When it comes to deep-fried food at the State Fair of Texas, there are apparently a couple of near-locks: bacon, and now-five-time Big Tex Choice Award winner Abel Gonzalez Jr.
Having unveiled its eight finalists last week, the State Fair put the oils, batters, sticks, and dipping sauces to the test on Labor Day, with a panel of three judges ladling out the honors .
First up, bacon. That right there below is the "Most Creative" winner, the Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll, a "cinnamon roll dipped in a special sweet pancake batter, rolled in crispy fried bacon crumbles, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar."
While we previously suggested this creation probably didn't need the pancake batter (let alone the deep-frying), let us say again: We'd totally eat this.
As Carol Shih of D Magazine 's "Side Dish" reported, the BCR was the brainchild of Butch Benavides, a previous semi-finalist who made the finals for the first time in grand style, providing two of the eight dishes. (The other finalist—and Benavides' personal favorite—was chicken-fried cactus bites.)
But Benavides had to share the spotlight with former Texas Monthly profile subject Gonzalez, whose Deep-Fried Jambalaya—jambalaya using shrimp, Cajun sausage and seasonings, then coated in lightly seasoned flour and fried—won "Best Taste."
(We predicted this would win; we just had the wrong category.)
That's Gonzalez, left, and Benavides, right.
It was Gonzalez's fifth trophy, but first since 2009. He has previously won with Fried Butter, Fried Coke, Fried Cookie Dough, and a Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich.
"I’m very excited to make my first real food and not a dessert," he told Side Dish 's Shih.
According to WFAA, Gonzalez said he gained twenty pounds while working on the recipe.
“I made a lot of bad jambalaya before I made the good jambalaya,” he told Dianne Solis of the Dallas Morning News.
I was expecting the filling of Abel Gonzales’ fried jambalaya ball to be a watery mess of brown jambalaya gunk, but it was actually a beautiful Cajun mix of rice, shrimp, sausage and seasonings that was moist on the inside, and crunchy and crackly on the outside. Even if you don’t dip the ball into the spicy ranch sauce, it’s still spicy on its own.
All of the finalists, and many, many other goodies, can still be eaten at the State Fair of Texas beginning September 28. The Morning News ' Solis reported that food coupon sales at the fair have risen from $16 million to $23 million since the the Big Tex Choice Awards began in 2005.
Watch WFAA's report below: