“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace but it’s a start”. – Anthony Bourdain
Greetings and welcome back to Uncle Tom’s Corner.
With the passing of Memorial Day, we are officially unofficially into summer and officially into barbecue season. I don’t know what the statistics are for Memorial Day vs. July 4 vs. Labor Day but I do know that Memorial Day is one of the biggies for barbecue…weather permitting, of course. Speaking of which, have you ever given any thought to what all this smoking and grilling does to our “carbon footprint”? Maybe the purveyors of charcoal and hardwoods could add a little something to the cost for carbon credits. And maybe I shouldn’t mention it because some marketing genius will likely try it. Before I get too far away from Memorial Day I want to remind you that Thursday, June 6th is the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Had it not been for the sacrifices made that day the world would look much different today. If you have a flag, please fly it.
If a butterfly flaps its wings… Certainly, anything can be cooked on a grill or smoker. There are any number of recipes for cakes, cookies, pies, vegetables…you name it and there’s a recipe for cooking it outdoors. Pizza. Whatever. But the usuals are beef, pork, and chicken. Then there were the spring blizzards and floods that killed an estimated million head of cattle in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa, and Missouri. And now there’s the African Swine Fever that is ravaging the hog industry in China. I thought Iowa was the big hog producer. Turns out China produced about 4 ½ times as much pork as the entire United States..54.04 million Metric tons. That’s a lot of ribs, pork butts, bacon, and chops. Either the floods, the Swine Fever or both could significantly affect the availability and pricing of barbecueable (is that really a word?) resources this year and for several years to come…not to mention the impact on the producers on either side of the Pacific. Wonder if you can grill or smoke tofu?
Moving on: A couple of fun things (or maybe I just need to get out more) that have taken place since the last Uncle Tom’s Corner: Proud Souls Barbecue had an amateur ribs contest at the Gothic Theater on May 18th. There were 24 teams that just felt like cooking up a bunch of ribs to see how they might fare against other backyard cooks.
For the sake of conversation, there were a few of ‘em who really should consider jumping into the competition circuit. I don’t remember what the prizes were but, really, they were competing for the bragging rights. By the way, the winner was Matt Thomas of Colorado Smokecraft. In addition to the contest, they conducted some cooking demos ranging from brisket and burnt ends to lobster. Tony Robbins once said that he’d sat through most of a zillion seminars and he always felt that if he learned just one new thing it justified the cost of the time and resources. The two things I learned is binder to help make the rub stick to whatever you’re cooking. I think I told you that Savory Spice has a product named Que Glue. A lot of the competition teams use yellow mustard. During one of the demos, they used sriracha sauce. Most of whatever you use will cook off but I tried the sriracha on some steaks and it definitely made its presence known. The other thing I learned is that the mandatory precursor to barbecue is the “pfft”…the sound of a beer being opened.
At my house, it’s the “pop” of a Malbec bottle but the concept is the same. Some things are so obvious as to be obscured. Forest, trees and all that. The other fun thing was a book signing at The Bookbar, a bookstore in the Highlands area. Steven Raichlen, barbecue guru, author of numerous barbecue cookbooks (The Barbecue Bible, How To grill, BBQ USA, Barbecue Sauces, Rubs and Marinades, Project Smoke, Project Fire, The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook, High-Flavor, Low-Fat Italian Cooking, High-Flavor, Low-Fat Chicken, High-Flavor, Low-Fat Mexican Cooking, The Wood Pellet Smoker & Grill, The Complete Wood Pellet Barbeque Cookbook, Rubs, Martha’s Vineyard: Stories and Recipes from Island Apart, Best Ribs Ever, Secrets of the World’s Best Grilling, Planet Barbecue, Ribs & Racks, Man Made Meals)…there may be more but I was starting to develop tendonitis just entering them all. In addition to the books, he has a TV show…Project Smoke…on which he demonstrates a lot of his techniques AND he holds Barbecue U. at the Broadmoor. Oh, and you can go to stevenraichlen.com and get videos, recipes and other tips from the master himself. So he was at the Highlands area bookstore introducing and signing his new book…The Brisket Chronicles while on his way to the Colorado Springs for Barbecue U. What I learned at that one is that there IS room for one more cookbook on my bookshelf. And I met a guy who is opening a barbecue restaurant in the south-metro area with another of the KCBS judges. Small world.
As for the competition circuit, largely for economic reasons, I have chosen to stay sorta close to the barn this year. This weekend is the Aurora contest; followed the next week with the Frisco contest and then Leadville.
And there’s the Denver BBQ Festival 2019 on June 14th, 15th & 16th …Father’s Day Weekend. There will be some of the best pitmasters in the country, bounteous smoked and grill meat, plenty of beverages to keep you hydrated and live music. And clever T-shirts. VIP passes are available as well as general admission. One of the new ones…Parachute…got canceled before it even got off the ground. That pretty much means no trip to the Western Slope this year…the Grand Junction contest is the same day as the CU-Nebraska football game and this writer plans to have his bone-in butt roast firmly planted in Folsom Stadium in Boulder.
Wanna know the most dangerous place on earth? On an iceberg with two hungry polar bears? Nope. How about teetering on the edge of an active volcano balanced on a skateboard? Uh-uh. Try getting between a fat man and a plate of ribs at an all-you-can-eat bbq buffet. With that thought, fellow gourmands, I think I’ll close for another issue.
Remember, where there’s smoke there’s flavor. See you through the smoke.