Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Freeze Your Butt Off Competition, Maynard, MA

After a venue change, the Freeze Your Butt Off BBQ competition took place as scheduled this past weekend in Maynard, Massachusetts. It was supposed to be at Jiminy Peak Ski Area, but was moved a week before to the Maynard Rod and Gun Club.

I went into this event looking at it as a great place to try out the new Backwoods smoker in a contest setting. I knew the team list was tough, and the chances of winning were slim, but since this was not a KCBS sanctioned event it was the perfect place for a trial smoker run.

The stress level was high well before we even packed up and left for the event. The forecast called for anywhere between four inches and a foot of snow through the entire region. Based on this, I was unsure whether or not to bring the camper. However, almost all of our competition stuff was packed into the camper, and going up without it would have been a real mess.

The good news was that where I live in Norwich, CT, we mostly just got rain. While there was more snow up near the contest site, I was confident that I could bring the camper. I was right. The roads were fine all the way there, and we arrived without incident.

Once we were unpacked, the camper again proved its value. The furnace worked great, and the thing is so well insulated that it was extremely warm and comfortable all weekend. Sheila was not at this contest, as she was stuck going to Reno for the weekend on business. My brother Cristiaan and his girlfriend Kim rounded out the team for the weekend.

We arrived in Maynard at around 1:30 p.m., and most of the other teams were already there. We got a nice spot in the middle of the lot, with iQue on one side of us, I Smell Smoke on the other and Transformer BBQ right behind us. Great neighbors all around. A total of 13 teams competed in the contest.

The people's choice wings contest was cancelled because of the venue change, so we had a potluck dinner made by members of the assorted teams, along with some who were not competing and just came down to hang out. It was great to see so many people from the competition scene after months of inactivity. Saturday night was great, just a lot of people hanging out, enjoying adult beverages and having a good time.

Once the party was over, we all passed out. Unfortunately, a miscommunication between Cristiaan and myself caused neixther of us to check the smoker holding our pork and brisket for several hours. By the time I realized it at four a.m., the smoker temperature had dropped to 170. Not good. Fortunately, I was able to get the temperature back up quickly. The lesson here is to make sure that charcoal pan is packed full before going to bed, whether I think someone is going to be watching the pit or not.

Anyway, the snafu basicly meant that I didn't get very much sleep. I normally like to sleep from 1a.m. until around 5:45 a.m. on turn in day, which usually keeps me feeling good throughout the day Sunday. Instead, I felt like crap all day.

Overall though, the cooking went well. My chicken recipe is getting better and is coming together well. I've been grilling chicken instead of smoking it, and it has finally started to bear fruit. We got called for 4th place chicken.

Ribs, I knew were going to be a problem once I started cutting into the racks. We pulled the ugliest of the four racks I cooked off a little early to sample them. They were great, and the tenderness was right on. Unfortunately, we ate the best ribs I had cooked. The other three racks were a little tougher, and it showed in the scores. Ribs were 7th place, our worst score of the day.

Next was pork. I really haven't changed our pork recipe from last year. it has been doing pretty well, so I decided not to mess with it. Another fourth place finish.

By now you're probably saying "wait a minute, where are the pictures?" Well, after discussions with some of the other teams, I have decided not to post the BBQ turn in box pictures any more. I will post grilling and chef's choice pictures, but not BBQ. Sorry!

Anyway, brisket was next. This was a relatively new recipe I was trying, complete with a new injection. The flavor was great, but again I just have not been able to get the tenderness I have been looking for lately. Scored OK though, 5th place.

Finally, the last category was an "Iron Chef" type deal. However, despite the rules calling for teams receiving a "mystery meat" to cook, we received a jar of spaghetti sauce, a head of garlic and a package of spaghetti. Ugh.

Since there was no cash prize for this category, and only a trophy for first place, I decided not to go out to the store and spend money on a meat. I had prepared for the category based on the expectation of receiving a "mystery meat." I brought stocks and spices, not something to make pasta.

So I decided not to sauce several pieces of chicken we had cooked for the BBQ contest, then pull the chicken. We roasted the head of garlic, and sauteed the chicken with some of the tomato sauce and a little red wine. We boiled the spaghetti, placed a bed in the turn in box, topped it with the chicken concoction, then shredded a little cheese for garnish. Somehow took 4th place, go figure.

So, in the end, it was a pretty good weekend scoring wise. We finished 5th overall, and got three more medals for the collection and learned a lot about the Backwoods in competition. Am I happy that we finished 5th? Not really. But I see this as a building block for the future. Hopefully we will be able to get a few more contests in before Sheila has the baby in July.

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