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Thursday, August 30, 2012

STL Home Fires Throw Down Victory

Well folks, it has been a very good month for "The Man, The Grill, The Magic" after our Grand Championship at Clarksville Mo.  We went to St Louis Home Fires  to meet Big Al Bowman of "Canadian Bakin" fame in a throw down competition. This is an event that Frank Schmer, the owner of St Louis Home Fires in Ballwin MO, has been doing on the last Tuesday of every month that pits two pit master against each other grilling 3 categories. The pit master presents each  of their versions to an audience of appox. 40 to 50 attendees. After all 3 dishes have been tasted each one is voted on by a show of hands. The pit master winning at least 2 of the 3 is named that months "Throw Down" winner. Every month  the audience choose 3 items of what will be cooked for the next month. This month  the categories were broccoli, fajitas and watermelon.

I arrived at the store at 4:30 to prepare as we start serving the dishes starting at 7PM. My son Bill  assisted me at this cook and I'll talk more about him later. First on the menu is going to be broccoli. For this I went real simple taking broccoli flowers and drizzled some olive oil with some Drapers AP Rub and some Mrs Dash Spicy seasoning. Onto the grill they go with some MOJOBRICKS for that good smoke flavor. I finished with Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime to brighten up the flavor at the end.

Big Al has arrived and naturally the smack talk began. Al is much younger than me so he fakes concern that the event may be too hard on an old man. I tell him he's good but as long as I"m around he will remain # 2. This is going to be a fun night. Al's broccoli entry is BACON wrapped. Damn!!!, why didn't I think of BACON.

The next entry was fajitas.  I did chicken fajitas with roasted avocado, sauted green peppers and onion, and a pico salsa.  This was wrapped in a flour tortilla.  I went to C&C Butcher Shop for the chicken, they specialize in marinated meats.  I asked them for a fajita seasoned chicken breast that would knock it out of the park.  I took the chicken breast and grilled them on my grill grates using Mojo hickory for some extra flavor.  Once the chicken got to 160 degrees we used the Meatrakes to shred them and add the meat to the onion and green pepper mixture.

Big Al did a seasoned rib eye steak served on a tortilla chip; made more like and appetizer.  Beef versus chicken!

 7 pm arrived and Frank calls Al and me into the store so he could introduce each of us to the audience and tell the folks how the evening will unfold. Al spoke first and if talking to a group bothered him it didn't show; he came off as a very nice young man. Damn, I was was hoping he would freeze up and mess up his intro. It was my turn and this is where I should have a advantage; I'm a salesman. I'm used to talking to people, I have spoken in front large groups before. I introduce myself and my son Bill with a short bio. I didn't get any advantage here Big Al held his own.

We both told the audience how we prepared our broccoli so they would know what to expect. We decided earlier that Al would serve first,so he started plating and serving , while Bill and I started to plate our entry. This got a little intense because you have to plate about 35 to 40 plates at the same time. A big thanks for Bill and Anne Grenko help serving the entries

Both Big Al and I go back and tell the folks how we prepared the fajita entry.  Again Al spoke first. I was glad because the fajita takes some time to put together. With the help of Bill and Anne everything went without a hitch. Two down, now it was time for the watermelon.

Remember I said my son helped me with this contest. When I told him the categories I said we had to do something special with the watermelon as it could be the deciding dish. Bill went on the internet and started to search watermelon recipes. I came up with a grilled watermelon with Agave syrup and a raspberry blush white Balsamic vinegar. He came up with a "WATERMELON SLIDERS"  Sliced watermelon brushed with extra virgin olive oil with minced onion and salt and pepper. Grilled for about 4 minutes on each side and finished with a slice of melted mozzarella cheese. Served on a bun and eaten as a sandwich.  We got together the Sunday before the Throw Down and fixed both dishes as a practice cook and decided which one we would do. The sliders won out.

