Annapolis EggFest 2012

Eggfests are alway fun.  Big Green Egg owners, otherwise known as Eggheads, gather to show off their food and recipes with each other and with the general public.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the unlimited potential that cooking on a BGE offers.  Good food, spending time with old friends, meeting new friends … and more good food … makes every Eggfest a good time.  When Bay Stoves of Annapolis host an eggfest, they take it to another level.  Don, Lani and crew go out of their way to take care of all the cooks.  They have worked hard to create an intimate atmosphere that we have never seen at other Eggfests and I think it is safe to say this event is permanently marked on our calendar every year.

Another Annapolis Eggfest!

After saying hello to our Egghead friends, we quickly fired up a BGE and started the day with Erin’s tator tot breakfast casserole.  This was something so simple and delicious and showed off Erin’s unique ability to take anything she can find in the refrigerator and make it a delicious meal.  Next we cooked a salmon filet smoked over alder wood.  Just before we pulled it off the egg we toppped it with a habanero pineapple glaze.

Our final cook was one of our favorites, our version of a lamb kofta meatball.  Freshly ground lamb mixed with toasted and ground cumin seed, coriander seed, cardamom, allspice, star anise.  Salt, pepper and turmeric were added along with onion, mint, garlic, ginger, spinach and feta.  We formed these into meatballs and grilled them direct until the outside caramelized.  These were a huge hit and people lingered around our egg in hopes of getting a taste.

Lamb Meatballs on the BGE

Unbeknownst to us, as people wandered around and tasted all of the food, they could vote for their favorite of the day.  We were surprised when Lani informed us we had won people’s choice and provided us with a wonderful gift bag full of prizes donated by local restaurants!

Thanks again to the Bay Stoves crew for hosting such a wonderful Eggfest.  We are looking forward to 2013!

April 29, 2012  |  Eggfest, Events, Lamb  |  No Comments  |  Share

Go Naked 2012 – 5th Overall

 

2012 began with a weekend of cooking at Mason Dixon BBQ in GreenCastle, PA.  We attended the Paul Kirk Pitmaster BBQ class on Friday, followed by the increasingly popular Go Naked Cookoff on Saturday hosted by the owner of Mason Dixon BBQ, the ever accommodating Eric Forrester.  The weather was near perfect with the exception of an occasional strong wind gust, but way better than the snow and rain from 2011.

The Paul Kirk class was informative and full of many inquisitive students eager to learn the secrets of Chef Paul’s success.  We went over the basics of trimming, preparing, and cooking all four competition meat categories (chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket) under the watchful eye of Chef Paul and Denny of DennyMike’s who supplied some rubs and sauces used throughout the class.  We also received a good education on the fundamentals of building a well balanced rub.  Greg and Penny of Spices Inc. assisted by providing a plethora of fresh spices from which we made our own rub used for cooking the chicken and ribs.  We were surprised at how good our rub ended up being considering we concocted the recipe in less than ten minutes.  We were even more surprised that we cooked a nearly perfect slab of spare ribs on our large Big Green Egg (BGE) using no foil and no spritz.  The appearance, texture, and taste where absolutely spot on!  We went into the weekend with the mind set of no matter what we learned in the class, we would not change our pre-determined game plan for Saturday’s Go Naked competition, but these ribs had us questioning our game plan…

Joel & Erin with Chef Paul Kirk on the day of Go Naked BBQ.

Saturday morning brought more sun and less wind with temps nearing 60 degrees … I would call it perfect BBQ weather.  We struggled with going against our cooking plan for ribs, but with the success we had on Friday, we decided we would try both methods.  We had six slabs so we cooked three with our fresh made rub using the Spices Inc. ingredients, and three our traditional way with our planned flavor profile and cooking method.  Go Naked only has two meat categories for judging, chicken and ribs, and a third people’s choice category of chicken wings was also thrown in the mix.  Our chicken was consistently in the top ten last year, so we changed nothing and it came out as expected.  After turn in, I predicted an 8th place call in chicken.

