Justin Martinez is a fan of Thanksgiving dinner.So when trying to come up with an idea for the annual new-food contest sponsored by the State Fair of Texas, he thought turkey — deep-fried. And dressing, cream-style corn, cranberry sauce and giblet gravy.“I tried other stuff at Thanksgiving, but these are the essentials,” Martinez said Tuesday. He and his dad, Rudy, own Fiesta Enterprises, a specialty concessionaire business in Arlington. “It was a year-and-a-half in the making.”Martinez said the homemade dressing is mixed with chopped turkey, coated in a batter of cream-style corn and cornmeal, and deep-fried. It’s served with a zesty orange cranberry sauce and giblet gravy, of course.“It took some experimenting,” Martinez said. “The taste is what we were going for. … I think we’re a top two or three contender, for sure.”The Fried Thanksgiving Dinner is among eight heart-stopping finalists announced Tuesday for this year’s new foods at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.The winners of the ninth annual Big Tex Choice Awards will be announced after a round of artery-clogging judging Monday morning. Winners will be chosen in the Best Taste and Most Creative categories.Another finalist from Tarrant County, Clint Probst of Mansfield, said he took the “deep-fried comfort food” approach to his dish, a savory chicken-fried meatloaf, served with fluffy mashed potatoes and cream gravy.He has been a semifinalist each of the past three years.“I work in the industry and spend a lot of time watching and thinking,” said Probst, a concessionaire who operates a booth called Crazy Otto’s at the State Fair and other events. “The meatloaf is very traditional.”Probst takes a thin slice of homemade meatloaf, dips it into a batter usually reserved for chicken-fried steak (flour, cracker crumbs and spicy seasonings) and deep-fries it. The first time he cooked it for family and friends, “it worked perfectly.”He described the Southern Style Chicken-Fried Meatloaf as “kinda light” — despite being deep-fried.Here’s a look at this year’s other entries/entrees (fat grams, calories and carbs not included): Awesome Deep Fried Nutella: Who doesn’t love Nutella, that wonderfully rich and chocolaty spread? Now it’s mixed with cream cheese and spread over phyllo dough before hitting the hot grease. By Abel Gonzales with Vandalay Industries. Deep Fried Cuban Roll: It’s hard to beat a Cuban pressed sandwich, but this just might do it. Take some pastry dough, fill it with pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and other goodies and deep-fry it. By Isaac Rousso, Amazing Ad Specialties. Fernie’s Deep Fried King Ranch Casserole: As if the popular Southwestern casserole weren’t fattening enough, this version is coated in panko breadcrumbs (is anything not coated in panko these days?) and fried up just right. By Christi Erpillo, The Dock. Golden Fried Millionaire Pie: A lovely after-dinner treat: How does cream cheese and pineapple mixed with pecans, then wrapped in pie crust and deep-fried sound? Yeah, that’s what we thought. By Nick Bert Jr., Bert Concessions. Spinach Dip Bites: This would be the healthful option. Spinach and artichoke bites coated with crushed tortilla chips and flash-fried. By Mark and Norman Zable, N.Z. Properties Inc. Texas Fried Fireball: This could be our early favorite. It’s a concoction of pimento cheese, pickles, cayenne pepper and bacon, whipped into a ball, dipped in batter and fried. Dip in spicy ranch dressing. By Butch Benavides.
Lee Williams, 817-390-7840 Twitter: @leewatson