Sunday, March 13, 2011

Snowshoe Grilling Challenge

Cooked the Snowshoe Grilling Challenge this past Saturday. We did really well at the contest, taking 1st place in Sausage fatty and finishing 4th overall. But the hardest part was pulling it all together and just getting there.

I knew months ago that Sheila would be away the entire weekend for work. But I also knew that I was cooking the contest. So I had to first find someone to watch max for the day, and second find someone to help me. As usual, family came through in the clutch.

First, my sister Kathleen agreed to come up and watch Max for the day. I knew she would be happy to do it, but I also know that she works in a restaurant, and taking Saturdays off are usually not easy. But she pulled it off.

For the contest, my brother Cristiaan agreed to come help out. Again, he would love to be at every contest, but he is a manager/owner of a restaurant and getting off Saturdays are very hard. But he made it too.

So the planning and packing went fine. I really have the packing for these grilling contests down. I see some teams bringing these big elaborate setups to one day grilling contests and I just don't understand it. But that's just me.

So I got everything into the Explorer with plenty of room to spare.

We got to the site by 8:15 or so, which was plenty early for my plan. I needed to have the fatty on by 9:45, so I had plenty of time to do our minimalistic setup, get some fire going and start cooking.

The timing of everything went fine. Having strip steak and pork tenderloin as the first two categories helped with timing, as I was grilling both and they would be done quickly.

The strip steak, I cooked it as I would for myself, salt and fresh ground pepper, grilled to medium rare, rested in a butter bath for five minutes, sliced and finished with a veal demi glace. This one tasted better than it looked, and wound up 8th out of 24 teams.

The parsley really looks bad in the pictures in all of our boxes. I thought they looked a little better in person but pictures don't lie I guess.

We had trouble getting our hands on curly parsley, Cristiaan was going to pick up a case at the Restaurant Depot in Orange CT, but when he went the day before the contest they had none. So I hit two supermarkets near me and grabbed the crap they had, and Cristiaan grabbed some additional crap parsley at a store near him in NY, and we did the best we could. Sheila would have helped for sure, as she always does a great job with our parsley.

Next was pork tenderloin. This was the only category I really practiced leading up to the contest. I tried several recipes and none really satisfied me. I ended up doing a combination of flavors that I use in my competition pork and rib recipes. It came out pretty good, just missing a call at sixth.

Next was sausage fatty. I have developed this recipe over the last few years, and it has done pretty well. Nailed it this time, great flavor, great moisture, nice basic presentation, first place.

Final caregory was chef's choice. Last year I did bacon wrapped jalapeno ABT's and they came in 6th. I decided to do them a little differently this year, and they came out great. Moved up three spots from last year and came in third. Cristiaan really helped on this category, he pretty much assembled them and they looked better than I had envisioned.

So overall, we came in fourth out of 24 teams. A good showing, considering the impressive team list and the fact that I had not so much as lit a smoker since the day before Christmas. My practice has pretty much been on my cast iron grill pan on my electric stove, hardly where you want to replicate contest game day conditions. But I'm happy with the results.

Now what? I don't know, stay tuned.