Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One For The Books......

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a friend about a girl named Amanda Field. I usually delete e-mails of this nature but something about this e-mail set forth a chain of events that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I had never met Amanda, however the e-mail I read reminded me of my own family and how precious life truly is. Amanda is a working mother with a young son who just found out that she's going to have to have a liver transplant. Due to factors beyond her control Amanda's insurance company is requiring her to pay $215,500.00 up front to be put on the transplant list to receive a new liver. This really angered me, so much so that I brought this to the attention of our newly chartered Midland North Rotary Club. I am somewhat new to Rotary and was nominated to serve as Vice President of our club this year and thought some how, some way, we needed to help her raise money to give this young mother and her family a chance to have a normal life together.

I proposed a BBQ fundraiser to our club and they graciously accepted. I have never done this before but I know that when were blessed with certain talents they can be put into motion when we least expect them to. I sent out a few e-mails to my contact list and before I knew it we had orders for 13 briskets and 12 racks of ribs. I volunteered our home as our station and the weekend of Nov 9th myself, and two other people from our club began the difficult task of cooking our first batch of BBQ. We did this on two pits for 48 hours straight. We also slotted the weekend of the 2oth to try and get more orders. The first cook was a lot of work. I was not prepared though for what lied ahead.

This past weekend I have cooked more BBQ in three days than I have in the past two years. I was not prepared for this but we wound up cooking this go round 38 briskets and 40 racks of ribs. We did this on three pits with the help of two volunteers up through Sunday afternoon and then had 5 more people come out to help. So far by doing this we have raised $6,300.00 for Amanda. Were donating the cost of the food from our club and 100% of the proceeds are being put into a special account for Amanda and her medical needs.

I am not sure how to explain how this feel's however I'm going to be honest in saying that I have a whole new respect for folk's who do this full time. It was extremely difficult to not want to take each individual rack of ribs and each individual brisket and to trim them like I would for a competition. We pulled membranes on ribs and trimmed some on briskets but not to the extent that I'd like to have done. Cooking barbecue for the masses is a lot different than you might think. First because you have so much difference in weight on briskets when buying by the case and second because you know in the back of your mind that you'd like to do a lot more to that brisket/rack of ribs than your actually getting to do with it. I don't like cutting corners but sometimes you have to do what's required of the situation when your up against time and cold weather conditions.

This will be an unforgettable experience. I was very happy to do it but there's something about cooking that just feel's different now. I'm not sure what it is, but the urge to open up my restaurant isn't what it used to be. I have set some more goal's for next year that I'd like to achieve and will hopefully keep building upon my experiences with barbecue and the friends I've made from it in the years to come. I've probably come to the realization that it's not really the barbecue itself that I like so much it's just the great things that happens every time I get around it. I think that's why it will always be a part of me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Daddy D'z Barbecue......Atlanta, GA

It's not everyday that people from Texas get a chance to eat real southern style barbecue. Having just got back from Atlanta I can assure you that Texas barbecue is anything but "Southern Style". Although Georgia is not as well known for it's barbecue as it's neighbors from the Carolina's and Tennessee it boast's some great barbecue nonetheless. Unfortunately while we didn't have enough time to check out Atlanta's barbecue scene we did get to visit a special place called Daddy D'z.

Daddy D'z was really not our first choice for barbecue. We had tried the night before to go to Famous Daves only to find out that all of their Atlanta locations had just recently closed down. We went ahead and decided that we would wait until Saturday to try again for barbecue and wound up grabbing a hot dog at the Braves game instead. We had decided that if we were going to eat barbecue we wanted to find someplace good with a pretty solid reputation. Daddy D's was just the place. They have had a long history of serving barbecue in Atlanta and have been featured in USA Today, The New York Times, The Rolling Stones Magazine, and claim to be Atlanta's only restaurant to be featured on the "Food Network".

Upon arriving at Daddy D'z one of the first things you notice is the appearance of the restaurant. I would definitely call this place a BBQ joint rather that your typical BBQ restaurant. The outside has been painted to reflect a bluesy type of atmosphere.

Once we entered Daddy D's we were greeted by the owner who's been there for 17 years. His name is Ron Newman and he's a Chicago native. He brought us out a sample of ribs which were great in flavor but were really not that comparable to some of the ribs you will find on the competition circuit. I know it's harder cooking for the masses but you would think that if this place had been voted as "Best Barbecue in Atlanta" that they might have been a little better.

