Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 BBQ Season update

Been a busy season of BBQ so I have fallen behind on my contest recaps. Let me try to bring ya up to date...

May 25 - 27 Roc City Rib Fest, Rochester, NY

Roc City Rib Fest is held at the beautiful Ontario Beach park. Our setup is always comfortable and scenic. We were coming off of a bad showing in Greenlane, PA and wanted a strong showing. Well... didn't happen, we were able to take a 10th place in the Roc City Rib Cookoff but had no calls in KCBS competition. Still love this comp. yet gave me a lot to think about when it comes to my BBQ.

June 15 - 16, 2012 Swinetastic BBQ Fest, Frederick,MD
This was our fist time at this competition and loved everything about it. Our setup was in a great spot on grass under the shade of trees. This comp was also a Kingsford Challenge competition making it more exciting. Coming off of a couple of disappointing contest, I added some slight changes to my cooking schedule... but would it pay off?
We pulled a 10th place chicken!
And am amazing 1st place in pork!
The event was a Kingsford Challenge so we also got one of those big checks for our pork win...

We also took home one of the greatest trophies I have ever received for a BBQ win.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Smoke in the Valley - Green Lane, PA

I look forward to this competition every year, it is becoming a favorite to BBQ competitors in the region. That is all because of the great detail taken by the Green Lane Volunteer Fire Department, especially the work of Shawn Tucker, to make it the best!

This year's competition featured a People's Choice rib category, sponsored by Hatfield Meats, on Friday night. Participating teams would cook up ribs to be served to public, who will be picking their favorite. I enjoyed this event... well... too much! I went through all the ribs I cooked along with a bottle of Buffalo Trace, most of a bottle of Jager and a good amount of Patron Coffee Tequila. We did manage to get 3rd place in the People's Choice... but with great consequence.

I don't have much to say about the rest of the competition, and actually don't remember much of Friday night. There are stories, pictures and even a video of Friday night out there... This was a "what not to do at a BBQ competition" weekend for me. Very disappointed... no KCBS calls... not a surprise! I'll have to redeem myself next year.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Pork in the Park - 2012

Pork in the Park, held in Salisbury, MD, was our 2nd KCBS competition of the 2012 BBQ season. It is one of the largest in the country, this year hosting 113 competitors. BBQ Pitmasters was filming for season 3 of their BBQ competition TV show, making this year's event even bigger! Dave "famous Dave" Anderson was there competing with his local franchise owner Dave Marks, you could feel the excitement in the air.

Setup next to our friends Zombie BBQ.

I went into this competition with high expectations, having already stared the season strong, but it's funny how doubt creeps in as the day progresses, looking at the size of this event and the all too familiar faces competing. Deep breath... time to cook...

The chicken was a nightmare, nothing went as planned. At one point I had to laugh, thinking we'll never make turn-in time. Well we did and chicken finished 57th out of 113 teams. Score of 155.428.

Ribs have been my bread and butter, finishing top 10 in the last 7 competitions. The streak ended here but still finished a respectable 16th place. Score - 161.714.

Oh the feeling of hearing your name called... that shock and "OMG that's us" realization! It never gets old and you never get used to it!
Pork came out fantastic placing 4th out of 113 teams! Score - 166.856.

Our brisket was slightly dry, in my opinion, but looked beautiful as usual. It finished 33rd with a score of 155.999.

Our overall score for the competition was 639.9992, enough points to place us a shocking 7th out of 113 teams!

With our 4th place pork trophy!

Once again Pork in the Park met all expectations as one of the best and biggest BBQ events of the year thanks to Sandy Fulton and her team. Sandy, I don't know how you do it, but thanks for making this event one of our most anticipated contest of BBQ season! Complete list of winners can be found here.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Corned Beef Ribs revisited

For most people corned beef, potatoes and cabbage makes them think of Ireland and St. Patrick's Day. Corned beef is not even considered an Irish national dish. In fact, in Ireland today, the serving of corned beef is geared toward tourist consumption and most Irish in Ireland do not identify the ingredient as native cuisine. In the U.S. corned beef and St. Patrick's Day goes hand in hand and many come together over this meal in celebration. This is my interpretation of this traditional feast.

Corned beef ribs are something I started playing around with a few years back. I still use the same brine recipe I posted in my blog Corned Beef on a Stick. I did, however, change the cooking technique in this version.

I started out with some huge beef back ribs I found at Restaurant Depot.

They are then brined for 7 - 8 days in the fridge, turning ribs every day for even brine.

Ribs were removed from brine, rinsed, dried and cut into individual bones. They looked beautiful!

Time to cook these suckers! Traditionally, coned beef brisket is boiled in water with some spices until tender. I've done this in the past with my corned ribs and they were tasty and very tender. The problem with boiling process is that, in my opinion, too much flavor from the brining is washed away. This time I change my cooking process to try and reserve all that salty, spicy, corned beef integrity.

I baked the ribs at 360 deg. for 2 hours then covered with foil for one hour. The sugar from the brine caramelized the ribs nicely and most of the fat rendered away. The intense coned beef flavor was perfect!

These were the best tasting corned beef rib I have ever made. The baking of the ribs resulted in tender rib surrounded by a sweet, crispy, exterior with intense corned beef flavor! Now to complete the meal with the appropriate sides...

Colcannon potatoes:

I boiled yellow potatoes in water with some salt pork until they were tender enough to make mash potatoes. Then cabbage and about 5 clove of garlic were boiled in same water until tender. Potatoes and cabbage are then mashed together with the garlic, some butter, about 1/4 cup sour cream and salt and pepper. Throw in some sliced green onions and the shredded meat from the salt pork and you have it! You know me, I couldn't stop there - I put the colcannon mixture in small cast iron pan and baked until top was crispy... awesome!

