Saturday, July 23, 2005

My Newest BBQ book

I wanted to share with you one of the best bbq books I have found in quite some time. The book is “Peace, Love and Barbecue” written by Mike Mills. I just simply love this book. I made a post on the bbqforum several months ago (and even blogged about it on June 8th) stating that I was looking for a book that told a story about bbq. I have enough recipes. I have recipes I will never be able to cook I have so many. I just wanted a book that chronicled the life of someone who loved and lived bbq. I have found it in this book.

I must confess that I had never heard of Mike prior to picking up this book. He retired from the competitive bbq circuit in 1994 after racking up an unbelievable stash of awards and championships. Competing under the team name “Apple City Barbecue” from 1989 to 1994, they competed in 69 competitions winning 64 first place awards, 22 second, 9 third and a whopping 32 Grand Champion awards. Several sauce awards also go to their credit. 2 first places and 1 Grand Champion awards at Jack Daniel’s. But here are the most impressive numbers to me. 2 perfect scores at Memphis in May (first time ever). 4 time World Champion at MIM. 3 time Grand World Champion at MIM (only team ever to do this). Now, Mike is involved in several bbq restaurant ventures and hosts a competition each year in his hometown of Murphysboro, IL. Based on this, I guessed Mike had a story to tell. And tell it he does.

The format for the book is simple. It starts with Mike’s earliest recollections of his dad digging a pit in the ground and cooking meat all day. That instilled a love for food in Mike. Mike then traces his steps through adulthood to where he is now. Along the way he meets with some of the bbq elite. Folks like Don McLemore and Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibson’s, Paul Kirk (a.k.a. The Baron of Barbecue) and many others. And it has some darn good recipes, too!

This book reads like no other bbq book I have found. Like it says on the cover, “Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales and Outright Lies from the legends of barbecue. It is co-written by Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, Mike’s daughter. I won't spill any secrets here but do yourself a favor and get this book.

Cookout at the EMA (Long)

This past Thursday we had a cookout at work. I had tried a few weeks ago to get up a family fun day for our employees and their families but the interest was just not there. Therefore, going into Thursday I was not sure what to expect. I must say I was surprised. I loaded up “Ole Smokey” and brought everything I thought I would need to do hamburgers, hotdogs and brats. That was the menu…or so I thought!

When I arrived at work and began unloading I found out things had changed. I walked into the kitchen and saw country style ribs, a family pack of chicken thighs, budan (sp?) and lots of other things I was not expecting. I tried to play it cool but my mind was already working overtime. I knew I would not have enough time to smoke the chicken thighs like I would at home and I had never even attempted to do anything with country style ribs. I had already decided I would throw the budan in the pot with the brats, beer, onions and butter.

I went to my computer and attempted to solicit the help of my Barbecue Bible Forum friends. I made a quick post describing my dilemma over the ribs and that I needed help fast! Here are some of the issues that I had:

- Never cooked country style ribs before.
- Did not have any of my rubs, spices or such to put on the chicken and did not have the resources to make a rub.
- Have not grilled chicken in a long while, just smoking. Did not have my meat thermometer to know when chicken was done.

Anyway, after making the post I had a few work related things I had to do before the cooking started. My coworkers all helped out by taking turns filling my spot in the EOC while I was prepping the food and fire. Thanks guys!

Like I said, I had not planned on anything but burgers and dogs so I did not have what I thought I needed to do the food right. I started rummaging through the cabinets and found some salt and pepper, generic seasoning salt and Lawry’s. I opted for the Lawry’s. I washed and trimmed the chicken and rubbed them down with the Lawry’s. They were starting to look pretty good. After a while, I checked the forum to see if any responses had been posted. “Susan Z” from northern Virginia had stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and had posted 4 different recipes for me. Thanks Susan. She provided some great ideas for this type of meat. Click here to go to the forum to read her recipes. You will also see a post from “January Bride” describing a very tempting oven cooked recipe for the country style ribs. Tip of the hat to you, Bride.

Long story short, I ended up grilling everything. I added to that my homemade baked beans and potato salad making for a full plate when served. That was Thursday and I was still getting complements on Friday and even this morning when I arrived at work. I’m glad everyone was pleased. Maybe this will make it easier to do something like this more often since this one went so well. My wife even liked what little leftovers I was able to bring home.