My father ordered the rib plate and I had the sampler platter. Both were served on throw away plastic plates. The rib plate comes with 4 ribs that come out completely covered in BBQ sauce. They had a great smoke flavor but were a little on the dry side. I had ordered the sampler platter wanting to try a little more items off the menu, however for some reason all they brought me was just the sandwich. They forgot to bring me the 2 ribs it comes with as well as the fried pork wraps. On the sandwich I was given a choice of either brisket or pork. I wanted to try the brisket but it more less tasted like stringy roast beef with lot's of barbecue sauce. I only ate a portion of it and rounded out the meal with side orders of mac and cheese and fried zucchini. I also tried a few bites of the Brunswick stew that he brought out for us to sample. This was probably some of the best stew that I have ever eaten.

One thing I try to do in every barbecue restaurant I get to, is to at least visit with the owner a little, to learn a little bit about them and about their barbecue. I learned here that they cook with hickory and like to do it low and slow. I was also awarded a pass behind the kitchen and got to see how it's all done behind the scenes. Overall this was a great place for BBQ. Although the new guy's from Fox Brothers in Atlanta were just featured by MSN as one of the nations top 10 best barbecue joints in the country I think Daddy D'z has more of a southern feel to it and a lot more authenticity.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bedford Labor Day Blues and BBQ Festival Cont......

It's not everyday that you can find a KCBS contest in Texas. In fact the Bedford Labor Day Blues and BBQ Festival is the very first KCBS contest ever to take place in TX and we were glad to be a part of it. Although the Bedford Labor Day Bluesfest has been around for a few years this was their very first year to incorporate a contest and they did a wonderful job of putting this together.

We pulled out of Midland a little after 11:00 Friday morning one hour behind our scheduled departure time of 10:00. After about four hours on the road we came up to an accident that had made me nervous the rest of the way in. A White Chevrolet Crew Cab was in the median and had apparently rolled about a $ 15,000 BBQ Pit that he was pulling behind him. I wanted to stop and give him a hand but there were others assisting and traffic was getting really bad coming into Weatherford. I have never seen anyone lose a pit in tow. I would caution anyone who pulls a BBQ pit to make sure all bearings are greased, tires are good shape and it's properly attached at the hitch. One mistake could mean disaster really quick. It's a good thing no one was injured.

We arrived in Bedford shortly after 4:00 PM, set up our cooking area and spent the rest of the evening with my sister in Dallas. We returned on Saturday and began to scope out the competition. I have cooked several contests this year but none as competitive as this one. I immediately recognized several teams from Texas and a few others that have dominated the KCBS circuit this year. We knew this was going to be a hard contest and after talking with some of the teams realized that we were cooking at a much higher level of competition than what we had previously thought.

For the most part Saturday evening went by pretty fast. My sister and Lance brought the kids by for some hamburgers and we spent the rest of the evening partying with our neighbors Hard Wood Barbecue. These guy's are a class act. They really know how to do it up right and had invited all of thier friends and family out to the cook-off. I think there were over one hundred people at thier campsite by the end of the night. They are a local team from the Metroplex who gets together when they can to have a good time, cook some great Barbecue, and likes to spend the fruits of their labor on having fun and showing others how to have a great time. After 11:00 rolled around quit time was enforced and the party shortly began to come to an end. I took Patty to the hotel and returned for a long night of prepping, cooking, building turn in boxes and trying to remember each and every little step of what needed to be done.

After a long night of cooking I watched the sun come up and was very tired from the previous night's lack of sleep. I picked Patty up from the hotel just in time to be back for the chicken turn in. I left out a few small steps on the chicken but thought it had great flavor. Some of the pieces had bite through skin while others did not. Ribs came next and have been something of a challenge this year. I used a new product called Texas Pepper Jelly and was amazed at how well it turned out. I think this will be something to incorporate as it made a big difference in overall flavor and appearance. Our next category was pork. Normally this is something I never cook so I decided to try a new recipe from the book Serious Barbecue. It was a little more complicated than what I am used to but had a great flavor. Our last and final category for the day was Brisket. I had been wet aging this Brisket for many weeks and had my first experience cooking a properly wet aged Brisket. The flavor was phenomenal, however it seemed to cook much faster than the Briskets we have cooked this year and came out a little on the dry side. I was pleased with our scores at this competition mainly because this was only our second KCBS competition and the teams we were competing against were some of the best we had ever crossed in one competition. Here's how we ended up:

Overall * 18th of 40
Chicken * 20th of 40
Ribs * 15th of 40
Pork * 17th of 40
Brisket * 22nd of 40

I could not have done this without the help of my wife Patricia. She has been with me every step of the way from my very first Brisket and has really been very supportive and helpfull in our competitions.

