Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkey

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Sheila, Max and I went to my parent's house in Orange, CT for Thanksgiving dinner. I really felt like cooking, so I volunteered to smoke the turkeys. There were going to be 12 of us, so I planned to do two 13 pound turkeys on the WSM.

Brined with apple juice, brown sugar, salt, oranges, pretty much the apple brine recipe from the Virtual Weber Bulletin Board. Spent 24 hours in the brine.

After the brine, the turkeys air dried overnight in the fridge, then it was into a cooler for transport to my parent's house.

Fired up the WSM's, got it up to 325, brushed the turkeys with melted butter and hit it with my seven spice poultry rub and in they went.

After about three and a half hours, pulled them off when the breast hit 160. Held in foil for about an hour, then it was carving time.

The meat was moist, flavorful, delicious.

Complimented with sides of mashed potatoes. sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, mom's sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce and pan gravy, it was an epic feast enjoyed by all. Oh, and we can't forget Cristiaan's appetizers. He made jalapeno poppers, scallops and bacon and baked brie in puffed pastry. Dessert was Mom's pecan and pumpkin pies, along with a killer apple pie made by my sister. It was all awesome, a true team effort. I ate way too much.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Le Jardin du Roi, Chappaqua, NY

I usually don't stray too far from the world of BBQ on this space, but want to give props to the restaurant where my brother and teammate Cristiaan works, Le Jardin Du Roi in Chappaqua, New York. Sheila and I went there again for dinner Saturday night, and as always everything was great.


Even though it is a French bistro in an upscale town, Le Jardin doesn't project a stuffy feel to it. The food is great, and you can have either a high end special or a hamburger at any time. They also serve breakfast until four in the afternoon.

Cristiaan set us up with an appetizer sampler that included scallop spring rolls with curry dipping sauce, garlic shrimp sauteed in olive oil and roasted red pepper, along with pan sauteed goat cheese with carmalized onion and potato crisps. All were outstanding, I especially enjoyed the scallop rolls, which were different.
Knowing your waiter helps. Cristiaan then hooked us up with a pasta course, which was a serving of linguini with pan seared scallops and a tomato cream sauce.

For dinner, we both ordered off the specials menu. I had the rack of lamb with a green peppercorn sauce and truffle mashed potatoes. I received the entire rack, which was cooked to a nice medium rare. Sheila ordered the shell steak with Bearnaise and steak frites, which was great. That remins me that half of her steak is still in the fridge, I'll take care of that later...

We moved up to the bar and had cappuccinos and a rich chocolate cake for dessert. All in all, it was a great feast, and a fun night out for our first actual dinner out by ourselves since Max was born.

One thing that distinguishes Le Jardin from so many restaurants where I have eaten in the past is the service. waiters will not hesitate to help each other out, and seem to work as a cohesive unit to bring the best possible service to diners. Cristiaan is a large part of that, as he has been there for a long time and really sets the tone for the floor service.

All in all, New York area readers should take a trip up and try Le Jardin sometime. Reservations are suggested, and make sure you request to sit in Cristiaan's section. They will certainly take good care of you, and you may end up sitting next to the Clintons!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008, The Year In Review

2008....this has been a great year, complete with high highs and low lows. The highlight obviously is the birth of our first son Max, but there were a few BBQ highlights too. Here's the recap of 2008.
In what seams like forever ago, the season got underway at the end of February with the Freeze Your Butt Off contest, held at the end of February in Maynard, Massachusetts. While most think it is nuts to go cook out in the cold in the New England winter, I disagree. This type of event is great for so many reasons. It allows teams to get a competition under their belts after a long layoff, and try out those recipes we have been working on all winter to see how they fare with the judges. We got calls for 4th place chicken and pork, along with 5th place brisket and finished 5th place overall. Pretty much all the top New England teams were at the contest, so 5th was OK. It was my first contest cooking on the new Backwoods Party as well.

Brrrrrr.... Next came a couple of grilling contests, and some especially bad results. First was the Snowshoe Grilling Challenge in Abington, Massachusetts. Just missed the mark here, no calls, although I was pretty happy with what we cooked. There were 17 teams, and we finished 9th overall, just missing calls with 6th place sausage and vegetable.