Ribs prepped and ready for some smoke.

A lot of fat dripped off of our chicken wings and onto the BGE plate setter which happened to be the same BGE that had our three slabs of ribs with our new rub.  They looked beautiful, but sadly they had a slightly off taste which we think was due to the burning chicken juice.  Part of us ‘maturing’ as a competitive team has been to plan for everything and then some.  An example of this is judging by taste that something will not score well, no matter how small the discrepancy seems to be, and adjusting accordingly.  We turned our attention to the remaining three slabs of ribs which we cooked in a separate BGE.  The ribs came out decent, but they didn’t make us say ‘wow’ when we tasted them.  We were able to get a box put together and turned in on time and that was it, our first competition was complete and there were no real hiccups along the way!

It turned out I was one off on my forecasted chicken placement (we got 7th instead of 8th) and we were surprised by a 7th place in ribs as well.  When the points were combined, we ended up with 5th place overall out of 30 teams.  Congratulations to 5-0 BBQ who took grand champion.  Even for a non KCBS competition, the teams that showed up to competed were very high quality teams and we consider a top ten placement a good accomplishment so early in the season.

The best part of the weekend was Friday night.  We had left our chiminea at home, so to stay warm we lit a fire in our BGE and huddled around it sharing ‘war’ stories about BBQ with our friends from Deguello BBQ, Drilling and Grilling, Tipsy Pigs BBQ, Hollywood and Swine and Porter Mac’s Rockin BBQ.  There was even an occasional appearance from Sal of Smokin Gnome BBQ who was present all weekend to help Eric with the contest … and to drink our beer!  It’s always fun the night before the cooking begins to relax with a cold beverage and learn more about the friends you are competing against.  Thanks to Eric for organizing a fantastic event and we are already blocking off the same weekend for Go Naked 2013!  Time to gear up for Annapolis the first weekend of May!

Sorry Sal, we thought it would be funny (it was) to steal and hide your golf cart!

April 10, 2012  |  Chicken, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  2 Comments  |  Share

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

4th Place Overall at the Keystone Classic 2011!

1st place brisket, 8th place chicken, and 2nd place dessert.

This weekend we travelled to Harrisburg, PA to the Keystone Classic Barbecue competition.  This was our second trip to Harrisburg and we were greeted with the nicest weather we’ve ever had for a competition.  Blue skies, temps in the mid 60’s, and barely a puff of wind all weekend.  If we had a bad cook, we knew we couldn’t be blaming the weather!  The first people to say hello were the same neighbors we had last year, the Thick N Saucy crew.  They are some of the nicest people we’ve met in this sport and we will always look forward to cooking and competing with them.

Our "traditional" hot wings with home made rub and a Schmiggitty sauce blend.

We always enjoy the ancillary categories, and this year the Keystone kept us busy by offering four extra categories and we cooked them all.  Yes, along with the four traditional KCBS turn in categories, we cooked a total of EIGHT turn ins!  Friday night was wings and bologna.  We kept our wings traditional by smoking them with our home made rub and then tossing them in a sweet and spicy Schmiggitty sauce blended with a touch of Jack Daniel’s which our friend and owner of Schmiggitty sauce personally delivered just hours before the turn in.  For our Bologna turn in, we created a simple twist on a cuban style sandwich replacing the ham with the bologna.  Neither of these won us a ribbon, but they were rather tasty!

Saturday morning the Big Green Eggs were lit several hours before sunrise.  Our simplified cooking techniques had proven successful during our last two competitions and we were feeling confident as the cook progressed on Saturday.  The third ancillary category was a chicken cook, “Best legs in town”, which we cooked just like we do our KCBS chicken.  This was a peoples choice and although we didn’t get a ribbon, we did place 5th.

Our KCBS chicken had us slightly concerned as half of the thighs came out darker than the other half and they were a bit dry.  Luckily, we had 12 good thighs remaining to choose from.  We ended up with an 8th place call in chicken which seems to be our most consistent category this year; now we just need to bump that up to a top three!

