SLC Part 3 – The Mark Miller Subaru BBQ Competition

Well, after failing to move on in the Dutch Oven Championships, Saffron and I moved on to cook some competition barbecue.

Originally, Saffron and I were going to cook together, dividing up the meats.  After arriving, and seeing the lay of the land, Saffron and I decided to cook independently – her in the “pro” four-meat event, and me (who had only one smoker, and very little other equipment) in the “backyard” two-meat event.

Sure, I’d have to get up in the morning to run out for some chicken and ribs.  And I’d have to cobble together some rubs for the meats.  But I had packed basic seasonings and sauces, so I felt good to go.

It is amazing what you can do with some seasoning salt, sugar, and paprika…

I got my sleeping bag, and sacked out for a decent night’s sleep in the back of Saffron’s truck.

Saturday morning, after a few miscues trying to find a grocery store, I got myself stocked up on the essentials for the day:  baby back ribs, a whole chicken, charcoal, and hot coffee.  The good news is that with a 2:30 and a 3:00 turn-in, I had plenty of time to get ready.  The bad news is that with a 2:30 and a 3:00 turn-in, I had a lot of time sitting around waiting to fire up the smoker.

Cooking went, I feel, pretty well.  The ribs were tasty, though a bit underdone.  The chicken came out nearly perfect, though I think the sauce got a bit thick – I should have thinned it out some more.  This particular competition was a no-garnish event, meaning I didn’t have to muck around decorating the boxes with lettuce and/or parsley.  It also meant I had plenty of room for my whole chicken.  Here’s the turn-in box:


It’s not quite as pretty as normal, but still I couldn’t complain too much.

Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a photo of the rib box, which was a much nicer turn-in.  You’ll just have to use your imagination to picture the box of shiny, glazed baby backs.  See?  I knew you could do it…

After having plenty of time to clean and pack up all the equipment, the judge team finished their score tabulations.  I ended up placing second in both chicken and ribs, and thereby grabbing the Reserve Grand Champion spot.  Absolutely a good time, and a nice chance to bang some of the rust and dust off of my competition skills to get ready for the Pacific Northwest season.

Raven’s Fyre will gear up for the season cooking chili one weekend, and following that up with a Saturday chili competition and a Sunday one-day barbecue competition.  Check the calendar for the dates, and if you’re local, come say “Hi!”


SLC Part 2

Sorry for the delay – things have been a wee bit busy!

So we (Saffron and I) cooked her second / my first Dutch Oven championship, and I have to say that I had an awesome time, and learned a number of things.

Lesson 1:  I really need more practice in Dutch Oven competition cooking!

For those of you unfamiliar with a Dutch Oven competition, the teams (not more than 2 people) are required to cook three courses: a bread, a main dish (primarily protein), and a dessert.  Our menu:

  • Herb Foccacia with Sundried Tomatoes and Garlic
  • Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breast with Stuffed Potatoes
  • Chocolate Chipotle Cabernet Cake with Cherry Reduction

Oh, another little tidbit in the rules is that you’re supposed to be cooking with something close to “on the trail” authenticity.  Translation: No electric / battery-powered equipment.  Making bread?  You’re kneading and rising like great-grandma did!  Creaming butter?  You had better make sure it is well softened first.

As a team, we chose to take a minimalist approach for our presentations, the better to highlight the food.  Saffron’s chicken did well (third place in our round), but neither the focaccia or cake did as well (OK, last place for both).  While both the bread and dessert had judges who liked them, unfortunately the majority were on the “not so much” side.

The issues?  Well…

The focaccia’s third rise, after it was formed, didn’t go so well; it ended up a bit dense and a bit crunchy.  I attribute that to two things:  The elevation (SLC, anyone?), and the Dutch Oven I was rising in may have gotten too hot, and knocked off the yeasties.

The cake had its own issues.  We didn’t let it cool sufficiently before dropping it out of the oven, so part of it stuck.

Here’s another rule for you:  What you cook, you must serve.   If you have something burnt, you must turn it in.  The cake stuck in the bottom of the oven?  You must get it out and get it to the judges.

I am happy to say that after enough cooling, we were able to remove the remaining cake, and I got it assembled into something approaching the desired shape.  In the end, it wasn’t the extraction failure that hurt so much as the chipotle powder in the recipe.  Even after my test cooking, it turned out to be too much (while I liked the heat, I will admit it was hotter than expected).