Al did a grilled watermelon finished with a bourbon sauce. When I told the audience what we were going to serve them I could see the shock on their faces and I could tell they weren't sure if we were sane or not. I asked them to keep a open mind and I felt they would be surprised.

Al served his melon while Bill grilled up our melon and topped with the cheese. After he put each slice on the  bun I topped them off and sent them to be judged.

Now  as Big Al, Bill and  myself waited outside as the voting took place. There is no money to be won here just bragging rights, but when you put yourself out there to be judged, you want to win. This is the hardest part of any contest waiting for the results. Finally Frank called us both inside to announce the results.

First is Broccoli and the winner is Big Al. Damn!! Bacon why didn't I think of bacon.

Next fajitas and the winner is Don Parr !!! Yeah!!! Chicken, topped beef.

The score tied one category for each of us, coming down to Watermelon. All I'm thinking is did the gamble pay off or should we have done a more traditional dish.

Frank says the winner in watermelon and the August Throw Down Champion is  DON PARR!!!!  Yeah!!! It paid off.  Bill's recipe was the deciding dish. Frank shook my hand and I turn to see Al with his outstretched hand to congratulate me.  I put my arm around my son's neck!  We both enjoyed the win and doing this together.

The next Throw Down is going to be in October and Big Al has asked for a rematch, so we will face each other again. This time cooking ribs, apples as a dish not a dessert, and pumpkin. Already looking forward to it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Overlook Farms LUV-LUV BBQ Contest

Well folks, I had to take a couple of days before I wrote about my cook in Clarksville Mo. at the Overlook Farms Luv- Luv BBQ contest. I can now take one thing off my BBQ bucket list. I won a Grand Championship. To say that excites me is a understatement. I have won categories and have gotten calls and got a few trophies and some checks,but never I have been judged the best overall Pit Master at any contest. To make this win even better I was able to do this with my wife Debbie there helping me out, makes it even more special to share the win with her.

This contest I had to cook 3 categories, chicken thighs, chicken wings, and pork ribs. I decided to cook the thighs like I did at the Route 66 contest where I finished second. If you remember I turned in skinless chicken and was sure I blew it and was surprised with my finished. So I took what I learned from my mistake and ran with it. Friday night I trimmed the thighs cutting off the knuckles and squaring them up to fit in a muffin pan. The muffin pan is a way to insure that all the thighs are same size. Start by seasoning the thighs under the skin with Draper's AP Rub. Than placing the thighs skin side down in the muffin pan in the kettle set up with a indirect fire for the first 45 minutes. Turn them over and finish cooking skin side up. After thighs reach 160 degrees place in a aluminium pan remove the skin and finish in a bath of Draper's Smokin Sauce.

Next the chicken wings. I have a Buffalo wing recipe that I cook and we like them a lot. I just didn't feel they would score that well in a contest where a lot of teams are doing the same thing. So I called Tracy at Jac's Tailgaters for a special recipe to cook something no one else in the area can match. Boy did he give me a recipe that hit it out of the park. Jac's Tailgaters is a product I'm bringing into the St Louis market place. I will share this recipe once I have some product on some shelves in the St Louis area. I will say it is a Bayou Mustard sauce with his Cajun smokin rub and finished with a Peach Glaze. WOW these were Great!!

Next Pork Ribs. I did my standard spare ribs trimmed St Louis style. I have been doing these for a while and feel its my strength. I sometime miss my time line at contest and over think them, but I guess  having Debbie there and her calming effect to just trust the method that has proven to produce great ribs. I did just that and I truly believe I turned in the best ribs I have every done at a contest. They were perfect.

Turn in at this contest was a little different in that you turned in everything at the same time. So at 3 PM turned in all 3 boxes of what I really believed was some very good BBQ. After turn in not much left to do but to start loading up and wait for the results. At 5PM the judges have picked a winner,got down to the Grand Champion and  I hear, "The Man, The Grill, The Magic" That's me, I clenched my fist and shout YES YES!! went up and picked up the trophy and a envelope with $500.00 and came back to my smiling wife. Lots of fellow cooks came up to shake hands and congratulate me.

