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.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

So it comes to an end

We have come to the end of the 2011 competition BBQ season. It was my 5th year as a competitive BBQer and I love it! I feel my BBQ knowledge has grown stronger each year and, with the people around me now, this was my best season yet. We competed in 11 events this season and pulled 7 top 10 rib finishes! We also received 2 3rd place chicken calls and a 6th place brisket. Still a lot of work to do but I feel that 2012 will be our "step-up" season, we'll see.

Thanks to everyone who came out and supported... well, partied with us. Can't wait to see you all next year! Thank you to Ken Nowicki and his contributions to the team, Jeff Bera for keeping up with the web page and Marie Moody, my partner in BBQ, with out her the team would not be doing as well as it is.

Me and marie

See ya in 2012!


Friday, November 4, 2011

4th Annual Keystone Classic Barbeque - Harrisburg, PA

Well, here it is, our last competition of the year and wouldn't you know it... the sun was shining bright! We arrived there around noon Friday, Oct. 7th, and setup camp, ready to enjoy our season ending event. I prepped the meats early so there would be plenty of time to relax with some Jäger. We fired up the deep fryer and watched the Phillies playing in a series deciding playoff game. After the Phills lost we consoled ourselves by deep frying... everything! We had brats, mushrooms, s'mores and well if you were there and are missing any small pets...

Saturday rolled in and everything went pretty smoothly. First up was chicken.

                                                                                              Chicken has been up and down all year. It finished 38th out of 47 teams.

                                                                                         The ribs came through for me again landing 3rd place!

I was happy with the pulled pork and it finished in 14th place.

The brisket was so over cooked that I had to cut meatloaf sized pieces to keep it from falling apart. The flavor, however, was right on! It took 20th place.

Overall, this was a great competition held in conjunction with the Keystone International Livestock Exposition. The sun shined bright for our last event of the season and we finished up in 12th place overall out of 47 teams! Not a bad way to finish up, I'm already looking forward to 2012.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

3rd Annual Southern York County BBQ Cookoff - Glen Rock, PA

Here we go again, I feel like a broken record... rain, rain, and more rain. After surviving hurricane Irene a few weeks earlier, I was hoping for a nice DRY competition in southern York, PA. That wasn't going to happen thanks to Tropical Storm Lee flooding out the Northeast. The 3rd Annual Southern York County BBQ Cookoff was held in Glen Rock, PA September 9th - 10th.

Lee's remnants helped cause torrential downpours over the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, which led to massive, record river flooding on September 8 and 9.  This included the Susquehanna River at Binghamton, N.Y., Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and Meshoppen, Pa. The Swatara Creek in Hershey, Pa. beat the previous record level by 10 feet! -

The days leading up to the event did not look good with all the flood reports for the area surrounding the competition site. Alicia, the event coordinator, assured every one that the competition was a go! So Friday September 9th I packed up and headed to Glen Rock. The competition was held on the grounds at The Markets at Shrewsbury. The Amish market hosts some great food and crafts. I always look forward to getting the oyster pie... OH,  and the house made ice cream! I'm glad this event wasn't canceled.

When I pulled into Shrewsbury, around noon, most teams were already setup. The dirt / gravel lot we were in was swampy and wet but workable. The sky looked threatening but held off for the most part, but I do think it kept some of the spectators away.

The band played Friday night as we settled into our site and began to cook some competition BBQ!

We had no problem with the weather at this competition... but encountered a big problem with the bees, there were every where, like we setup on their hive. During turn-ins they were buzzing around and landing on everything. I had to be very careful not to close one up in a turn-in box. Quite a few of them lost their lives in my sweet sauce... sorry guys!
Chicken has given me lots of trouble this season. I've gone from top 3 to last using same cooking methods. I switched up slightly for this contest and pulled a 3rd place!

Ribs have been my best category and they finished in 9th place.

19th place pulled pork.

I loved this brisket and was happy with an 11th place finish out of 28 teams.

We ended up finishing 6th place overall out of 28 teams. The soggy ground and bees couldn't sabotage this event, always a good time... and I did get my oyster pie at the market, top notch! Full results can be seen here - KCBS.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Holland Summerfest – New Holland, PA

August 26th, around 9:30am, on I-76 heading towards New Holland, PA and I couldn't get her out of my mind. The Summerfest competition is a PA State Championship and one of the best organized events of the year. I should be thinking about cooking times and meat presentation but I couldn't get her out of my head, knowing she will be there soon. I tried preparing early for her but there was only so much I could do to get ready. Irene is off the coast of Florida and expected to make landfall on the 27th somewhere in North Carolina then continue screaming right up the east coast.