Monday, August 31, 2009

This Should Be Interesting......

It's not everyday you check the mail and find out who's entered up in your next bbq contest. I have been following and studying competition barbecue for a number of year's but have only been competing since 2008. Today I recieved my packet in the mail for the upcoming KCBS Labor Day Blues and Barbecue Festival in Bedford and was a little surprised at some of the teams I saw whom have entered this contest. Out of the 40 teams currently entered, 12 of them are in the top 100 of the KCBS standings. Out of those about 5 are in the top 15. It's really going to be an honor to cook next to those guy's considering the amount of teams that are currently ranked this year. That number as it stands today is around 3,660 teams. I have been following many of these teams even though this will be our 2nd time to ever cook KCBS. I have also recognized many other names that are on the leaderboards of the current IBCA standings as well. This is definately going to be an interesting mix of true BBQ talent. I am really excited to see where the cards are going to fall. I will be cooking solo this weekend without the help of my trusted partner and comrade Chris Canon. I have really come to appreciate the value of cooking alongside friends and family. I have cooked alone several times but never in a KCBS comp. This is going to be a totally different ballgame for us that I cant wait to play.

To be continued......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

IBCA Friends of Thunderbird Bay BBQ Cookoff......

Having just recently eaten at some of the best BBQ joints in Texas the day before this comp I was somewhat excited yet a little down that my brisket would probably not compare to what I had just eaten. It's amazing what happens to a perfectly good piece of meat vs another piece of meat that wont render sometimes. It sort of makes you want to just throw it on the ground. That being said I wanted to have a great attitude about this competition as my partner Chris Canon from Midland was coming up to join me in battle in a region thought of by most as one of the hardest places to compete in and around Texas.

I set up Friday after lunch in the park right by the pavilion in the shade and waited on Chris to arrive so we could begin the process of washing the meat etc...Chris arrived shortly after 4:00. We were registered in a matter of minutes and waited for what seemed forever to have the meat inspected. We decided to leave for awhile and came back to a very clean area with our own personal trash cans by our cook-site which was something you dont hardly ever see. We began prepping the briskets and put them in the cambro to season overnight and left for the evening.

We came back Sat morning around 4:00 AM and the first thing I noticed was the water/juice mixture dripping out of the bottom of my cambro. It was still pretty cold yet these are supposed to be airtight so I spent most of the morning distracted by how this could have happened. We fired up the pit and put on the briskets around 5 AM. Our lights had burned out so we worked in the dark getting the chicken cut and prepped. This time I chose to cook with free range chickens instead of the normal already split chickens we normally cook. The ribs went on afterwords and we watched the sun come up drinking coffee and discussing barbecue.

Around 9:00 we figured they would be having a cooks meeting as discussed the night before but found no one. We walked up to a registration table after eating a breakfast burrito made by one of the vendors and found one of the directors who gave us a rule sheet and our boxes and said this will serve as you cooks meeting. Typically these meetings last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes or even longer yet we were finished almost instantly and left scratching our heads.

Our first category for the day was chicken. We cooked and split two whole chickens and wound up going with the smaller one. We both thought it was the best we had done this year and made turn in without any problems.

Our second category for the day was ribs. We had a similar experience with our ribs like we had in Enid, OK. Good ribs up until presentation time. It's amazing how quick you can lower your own score with a bad cut but we made the best of it and covered up what we could making turn in with no problems.

Our last and final turn in of the day was brisket. We cooked two Briskets and both had refused to cooperate. Our best one was the biggest one we had on. About 15 minutes before turn in it had only reached 190 degrees. We didn't get it really where we wanted it and didn't get to rest it but it had exceptional flavor. We were right on the cutoff for turn in. The guy behind me was sent back to re-cut his Brisket. I watched closely at their table and he came back with it well past the cut off point.

For the most part this was a great cook-off up until the awards and what I saw happen at the brisket table. Colins Creek recieved calls in each category taking a 6th in Ribs, a 6th in Brisket, and a 9th in Chicken. One thing that took this from a good cook-off to a never go back cook-off was when one of the local teams took a first in every category. Typically this would never bother me except for the fact that it's supposed to be blind judging. All 10th through 2nd place calls were ticket numbers that were called yet for some reason they decided to call their name instead. How would they have any idea or know who's product that was if it was a fair contest ? Another factor that played a part in this is having local judges set up right by the turn in boxes and watching them interact with their local friends who were cooking right after they did a turn in. As much as I like having a positive attitude about barbecue how can you when each and every cook who competed gets up and screams BS and walks out during the Grand Championship only to pack up and leave almost immediately without saying their goodbye's. I think the IBCA board will be hearing about this one and it's unfortunate because not only was this their first year about 90% of the competitors came from parts all over Texas. I am not one to make accusations or have a bad attitude but it's funny how people you don't even know will pull up to your truck while packing up and encourage you to call the IBCA. I just wish Texas would join up with the rest of the world and adopt a judging system that's similar to the one that KCBS uses.

