When I hear the phrase PB and J, my first thought is peanut butter and jelly — a classic sandwich that reminds me of childhood.

Growing up, my usual jelly of choice was grape. When I wanted a twist, I’d eat peanut butter with bananas and honey.

While judging a top chef cooking contest Tuesday night at Flavors of Central Texas, I tasted a new twist on PB and J — peanut butter and jalapeños.

That’s right, jalapeños.

The four dishes being judged all had to showcase peanut butter and jalapeños.

Upon hearing the ingredients, I spent the next 45 minutes wondering what in the world I’d be served.

I also tried to decide what I’d make if the roles were reversed and I had an hour to cook a dish that incorporated both flavors in a balanced way.

I still have no idea what I would make because the combination of flavors baffles me, but I ended the evening impressed by all four plates I tasted.

The chefs exceeded my expectations. Each dish had hints of peanut butter and kicks of jalapeño — some spicier than others, but all pleasing to my palate.

My two fellow judges — Julia Conner of the US 105 morning show and Markeya Thomas with KXXV News Channel 25 — were impressed, too.

So much so that we couldn’t pick a clear winner.

Instead, we crowned two — arriving at a tie vote between peanut butter and bacon waffles with peanut butter syrup and candied jalapeños prepared by Let Us Do The Cooking and a pork loin with risotto and peanut brittle with jalapeños prepared by The Mark, which is the restaurant at the Shilo Inn.

Both were creative, unexpected uses of both ingredients as well as delicious — a sweet hint of peanut butter to start with a biting jalapeño finish.

The other two dishes, which both involved stuffed peppers, weren’t far behind in their creativity and taste.

All four dishes were beautifully plated meals I’d eat again — though I may need a glass of milk to cool the heat from some of those jalapeños.

In my kitchen, I’m likely to stick with the classic PB and J, but I’ll never forget the creative twists I tasted Tuesday night.

Contact M. Clare Haefner at chaefner@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7551.

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