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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.