Add brown sugar to reduction and boil for 2 minutes. Turn heat to low and add all ingredients except vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and arrowroot. Simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; mix well. Turn heat up to medium and add arrowroot mixture a spoonful at a time. Bring to a boil, stirring and simmering, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached.

Brian Lovering’s ‘Holly’s Heavenly Street Tacos’

Makes 20 servings

2 liters Moxie

2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, to taste

6 cups beef stock

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

2 Vidalia onions, diced

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chipotles en adobe, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped and seeded

1 avocado, pitted and sliced

Taco sauce

20 (6-inch) flour tortillas, warmed

Rub meat with salt, pepper, and Cavender’s seasoning. Sear all surfaces in Dutch oven until very browned. Remove meat, discard any remaining oil, and deglaze pan with 12 ounces Moxie. Place meat back in pan with garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, pepper and stock. Bring to a boil then simmer at medium to low heat, covered, for 3 hours. Remove from heat, uncover and cool.

Shred meat and place in a large bowl. Mix in lime juice, chipotles and tomatoes. Serve on tortillas with avocado slices and your favorite store-bought or homemade taco sauce combined 2:1 with Moxie reduction.

Basic Moxie reduction: Bring 2 cups Moxie to a boil; simmer over low heat until reduced to 1/3 to 1/4 cup and is the consistency of maple syrup, about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Cool and store in air-tight container in refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you need a larger amount, adjust measurements accordingly.

Barbara Warren’s ‘Creamy Moxie Gelatin Parfait Floats’

Gelatin layer:

2 1/2 cups Moxie, chilled

1 (1/4-ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin

Place 1/2 cup Moxie in a medium bowl. Sprinkle on gelatin; let stand for about 5 minutes.

Bring remaining 2 cups Moxie to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce to 1 1/2 cups. Add this to gelatin mixture in bowl and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Divide mixture into 4 parfait, or other tall, glasses. Cover and refrigerate until set; about 1 hour.

Creamy layer:

2 cups Moxie, chilled

1 (1/4–ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup whipped cream or frozen whipped topping, thawed

Place 1/2 cup Moxie in a medium bowl. Sprinkle in gelatin; let stand for about 5 minutes.

Bring remaining 1 3/4 cups Moxie to a boil. Reduce to 3/4 cup. Add this to gelatin mixture in bowl and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. Chill until slightly set; about 15 minutes. If the gelatin gets too firm, warm it until it’s only slightly thickened. Beat with an electric mixer until frothy.

Add whipped cream or topping to gelatin mixture and whisk until well-blended. Spoon over layer of gelatin in parfait glasses. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. When ready to serve, top with more whipped cream or topping. Drizzle with Moxie reduction (instructions above) and garnish with toasted coconut and maraschino cherries.

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