Blacks Barbecue, Lockhart Texas......

The first time I ever had a piece of Blacks Barbecue was on the way out of Lockhart. We had just had our fill of Kreuz Market and were heading out of town when I had the sudden urge to turn around and get some for the road. We came back into town and pulled up into what looked like a time warp. If you are not familiar with Blacks one thing that's very special about them is that they have been in business for over 77 years and have been ran by one family the entire time. It is the oldest family owned barbecue business in Texas. I went in and placed a quick order to go of 1/4 pound of Brisket, a rib and some jalepeno-cheddar sausage. They wrapped it all up in a piece of butcher paper and tin foil and put it in a paper bag. When I was headed out the door I ran into Kent Black whom I'd met in Austin at the National Barbecue Convention and he introduced me to his son Barrett who will one day be taking over. We visited for a while and since the family was waiting in the car I had to cut it short otherwise I could have been there for most of the day. About an hour after leaving Lockhart we decided to compare Blacks to what we had just had at Kreuz and decided to come back through Lockhart on the way home from our vacation just to go back.

Our 3 hour trip back to Lockhart at the end of the week seemed to last forever kind of like a kid around Christmas time. We finally arrived around 4:00 and were greeted by the same smiles and friendly faces that had greeted me just a few day's earlier. As we went in the the first thing you get is your tray and side dishes. Then you come up to a very seasoned cutting board behind the counter which is an actual table of sorts and order your meat where it is cut with a steel knife and fork. You can tell little has changed as this is one of the few places who still do it this way. We ordered 1 1/2 pounds of Brisket, several ribs, and some more jalepeno-cheddar sausage and took a seat. I must admit that the Brisket served at Blacks is bar none the best I have ever had. I have eaten at some really great places and nothing compares to the lasting flavor of their brisket. I know some people believe that salt and pepper create a bland brisket, however the addition of seasoned post oak is better than any combination of rub you could use and has some of the greatest flavor when paired with beef. I have come to believe that many rubs on the market now days have a tendency to actually take away from the meat instead of adding to it and you do not get the genuine actual flavor of what it should taste like otherwise.

After we had finished eating I went up to the counter to purchase some merchandise and was asked to go back through the line to pay. While paying Barrett Black had just walked in through the door and thanked me for coming back through. I told him how much I enjoyed the brisket and their barbecue and with that he proceeded to tell me something that very few people will probably ever know. Although this will not be discussed in this blog I can tell you that going back through that line was one of the biggest lessons in barbecue I have ever had and came at a time which was least expected. I would go one step further to say that what I walked out of their with that day is not any one recipe of sorts but will probably never be printed in any book nor will be found on the internet and can only be experienced at one place.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kreuz Market, Lockhart Texas......

This past week my family and I took a week's long trip down to the coast. On the way down to Corpus we took a little detour through the Texas Hill Country for some of the states finest barbecue. I have never been to Lockhart before and have always wanted to go. To me Coopers in Llano had always reigned as one of the supreme places to go, however after experiencing some of the BBQ that Taylor and Elgin had to offer I had to find out for myself if there was any better. Even though Lockhart was a few hours out of the way I knew it was something we had to try and I am so thankfull that we did. It is one thing to read about barbecue meccas such as Kreutz but to experience it in person brings a whole new level to true Texas barbecue.

Upon arriving one of the first things that I noticed about Kreuz is the size of the building. It is not the original Kreuz Market but does however come from the same Schmidt family. I have never seen such a large structure especially one that's built for barbecue. When you enter down the hallway up into the pit room where you place your order you will see signs all over making it very clear that this place is very different from most of the BBQ joints found in Texas as they have not changed a thing since the early 1900's. No Forks, No Sauce, and No Plates are just a few of the rules of eating here. When we walked up to place our order we were greeted by an elderly lady named Ella Townes and the Pitmaster Roy Perez. One thing I noticed while ordering is instead of hearing an electric knife cut into the meat like you do in most places in TX you actually hear the heat of the fire by the pit instead. Here they cut your meat with a very sharp steel knife just like they did back in their humble beginnings.


