First Annual Cozy Fest

When Don called and asked us if we’d cook at the first annual Cozy Fest in Mt. Airy, MD we did not hesitate to say yes.  For several years we have raved about his ability to host a great eggfest.  He has a knack for creating the perfect environment for eggheads to show off their recipes and allows them to interact with everyone that gets to taste the food.  Cozy Fest was a hit for a first year eggfest and the venue has lots of room to grow for future events.  As promised, we are posting all the recipes we used this weekend, enjoy!

Charring the salsa ingredients

Charring the salsa ingredients

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

1 head pineapple, cored

1 T finely diced red onion (or to taste)

1 bunch cilantro

2 fresh jalapeños

2 fresh poblano peppers

Dizzy Pig Jamaican Firewalk seasoning

 

Slice around pineapple core, then cut into slices or wedges.  Liberally apply Dizzy Pig Jamaican Firewalk seasoning, and grill direct over high heat.  Remove when grill marks form and pineapple softens a little.  Add jalapeños and poblanos or any other pepper you prefer to the grate.  Remove when charred all over.  Let the peppers rest until they are cool enough to handle, then rub the charred, papery layer of skin until it is removed; finely dice.  Dice the grilled pineapple into small cubes.  Add diced pineapple, peppers, onion, and chopped cilantro in bowl, mixing until combined well.  Add salt and pepper if needed, to taste.

 

Shown as a slider, also served as meatballs at Cozy Fest.

Shown as a slider, also served as meatballs at Cozy Fest.

Curry-ish Meatballs

4 lbs hamburger meat (can substitute ground turkey or lamb)

4 T Dizzy Pig Curry-ish seasoning (to taste)

¼ C finely diced onion

¼ C crumbled feta cheese

1 small package frozen kale (thawed and liquid squeezed out)

 

Add all ingredients to large bowl and mix with hands until combined; be careful to not over-mix or the meat will become tough.  Roll into 2” balls and add to hot grill.  Cook direct over hot coals until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, or approximately 7-10 minutes.  Move each ball to ensure even cooking as needed.  Top with tzatziki, sriracha mayo, or condiment of choice.  We used store-bought tzatziki from Costco, but it is very simple to make at home as well.

Tips:  When making a recipe like this, we usually make a very small patty that we cook first to taste and make sure our seasonings are where we want them.  If they are not, we can add more to taste.  This recipe can also be used to make patties for burgers or sliders.

Dump Cake

1 package cake mix of choice

2 cans pie filling or canned fruit in heavy syrup

1 stick melted butter

 

Add fruit of choice to bottom of cake pan or dutch oven.  Sprinkle cake mix on top of fruit, then pour melted butter on top of cake mix.  Cook on grill or oven at 350-375 degrees until the top browns a little and the edges are bubbly.  This can take 30-60 minutes, just keep an eye on it after the first 30 minutes, checking every 15 minutes after that.

For this Eggfest, we used confetti cake mix with strawberry pie filling for one cake, and canned peaches with about a cup of thawed blueberries and butter cake mix for the other.

September 26, 2013  |  Dessert, Eggfest, Events, Lamb, Uncategorized  |  No Comments  |  Share

Reserve Grand Champion at the Keystone Classic

Reserve Grand Champions at the 2012 Keystone Classic

We ended the 2013 season on a high note by placing 2nd out of 58 teams at this year’s Keystone Classic.  Keystone is probably one of our favorite competitions that we regularly attend.  The staff and organizers are wonderful and very responsive to anything anyone needs.  There is always plenty of room for every team and the competition keeps growing and growing.  We would not be surprised to see 70 teams at this one in 2014.

The weekend started out a little shaky for us.  On our way up to Harrisburg, PA, we almost had an incident just outside of Baltimore.  Traffic came to an instant stop as we were cruising along and I had to get on the breaks so hard our trailer tires actually locked up and started squealing.  I didn’t even look at the cars in front of us, I was watching our Green Eggs in the rear view mirror praying they wouldn’t come hurtling out of their straps, and flying into the truck.  Luckily they held on and we have managed to avoid an incident with our fragile eggs over three years of competing.

The amazing meatballs that never made it to the judging table.