Lesson 2:  Even though technically in the Southwest, Salt Lake City residents are heat wimps.

Even though the cooking portion of the day didn’t go as well as we would have liked, the event was tons of fun, and I’m happy to say that we met a lot of awesome people.  I’m looking forward to qualifying again so that I can give it another run.

Since we didn’t move on to the final round of the Dutch Oven competition, Saffron and I packed up and hurried ourselves 8 miles up the road to the BBQ competition, to do what we’re good at.  SLC Part 3 coming up…

To round things out, here are pictures of the turn-ins for your enjoyment:


Focaccia plated for turn-in

Main Dish Plated for Turn-in

Main Dish Plated for Turn-in

Cake after reassembling parts.

Cake after reassembling parts.

Cake after fixing - ready for turn-in.

Cake after fixing – ready for turn-in.

First Cook(s) of the Year

Saffron of Bush Kitchen and I are part way through our Salt Lake City Cooking Adventure.

After powering through a 19 hr SEA-SLC drive, we got to the Sportsman’s Show in plenty of time to check in, knock out some final bits of shopping, and see the turn-ins for the first round of the IDOS Dutch Oven Championship.

The turn-in were amazingly beautiful. After sticking around for the results, we headed off for food and sleep, thus to be ready for our turn in Friday’s round.

Stay tuned…

So we’ve landed….

We have landed in Vegas, unloaded our equipment into our cooking space. Relaxing, having a drink,calm before the storm…

Don’t want to reveal anything about the signature burger yet, on the off chance that a judge is one of my followers…you’ll just have to wait until afterwards…

I never thought I would say this…

But I am really a bit tired of cooking and eating hamburgers!

After plenty of practice, we have nailed down what we’ll be cooking in the first round of Friday’s Burger category at the World Food Championships.  Thanks to everyone who has tasted and suggested and tasted again – I do think we have a really tasty hamburger ready to go…now here’s hoping the judges like it!

If they do, then there will be even more cooking Friday night – and then a lot of celebrating!  If we’re not celebrating, I guess we’ll be in mourning.  Either way, there will be alcohol involved.  Just need to be able to get up to hassle encourage my BBQ homies cooking in the barbecue category – good luck to all y’all!

Stay tuned for notes from the road…

World Food Championships – Here We Go!

I guess it is now officially practice time! Just got notified that my wild card submission for the World Food Championships Burger Competition has been accepted!

So many ideas…so little time to settle on one and perfect it.

Wild Weekend in Moses Lake

The Moses Lake event – The Basin BBQ Bash – was a great time, and fortunately Mother Nature decided to take it easy on us and not get much above 70 all weekend. Far better than the predicted 90°.

The weekend started off a bit off-balance since I somehow managed to miss packing the beautiful little free range chickens that Christene bought for the weekend. So first thing I had to run off to Safeway to get a couple of rather large Foster Farms chickens. Considering how long they took to cook, I definitely wish those little organic guys had been in the ice chest. But more on that in a minute.

By the time I got back from the store, it was time to head to the Cooks’ Meeting. Normally I’d send Christene so I can focus on whatever prep / cooking needs to be done, but she was working on her People’s Choice chili, so off I went. At this point things are barely organized in the tent, so we’re a bit behind all over.

After the meeting, I start working on my focaccia for the Dutch Oven competition – had to get it kneaded and rising. I think this is the first time since I was a kid that I had to knead dough by hand – this is why I have a Kitchen Aid! Somehow, starting on the dough first, I completely spaced that dessert was the first category. Fortunately I remembered just over an hour before, and had enough time to get the appropriate oven up to temp and cook the dessert.

The dessert I made was a Caribbean Upside-Down Cake with Coconut, Macadamia Nut, Dark Spiced Rum, and Pineapple. This was the first time cooking an actual cake in the Dutch Oven, so getting that sucker out had me a bit stressed. But I got the oven flipped, and we got the cake onto the presentation lid in one piece. That sucker looked awesome, but I had to cross my fingers as there was no way to taste it AND turn it in.

After Dutch Ovening, then I went ahead and baked another focaccia to have with dinner, since I still had half the dough remaining. Finally, after cooking all day and eating dinner, I got around to prepping the actual barbecue meats 10 hours after first setting up. And with a whole day, I so had hopes of brining my briskets…oh well.