We ordered a pound of Brisket, a few ribs and some jalepeno cheddar sasauge. I have always agreed that barbecue sauce truly hides some of the great flavors of barbecue and little did I know how much it did until eating the brisket here. One thing that I have learned from this is the simpler the better. I also learned that post oak will now be my new wood of choice considering the magical flavors that it brings out in the meat along with just plain old salt and pepper. I have always cooked with mesquite mixed with oak or pecan however seeing that nearly all of the top joints in Texas use strictly Post Oak speaks volumes on why it truly is king here in Texas.

I would highly recommend Kreuz Market and Lockhart in general as an excellent place to get some of the top BBQ in Texas. Very few places still follow these practices so it's nice to take a little trip back in time to actually see some of the roots of true authentic Texas BBQ and get a feel of what it is like to taste the wholesome goodness of what sauce-less barbecue is all about.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Real Deal......

This past weekend during the 4th we decided to fire up the pit at the Lake house and invited over the family to hang out for the day. We had about 43 family members show up in all and I can honestly say that it was one of the most memorable 4th's I have had in a long time. Something most BBQ experts will tell you is that you never leave your post while cooking BBQ. With that being said I got to watch everyone play in the lake and on the boat while I sweated bullets trying to make sure the temp didn't spike etc...I really enjoy cooking for people as it releaves stress and gives me a since of accomplishment when folk's go out of their way to commend you for your efforts. Overall I would have to say that I enjoy cooking "Pit BBQ" more than any other BBQ even more than with competition rig. There's nothing like the flavor of good pit smoked BBQ and that's exactly what we had.

Here are some pic's of our meal. We wound up doing 2 Briskets, 6 slabs of Beef ribs, 3 rack's of Baby back's, 9 links of polish sausage, and 24 chicken thighs.

Patty and the kids and I arrived in Brownwood Friday morning. My parents, sister, and my brother and his family arrived Thursday evening to start getting everything ready for the weekends festivities. We were without a dock up until Friday evening but the guy's that were working on the new one went ahead and brought it over and secured it so we would be able to fish and take out the boat. The last one we had was destroyed in the recent tornado, however the "Pit" didn't get a scratch. We all went out to eat Friday night and went ahead and celebrated my birthday at the restaurant and afterwords went back to the house and watched a few Friday night fireworks. After the fireworks the work began and I started prepping all the meat. My brother stayed up with me until 2:00 AM until the Briskets were put on and decided to go ahead and call it a night. Since dinner was set for 5 PM the next day I had to make sure they were done so we had to put them on the night before.

Everyone showed up around 10:00 Saturday morning and had a great time. It's always nice to spend the day with your family even if you don't always get to relax and play like everyone else.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pit BBQ on Lake Brownwood......

One of the things I enjoy most about cooking and barbecue is just being able to get away from everything and to focus on what I like to do best. This past weekend although I didn't get a chance to cook I was able to do just that. Not only was I able to spend some time on the cooker but our family reunion was just a few hours away in Albany thus the reason for our weekend trip to Brownwood. Several years ago our family purchased a Lake house in Feather Bay on the lake there. We could have not asked for a better place to get away. There is nothing like the aroma of mesquite smoke in the morning, cooking barbecue first thing, while you are watching the sunrise, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out over the lake with a fishing pole in your hand. This was where I actually first learned to cook what many Texans call true "Pit" barbecue. There is really no comparison in cooking barbecue on a big pit VS a small backyard smoker. There is just something magical about the whole process that just makes it so much better. It's the most common type of BBQ in the Hill Country which is part of the reason why BBQ in the Hill Country is so much better than other parts of the state. One thing I have learned is that BBQ pit's without any cover are hard to keep clean from the elements. Our pit is a prime example. I do know with a little maintenance they will last a lot longer and cook a lot better. Although I didn't get to cook this time my father and I did get a chance to fix it up and spend some time on it. Here's a few pictures of the before, halfway point, and after.

Another priority that had to be taken care of while we were there was the issue with the dock. Several week's ago a tornado touched down in Brownwood and destroyed hundreds of dock's including ours. We really enjoyed our dock especially during the fall, spring, and summer month's especially when the fish were biting. Here are a couple of pic's of the damage. Hopefully by the 4th of July we will have a new one.

