Monday, June 29, 2009

Iowa State BBQ Championships, Marshalltown, IA

For the weekend of June 26 & 27 we traveled to central Iowa for the Iowa State BBQ Championships in Marshalltown, IA. Not only was this the furthest that we have traveled for a competition (280 miles) it was the largest competition that we have cook at with 65 teams. Prior to this the largest was the Illinois State BBQ Championships at Shannon, IL last year with 62 teams.

The competition was help at a campground just outside of Marshalltown. The facilities were nice with power available for every team, convenient access to water and real bathrooms with showers! Because of rain during the two weeks leading up to the competition the organizers almost had to change the location, but the town of Marshalltown came through and helped drain the water off of the campground and get things dried out enough for us to use the original location.

We arrived on site at about noon on Friday and began setting up our site. There were quite a few teams at this competition who are members of the BBQ Brethren so as we were setting up folks would stop by to introduce themselves and say hello. Setup took a little longer than normal :)
Once we were set up and had our meat prep done we took some time to relax. It was a hot afternoon so just sitting for a while felt good. After the cook's meeting i fired up the WSM and made a couple of nice thick pork chops and baked potatoes for our dinner. After dinner we fired up the margarita machine and visited some of our neighbors. We met the folks from Spanky and the Meat Mafia, Shiggin' and Grinnin', Smokin' Caboose and others. The margaritas were a big hit! After that we cleaned up around the site and went to sleep.

Breakfast the next morning was provided by the competition and we had bisquits and gravy and sweet rolls. At 9:22 a bunch of teams gathered at Twyford BBQ and Catering for our traditional good luck shot of Gentleman Jack. The Reverend Twyford was present and presided over the gathering and offered an inspirational blessing.

After that it was time to get to work. At this competition there wre 6 categories. In addition to the standard KCBS categories we entered the sausage and dessert categories. We normally don't bother with these categories since they add extra work and take the focus off of the main categories, but the entry was free so we went for it.

Amy made lemon tartlets for the dessert category.

Once crunch time was over all all of our entries were turned in we started packing up. We were about half way done when it started to rain. It didn't rain for long but it was anough to get everything wet so we left a few things out of their normal traveling cases to avoid mold and we dried them throroughly the next day. The awards were at 3:30 so we grabbed our chairs and headed towards the band stage. We didn't get called for sausage or dessert. Amy was disappointed in the dessert results. Her lemon tartlets were very good! Then we sat through the calls for chicken and ribs without hearing anything. We thought that our turn ins for both were good so were were also disappointed in this. Then it was time for pork and we listed as 10 - 3rd place were called without hearing our name. Then finally when 2nd place pork was announced we heard our name! That made us feel better. Then it was on to brisket and we listened again as 10-2 were called without hearing our name. At this point we were all set to go home with the one call for pork but then they announced the brisket champion for 2009 and it was captain Ron's Brew-n-Que! We were thrilled! Later on we found out that placing first in brisket at Marshalltown gives us an invitation into the 2010 Chest-to-Chest Brisket Championship in Great Bend, Kansas! Back to the results... it was time for the overall awards. One of our goals for any competitin is to finish in the top 10. Of course we would like to be Grand Champion, but we're happy with placing somewhere in the top 10. thanks to our strong finish in pork and brisket we ended up 5th over all out of 65 teams! Not bad considering the strong field of teams competing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Elk Grove Rotary Ribfest 2009

I'm behind with my updates. In this post I'd like to talk about the Elk Grove Rotary Club Rib Fest in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It's nice to be at the competition site only 45 minutes from pulling out of the driveway!

The weather during the week before Rib Fest was wet and we all received an e-mail from Ron Nunes (the organizer) telling us that the park district was worried about the baseball fields that we used for the competition site last year due to the rainy week. They were able to re-arrange the festival that is also held this weekend to put the competition on asphalt. This turned out to be a good decision. When we arrived on site at around 10:00AM it had just started to rain. We found Ron in his car and he told us where to set up. We backed the trailer into position but it was raining too hard to do much else. We ended up sitting in the truck for most of two hours!

When we arrived the parking lot and the ball fields were dry. By the time the rain stopped about half of the parking lot was under water. It was still dry where our trailer was parked but the water at the driver's door of the truck was 8" deep and further downhill the water was almost two feet deep and all of that water was now running across the ball fields towards nearby Salt Creek.

By mid afternoon the parking lot was dry again, but Salt Creek had overflowed its banks and was slowly covering the ball fields. As the day went on it kept rising and some of the lower cook sites were being threatened.

After the cook's meeting everyone was getting ready to fire up the pits and start cooking but word was going around that severe storms were heading our way. I looked at the radar on my iPhone and saw the storms were less than an hour away. We decided to take down our canopy and several other teams did the same. We helped each other to speed up the process. While we were doing this some Elk Grove Police officers came around to tell us that the storms would be arriving in about 15 minutes and they were recommending that we take shelter at the local high school.

