After day one’s successful cooking and presentation, the stakes were higher for those of us who had yet to cook. Part of the “graduation requirement” from BBQ U is that everyone participate in preparing and cooking at least one recipe. J and I attempted to strategize the night before by reviewing the scheduled agenda. Day 2? Ribs!
- Grilled clams with Sambuca and Italian sausage
- Mini chicken, bread, and cheese spiedini
- Peking duck buns with pineapple salsa
- Tandoori lamb ribs with herb chutney
- Spice-rubbed baby back ribs with dark and stormy barbecue sauce
- Brazilian rib roast with ember-charred salsa
- Cajun grilled okra with smoky remoulade
- Grilled angel food cake with fruit salsa and tequila-whipped cream
This is the point at which I confess that I do not grill. At all. I love to cook, I will help with endless amounts of prep, and will sous chef with the best of them, but I have totally abdicated all grilling responsibilities to J. I have started the grill, though. Twice. So really, I was the personification of beginner in this class. I can pretty much guarantee that everyone had more grilling experience than I did. And charcoal grills? Cooking over smoldering briquettes? Sweet fancy Moses, that’s just crazy talk. What do you mean I can’t just press a button and fire up the propane?
J does an excellent job grilling, but we’ve only prepared ribs once, and we were less than thrilled with how they came out. So when we saw that day 2 was ribs, we were ready. When Steve called for volunteers for the Tandoori lamb ribs with three herb chutney, our hands shot up. And I immediately thought, “Please let the other two team members have rib-grilling experience, or we may very well be the first people to flunk out of BBQ U.”
Fate had it that we were paired with Charlie from Chicago, a third-time BBQ University attendee (and former chef & restaurant owner!) and Rob from Kentucky who writes Countryside Food Rides, both of whom love ribs and had extensive experience cooking them. It felt a little bit like having barbecue Cliff notes, but I am not one to quibble. This was increasing my chances of getting a diploma. The magic fairies who do all the grunt work produced a tray full of covered dishes with pre-measured ingredients, and we began mixing the marinade and the chutney. So much easier when it’s all measured out!
We were ready in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. (Sorry, bad pun.) Steve decreed we would be using the Big Green Egg cooker, which J was delighted by as he has been trying to decide between an Egg and a Weber Performer. Because then we could each have our own grill to cook on. Or he could make twice as much at once. It keeps the heat out of my kitchen in the summer, which is all I care about!
Here’s where I found the only bad part of this class – once you start preping ingredients with your team & getting ready to cook, listening to Steve just doesn’t happen. You’re so focused on what you need to do to get ready to grill, plus the noise of the other teams around you, that you can’t follow what he’s talking about. Fortunately, he seems to impart all the really key information at the beginning of class, before he starts asking for volunteers to prepare the different recipes. This is pretty much the only criticism I can come up with for this program, and it’s pretty minor. (I also don’t know how you’d get around it.)
Out to the grilling patio we went with our ribs. Steve circled by with the members of the class who weren’t cooking to check the heat in the Egg and then said to me, “Ok, let’s have you put the grill grate in there.” And I thought, “Hmmm…” because like I told all of you (but not Steve), I don’t grill. (Well, I didn’t. Until right then.) It’s running through my mind that the grill is hot so I need something to grab the grate with before placing it in the Egg, and as I’m processing this Rob jumped in and offered to do it, which then gave Steve the opportunity to suggest his special grill grabber tool. This all took about 20 seconds, by the way, but it felt like 20 minutes. It was just like school when the teacher asks you a question and you have no earthly idea what the answer is, and then the bell rings and you are saved. The grate went in, the ribs went on, and we were off to the races: Lamb ribs take a bit of time, so we swapped off watching to make sure they weren’t burning with wandering around to see what everyone else was making. It was quite the assortment: We also got into a conversation about grills with several people – many people had Webers and were staunch advocates, several others had the Big Green Egg and sang their praises. We spent some time debating the merits with the rest of Team Tandoori, all while the ribs cooked. Several people wandered by as we were testing some of the ribs and were invited to sample to see how they were doing. It was like a neighborhood barbecue, if your neighbors live all over the country (and all over the world; there were several folks there from overseas) and treat barbecue like a religion. When we were done, we brought the finished ribs and grilled lemon halves into the classroom for plating:
Sprinkled all around those ribs is minced cilantro, probably the only time that cilantro will be featured on this blog since Stella Carolyn hates it. We put our finished product in with the rest of the dishes for the professor’s opinion.
A funny thing happened on day two at lunch. Rather than help themselves from the buffet, people were eating directly off the class-prepared display table. We had figured out yesterday that what we made as class projects, because it was on a smaller scale, tasted much better. So the buffet line was empty, and everyone was crowded around the class projects:
Now, I am generally not a lamb person – offered the opportunity to have it and I will pass. This might stem from childhood when my grandmother would occasionally cook a leg of lamb for a holiday, and serve it with mint jelly. Still deep in nursery rhyme territory, I couldn’t help but associate dinner with Little Bo Peep’s lost sheep. It was probably back then that I developed a slight aversion to the consistency of the meat & the taste. But that was before. These ribs were amazing – on their own, with the chutney – this non-lover of lamb had three ribs. And we immediately made a plan to do this recipe at home over the 4th of July for my parents’ anniversary, it was that good.
I also discovered an unknown love for okra. I’ve had it in soup but I had never had fresh okra until I tasted that dish put together by my classmates. The smoky remoulade sauce was just the icing on the cake – I could not get enough of it. I even got some from the buffet. It was that good.
Day 3 – don’t mess with Texas, everyone’s all in, and graduation – maybe.