The following event was the worst we have ever done in a contest. it was the Oyster Bay Smoke N Steam grilling contest on Long Island. I'm trying to forget this contest. We finished second to last, and probably would have had our first DAL if one of the teams had not been disqualified in the steak category. In summary, the steak was awful, the pork wasn't much better, I burned the wings and apparently got a table that hated oysters Rockefeller. Here are the oysters, which I thought were very good, followed by a very pregnant Sheila at the contest.

The highlight of Oyster Bay was seeing our good friends Brendan and Julie Burek turn in a truly dominating performance, taking home almost all the trophies and being grand champions.

In between those two grilling contests, I attended a judging class and became a Kansas City BBQ Society certified judge.

After Oyster Bay, it was a long layoff for me. Sheila was pregnant and due in mid July, so I didn't want to schedule any contests for June or July. That meant events that we had cooked in previous years in New Hampshire and Lake Placid, New York were taken off the calendar.

I did get to wear my judging hat for the first time in June, however. I judged the Peter's Pond rib and brisket festival in Sandwich, Massachusetts. It was a good learning experience to be on the other side of the table for the first time.

Meanwhile, we didn't want to lose our spot at the Harpoon New England BBQ Championship at the end of July. So we entered, even though it was on July 25th, and Sheila wasn't due until July 22nd. The plan was to have my brother Cristiaan cook the event himself if I couldn't make it. The good news was that Max was born healthy and early on July 11th, which allowed me to be able to go to Harpoon for the whole weekend.

And it was sure worth it.

We got calls for 9th place chicken, 7th place pork and 1st place brisket, winning reserve grand champions in a field that featured all the top New England teams, and some big national names such as the Slabs from Kansas City and the Smoking Triggers from Texas. We missed taking grand champion honors and an automatic trip to the Jack by 2.2 points. Oh so close....but what a great time regardless. Even if we had finished last, this was an awesome time. The only regret was that Sheila was not there to enjoy the moment.

A few weeks later brought our next contest, the Hudson Valley Ribfest just outside of New Paltz, New York. We didn't cook the grilling contest at Harpoon to focus on vending, so this was our first grilling event since the disaster at Oyster Bay. While we didn't get any calls here either, the showing was a lot better for sure. With 33 teams cooking, we took 7th place in pork chop and fish, and 12th place in steak and were 9th overall. Not great, but nowhere near DAL. As for the BBQ, 53 teams cooked. We got a great call for 3rd place ribs, chicken was 10th place, but pork tanked at 23rd place and brisket REALLY tanked at 40th place. Overall, we were 11th out of 53 teams, not our best showing, but it could have been a whole lot better. Life goes on....

Here were the ribs cooked for Saturday night's dinner for friends.

The best part of the contest was again being located next to our good friends Mike and Kris Boisvert from Lakeside Smokers.

This was also our first contest bringing Max along. He was a huge hit with the crowds. While I'm sure his presence was somewhat of a distraction, I am so glad that our BBQ friends were able to meet him. They will be seeing a lot of him in the future for sure.

After another month, our last contest of 2008 was the Blues, Views and BBQ in Westport, Connecticut. In our two-plus years of competing, this was our first contest in our home state. Our tight site:
Long story short, we got called for 3rd place pork out of 45 teams, and finished 9th overall. We struggled on a lot of levels at this contest. Max was difficult, and we didn't work very well together on the iron chef entry. But like every contest, we learned a few things that will help make us better down the road.