The main purpose of the trip though was to go to our family reunion in Albany. Albany is a small town just north of Abilene, TX. Albany is known for it's many ranches, it's oil, it's hunting, it's wealth, it's culture, it's heritage and most of all for Watt Matthews who was one of the most well known and respected ranchers in TX. Our family had the pleasure of knowing Watt very well and my Grandfather worked for him many years on the Lambshead Ranch where him and my grandmother started and raised their family. A big portion of our family still lives in Albany today and has since there establishment back in 1918. I have always had a soft place in my heart for Albany for many reasons. Most of the cooking done in that part of the country is done on chuckwagons and dutch oven's. It's not a show they put on just a way of life they want to keep true. Our reunion took place on the Stasney Cook Ranch. My father went to school with one the gentleman that runs it and it's always a joy to visit with him. Here's the pit they like to cook on.

This blog would not be complete if I did not mention that Albany is also home to the number one small steakhouse in all of Texas. The Fort Griffin General Merchandise. There is nothing that compares to this place. The Beehive Saloon which is the "Bar" in the middle of the steakhouse was replicated by Robert Duvall and sits in his home today. He's a regular there while he's in Texas and spent a lot of time there while shooting Lonesome Dove which is actually based off part of the early history of what happened in and around Albany and Ft Griffin. It was also where Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp first met. Pat Garrett of Young Gun's fame also got started here as well as many others hence some of the history of this old Texas town.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sundays at Buckshot's......

A few weeks ago I received a call from one of my classmates in regards to cooking out at his new establishment Buckshot's. Buckshot's is a new outdoor entertainment venue that features live bands from around Texas and other parts of the country. It has a huge outdoor fireplace, bar, stage and nice little pond that's right in the middle. It's a very nice set-up and has been attracting up to 250 people on any given Sunday. We had found out that the up and coming artist Josh Langston was going to be playing that day. That very same weekend I had also planned on competing in the World Championship Bison Cook-Off is Santa Anna, TX but since I had a few other things pending that weekend as well I decided not to enter the competition and felt I should try and make a little money vending on a Sunday afternoon instead.

If you have never vended before it's a little different than catering from what I am finding out. I definitely wanted to give this a shot but to be honest it did not turn out the way I had intended. Since my specialty is Ranch Style Cuisine that's what I had wanted to do this first time around. I wanted people to know the true definition in my opinion of what Ranch Style BBQ really is and what Colins Creek BBQ was capable of doing. I know that there is a little money to be made in vending but I was not prepared in all honesty for the up front expenses of vending this type of cuisine.

I had decided to do something out of the norm that would appeal to most everyone thinking I would attract more customers. We had a menu that featured Mesquite Smoked Ribeyes, Baby Back Ribs, Beef Ribs, Sausage, Brisket and Chicken. I also made up some Ranch Style Potatoes and some beans. This was one of the most intense cook's I have done before not knowing really what kind of audience I would have.

I took my family out with me and also was able to get the help of another great cook and friend of mine Chris Canon. We had anticipated on having a big crowd but to our amazement only 40 people showed up. We served up about 26 plates from the 40 in attendance but did not really even come close to breaking even. I know we will definitely do this again but will probably go with "Plan B" next time and just try to keep it simple. I will be taking this as a learning experience and hopefully will recoup our losses at a later date. Until then I have been reading up on my new book Americas Best BBQ on what to do with all the leftovers and will probably be cooking up some new recipes that will come in handy as I try and figure out why I even do this. I guess it's my addiction but if you want to know the truth I still have a few things up my sleeve for next time that most people here in West Texas have never seen done on a BBQ pit.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Low & Slow......

I don't think you can ever stop learning about barbecue so when I think a good BBQ book hits the shelf I usually try and pick it up. For me I think learning from my own mistakes is my number one teacher aside from reading and hands on instruction. When you learn from other peoples mistakes it sometimes help's but not always. Their are so many different styles to achieving great BBQ that skipping a small step could be a very big difference. This being said you don't know what they may or may not have done so what works for me might not work for you and vise versa. Gary Wiviott the author of this book has been cooking barbecue for 10 years and hits on the fact that he's made the mistakes so you don't have to. I thought the book was worth the money however telling someone to forget everything they know about BBQ is definitely a turn-off to me and discourages people from having their own style so to speak.

I think the book had some great information in regards to cooking on different cookers and I especially liked the fact that this book actually breaks down each method when doing so. I think this book would have been more appealing to me had I not had the opportunity to learn from some of the best pit-masters out there, however for someone who does not have that opportunity I would say this book is a definite resource for many things BBQ. Being a competition cook vs a backyard cook which is what Gary is open's the floor for a few disagreements in my style vs his I think, however his knowledge and diversity in recipes, rubs, marinades and brine's is something I very much appreciate.