Sorry for not taking any pics. Planning on doing two BCC on Monday. Will definately have some pics from that. Until then, smoke on!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rain, Rain go away!!

Here we are at the end of another week. I was looking forward to smelling some smoke this past week but the weather kept me from fulfilling my desires. I live in Alabama and we had a visitor last week (cousin Dennis blew through). We are still getting some rain from this storm almost a week later. Maybe things will dry out this coming week.

Anyway, I thought Tuesday would be my best shot at getting in some “Q-time”. My wife had bought a family pack of chicken thighs and I figured I would give them a run. I marinated them in Italian dressing overnight Monday. While my chimney of charcoal was heating up (got a new Weber chimney Monday – better than anything else I have seen) I rinsed off the thighs and applied a generous amount of Dr. BBQ’s Big Time Rub. I had tried it on ribs and fell in love with it. Dr. BBQ said it was good on any kind of meat so I thought I would use it on the chicken. And what Dr. BBQ says, I does! After putting the rub on the thighs, I went outside and put the lit chimney of coals in the SFB. I then went back inside to get the rest of the stuff ready while the smoker heated up. Then it happened!

I heard a loud clap of thunder off in the distance. I ran outside to see a very strong thunderstorm headed right for me. I have not had much practice cooking in the rain so I thought for a minute I might try it. I moved my picnic table with its umbrella near Ole Smokey to try to keep as much rain off of her as possible. I looked and she was purring nicely at 200° and almost ready to go to work. Then the rain started. The umbrella would not hold off all the tropical rain still left from Dennis and in about 5 minutes the temp went down to about 150°. I closed off all the vents to put the fire out with plans of firing her back up again after the rain blew over. But that was the problem. The rain did not blow over.

Here I am with 10-12 thawed chicken thighs covered with rub and nothing to smoke them on. So I did the next best thing. I preheated the oven to 350° and just put them in there. They came out wonderful. Probably the only thing I would have changed would be to lighten up on the rub just a touch. Although the chicken was great, the chili powder in the rub was a little overpowering given the amount I used. Note to self!

No pics this time. We are going to cook out at work next Thursday. I hope to have a post and pics from this next weekend. Until then, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Back from Vacation...

We just got back from a few days R & R with the family. We decided to head to the mountains this time and we spent 4 days in Gatlinburg, TN. I had not been there in about 12 years so it was just like the first time all over again. My wife and two sons along with my parents made the trip and had a wonderful time.

So that I can keep this BBQ related, I wanted to tell you about a restaurant we had several meals at while in Gatlinburg. The name of the place is Bennett’s Pit BBQ. It is located on River Road in downtown Gatlinburg. Check out their website and plan a trip that includes Bennett’s.

Unlike a lot of BBQ restaurants, Bennett’s serves breakfast, a very good one at that. They offer an unbeatable full breakfast and fruit bar for those of us who just like to “graze”. They also offer a complete breakfast menu featuring old fashioned pancakes, omelets, B & G (that’s biscuits and gravy for you northern readers), and several breakfast platters. All are reasonably priced and you can even print off coupons from their menu page that will save you 10% on your meals. Print off several and use them on each visit.

The best meal that I had at Bennett’s was dinner. There were so many things on the menu that I wanted to try but could not decide which item I wanted most. Would it be the hickory smoked ribs? Maybe the ½ hickory smoked chicken? Man, the brisket sure does sound good. Then I found it! The word every BBQ lover likes to read on a menu; “Sampler”. I ordered their Texan Sampler. This comes with a generous amount of chopped BBQ pork, beef brisket, sausage, chicken and pork spareribs. Sides included BBQ beans and coleslaw and a toasted bun. All this for $17.99. Everything on my plate was wonderful. All the meat had an awesome hickory smoke flavor without being overpowering. The smoke ring on the brisket was amazing. Great skin on the chicken and the chopped pork was possibly the best I have ever had. I do not know what Bruce puts in his sauce but it is out of this world. The spare ribs were a little dry and tough but they did not bring down the overall quality of this dish. Overall, I would give Bennett’s a 9.0 on a scale of 1-10.
So, the next time you go to Gatlinburg, check out Bennett’s. They have a great child’s menu along with serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’ll go back!

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