The Keystone Classic has many ancillary categories in addition to the main four KCBS categories.  Overall we did eight different turn ins this weekend.  It’s common for teams to not partake in the extra categories as it can be a distraction from the main event, but we enjoy cooking so much that we always like to try our hands at something new and see what the judges think of our experiments.  Friday night was ground beef and bologna.  Erin created a killer meatball recipe which was served with a wonderful pasta.  Unfortunately, for the first time ever, we missed our turn in window.  There is always a ten minute window when everything has to arrive at the judges tent, and if you are one second late, they won’t accept it and you have to take the walk of shame back to your camp holding your completed dish.  We were very frustrated because we have never missed a turn in.  In this case we pushed it to the limit, and that ended up being about ten seconds too late.  The neighbors enjoyed it, and we all of the sudden had plenty to eat for dinner, but we learned a lesson and luckily it wasn’t one of the important KCBS turn ins.  We don’t know anything about cooking bologna; our bologna turn in was basically a cuban sandwich and we replaced the ham with smoked bologna.  We liked it, the judges seemed to think there were better turn-ins than ours!  On Saturday we turned in the people’s choice chicken legs and also a dessert.  We didn’t win the coveted “Leg lamp” that the best legs teams receives, but we did get second place with our pumpkin spiced creme brulee.  We were given three eggs and told the only rules were to use the three eggs in a dessert.  My favorite dessert is creme brulee so this was a no brainer.  Luckily the judges liked it too.

2nd place dessert!

This was our second reserve grand champion finish, we have yet to catch the elusive grand champion, but we got within three points of it this weekend.  We heard our name on the first call of the day for the official KCBS categories, 10th place in chicken.  This was a surprise to us as we nearly avoided a chicken disaster this weekend.  That was followed by a 3rd place call in ribs; we were hoping they’d be top ten because they cooked well.  We were surprised by an 8th place call in pork.  We knew our brisket was good, and were hoping for a top ten place there as well.  That would mean a call in all four categories which is pretty rare for us, the only other time being our other RGC in Tracey’s Landing.  Our brisket ended up being 4th place.  With four top ten calls we knew we had basically hit four home runs.  Unfortunately for us, Black Cat BBQ hit two grand slams by getting 1st place in both chicken and ribs.  They edged us out by three points for the well deserved grand champion trophy.  Congrats to Jen and Jack for an impressive victory!

We used our new Green Egg to cook our chicken this weekend.  We had practiced at home and our regular cooking technique seemed to work just fine so that’s what we went with.  45 minutes into the cook we took the temperature of the chicken and knew we were slightly behind schedule.  No worries, we cranked up the heat a little and let them cook.  The second time we checked, we were still behind, no worries, crank up the heat some more.  The third check was getting close to the time where they had to come out, and they were safe to eat … barely, and far from the desired temp we wanted to achieve.  Now there were worries, and we really cranked up the heat!  We pulled them off the smoker at the very last minute and the last time I checked I was cooking them at 370 degrees, about a 100 degrees more than we normally would!  We were surprised when we tried a piece and actually really liked the texture. Unfortunately by cranking up the heat, we ended up with a little more smoke coming out of the egg than we would like, and chicken is like a smoke sponge.  It was more smoky than we prefer, so we were actually very happy to get a 10th place call after such a non-standard cook.  I guess chicken on the new Egg will require a little more practice.

The other three categories were fairly uneventful.  Everything went as scheduled and we were able to take a few deep breaths and relax after our near disaster with the chicken.  We had plenty of good ribs to fill the box, our pork was very juicy and flavorful, and our brisket was on point as it has been most of the season.  We felt pretty good after we were done turning everything in, but had no idea if we had done well enough to get 2nd place.

We had a great time as always seeing old friends and competing in our last KCBS competition of the year.  We are already looking forward to next year and will be practicing much more this winter than we did last winter.  We are so close to getting first place, we need to focus on perfecting every detail in order to push us over the edge.  Hopefully our neighbors and co-workers won’t be too sick of eating BBQ by next spring!

 

 

Only one call and a 15th Overall in West Virginia

The beautiful sky after the storms cleared out.

Pickin in the Panhandle 2012 brought 43 skilled competition teams into Hedgesville, WV, all hoping for a shot at the Jack Daniel’s invitational. The invite automatically comes with the grand champion trophy at this competition because it is the only KCBS sanctioned competition in WV.  We knew, like always, that because of the chance to get to ‘The Jack” that there would be a good mix of skilled teams competing.  Looking to the left of our camp we saw three teams: Pellet Envy, Cool Smoke, and Hambones by the Fire; maybe “skilled teams” was an understatement.

 

The BBQ was smelling so good Cosmo couldn't stop drooling.

