Thursday, May 20, 2010

Recent Pics

Pics from Green lane and Salisbury are up on my Picasa site. Click here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Smoke In The Valley

The Good, The Bad, and The Good Again.

Lots of contests claim to be 'cooker friendly.' Smoke in The Valley never claimed it once. So, I'll say it for them. This competition was one of the most team friendly I have ever been to. The organizer Shawn Tucker, the Green Lane Fire Company, and all the volunteers went far beyond any and all expectations. The contest site was a huge open field. All the sites were big and easy to get in and out of. Plenty of power, every team got a 20 amp breaker. They set up a giant water loop around the entire park with spigots every twenty feet. I know that power and water are the basics, but you'd be surprised how many comps get that wrong. We pulled into Green Lane, PA Thursday night and were greeted by Fire Chief John Miller. He told me that it was his goal to make the teams feel welcome. He said if we needed anything, anytime, find him, Shawn, or any of the 20 volunteers and tell them what you need. They weren't too hard to find either. About every 30 minutes a volunteer on an ATV would drive by your site asking if you needed anything. Ice delivered to your site anytime. Trash removal was non stop for the entire weekend. Grey water and grease removal from your site. Seriously. They would drive to your site and remove the grease and grey water. Same deal with the ash, they picked it up! Saturday morning's team breakfast was coffee, juice, donuts, muffins, and about 20 homemade pies and cakes. About an hour after the breakfast I was at my site and 2 volunteers pulled up with more coffee. They were hand delivering gift bags and more hot coffee to all the teams. Oh, and the entry fee was the cheapest I've seen in a while. But the prize money was pretty damn good...not that Lakeside saw any of it...

That brings us to the bad. Yeah, we tanked it. No calls. No prize money, no trophies, nothing. It hurt, it hurt real bad. It's the worst we've scored in a long time. I wish I could tell you what went wrong, but I can't. It just wasn't our day I guess. What really sucks is that we had a decent cook. Everything went well. The smoker ran steady, the food was done on time, and the turn in's went great. We got great appearance scores but everything else fell short. Walking back to our site seemed like it took forever. I sat down and pouted for a while; scrutinizing the score sheet. But, no matter how many times I looked at it, the scores never changed. I put it down, and picked up a La Fin. Just then Shawn Tucker stopped by to say thanks for coming to his event and asked if we needed anything else. I told him that we were fine and would be staying the night. He said that they would keep the power and water on for as long as we needed it, and don't miss the band tonight, they rock.

A few hours later the locals came out to party! There was a huge bon fire, the beer tent was flowing, and the band was awesome. People were singing and dancing, and were just happy to be there. With the perfect combination of La Fin, music, and good people, the disappointing scores slowly left my mind. We drank, laughed, and enjoyed the night. It was the best way to end a great weekend.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recipes: Braised Flank Steak and Risotto Rice Balls

I make these all the time when we have a good sized gathering at the house. Most of the work can be done way ahead of time which is always a plus. I like to braise the steak and make the risotto the day before, mix them together, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. But, you can certainly do whatever works for you.

1-2 pound flank steak
Salt, pepper, garlic powder
Canola oil
Beef broth

2 cups of arborio rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced onion
6-7 cups hot chicken broth
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Egg wash
Seasoned bread crumbs

Canola oil

Parmesan cheese
Your favorite tomato sauce

Season the flank steak with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Sear in a hot pan with the oil. Remove steak and deglaze the pan with the beef broth. Return the steak back to the pan and add enough broth for braising. Cover and cook gently over med-low heat for about an hour. When it's done let the steak rest in the braising liquid while you make the risotto.

Sweat the onions in the olive oil and butter for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the rice and mix well to coat every grain in the fat. Cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes. Gradually start adding the hot chicken broth one cup at a time. When the rice absorbs the broth add another cup. This should take about 25 minutes. When the rice is done, season with salt and pepper, and add the cheese.

Slice the steak into small chunks. About 1/4 - 3/8 of an inch; you don't want them too big. Dip them back into the braising liquid for a few seconds, then fold it into the rice. At this point you could put the rice into the fridge or continue.

Using a small ice cream scoop (I use an inch and a half scoop) make the balls. Just scoop the mixture into your hand, and roll. The same way you would make a meatball. Lay the balls out on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Coat the balls with flour, egg wash, then seasoned bread crumbs. (I use Italian style for these) At this stage they can be deep fried right away or can go into the fridge for a couple of hours.

Bring the oil to 350 degrees and deep fry balls until golden brown. Drain on a cooling rack and season with salt. I do multiple batches keeping them in a low oven until ready to serve.

Serve hot with fresh grated parmesan cheese over the top and tomato sauce on the side. Enjoy.