This book is something I have found to be somewhat controversial in a few areas, but maybe in my own little way. I will start by saying that being from Texas, Brisket and other beef products are a main staple in our BBQ and I was not happy to see that their was no section covering beef at all. I know it's also popular in other parts of the country so I was thrown off a little by it being left out of this book. It's just as important as any other meat and a good pitmaster learns to cook many items vs just a few. If you are going to write a book on BBQ I think you should include all facets of BBQ not just poultry, pork and side items. I also disagree with the fact that it says to use Pork Butt drippings so you can emulate a Texas Style BBQ Sauce in which he refers to Coopers BBQ Sauce in Llano, TX. Hello folks...Coopers does not serve pulled pork on their menu that I have seen. They do serve Pork Chops but knowhere do they use pork butt juice in their sauce. They use Brisket drippings which is an entirely different animal and flavor all together so I think the analogy of making a good Texas based sauce with pork juice should be thrown out entirely. In my opinion before you write about something I think it's best to know what you are putting out and to what audience but to each his own. Since I have not tried this in fairness I should not call it a controversy but more of a difference in opinion.

I would recommend this book to almost anyone wanting to cook or go about cooking better BBQ. For me anyone who has taken the time to write a book and give out their secrets is very deserving of a thumbs up. I do not think I would be a good student of the authors instruction but I did pick up a few things from this book that I know will help out in other ways.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

25th Annual PBC Grillin and Chillin for Charity

Of all the cook-offs I have ever been to this one probably was more work than all the ones I have ever done combined. This year being one of the directors of this cook-off I had the opportunity to help plan and learn a few things about what all is involved in putting a cook-off together. Aside from the director duties I also had a few other things going on such as a catering event Friday night for the Young Professionals of Midland. I had planned to cater for about 120 of our members but due to the weather and a few other things we only had about 61 show up. We also entered up a team to cook in the contest which is the very first time I have ever cooked under a different name.

Friday morning was very challenging. I arrived early to set up and start cooking and about 15 minutes after I put the food on I watched the wind pick my canopy up off the ground and carry it away. After I was able to retrieve it the wind continued to blow pretty much throughout the day. After I got back from Century Graphics to pick up the director shirts and apron's a few members of my team began to arrive and started to help put getting everything set up for our guests. We had water trucks in the arena but the dust still continued to blow most of the day. That was something I was not prepared for but it finally began to slow down about the time people started showing up. Friday night was a lot of fun but as soon as everyone began to disperse the real work began. It was time to start getting everything prepared for the contest and my team one by one began to call it a night and go home. After everyone had left I saw an ambulance arrive. I found out later that a couple of the camp's had gotten into a bad fight and one of the team members had seriously been hurt. It's sad things like this happen in an event that's put together as a fundraiser for charity.

Saturday everything seemed to be going our way for the most part. We entered up in Brisket, Ribs, Chicken, Fajitas, and Chili and most everything we had entered was really good. Out of about 50 teams competing we took 6th in Chicken but did not get a call in any of the other categories. I was disappointed our brisket did not place. We had a great brisket but the competition in this cook-off is really big. Most of the teams had sponsors and many of the Oil companies had their company's cooks competing. I think if many of them were to hit the circuit they would do very well. At least they did at this contest.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Roberts Ranch Smokin Red Dirt Championship

This past weekend was our first KCBS contest. It was the 4th annual Roberts Ranch Smokin Red Dirt State Championship held in Enid, OK. I decided to enter this contest for a couple of reasons. One was that at roughly 9 hours from home this is one of the closest KCBS contests to where we live in West Texas so it just seemed like the right thing to do. Another reason is that I really wanted to get out of Texas to do some contests this year. I do not agree with how some of them are ran. I also have been blessed to have had an opportunity to see how different KCBS contests are vs what we normally cook in Texas. It's a whole new ballgame and ready or not we came to play.

I did not want to take this contest on alone so with the help of a great friend of mine and teammate Chris Canon we decided to head out for Enid, OK Thursday after work. We stopped in Albany, TX on the way up to dine at Texas's # 4 ranked Steakhouse the Fort Griffin General Mercantile. This is one of the best steakhouses I have ever eaten at. It's well known for attracting a few celebrities and Robert Duvall has even made a replica in his own home of their bar, The Bee Hive, when he was down in Texas working on Lonesome Dove. We each had a Ribeye cooked medium rare. They are cooked directly over mesquite coals which is a staple of Ranch Style Cuisine. After we finished our dinner we took a look in the kitchen and chatted with the owner about some of the history of this wonderful place. We headed out shortly after that and arrived in Wichita Falls relatively late.

