Many thanks to my dear friend Stella Carolyn for letting me blog on her site about my recent trip to BBQ University. My postings normally revolve around vegetables and our challenges with gardening, so it’s a nice change of pace to talk about cooking!
In January my beloved husband, Old McDonald, turned 40 and I struggled with what to get him for a special birthday gift. He’s a big fan of Barbecue University on PBS, featuring Steve Raichlen, and last year while looking up a recipe we had seen on the show, I discovered that Steve teaches 2 sessions of BBQ U in person at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. I called, and was able to secure us two spots in the class for this year’s second session, June 9-12. I hadn’t seen too much on this program on the web – just one message board post dating back to 2010 from a guy in Chicago who had taken the class – so our expectations were pretty vague. But hey, it was a vacation in Colorado involving live fire cooking, so how bad could it be?
Awesome, as it turned out. First, the resort – the Broadmoor is a AAA, five-diamond resort. We are very much the rustic-cabin-in-the-woods type of vacationers, so this is by far the nicest place we’ve ever stayed:
The event kicked off with a cocktail reception featuring food from a selection of the nine (!!) restaurants located on the Broadmoor properties, and a brief speech from our instructor, Steve Raichlen. We met most of our classmates (57 in total, 9 of whom were women), and left the event just as the sun was setting over Cheyenne mountain, totally stuffed from all the good food. While we were out, bags had been delivered to our room with our binders for “study” – the recipes that would be prepared each day. Classes ran for three mornings, Monday – Wednesday from 9-12, at the Broadmoor’s Cheyenne Mountain Lodge:
Monday morning’s class kicked off with Steve talking about the history of live fire cooking and how it led to the evolution of man before moving on to man’s favorite food: meat. He gave us some brief demonstrations on preparations (my favorite was “spatchcocking,” where you take a whole round chicken or duck and flatten it by removing the spine, cutting slits in the body cavity and tucking the leg bones into them, and tucking in the wings) before calling for volunteers to make each recipe. Most of the teams ended up being between 2-4 people, who worked together to prep the food to be cooked and then took it out to be grilled: There were about 20 grills and smokers available for use, and depending on what you were cooking you would be assigned a smoker, a charcoal grill or a gas grill. I should also mention that preparing the recipe – adding seasoning or creating a marinade – was supremely easy because just like a cooking show, all your ingredients were premeasured and sorted into prep bowls, then handed to you on a tray. And clean up? Just wipe off the table, stack the used dishes/knives/whisks in a black dish bucket by the kitchen door, and they all disappeared. I want that at my house. Every day.
Day one, the menu:
- Buffa-que shrimp
Grilled meatballs with lemon dill sauce
Peppered tuna London broil with wasabi cream
Thai grilled game hens with mango slaw
Port T-bones on a shovel
The ultimate cheese “steak”
Tuscan grilled polenta and vegetable platter with balsamic soy glaze
Smoked crème brulees
Everything on the grill, from appetizers to dessert. My favorite was the pork steak cooked on…..wait for it…..a shovel. Really, see: That to me is a showstopper. Steve talked about making sure your shovel was properly sterilized, which makes sense if you’re us, and your steel shovels are usually used to shovel compost. And other organic matter that encourages plant and vegetable growth. Ahem.
We opted not to participate in the cooking on day one, preferring to get a better look at what everyone else was doing. This turned out to be great because not only were we able to listen to all of Steve’s instructions, suggestions & cooking ideas, we could follow him around as he checked on all the recipes on the grill.
Steve is very big into presentation of the food you prepare, so we were encouraged to artistically arrange our finished recipes using the serving dishes provided. It was also a good reminder for me, because I tend to plate whatever I’ve prepared and not think too much about making it look pretty, because I’m usually hungry or pretty tired by the time I’ve finished some interesting recipes.
The first day’s results set the standard for the next two days:
And how did it taste? Well, it was fabulous. Since each team was preparing recipes that would serve only 4-6 people and there were more than 60 people who needed to eat, the Broadmoor chefs cooked the same recipes on several additional grills around the corner from where we were all working. The giant kettle grill featured above, as a matter of fact. So good. And once again, all the dishes just disappeared, as if by magic. That alone is worth the price of tuition, in my opinion.
Next time – day 2 – the Big Green Egg and we cook Tandoori lamb ribs with three herb chutney with two guys who totally know what they’re doing.