Sorting our ribs to determine which were the 'keepers'

Ribs were next and we had put together what we felt was our best box this year.  Flavor and texture were good, but not amazing.  Turned out we were spot on with our thoughts because we fell short on our rib score getting 21st out of 47.  The appearance scores were almost all 9’s but taste was all over the board from 9 to 5.  Yes, somehow we got a 5 with a comment card saying ‘too sweet.’  It’s frustrating to get scores of 9 and scores of 5 from the same table, but that’s the name of the game!  We need to find a way to please every judge at the table, and this batch didn’t cut it.

We were pleased with our pork, it had good bark and good flavor.  We were frustrated at judging when we didn’t get a pork call.  When we got the score sheets we realized just how close we were.  We placed 11th.  We were tied for tenth but Chix, Swine and Bovine beat us in the tie breaker and took 10th.

The last KCBS category was brisket.  This has been our nemesis since we began competing.  We have worked hard just to get our brisket in the top 50% of the field.  Last year at this competition we placed 43rd in brisket.  This year, Erin commented that she really wanted a top ten in brisket because we needed to prove ourselves in what many would say is the most difficult category to cook.  At judging we’d lost faith when they called 10th – 5th and Peppermonkey BBQ had not been called.  Both of us were stunned when we got the 1st place call.  YES!  Finally a competition where brisket didn’t bring us down!

 

Our brisket burn ends were so good I wanted to kiss them! They got us a 1st place call!

Erin created a fantastic dessert for our final ancillary turn in.  We sat down and brainstormed what every BBQ judge would like in a dessert.  Sweet, caramel, salty goodness with a warm brownie and ice cream.  What did she create?  A bacon brownie sunday with caramel and vanilla ice cream, drizzled with more caramel and topped with crumbled bacon which we smoked over hickory wood.  A second place call was well deserved and it had to be close to 1st because the judges had literally cleaned out the inside of their jars with their fingers!

Bacon brownie sunday got a second place call in dessert.

We place 4th overall out of 47 good teams.  Our best overall place this year and our first top 5.  Congratulations to Aporkalypse Now on their grand champion with an impressive score of 680!  We only have one competition left in 2011.  We are looking forward to Smoketoberfest next weekend and are going to work hard to have a strong finish amongst a field of quality cooks a very competitive teams!

October 10, 2011  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  , , ,  |  No Comments  |  Share

Pickin’ in the Panhandle

Last week as the rain was threatening to flood out parts of Maryland, we packed up and headed to the hills of West Virginia for our first trip to the Pickin’ in the Panhandle bluegrass festival and KCBS competition.  We were coming off a good performance at Smokin’ on the Bay and knew that our competition would be equally as strong, if not stronger in West Virginia.  This is a unique location for a KCBS competition because it is the one and only West Virginia state competition; which means the grand champion automatically gets a ticket into the Jack Daniels invitational next year.  Because of this, a lot of big hitters show up and whether you are a well known team or new to the circuit, you show up to compete!

The teams begin to stack up at Lazy A Campground

We had the pleasure of setting up camp next to the Tipsy Pig, a rookie team who was cooking in their first KCBS competition.  We’ve been so lucky to meet incredibly nice people and teams who’ve helped show us the ropes since we started competing in 2010.  Although we are still considered a rookie team, we’ve made it a point to go out of our way to pay back the generosity we’ve been shown and help out new teams as much as we can.  We may not give up ALL of our secrets, but if we can help, we certainly will.  We shared a taste of all four food categories as well as photos of a couple of our boxes … And we were lucky enough to get a taste of their food as well.  They did a fantastic job by being part of a three way tie for 10th place in pork.  Impressive for a first competition!

A piece of our 7th place chicken.

