Sunday, January 30, 2011

Speaking Of Practice

I have a tendency to overbuy for a competition. I start shopping weeks in advance. I'll walk through two different BJ's sometimes three times a week. I'll look around Restaurant Depot once and a while and I have 2 butchers sourcing briskets for me. Inevitably I end up with way too much meat. I just can't help myself; I'll buy what I think looks good, but then something better comes along. So over the BBQ season my freezer gets packed. I don't love using frozen meat for a competition so it's perfect for practice cooks. If everything works out right my freezer will be empty as the 2011 season starts. Then repeat.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Looking Ahead

Even though another foot of snow is falling outside, all I can think about is the upcoming BBQ season. It's been a tough winter so far here in New England. With this last storm we have already exceeded the average snowfall for the year. And winter has 8 more weeks to go! All we can do is look ahead. So I've been shopping for BBQ items, practicing BBQ, and filling out applications. I know it sounds a little early to do these things but it helps with the winter doldrums. It takes your mind off of the -10 wind chill factor and lets you think ahead to better days. Believe it or not, they'll be here soon. So, dig out the grill and start practicing for the winter/late spring competitions. Get online and order some ingredients. And get those applications out. I guarantee it will make you feel better.

Here is a list of some competitions that have their applications already up:

Check out the NEBS website frequently for updates and added comps.

Also make sure you are prepared for the upcoming BBQ season with a fully stocked pantry. Go to New England BBQ and Catering and check out their online store.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Lawton's Famous Frankfurters is now closed. This had been a Lawrence, MA institution since 1929. It was a shack, a dive, a hole in the wall, and was serving street food way before the foodies declared that stuff popular. They opened their doors 8 decades ago to sell hot dogs to mill workers. Sure, you could get other stuff there too, but to be honest I'm not sure what else was on the menu. You went to Lawton's for a hot dog.

Their dogs and buns were sourced locally (again, decades before that was the in thing to do.) There were always a few urban myths about how they cooked the dogs. Growing up I was told that they were boiled in beer. That was untrue. Another one was that they used the nearby canal water to cook their dogs. Hence the term: dirty dogs was used a lot. That was an obvious fabrication. But the myths continued and I think it added something to the place. It had charm, character, and damn good hot dogs. Truth be told they were deep fried in oil. Fried to the point of almost becoming a ripper. Toppings were the usual fare; you could get chili, sauerkraut, sauteed onions, mustard and relish. Ketchup was available in packets on the counter and was only to be used for the french fries! If you were caught putting ketchup on the hot dog you would get a verbal assault from the girl behind the counter. I would get my hot dog with sauteed onions and mustard.

Ordering was always fun too. The lines would normally be coming out of the door and on to the sidewalk. A great cross section of society was there waiting for a quick bite to eat. Young, old, all races, people in suits, people dirty from construction jobs or from working in one of the neighboring paper mills. Great proof that food can be used to unite people. Upon entering you needed to be careful of a couple of things. The place was extremely narrow and the floor was a little uneven. But more importantly you needed to watch out for the fire hydrant sticking up in the middle of this tiny shack. This place was literally built on the sidewalk back in the 1920's. Apparently back then the building codes were not as strict as they are today. After navigating yourself up to the counter, just speak up, tell them what you wanted, pay, and move on. The line would move you out the other door and on to the street. Because there was no place to sit inside this little hole in the wall.

But, now it's all gone. Another one of my childhood favorites has succumbed to the times. Not able to keep up with the fast food chains and the convenience store hot dog. But the ironic thing is that this place was both convenient and served food fast. Maybe it had just run it's course, maybe traditions are fading, or maybe the city itself is just undergoing a change. Whatever it might be, I sure will miss those dirty dogs.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Off Season

Usually during the off season I build something to cook with. In recent years I have made a sous vide cooker, a rotisserie, and my chicken cooker. This year I've decided to focus my energy on something else. This room. We built an addition on our house in 2005. This addition had plans for a bonus room over the garage. It's a good size room measuring in at 15' X 25' and over the years we've used it as storage. But, anyone who knows us knows we don't really like too much clutter. (watching the show Hoarders puts me into shock!) So having this room dedicated for 'stuff' seems like a waste. So after a trip to Goodwill and one to the dump, I was ready to get to work. It's a pretty straight forward job; a little framing, a little electrical and heating, then sheetrock and paint. Kris already has the furniture, rug, and paint picked out, so things should go reasonably quick. At the end of it all we should end up with a nice guest bedroom...unless Maggie likes it, then it's all hers.