You would never know there was a category 3 hurricane closing in by the weather Friday morning as we set up camp, the sun even poked out a few times. Around 11pm that night, as I was putting our brisket on the smoker, the wind started picking up slightly - a reminder of what was only 24hrs., or so, away.

At 5am Saturday, the ribs hit the smoker and chicken took a swim in some brine and it started to look like rain.

The chicken started cooking around 9am, the wind was also starting to pick up.

The rain did hold off long enough for us to get all of our meats turned in to the judges, but by the time the award ceremony began it started getting nasty! They rushed giving out the awards so teams could get out of there before it really got bad... some teams did not wait around for the awards at all!
Chicken was dead ass last, 67th.
Ribs finished in 4th place, some of the best ribs I have made at a competition!

The pork landed at 23rd, I thought it should have scored a bit higher.

This was the first time I ever injected brisket, till now I have been a purist when it comes to the large meats.
Brisket took 6th place!
We ended up finishing 16th overall out of 67 teams. The biggest challenge was heading home to Philly in that blinding rain, with Irene racing to meet us there! We made it home safe and I didn't even get that much water in my basement... nice try Irene!
Oh - and special thanks to my good luck charm that showed up at the event, the real reason all ended up well!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

BBQ and Blues in the Park - Mount Holly, NJ

What began as a joke started looking like a curse by our 5th competition in a row with rain and wind. On July 29th we headed to Mount Holly, NJ to BBQ and Blues in the Park, this was our 7th competition of the year with the same gloomy forecast... RAIN! And boy did it rain - the hardest downpour of the season and some of the heaviest winds we had to endure. At one point as we hung from our ez-ups, being blinded by the rain, I didn't think we would make it through damage free. Luckily we did, but not all the teams were unscathed. The rain passed late Friday afternoon giving us time to clean up and get ready for the contest ahead.

The sun did come out Saturday morning and made for a nice day. I feel we handed in some good BBQ and we finished 15th overall out of 45 teams. The chicken ended up 44th... second from last! Same recipe that finished 3rd in Wildwood, NJ. The ribs were an outstanding 2nd place! Pork slid in at 24th and brisket, which I thought was awesome, landed 13th.

When I saw these guys coming around corner, I knew it was going to be a great day in Mount Holly!

Big Craig and little Craig

Marie and her mom

I love this BBQ thing!


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stephen Starr-Garry Maddox Barbecue Challenge 2011

"The annual Stephen Starr-Garry Maddox Barbecue Challenge, presented by Hatfield Quality Meats and KRAFT Barbecue Sauce, returns to Citizens Bank Park on August 13, 2011. Now in its tenth year, the charity fundraiser features restaurant teams and pit master teams cooking off for a good cause. All proceeds from the Challenge support the Youth Golf and Academics Program (YGAP), a non-profit organization founded by Garry Maddox to provide academic support and enrichment services to children who reside in troubled city neighborhoods. Since 2001, the event has raised over $450,000 for charity."

If you followed my blogs you may know that this is the event that started my incurable addiction into competitive BBQ. In 2005, at the request of my friend Steve Tallant and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, I cooked at this event. It was the first time cooking BBQ ribs at a competition and we finished 5th out of 45 teams. Since that day this has been my most anticipated contest of the year! In 2009 I finished 1st in the pit master division and 1st over-all in the Garry's rib challenge making this event a part of me forever!

I've been waiting for this competition since the beginning of BBQ season and it did not disappoint! Lots of great people came out to party and support us. Also some great beer - thanks Craig! I cooked up some great food for the folks hanging out with us which included some nice lamb ribs...

And beef ribs...

And whole pork belly...

Rain and some heavy wind blew through because... you know, that's what happens when I cook at a competition! It didn't last too long and there were plenty of "tent holders" available to keep my canopies from flying away.

I entered the chicken category this year to try a new recipe that I may use in my next KCBS competition.

Anyone one who knows me, knows I hate BBQ chicken so I ended up not putting too much effort into cooking it and I still thought they came out ok. They finished 39 out of 45 pit masters.

Now for the reason we came here... RIBS!

The pit master division ribs were not quite where I wanted them at turn in time, a little tough. The flavors were right on. They finished 15th out of 45 teams.

Now the "Garry's Challenge" ribs had an extra 30 min. on the smoker and I thought they were close to perfect! They finished 7th out of 62 teams, which included the restaurant division.

No World Series tickets for the good guys this year but not a bad overall finish. This is my most anticipated competition of the year - always surrounded by good friends having a great time enjoying this worthwhile charity event... and it never disappoints! Every year I come away form this event with great memories and this year one may just be life changing. Hey Garry - see ya in 2012!