So a Great day spent with my wonderful wife, and I get to take one thing off my BBQ bucket list. I'm a Happy Man.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Competing just for Fun

Well folks, my next two competitive events are non sanctioned cooks, and one doesn't even have a cash prize for winning just bragging rights. The first one is this Saturday in Clarksville Mo the Overlook Farms LUV-LUV BBQ contest and festival. Going to be cooking the dreaded chicken twice. Thighs and wings. The thighs I'll do like I do at a sanctioned contest. The wings I'm excited about because I'll be using a recipe being given to me from Tracy at Jac's Tailgaters. A new product I'm bring to St Louis and a new recipe hoping to WOW some folks with Jac's sauce with that Cajun Kick. Tracy assure me that this is a kick ass recipe. The third category is Pork Ribs that is what I consider my strength, so I'll be going with my standard cook for those.

The biggest change for this cook is I'm bringing my secret weapon. My wife Debbie is coming along to oversee the cook and make sure I do it right. Debbie does not have the same passion I have for competitive BBQ. She has been very supportive and is the one person I know that will tell me the truth when I practice  and need to know, if I made a improvement or should I stay with what I was doing. Sometimes the truth hurts but she gives it to me straight. She's just not into sitting outside on a parking lot or a field watching  smoke rise up from the pit. So I'm excited that she going this time and hoping there is other things going on at  Overlook Farms that she will enjoy.

The other event I'm doing is St Louis Home Fires  Throw Down on August  28. This is a event that Frank has been doing at his store that pits 2 Pit Master against each other cooking  3 items and presenting them to the people that attend and they vote as to who is that months Throw Down Champ. This month categories are going to be, Broccoli,  Fajitas, and Watermelon. Everything is cooked on the grill then you present them to the crowd after telling them how you prepared each item. I'll be going against Alan Bowman  who I know and admire as a very talented Pit Master. I'll have my work  cut out for me, but I m looking forward to the test.

So I got some thing going on this month and I'll be passing along how each one turns out.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pot Luck MOINKS

Well folks, the wife called me yesterday and said they were having a goodbye pot luck lunch for a couple of co workers that were leaving. I said I'll pick up a cake, to that she answered " No I already ordered the cake, I need you to cook something."  also saying she wanted to be impressed.

No pressure right, I asked what is normally served at these, answered with, standard fare chips dips and the last time someone brought chicken strips. Alright then it's time for me to make some MOINKS!!  Moinks for those of you that don't know are frozen beef meatballs wrapped with bacon and seasoned up and grilled until they are a tasty morsel.

So off to the store for a bag of frozen meatballs and a pound of bacon. The pot luck lunch is going to be a 11:45 AM. So got up this morning and at 9AM I got the kettle set up with a indirect fire and a cube of Mojo Hickory. While the fire was getting ready I started to prepare the Moinks. This is easy, take a half strip of bacon and wrap around each meatball and hold the bacon with a toothpick. After wrapping all the meatballs seasoned them with some brown sugar and a light dusting of cayenne pepper.

I used my GrillGrates for this, the grates work great keeping the Moinks up off the grill and makes turning easy.  Cooking Moinks is not hard, you just cook them until the bacon is crispy and then I like to put them in a aluminum pan with some Drapers Smokin sauce that  I added some honey to sweeten the sauce. I then moved the cooked Moinks into the pan of sauce to simmer.

At 11:15 took these to wife for the pot luck lunch. When she smelled the finished product she knew I did good. After the lunch she emailed me that they were a hit and there wasn't any left to bring home. I'm a little sad because I didn't try one before taking them to her. I just trusted the aroma I was getting while cooking them that they were going to taste great. Sounds like I was right.