The weekend started off very hot and humid.  We were very happy to have our air-conditioned (and waterproof) RV.  We arrived with our meat already trimmed, but we had two ancillary categories (anything meat and dessert) that we had not even practiced, so we spent Friday doing food prep and finalizing the recipes for the extra categories.  Erin was prepared with some good ideas that were quickly revised into plans B and C.   Saturday rolled around and everything was right on schedule.  We knew that there was rain on the horizon and possibly even severe storms.  As turn in time approached the rain closed in.  We were able to walk chicken while it was still dry, but once the ribs came off, Erin checked the radar one more time and all I remember hearing was, “There is a red cell coming!”  We looked at six beautiful racks of ribs that had just come off the smoker and knew outside was not the place to be.  Within minutes we moved our operation inside.  The rain started just after noon and I stepped outside to make sure everything was waterproof.  I barely made it out the door and everything started shaking from the wind.  I saw our 10’x10′ canopy raising off the ground and was able to grab hold of it, but the 50 mph force was enough to pull me off the ground with it.  By the time I landed, two of the legs had folded and I wasn’t far from becoming a human kite.  Erin came out to assist and during the downpour we were able to pull the walls down and lay the 10’x10′ on the ground.  Ribs had to be cut in four minutes, so we headed back inside soaked to the bone.  High winds and rain seem to be a common scenario that has played itself out at almost every competition this year, except this time we lost some equipment AND it happened right in the middle of turn in time.

The aftermath. If you look close there are broken canopy legs, a torn tarp, and everything is soaked.

Back inside we were able to towel off and focus on the ribs with only a few minutes until turn-in.  Our ribs looked and tasted really good this week.  I told Erin on Thursday, after I trimmed the ribs, that it was going to be a good rib week.  After we built the turn in box, my feelings had not changed.  Pork and brisket were both decent, but we weren’t sure if there was enough wow factor to win over a table of judges.  After turning in our brisket we weren’t done yet.  We still had to turn in our ancillary categories.  Finally at 2:30 we were done with turn ins.  Still soaking wet, we sat down in our wet chairs and had a beer.  It had been a long day and dealing with cleaning up from the aftermath of the storm was not a motivating thought.

Our chili cups came in 3rd, but that didn't even earn us a ribbon!

After all that work we only heard our name once at the awards ceremony, it was for the ribs which we knew were top ten ribs.  We ended up with 16th in chicken, 8th in ribs, 23rd in pork, and 22nd in brisket for a 15th place overall.  We had mentioned to a newer team just the day before that with the level of competition that comes to Pickin in the Panhandle, anything in the top 15 is a good accomplishment.  I think deep down we were hoping for a little better, mostly because we had such a strong finish the week prior at Tracy’s Landing.  We certainly won’t hang our heads for finishing 15th overall; however, we will be putting pressure on ourselves to do better at our last two competitions this year.  Congrats to Tuffy of Cool Smoke for a very strong Grand Champion finish.  Tuffy is having the type of year that we all dream of in the competition world.

We learned this week that Smoketoberfest had been cancelled due to circumstances beyond the organizer’s control.  We decided we would still like to compete a couple more times this season, so we have added Smokin’ on the Track in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to our schedule.  This is the first year for this competition, so we are excited to see how things will be set up at the speedway.  After that we will finish the season at the Keystone Classic in Harrisburg, PA.  Hard to believe the 2012 season is almost behind us.

September 11, 2012  |  Brisket, Chicken, Dessert, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  No Comments  |  Share

4th Overall in Middletown Delaware!

The picture perfect setting as seen from the Peppermonkey camp.

We decided early in the season that we couldn’t pass up Delaware this year.  It’s the only Delaware state tournament so the Grand Champion is automatically invited to the Jack Daniel World Championship Invitational Barbecue … “The Jack!”  Having had top ten finishes in both of our competitions this year, we came into Delaware confident, but well aware of the level of  competition that would be cooking all around us.

Friday evening started with Chef’s Choice and Dessert turn ins.  Our cook went well for both, but apparently the judges weren’t in the mood for what we turned in as the scores showed we landed in the middle of the pack for both categories.  No worries, we knew we weren’t there for the dessert, we were there to compete with BBQ.

Our cooking routine has finally reached the point where we are very comfortable the entire morning of turn ins.  There is always a little pressure as each box nears completion, but being organized and sticking to the same routine helps out enormously.  Our chicken was first place just two weeks ago in Annapolis and when we took a bite, we both agreed, the taste, texture and tenderness were equal to what got us that call.  At awards, as the top ten teams were called off, we realized our chicken may have not been the judge’s favorite this time.  Not only was it not top ten, it was not even top 25.  26th place chicken is not where we wanted to be, but following the golden rule of BBQ, we will not change anything for our next competition and see if we can get some better scores.

Our crystal and clay pigs watch over the meat on our Cambro.