We were fortunate enough to get two ‘calls’ on this trip.  The very first call of the awards ceremony was for the peoples choice pork butt, and PepperMonkeyBBQ won!  That earned us another pig trophy for our small collection, but more importantly free entry into next years competition!  Our next and only other call was the 7th place chicken, which we were both proud of.  Our other categories did well, but not well enough to place in the top ten:  27th in ribs, 18th in pork, and 16th in brisket.  Overall we placed 14th, which given the level of competition, we were still happy with, but are really hoping to work our way back to the top ten for our final two competitions this year.

Six racks of ribs ready for the smoke!

We really enjoyed our first trip to Pickin’ in the Panhandle.  Jen and the rest of the crew clearly worked very hard to make it an enjoyable event for everyone.  Congratulations to Chix, Swine and Bovine on their Grand Champion and earning another trip to the Jack.  Congrats to Just Smokin’ Around for coming in a close second.  We are looking forward to cashing in our free entry into the 2012 Pickin in the Panhandle.  Now it’s time to practice for our upcoming trip to Harrisburg, PA.

September 21, 2011  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  No Comments  |  Share

Smokin On the Bay 2011. 6th Place Overall!

 The first ever ‘Smokin on the Bay’ competition was held at Tracys Landing, MD and what a great competition it was!  We had not competed since June and we were ready to try out some new flavors and techniques that we had practiced throughout the summer.  Initially this competition was only going to have 15 to 20 teams and in our mind it was the perfect venue to try out our new flavor profiles and methods.  Little did we know we’d be cooking amongst 40 other teams including 6 teams that were already qualified to compete in the Jack Daniels invitational competition.  Needless to say, we were caught off guard when the contest organizer told us, “Why don’t you guys set up your camp next to Myron Mixon of Jack’s Old South.” 

Myron Mixon cooking next to PepperMonkeyBBQ – Serious competition!

  
 We accepted the challenge and new that there was nothing better to push us hard than competing with some of the best.  Our cook went incredibly smooth considering it was different than we had done in the past.  At one point we found ourselves staring at eachother with nothing to do and Erin commented that she was nervous because it was going so well!  Because we were ‘local’ we met many people from the area and made many new friends which all came to the awards ceremony.  They kept commenting that we’d certainly win something but they likely didn’t realize the caliber of the other teams.  Our first ‘call’ was in chicken, 8th place!  We were ecstatic.  We were hoping for just one good call and felt confident in our chicken.  The next category was ribs, after calling out 10th – 5th we almost stopped listening, but then they called PepperMonkeyBBQ for 4th place!  Prior to this, 9th place had been our best call ever.  With our new friends cheering us on, we figured it couldn’t get any better.  Pork was next and when we got called for 2nd we couldn’t believe it.  What a fantastic day for us.  Our 20th place in brisket pulled us out of the top three overall, and we finished in 6th place for the entire competition. 
 

A sneak peek at our 4th place rib turn in box.

 This was only our 5th competition so we are extremely happy with the results.  We still have A LOT to learn and realize the results of the next competition could be totally different.  We will keep cooking and having fun and see where it takes us!   Congrats to the grand champion, Myron Mixon of Jack’s Old South, and to the reserve champion, Tuffy Stone from Cool Smoke.  Hope to see everyone again next year!

 

September 12, 2011  |  KCBS Competition  |  No Comments  |  Share

Pittsburgh Eggfest 2011

The line forms in Pittsburgh as the air is filled with the smell of grilling!

We attended the 3rd annual Pittsburgh Eggfest last weekend and as always with an Eggfest, we had a blast!  Nice weather, great hosts and wonderful food made for a perfect environment to cook and make new friends.  We arrived early to set up and althought the sun was beating down on us, it was far better than rain.  We got to work preparing our menu: St. Louis style spare ribs, lamb and shrimp meatballs with Afghan green sauce, and blueberry/basil/goat cheese tartlets for dessert.  The ribs went well and we were able to show people you can cook a perfectly moist and tender rack of ribs in less than three hours on a big green egg.  A crowd gathered asking for recipes and cooking techniques.  A friend from Canada didn’t get into the line in time to get a rib from the four racks we cooked, so he kindly asked for a couple of meat scraps from the cutting board which we gladly provided!  Next we served a meat ball made of ground lamb and cut up shrimp.  Seasoned to perfection and served on top of the Afghan green sauce.  The crowd made quick work of the meatballs and an entire boneless leg of lamb was gone within 10 minutes, one meatball at a time!  Our kind cooking neighbors voted Erin’s dessert tartlets their ‘fest favorite’ because it had flavors that were unexpected, yet well balanced.  A mix of blueberries, goat cheese, cream cheese and basil were stuffed into a crispy shell and lightly smoked on the Big Green Egg just until they were warmed through.  The result was a sweet and savory fruit tartlet that had people coming back for seconds and thirds.  Individual recipes will be posted on our recipe page in the near future. 