Throw some sweet glazed carrots on the plate and you have a meal. Oh and PLEASE don't forget the beer!
Hope eveyone had a fun, safe, St. Patrick's Day!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Georgia BBQ Championship Throw Down - Young Harris, GA

Our BBQ competition season ends in October and begins in April... that's 5 months of waiting, a lifetime when you are as caught up in this thing as I am! I'm always on the look out for some reason to fire up the cooker during the down time. This year I found one. January 27 - 28, 13 1/2 hours away in Young Harris, Georgia at the Brasstown Valley Resort Lodge was a small competition. Only 25 teams... Let the 2012 season begin!

The entry fee, a cheap $199.00, also granted us seats at the Georgia BBQ Championship Awards Banquet. The opportunity to meet these great GA teams and even compete against some was more than sufficient reason to attend.

We started our trip to Brasstown on Thursday morning and headed straight for Lexington, NC. And about dinner time pulled into The Lexington BBQ...

After a nice chopped pork dinner, we drove about 2 more hours into Ashville and crashed for the night, finishing our trip to Young Harris Friday morning.

The Brasstown Resort is in the North Georgia Mountains and it was a very scenic drive.

We saw many of these as we drove up and down those mountain roads. With a summit elevation of 4,784 feet Brasstown Bald is the highest point in the state of Georgia.

We finally pulled into Brasstown Friday early afternoon and set up our BBQ site, it was a pleasant 58 degs and beautiful! The turn-in times were shifted for this competition, instead of the chicken being do at 12, it was do at 3pm. This was in case the weather was unbearably cold. This gave more time to enjoy the offerings of the hospitality cabin, and yes, shine was available... this was Georgia after all. It was good!

At about 2am, after 3 hrs. sleep, I stumbled out to start the cooker only to find it covered in frost... it was 20 degs! It took a while to get her up to temp., big meats went on around 3:20am.


Chicken finished 16th out of 24 with a score of 161.1248. I used a new sauce and was very happy with flavor, will tweak cooking methods for the next competition.

Ribs have been my best category and they got us an 8th place call in southern territory! This make 6 consecutive contests with a top ten rib finish. They scored 165.7144.   
Pork came in a miserable 22nd with a score of 153.7140. We really thought this was some of the best pork we have made, from the presentation to the taste. Not quite sure what happened.
The brisket finished 20th with a score of 151.4284. It looked great and the flavor was right on. Unfortunately it needed another 45 minutes to an hour to come to that perfect tenderness, I'm not surprised with the finish.
Overall we finished 19th out of 24 teams with a score of 631.9996, not a great showing. But hearing our name called in that banquet, among some the best teams in the country, made it a success in my mind! We got to meet and compete against some great teams, Bub-ba-Q, Rescue Smokers, South Pork, Killer B's BBQ, and Jacks New South. It was a well organized event thanks to big Jim Stancil of Bareknuckles BBQ and Bobby Brumley of Brasstown Resort! We look forward to our next trip out to Georgia, maybe in November at The National BBQ Cup in Cummings, GA, we'll see how things go.

View from Resort
The long road home...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stuffed pork belly

I'm kind of obsessed with this cut of pork, which you may already know from my previous postings -  Fun with Pork Belly - in multiple parts. Fatty delicious belly of pork, bacon is made from this cut, spare ribs are cut from it and it hold the intense flavor... the essence of pig. OK, I obviously have issues here so let's not linger. I'm not reinventing the wheel with this one, it's just my interpretation of a classic - Porchetta.

It is simply pork belly stuffed with a onion and herb bread stuffing which is then rolled, tied and smoked.

I started with a whole, de-boned, pork belly. Squared it up and cut off any excess fat from belly, retaining any nice pieces of meat.

I then butterflied the belly to "open" it up and make room for stuffing.

At this point, before introducing the stuffing, I rubbed the belly meat with a roasted garlic, herb and salt paste.

For paste:
slowly roast 5 cloves garlic in 4TBS olive oil along with
fresh oregano and basil.
When garlic is soft, pore into bowl and
mash with back of  fork.
Add enough kosher salt to create a paste.

After applying garlic paste, it's time to stuff this belly. Evenly spread stuffing and any extra pieces of pork meat onto the belly.


2 sticks butter
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
fresh oregano
fresh basil
fresh thyme
seasoned bread stuffing cubes
chicken stock
Cook first 6 ingredients until soft. add bread and stock
till proper consistency

Now "close" the butterflied pork meat and roll belly bringing skin sides around to meet. Using butchers twine, tie rolled belly every 2 inches or so.

I placed on rack in a foil pan to keep belly off the drippings while cooking. I also put slits in the skin to allow fat to render more easily. Placed in smoker at 250 deg. and smoked with cherry and hickory wood.

After 2 hours on the smoker...

After 8 hours on smoker I transferred to sheet pan and finished in a 370 deg. oven for about 1 hour to crisp skin. Rubbing kosher salt on skin helps this process.

After it was removed from oven, I allowed it to rest for an hour before slicing.

YES - it was as good as it looked! The skin was not as crispy as I would have liked but the flavor of the belly with the herb stuffing was awesome. Cutting a nice wheel of pork and placing it on a sheet pan in a 450 deg. oven for 10 - 15min. will render a bit more fat and help crisp the skin. Serve on homemade garlic mash potatoes, I don't think it gets much better!

A note to the faint of heart, this isn't for everyone, especially those who may be counting those calories.

From Wikipedia:
A 100-gram serving of pork belly typically has 518 calories. The calorie breakdown is: 92% fat (53.01g), 0% (0 g) carbohydrates, and 8% (9.34g) protein.

Well, with that said, it was delicious and I can't wait to try other variations of this recipe. Maybe pork belly stuffed with kielbasi and sauerkraut... we'll see.