The 2010 season begins!
We enjoyed a beautiful (but HOT!!!) Memorial Day weekend at Westmont, Illinois' Ty Warner park, competing in thier 4th annual Red, White, and BBQ contest. This is a rare Saturday-Sunday contest (most are Friday-Saturday) but the organizers allowed setup on Friday for those either travelling from out of town, or those that wanted to be set up early so we could better enjoy the weekend.
I opened up our pop-up camper for the first time this year on Thursday to load up the cookers and supplies, and make sure everything was working. Had to do a small sink repair, and also found our onboard water tank had a leak. No time to fix it so just drained it and moved on. We packed up everything into the camper and truck Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, and headed for the site. We arrived and setup our site next to our freinds Nick and Beth of Moose BBQ, and watched as the other teams began to arrive. 2 doors down was Chris from the Bartlet Boneheads, straight across were Tyler and his sons from Logjammin BBQ, and on our other side were Keith and Rebecca of KRE smokers, who I've mentioned in earlier posts.
Friday evening the event entertainment kicked in and some of the many great bands they'd booked for the weekend began to play just about 100 or so yards from us. As the night unfolded, we took a stroll to check out who all was there, and shared some conversation and libations with old freinds, and met some new ones. As tends to happen when we do these things, we stayed up WAY too late, turned in at 3AM, and woke up at 6 to the sound of the porta-potty trucks' backup beeper...ugh! When we emerged from the camper, I saw that teams from the amatuer comp (ribs only, any fuel allowed) queued up waiting to be told where to go, as well as more pro teams trickling in.
Since the comp is so close to our house, Di headed home to get a shower. I walked to the Wendy's on the corner to grab some breakfast, and on the way back visited with some of the new arrivals rolling in. Chuck from team Old Ken Chuckie in MI, Pat and Dan from Brew-B-Que, and others were just setting up. Once Di got back, I headed home for my turn in the shower, and to make up our dessert for the comp, mini key lime tarts with blackberry and blueberry topping. I'd made key lime pies before, but these tarts had a curd base, in lieu of the sweetened condensed milk used in a pie. Really tasty, but a lot more work than the pie!
Got back to the site, and began prepping our meat for the cooker. Many folks do this at home, but I never seem to have the time, and always end up prepping onsite. I kind of like doing it that way anyway, as the meat inspectors never question whether our meats were pre-seasoned. Once everything was prepped, injected (where needed) and seasoned, we headed to the cooks meeting, after which we tossed our 2 butts on the cooker, and began to settle in for the evenings festivities. The entertainment was great this year, plus, our neighbors had a flat screen set up to watch the Hawks game, which was a nail biter! But the Hawks prevailed!
Sunday, again, Diane went to pick up the refrigerated dessert, grab a shower and return. I had to cook, so no shower for me. I did the last prep of chicken, but was running a bit behind. I got the briskets in earlier, checked the butts, got the ribs ready and into the cooker, and realized I had exactly 90 minutes to cook the chicken before my target done time of 11:30. Yikes! Got them in though, so now all I could do is keep watch on the cookers and wait.
At 11:35, I pulled the chicken and tented it to rest 10-15 minutes. I guess the first comp of the year jitters got the best of me, and I forgot to steel my knife to get as keen an edge as possible, and I ended up making an unholy mess of the skin. But at least we turned in on time. Helped that we were just 2 doors down from the turn in!
Next, the ribs. I put the final coat of sauce on at 12:10, pulled them at 12:15, and had the best 8 ribs of the 4 slabs I cooked in the box and on the way at 12:25. Finally got to taste one and was very happy with them, although I thought they might be a little on the bland side. Oh well, too late, they were gone!
By this time, my nerves were settled, and it no longer felt like our first comp ever, instead of just the first this year. Pork looked overdone at first, but I was able to find a sliceable chunk, and some decent pull. Tried a light coating of a new sauce also. Then came the brisket. I was a bit dissapointed that I didn't get it out of the foil in time to crisp up the bark a bit, but it was tender and tasty, so I was pleased.
Finally came dessert, I put the curd into the crusts and all seemed ok, they looked beautiful, until the sun hit them, when they immediately began to melt! Diane does all the turn in's, so only she knows what it looked like when it hit the table.
We packed and cleaned for the 2 hours leading up to the awards ceremony, and even though we knew we had an hour of packing up left after (if we didn't chat with folks much), at 4:50, we headed off to hear the results.
Chicken - nothing for us. No surprise, I totally shredded the thing!
Ribs - I had pretty high hopes here, but no calls. Now the heat is starting to get to me, and I'm thinking
we're going to have a dissappointing day.
Pork Butt - They'd read 10th through 3rd place, and not mentioned our name...and then they did!
2nd place pork!?!?!? Against this crowd???? Holy buckets Batman!!!! This was our first top two call ever! My hands were shaking too badly to free Ember from her leash to take her up with us to get the award! We went up to the stage, picked up our check and trophy, had our pic taken, and went back to our seats to let the shock sink in!
Brisket - OK, so I thought our brisket was pretty good....and we had a call under our belt. Maybe we have a chance here I'm thinking. Sure enough, 5th place. Not what I'd hoped for, but I'll take a top 5 (and another hundred bucks!
Dessert, we weren't in the top 5, and they only read the top 5, so, oh well, better luck next time!
All in all, a great competition, at a great venue, and a really great time! We rolled in to the driveway at about 8:30 PM, tired, but happy. Now I only needed to get up at 7 the next morning to go march with the VFW in the parade in the morning! .......
The summer has officially started!