Pittsburgh Eggfest was truly a success.  I think everyone did a great job showing the public just how versatile the Big Green Egg can be.  A whole lot of delicious food was given out and most importantly, new friendships were made.  Thanks again to all involved in making this a successful event, hopefully we’ll be able to return next year!

St. Louis style spare ribs ready to be cut and served.

Lamb and shrimp meat balls on the Big Green Egg

Lamb and shrimp meat balls served over Afghan green sauce.

August 2, 2011  |  Eggfest, Events, Lamb, Ribs, Seafood  |  1 Comment  |  Share

Swinetastic BBQ Competition 2011

Chicken turn in box from Swinetastic 2011

Swinetastic was our first full KCBS barbecue competition for 2011.  This was also the first year for Swinetastic and it was a well organized competition held at the Frederick, Maryland fairgrounds.  We had an absolute blast meeting new people and seeing teams we hadn’t crossed paths with since the fall of 2010.  The true fun in competing like this is the comradery and the friends you make along the way.  Like all KCBS competitions, we cooked four meat categories: Chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and beef brisket.  This time the ancillary category was seafood.  Ancillary categories are more for fun as they are not factored into the overall competition score and they are completely optional.  We always enter these because it’s just another chance to show off some creativity and get a professional judge’s opinion on a new recipe.  So far we’ve usually placed in the top ten in this ‘extra’ category.  Our overall scores improved when compared to last years competitions, but many other teams came with their game face on as we still placed middle of the pack in a couple categories, and my overcooked ribs put them toward the bottom of the pack!  Luckily, Erin’s seafood recipe allowed us to walk away with some pride!  After three days of little sleep, and spurts of 60 mph winds and hail, we still left with a smile and can’t wait to go back to Frederick, MD next June to do it all over again. Now we have July and August to improve on our techniques and recipes and we’ll test them out against the best in West Virginia next September.

Grilled Sausage Oysters 'Best in seafood' category.

Rib turn in box from Swinetastic 2011

Pork turn in box from Swinetastic 2011

Brisket turn in box from Swinetastic 2011

July 7, 2011  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  No Comments  |  Share

Go Naked BBQ Showdown

We had a great time in Greencastle, PA at the Go Naked BBQ Showdown last weekend, although, despite the name (and much to my disappointment) there was very little nudity. Pepper Monkey BBQ competed in two categories, Ribs and Chicken. The competition was fierce so we were proud to come in at 12th for Chicken! Ribs was a little tougher, 23rd. We ranked 22nd overall. Not a bad days work. You’ll notice there are no photos for this post. It was rainy, nobody was naked, so I didn’t get out the camera. Maybe next year?

We’ve got another competition under our belt and we definitely enjoy and appreciate all the education that comes along with each event! Looking forward to our next two events – EggAnnapolis and Waldorf Eggfest. Come join the fun!

April 22, 2011  |  Events  |  No Comments  |  Share

Come out and see us!

Joel Matteson

Chef Matteson

Whether it’s competitive cooking or just a fun-for-all EggFest, you’ll find Pepper Monkey BBQ skipping around the country, Eggs in tow, all summer long. If you’re able to attend any of these great events, you’ll be treating yourself to some good times and great food. While you’re there, be sure to stop by and say hi!

April 22, 2011  |  Events  |  2 Comments  |  Share