So in summary, 2008 was an interesting and exciting year. We didn't get to hit all the contests we would have liked, but it is hard to be upset about that because of the awesome life changing event of having a child. We got to spend a lot of time with friends and family, and made some new friends as well. To me, that is what BBQ is all about.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Positive Results

The results of the cook, and the Alabama-LSU game yesterday, were all positive. Well, mostly positive.
For the cook, I made three racks of baby back ribs. The last few times I have cooked ribs, they came out a little on the bland side. So this time, I wanted to make them spicy. I started with my usual rib rub, then added some cayenne pepper for additional heat. Since I had so much room in the smoker, I decided to throw a fattie in there too for a pre-dinner snack.
The fattie consisted of breakfast sausage, shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, one large chopped jalapeno pepper, then rubbed before going into the smoker with Plowboys Yardbird Rub. Was a great second quarter snack.
The ribs were smoked with apple and hickory chunks for three hours, then a while in foil, finished with a couple of sauces that I wanted to clear out of the fridge. Served with homemade cornbread on the side.
They were really tender, which was exactly what I was shooting for. I thought they were a little too spicy, although Sheila didn't think so. Extremely flavorful.
So in the end, we had a great afternoon of BBQ and football. It ended well, with Alabama needing overtime but defeating rival LSU to remain undefeated. In two weeks it's Auburn, who Alabama has not beaten in the last six games. I'll be cooking that day too for sure....
Roll Tide!!!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Saturday: Ribs and Alabama Football

It could not be a better plan for a Saturday afternoon. My college football team, Alabama, is ranked number one in the country and is playing a rivalry game against LSU. As a perfect compliment, I will be firing up the Backwoods and cooking a few racks of ribs. My goal is to time the ribs so they are done just in time to be devoured at halftime. I will post some pictures when it is all over.

The Backwoods

Hey, all you New Yorkers: If you want to have some BBQ and experience the passion of Alabama football, head down to Brother Jimmy's BBQ at Lexington Avenue and 31st Street in Manhattan. The Greater New York Alabama Alumni Association holds their game watching events there. I went to one a couple years back, when they used to hold them at the Mercury Bar. It was pretty cool, they even got the waitresses to wear Alabama cheerleader uniforms.

I'm sure it will be even better at Brother Jimmy's. It's apparently a new place, complete with flat screen TV's. I cannot vouch for their BBQ at all, but I'm sure there will be plenty of buzz. The Alabama faithful really come out when the team is playing well. The game starts at 3:30 Saturday afternoon.

Here's a link to a review from PigTrip about one of the other Brother Jimmy's BBQ joints in New York. Can't be too much different....

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cristiaan And Kim Engaged

Breaking news, as my brother and teammate Cristiaan is now engaged to his longtime girlfriend Kim Schneider. They got engaged Sunday, which was also Cristiaan's birthday. Congratulations guys! I doubt I will be able to convince then to have a BBQ wedding, but we'll see!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Chili Recipe

I had hoped to do some cooking this weekend, ribs, but ended up laid up in bed sick for the last couple of days. Feeling better though, thanks for asking....

For the first time since I started this blog, I'm going to post a recipe. I haven't posted any before because for one, I'm not posting my competition BBQ recipes for obvious reasons, and quite frankly I don't have many homemade dishes that are so good that they warrant someone else trying them at home.

But this chili recipe is pretty good and very easy to duplicate at home. It is basically meat, spices and some peppers.

Mix together in Large Bowl:
2 lbs Beef Sirloin tips, cut into 1/2inch cubes
1lb Ground beef
1/2 cup Chili powder (I use Gebhardts)
3 Garlic cloves, fine chop
1 Red chili pepper, fine chop
1 Habernero, fine chop (optional, if you like really hot)
1 Jalapeno pepper, fine chop
1 Tablespoon cumin

In a large pot, saute one large finely chopped white onion in 2 tbsp oil (I use bacon fat). Once the onions are clear, add meat mixture and brown.

Once meat is browned, add:
2 cups beef or veal stock
1 cup beer
1/2 cup water

Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. After two hours, add:

1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Cook for another one hour, stirring occasionally. When the hour is almost up, add 1 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Dirty Dick's Hot Pepper Sauce). Adjust up or down based on how hot you like your chili. If you like beans, add one cup of black beans for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

I serve with chopped red onion, shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

This recipe is the result of a lot of experimenting over the last few years. That's the beauty of chili. Just like BBQ, there are so many ways to make it, and none of them are wrong.