Of course none of us were willing to leave our stuff unattended so we all rode out the storm where we were. Amy and I went into our trailer and watched the wind and rain through our windows. The trailer was sheltered a little bit by our truck but it was rocking pretty hard as the gusts rose to close to 70 mph! Besides some small tree branches bouncing off of the trailer roof we fared well. Others weren't as lucky. Our friends at Two Skinny Cooks lost their EZ-Up to the wind and everything they had was wet. We went over to help them secure things but they had it under control. They regrouped and went on to finish the competition and place 5th in ribs!

Once the last batch of storms went by we all cleaned up and went on with the cooking. We did keep an eye on the flood waters from Salt Creek. It kept rising until about 10:00AM on Saturday morning before starting to recede. At it's highest the water was about 5 feet from our truck. Several teams had to relocate due to the high water and others found ways to deal with it.

They also canceled the festival activities so there weren't any spectators walking around so the People's Choice was canceled.

We were pretty happy with our turn-ins. The judges agreed for the most part awarding us 6th place Chicken, 8th place Pork, 5th place Brisket and 4th place Overall. Not exactly what we were hoping for but still not bad.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Salting Steaks

I tried something new for dinner tonight. After reading this blog post I tried salting a couple steaks. According to the post the salt will initially draw moisture from the meat, but then the moisture will be drawn back in, carry some of the salt into the meat. Well... Despite an unexpected interruption, the steaks and thee rest of dinner came out great!

First, the interruption. I was just getting ready to put the steaks on the grill when my wife and I heard a loud noise somewhere in the house. It sounded like several heavy objects hitting the floor and walls. We looked everywhere, the basement, the garage the upstairs and found nothing. Then I open the closet door in the laundry room and several bottle of rub and sauce came rolling out. We had two shelves in the closet full of sauce and rub and the brackets holding up the shelves pulled away from the wall! T guess I have too much sauce and rub :-D

OK... We now return you to your previously scheduled steaks...

I took two 1 1/4 inch thick choice strip steaks and coated both sides with 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt.

I let them sit for 45 minutes (total time out of the refrigerator was 90 minutes)

Then I rinsed them thoroughly and dried them and gave them a coating of fresh ground pepper.

After cleaning up the rub and sauce bottles (none of them broke fortunately) I grilled them to medium rare.

I also cooked a couple of small baked sweet taters and scooped out the flesh and mashed it with some butter and cinnamon sugar and sauted some white mushrooms, baby portobella mushrooms, spinach, garlic and sea salt and served all of that with the steaks.

The steaks were very tender, juicy and tasty! Not overly salty at all. I would definitely do this again.

Thanks to the Steamy Kitchen Blog for the idea!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Flat Branch BBQ In The Park, Moweaqua, IL

This past weekend we traveled into central Illinois again. this time it was to the town of Moweaqua, IL, about 15 miles south of Decatur. One of the things that we enjoy about cooking in BBQ competitions is visiting places that we ordinarily wouldn't visit. Moweaqua is one of those places.

The competition was held in conjunction with a town festival which included a carnival and a car show. This was a Saturday-Sunday competition and we pulled into town shortly before 11:00am. Apparently there was a parade that was about to start so we drove down a Main Street that was lined with people waiting for the parade. I waved at some of the people but they looked at me like I was nuts (which I probably am :) )

The competition was held at Central park in Moweaqua and the teams were setup along the street on the north side of the park. Our spot was in front of a house and the organizer told us that the folks who lived there would allow us to set up on their lawn and to park our truck on their driveway. We had a chance to meet the homeowners and thanked them for allowing us to move in for the weekend :)

This was the first year for this competition and the organizer struggled to get the minimum of 15 teams required to make this a qualifier under KCBS rules. At the last minute two local teams stepped up to cook and another team drove over from Hannibal, MO where they competed in a Friday-Saturday competition. With those last minute additions the final team count was 16 teams! We ended up in between Bandit BBQ and the Black Kettle Cooks and across from Gilly's Barnstormin' BBQ and Back Porch Q. One of the other things that we enjoy about these competitions is seeing old friends and meeting new ones. We had cooked across from Gilly's at Taylorville but this was the first time we met Back Porch Q and Bandit BBQ. Jim from Bandit BBQ and I have exchanged messages on Facebook and some BBQ sites but had never met in person.

Overall the competition was well run. There were a few first-time glitches, such as ash and grease disposal, but once the organizer was made aware of these needs he took care of them. The local Boy Scouts were recruited to pick up trash and they also delivered ice as needed.

The weather cooperated this weekend. Saturday was warm and sunny, but a little windy. At one point a strong gust of wind caused some damage to our trailer awning. Thanks to some help from our neighbors we were able to get the awning back into the stowed position and we'll see about repairs as time allows. Otherwise things were calm and pleasant. We did have a few sprinkles as we were packing up, but not enough to matter.

The judges this week liked our food for the most part. We ended up taking 5th place in ribs and brisket and first place for our pork. This was the first time that we came in first in pork and it felt good to break our pork drought :) Unfortunately the judges didn't like our chicken at all. We ended up last in chicken and that low score cost us either the Grand Championship or the Reserve Grand Championship. As it is we ended up third overall. We were very happy with that finish, but GC or RGC would have been better.

This week Amy wore her MOINK slippers.

Our next competition is the Rotary Ribfest in Elk Grove Village, IL on June 19 & 20.