Ribs were next and if there was a moment of stress on Saturday morning, it was when I pulled the ribs to glaze them and realized we didn’t have too many choices when it came to turn in quality ribs.  After the glaze was set we played around with each rack, tasted one or two, and realized we only had one rack that was worthy of presenting to the judges.  Earlier this season we made the mistake of adding a couple of ribs to a box to fill it up more and feel it hurt our overall score as they were not as tender as they should have been.  We learned from our mistake, stuck with cutting up only one rack and Erin did some box building magic.  5th place was the result and we were relieved that we made the right decision.

Peppermonkey camp set against the Delaware sky.

Our pork and brisket went as planned.  There were no surprises with the pork although we weren’t totally happy with some of the meat once we got it pulled.  We managed 13th which is about right where we expected to be.  After a miserable brisket cook in Annapolis, I knew just by touching it this week that we had something better to work with.  The taste confirmed that we had a decent shot at brisket and we ended up with a 5th place call for the beef category.

Delaware was a great site for a competition.  Had we thought to bring a gallon or two of bug killer, it would have been absolutely perfect.  We were very happy with a 4th place overall out of 52 teams, and technically we tied for 3rd, but our tie breaker score dropped us down to 4th.  Gonehoggin.com deserves a big congrats for their GC, good luck at the Jack!  Congrats to 3Eyz BBQ for their reserve place.  We certainly feel like Middletown will be a “Must attend” competition for us next year.  Time to gear up for Frederick, MD in just a few weeks!

Season Opener … 6th overall!

 

What turned out to be 1st place chicken is sauced and resting on the grate.

We warmed up 2012 with the Go Naked competition in April, but the Naptown BarBAYq was our first full KCBS competition of the year, and for the most part, we were happy with how things turned out.  We missed the first Naptown BarBAYq in 2011 because we were at the Waldorf, MD Eggfest.  This year we were eager for a competition and Annapolis was just too close to home to pass up.  Don and his crew did a fantastic job of meeting all the needs of the competition teams.  Seeing how this event was run and knowing it was only the second year (and the first year at the new location) we are certain to come back next year.

Friday night we entered two ancillary categories, but we never heard our named called for chef’s choice or for the seafood category.  It seems as though beating 3Eyz BBQ at any ancillary category will be the challenge of 2012.  We chose a dessert consisting of a peanut butter pie filling served over a brownie and topped with a chocolate dipped bacon coil ….. And for the record, it was very tasty!

The chocolate dipped bacon coil really topped off our peanut butter pie dessert!

We were fortunate to set up camp next to a first time team … I believe the team name was “We Beat Your Meat” (sorry guys if I have that wrong).  I say fortunate because we enjoy helping out new teams any way we can.  We realize we are far from veteran status, but we always look back to how nice Chris Capell and his Dizzy Pig crew treated us when we set up next to them for our first competition in 2010.  After that experience, we vowed to always assist a new team any chance we got and ensure they are treated the way we were when we were rookies. Ryan, the chief cook, led the team to an early call Friday night when they got 2nd overall in the ancillary categories.  Well done !!!  There were a lot of seasoned cooks at this event and these guys pulled in a nice check before the true competition even started!

After just a couple hours of sleep, the alarm sounded in the wee hours on Saturday morning, reminding us it was competition day.  The eggs were soon fired up and closely monitored. Our best cooks have been using no electronic temp controllers or fans … so we decided to start this year out the same way and cook using nothing more than thermometers and vent adjustments.  Overall, the cook went really well for the first of the year.  We waited to trim the brisket at the competition site and realized it was smaller and more thin than normal and we weren’t able to compensate enough during the cook.  Our brisket was early and had to rest longer than prefered which resulted in a poor brisket score.  The ribs were a different story; after a history of having them come out slightly over cooked, this time they were slightly under.  We had one rack that was just right, and should have boxed only that rack; but we decided to take a few others to fill the box and in hind sight, that may have affected our scores.  Pork and chicken landed us top ten calls; 6th in pork, and 1st in chicken!  We weren’t 100% confident in our chicken, but that has been a strong category for us and Erin forecasted early on that it would be our best of the day.

All smiles after a 1st place chicken call!

The Annapolis BarBAYq turned out to be a success for us.  With two calls and a 6th place overall, we are motivated to head to Delaware and improve on everything we did this weekend.  Thanks to Don and his crew for all the hard work they put into the event.  This is one that everyone should consider adding to their schedule if it isn’t there already.  See you there next year!

