As you may have heard, this weekend brings the return of the Roots ‘n Blues ‘n BBQ Festival to town. The annual event has become a calendar highlight for many, headache for some (though it seems downtown restaurateurs learned their media relations lessons from the Summerfest brouhaha). Me, I went for a few years and was always ticked about the paucity of bbq vendors, the lack of a place to sit down and have a beer, etc. So last year, a friend an I entered the contest. We have our own 20×30 tailgate for 36 hours. Problem solved.
Unfortunately the judges didn’t like our food as much as we did (we beat exactly one team that turned everything in). This year, it’s 47th or bust, baby!
Come out to the festival, enjoy some of the free shows…it’s a good time. Here’s some info on parking.
I’ll be on the 102.3 BXR tomorrow morning talking about bbq and – if anyone from RnBnBBQ will get back to me – info on the vendors that will be selling at the festival. In the meantime, my column on the subject ran in last night’s Tribune.
Heatin’ up a new plan for BBQ fest
Going over my team’s scores after last year’s Roots ’N Blues ’N BBQ contest, it was pretty clear what had happened. First, we’d missed our temperatures. Fearful of overcooking our ribs and pulled pork, we hadn’t cooked them long enough to reach the magic window where those initially tough meats reach perfection. Brisket and chicken turned out well, but our overall “tenderness” ratings suffered.
Second, our food had just not been as good as we thought it was. Sure, everything had tasted pretty good to us, but some of the teams we were competing against — or not competing against, as the case might have been — rolled into town with barbecue rigs that cost more than our cars. This was their job, and semi-phoned-in chicken thighs just weren’t going to cut it.
Finally, while we’d come in disappointingly close to the bottom, the margin in most categories wasn’t huge. Take brisket, for instance. Ours placed 34th out of 48, but the difference between us and cracking the top 10 came down to less than one point per judge per criteria (taste, tenderness and appearance). Turn a few of those 7’s into 8’s, and the amateurs would have achieved some measure of an upset.
This year, anything worse than 47th will be failure. And so, like any good team that has been kicked in the teeth a bit, we revisited our tactics. Instead of low and slow (eight hours or more at around 225 for brisket and pulled pork), we’re looking at a high-heat strategy. Sticking with a blistering 350 or so gets us done in six hours, and the bark on our trial-run ’cue is much improved. I owe it all to a couple of new books from a classically trained chef who took on barbecue as a hobby, then got hooked: Adam Perry Lang. His recipes are anything but fire-and-forget, but we’re encouraged with the results thus far — I hope the judges will be as well.
2 tablespoons beef base
2 tablespoons garlic salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Ingredients for wrap:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated or finely chopped sweet white onion
2 tablespoons apple juice
Ingredients for glaze:
3/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
If using a full brisket (point and flat), score brisket at point end at 3/4-inch intervals, making 3/4-inch-deep cuts, in a crosshatch pattern.
Massage the brisket on both sides with the beef base, working into the cuts and crevices. Combine the remaining seasoning ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Season the brisket “like rain” and press seasoning into the meat. Dab the meat onto the board to season the ends and collect any excess.
Grill meat at 325 degrees, covered, with preferred wood (hickory, etc.) for three hours.
Remove meat from the grill. Place two layers of aluminum foil on top of each other and lay brisket on top. Sprinkle wrap ingredients evenly over brisket. Wrap tightly in the foil.
Grill, covered for two more hours. Remove, allow to rest for 15 minutes, then pour combined glaze ingredients over top. Grill again for 30 minutes. Place brisket on barbecue sauce-topped cutting board and slice into 3/4-inch slices, turning to coat.
— From “BBQ 25,” by Adam Perry Lang