After Tuesday’s successful rib extravaganza, I was feeling a lot more confident about grilling, and J and I decided that we should divide & conquer with recipe preparation, if we were chosen to do any cooking. Day 3’s theme? Secrets of tailgating.
Day 3 menu:
- Shrimp grilled on sugarcane with dark rum glaze
- Fire-eater chicken wings
- Scotch whisky-smoked salmon on a cedar plank with grilled mini-bagels
- Burger bar:
- Wagyu cheeseburger sliders
- Lamb burgers with goat cheese
- Barbecued pork burgers
- Hill Country brisket with cola barbecue sauce
- Wood oven mac and cheese
- Smoked coleslaw
- Smoked cherry crisp
J was pretty interested in the pork burgers with smoky slaw, mostly for the coleslaw recipe – he’s got more than a passing interest in coleslaw and has done some experimenting with recipes over the last few years. (This year, we’re even growing cabbage to make that experimentation easier.) I was sort of tired, so I flirted with idea of not getting involved in one of the dish preparations and just watching everyone’s efforts instead.
J went off to start the pork burgers and slaw, teamed with a father & teenage son team from Colorado, while I stayed in my seat, listening to Steve. Because it was day 3, Steve was throwing out all sorts of “extra” cooking projects for anyone who was interested, and brought out a special grilling rack for jalapeno poppers. Suddenly I was much less tired. One, because I love jalapenos. Two, because we have quite a few of the plants growing in our garden and they produce a lot of peppers, and there is only so much salsa I am interested in making in a season. Making a jalapeno popper appetizer would wipe out a large quantity of them without me mincing them to death. My hand shot up.
I was joined by Larry from outside Fort Worth, TX, who was also part of a father-son team (although Larry’s son Bill was about my age) and as coincidence would have it, an avid jalapeno popper lover himself, with the grilling experience on this dish to boot. My graduation from BBQ U was assured.
Because this was an “extra” recipe, there was nothing in our recipe binders about how to prepare them, but we were still given a tray of prepared possible ingredients including cheese, bacon and cilantro and a pile of whole jalapenos. Larry & I quickly decided to use the corer that came with the grilling rack to hollow out the peppers, stuff them with cheese, cooked bacon & cilantro, and then grill them. Bill lent a hand by heading outside to cook the bacon, while I chopped cheese & cilantro. While we worked, we chatted about what we’d prepared so far – Larry & Bill had been on the team that did the clams the day before, which they chose because they had absolutely no experience with grilling seafood. Other people had the same idea we did – try something new while the possibility of professional help was just a few feet away.
The corer that came with the grilling rack had the unfortunate tendency to rip the jalapenos apart, so we decided because there were more peppers than space in the rack that we would split the torn peppers down the middle to create boats, filling those with cheese & cilantro and wrapping the bacon around them. The only flaw in this plan is that there were no toothpicks available. (Really.) Larry’s solution was to put the ends of the bacon up near the tops of the pepper boats so that as the cheese melted the bacon would stick. We decided that any of them that didn’t look good would be eaten immediately, to cover out tracks.
We weren’t assigned a grill, so we took one of the gas grills that was unused and started cooking.
The poppers cooked really fast, so we ended up lowering the heat and moving them around before Steve even got over to check on how we were doing. As the cheese melted down into the vertical peppers, I stuffed more into the top. The temperature on the patio was about 95 degrees and it was hazy because of the Colorado Springs wildfire, so that plus the heat from the grill meant that those peppers were not the only thing roasting. And we struggled with the pepper rack, because the peppers kept tipping over, falling onto the grill & spilling ingredients because most of them did not sit low enough in the rack. Still, Larry & I persevered:
The experience did teach us that Larry’s method – creating boats wrapped with bacon, and secured with a toothpick (when available) was probably a better solution and also didn’t require another specialty grilling tool. Not that having a lot of tools is ever a problem, in my opinion, except if you have issues with enough storage space.
We plated our finished product (after sampling several, “just to be sure” while we were out cooking, and also to make sure we got some, since we were attracting a lot of attention with this project) and put it out on the newly-expanded presentation table.
Meanwhile, J had prepared the smoky cole slaw:
Smoky slaw on the smoker – photo courtesy of Rob Bass, Countryside Food Rides
J, who can be critical of his own cooking, thought he might have used too much salt in the slaw. If he did, I didn’t notice – it was really good. At the time the dishes were presented, however, the pork burgers weren’t done. The teenaged half of the father-son team J was working with could get grill marks on his food that were a work of art, (see the photos of the angel food cake from the day 2 post – that was all him) but they took a little bit longer to do. No matter – it just meant that the burgers would still be warm when we were all picking from the display table.
Hill Country brisket, smoked cherry cobbler
Shrimp on sugarcane, fire-eater wings
The Professor approves
Salmon – about six different ways; these folks got really creative
Shrimp close up
Hill Country brisket that was every bit as tasty as it looks.
Beer can chicken – another “extra” project
But before that could happen, we had to take our final exam, which consisted of Steve asking us one question before handing over our certificates. The beauty of this final exam was that if you didn’t know the answer, he gave you a hint or let one of your fellow classmates help you with the answer. Do you know how much easier my high school science classes would have been if that had been allowed?
Our overall experience with BBQ U was fantastic – we met some really nice people and made some new friends, we learned some new information and tried cooking new things, and best of all, I was not the first person to flunk out of BBQ U. We had a lot of fun and now understand how it is that people come back again and again to attend BBQ University – the resort is beautiful, the people who take class are interesting, and Steve changes it up every time so that you can always learn something new.
Of course, there is a dark side to attending a cooking class where so many grills and smokers are available to try, and you’re surrounded by people who are avid barbecue enthusiasts and want to debate the merits of a given grill with you. Sometimes you come home from work a few days after the trip to find this on your sun porch:
Which then makes your deck look like this:
Thanks to Stella Carolyn for allowing me to blog about my experiences. If you have an overwhelming fascination with vegetables, you can find me over at Cocktail Farmers where I detail our aggressive suburban vegetable garden efforts and my struggle to unload our excess produce. Or you can just keep reading here, because Stella Carolyn usually gets a fair amount of it and turns it into something amazing.