Smoketoberfest 2011

Heading up to Rhodes Grove camp ground for our final competition of the year is always a bitter sweet trip for us.  Exciting because we know we will have a good time at the event and really enjoy the camp ground for a full four day weekend.  Fun because we get to see all the teams that we’ve been competing against all season long.  It is a great opportunity to tell war stories about different cooks and events that everyone experienced during the season.  Sad because we know it’s the final competition of the year for us, and finally there is a slight feeling of relief knowing that it’ll be a few months before we have to load and unload our family of big green eggs again.

This year it was safe to say we felt a little bit of pressure because we had a much more successful season than 2010 with a 6th place and a 4th place overall in two competitions against many good competitors.  Granted, the pressure was pretty much self imposed, but we were really excited to go out with a bang!  Our chicken had consistently been in the top ten, but not the top five.  Our brisket came in 1st last week and we wanted to keep it there.  Pork and ribs have been in the top 5 this year, but they have not been consistent for us.  Our hope was to bring it all together; however, with a 17th place overall, clearly we didn’t meet our goal.

We have done well in chefs choice and other ancillary categories this year.  At Smoketoberfest the only rule for chefs choice was that it must contain apples.  We opted for Monkey bread wrapped around apple slices.  It contained your basic Monkey bread ingredients but instead of balls of plain dough, each ‘ball’ contained a slice of apple in it.  If memory serves me correct, we placed 4th with our Monkey bread.

A valuable lesson was learned about the big green eggs; when the gaskets are burned off completely and then the eggs are set out in 50 mph winds, temperature control can be a bit more difficult than normal.  Failing to recognize the wind would be a problem until it was too late set me behind on the chicken cook and our scores in tenderness reflected that.  Our brisket was a little too salty for our taste and the judges seem to agree.  Ribs came out decent, we added just a little more rub to them to kick the spice level up which seemed to improve our scores over last weekend.  Pork.  What the hell happened to the pork?  Nothing in our mind, but we sure did tank in this category!  The only thing I can guess is that because I seem to have been heavy handed with the rub on everything else I did the same to the pork and the box pieces may have been saltier than our samples.

The wind messed with us a little bit, but that certainly can’t be an excuse because 46 other teams were cooking in the same wind.  This weekends results reminded us that at this level of competition, if you don’t show up ready with your ‘A’ game, then you aren’t going to land in the top ten.  Congrats to the D.C. Firefighters for earning the grand champion.  That’s twice this year we ended up cooking next to the GC.  Hopefully in 2012 we will earn that top honor!  Thanks to all our friends for making 2011 our most enjoyable BBQ season yet.  Looking forward to 2012 already.

October 19, 2011  |  Brisket, Chicken, Dessert, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |   |  2 Comments  |  Share

Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb Pie ala Mode

Rhubarb Pie ala Mode

Everyone has a meal that reminds them of their childhood, a comfort food that makes a person think of home regardless of where they really are. You may think of a rich pasta dish, maybe a casserole made from the simplest of pre-packaged ingredients. For me it has always been the only dessert I truly crave, rhubarb pie. Just this weekend while watching a cooking show I commented how I never understood why great chefs always spent so much time and effort turning something that was not naturally good into a fantastic dish. Now, as I sit and write up our latest rhubarb pie experience, I realize this dessert is one of those dishes. Rhubarb is a very tart, firm and stringy vegetable. It is one of the few food items that we as Americans decided that although it was a vegetable by definition, we’d vote and officially make it a fruit for all intensive purposes.

Rhubarb pie has always been a family tradition at our house. Every summer it was a given that if one of us kids were coming home, a rhubarb pie would be cooling on the stove top when we walked in the door. Often the left overs didn’t make it to the next evening because my brother-in-law would be sneaking in a slice for breakfast. Holding true to how my family usually cooked, there are very few ingredients involved. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy … just a properly proportioned pile of sliced rhubarb, sugar, a hint of corn starch to keep it thick and a dash of salt. Toss the heap into a pie crust and bake until golden brown.

We have yet to jazz this recipe up like we have become known for. It is just so good as it is, I don’t know what would ever need to be changed. Of course, our cooking method is slightly different, we use the big green egg as our baking oven. The slightest hint of outdoor cooking can be picked up from the crispy sections of crust making for the most delicious home made pie that exists. Maybe for fun we’ll play with it from time to time, but I’m confident we’ll always come back to the original, simple, delicious recipe that has been passed down through the family tree.

Rhubarb Pie - Before

Rhubarb Pie – Before

Rhubarb Pie - After

Rhubarb Pie – After

 

 

July 6, 2010  |  Dessert, Posts  |  , ,  |  No Comments  |  Share