Friday morning after some coffee and a short nights rest we headed up to Enid and arrived shortly after lunch, got unloaded and visited with a few of the other teams. The weather had called for some wind and about three inches of rain, however we lucked out and just caught a small sprinkle Friday afternoon. We had some time to make some new friends but were not used to being assigned a cooking space and being told where to cook. That's a lot different from what were used to so getting set up took a little more effort than usual.

The contest was a great learning experience for us. With the help of Kelly Wertz of 4 Legs Up BBQ we learned how to prepare a garnished turn in box which we had never had to do before. Texas contests only allow for foil so it was a lot different than what we are used to doing. Once we had an idea how to do a box it was time to start getting ready to prep the meat to put on the cooker. We worked throughout the night and by the time the sun had come up we were tired and ready for some breakfast. After breakfast we went over to the 4 Leg's Up camp at 10:30 and enjoyed a double shot of some get you ready for the chaos whiskey and made a good luck toast to all who could partake.

One thing I really enjoyed about this contest was the fact that we were able to see how we faired overall against the other teams. Although I am not proud of a few of our showings I think we did what we could with what we had and that's really all you can do. Here's how we did.

Chicken 8th of 47
Ribs 44 of 47
Pork 38 of 46
Brisket 13th of 47

I will post our turn in pictures and would be open to any criticism or compliments. I already got enough from the judges but you can never learn enough of what looks good or what doesnt. I have done much better in ribs back home but here's how we ended up for this contest. The ribs were in a triple pack and had some extremely slanted bones which we couldn't see so it made them very hard to cut which is part of the reason we did so poorly in that category. One rack even had to be thrown away. The rest though is just something that will take a little work and a little practice.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Brethren of the Q......

I have decided that not blogging for awhile has really made me think about a few things that have been on my mind lately. Even though I have some great things going on this year I would have to say really that anything great that happens with barbecue would be pointless if it were not for the great people in this world and the relationships I have made along the way. That being said I would like to dedicate this blog to Daniel Hogan and to all the others whom have recently come into my life, and have shown me what truly lies behind just the meat and sauce of Barbecue. I will admit that good barbecue is part of it, however relationships you would not have had, friendships you would not have formed, and miles you would not have traveled are what makes barbecue so special. In the past if you would have told me I would be driving 9 hours to compete against some of the best cook's in the nation I would have laughed. If you would have told me I would have met some of the finest people BBQ has to offer in Austin, TX I would have looked you in the eye and called you a liar. If you had told me that they were from states other than TX I might have taken offense. All of these things are now real and true and just as the day is long more and more opportunities such as these are unfolding every day.

This year I was asked to be one of the director's for the Permian Basin Cookoff. This just so happens to be one of those opportunities. To me it's an honor to be a part of this group and allows me to give back to my community doing something I truly love and enjoy. It's one of the biggest cook-offs in West Texas and pay's not one red penny to the winner. The irony of this cook-off is that people will probably spend more money here than they will vs any other cook-off they go to this year. This cook off benefits two wonderful charities in our community and 100% of the proceeds will go to them as they receive no State or Federal funding. At our past board meeting I had the opportunity to have met and sat by Dan Hogan. Although I did not know Dan very well one of the first things I noticed about Dan was that he was a giver and because of him someone will have a chance at a much better life that they had not had before. BBQ played a major role in that and it's unfortunate he will not be here with us to share in it as he tragically lost his life two days later in a car accident. There are so many people in this world I would not have had the opportunity to have met if it were not related to BBQ in some form or fashion. I would have to say that my passion for barbecue is not what I had once thought it to be, but more of something that happens along the way.

To Be Continued........

Monday, March 23, 2009

Texas BBQ......

I think that anyone who has ever had real Texas BBQ would really enjoy this book. It has just been released and for me was well worth the wait. I picked my copy up from University of Texas Press. To some I think that this book would be something of a decoration for someones coffee table, however for those who have a passion for barbecue or have been to a few of the places it talks about I think you will have a much deeper appreciation for what the book is really about. There are no recipes in this book and really only a few pictures of the great barbecue that these places are so well known for. Instead you will find random photographs taken at each joint as well as some pictures and a few kind words about the pitmasters who keep these places going. I think that this book is a tribute to the many true authentic BBQ joints we are so fortunate to have in Texas and I hope to see in the future more and more people carrying on these traditions. This is a great book for the BBQ enthuasist and anyone who enjoys reading about Texas and it's BBQ. Mom and Pop joints are the best there is and my hats off to anyone going out on their own to fulfill their barbecue dreams.