Sunday, chicken continued to be a pain in our butts. I just couldn’t get the suckers cooked. After over an hour and a half of cooking two whole chickens I managed to get two breasts and four wings that were done, so we turned in a box of four breast pieces and four wings. A pretty box, and better than a DQ, but we knew it wasn’t going to do all that well. We don’t usually hit the bourbon until we’re all done, but a drink was definitely necessary after that round.

At the end of the day, Saturday definitely turned out better for us than Sunday. We took Fourth Place in Pork and Brisket. I thought my pork was a bit better than Fourth, but brisket I’m happy with considering there were some awesome brisket cooks there. Chicken did predictably poorly (12th); our Ribs also placed 12th, which was a surprise to us. Though after reading the comments, the judges nearly unanimously felt they were a bit underdone. Sometimes things just don’t go your way. Saturday though, the dessert took First Place (197.2 points out of a possible 200), and bread took Second. Unfortunately my short ribs were a bit chewy, so they didn’t do as well.

The good news though is that Saffron (Bush Kitchen) and I had already agreed that if one of us won the Dutch Oven competition, that we’d go cook the IDOS World Championship together. Saffron won (her entree was awesome), so we’re going to Utah in March!

I think that’s about it for now…plenty of other barbecue stuff coming up in the next couple of weeks. Christene and I are catering a 250 person lunch/dinner at the UW next week, and then the next day is the breast cancer charity rib cook-off. That’s going to be one exhausting weekend…

Knocked out BBQ on the Bypass, and on to Moses Lake!

We had – as always – an absolutely awesome time at the BBQ on the Bypass in Langley, BC.  Once again Angie and David put on a first-class event.

JD Farms sponsored the “Black Box” event, where we were given three secret ingredients to cook with.  Those were two turkey legs, powdered molasses, and sundried tomatoes.  Came in 8th place, which was OK.  I, at least, was happy with the dish.

Christene entered the annual pie contest – the Great BC Bake Off – with a caramel apple pie.  That netted her third place, and a kick-ass gift basket from Well Seasoned.

In the big meats, we had our best showing of the year (hoping to follow it up this weekend in Moses Lake).  We placed 6th in Pork (I thought it was much better than 6th, but what can you do?), 6th in Brisket, 5th in Chicken, and 4th in Ribs.  All of these were good enough for 4th Place Overall.  While we’ve placed higher overall, I believe this is the first time in 10+ years that we placed in the top 6 in each category for an event.

We’re also getting the last tidbits ready for this weekend’s Basin Bash in Moses Lake, WA.  Along with the regular competition categories, Saturday has People’s Choice Chili that Christene is cooking, and a full Dutch Oven cook that I’ll be riding herd on.

While I have a good complement of Dutch Ovens, and have cooked a full range of dishes in them, this will be my first time cooking dessert, bread, and a main dish at the same time, and doing it for competition.  And doing it in a shortened time frame, what with setting up at 10 am and having the first turn-in at 3:00.  Here’s what I’m thinking…

Dessert will be a pineapple upside-down cake, kicked up with coconut, macadamia nuts, and spiced rum.  Wow.  That macadamia nut idea literally just occurred to me as I typed that sentence.  Awesome.  Yes, a pineapple upside-down cake is considered a “beginner” Dutch Oven dessert, but better to execute something easy well than something difficult poorly.

Bread.  I’ve been pondering which route to go with my bread turn-in.  For this one I think I need to go with a herb, garlic and cheese focaccia with sun-dried tomatoes and maybe dried black olives.

Then there’s the Main dish.  I thought over this one most of all, but have decided to do braised short ribs over polenta.  I figure I can make a nice thick, cheesy polenta topped with the ribs braised with red wine, tomato, and some other vegetables.

Hopefully I’ll remember to get some pictures this time ’round, and get those up here!

New Pork Rub

Sitting in the Shuttle Express van, so time for a quick post…

Premiering a couple of new secret ingredients in the pork and rib rib rub this weekend. More to come after we see how it goes!

Sorry for the absence…

Been a busy bit with lots of non-BBQ stuff going on. BUT!

We’re gearing up for the last two full competitions of the season. We’ll be cooking BBQ on the Bypass in Langley, BC, and the the BBQ Basin Bash in Moses Lake, WA.

Both should be fun events. Angie Quaale always puts on a great event with interesting extra categories, and the Basin Bash also has a full Dutch Oven cook the first day.

Wish us luck!