Thursday, September 19, 2019

Grilled Pork Chops with Fontina Cheese Mashed Potatoes

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These chops were so delicious for dinner last night, thick, juicy and delightfully seasoned.  Of course, you can't go wrong with cheesy mashed potatoes and to top it all off, I added a hefty dollop of smoked onion jam.

I did something different with these bone-loin chops.  First I dry brined them and then after grilling I treated them sort of like Memphis-style dry-rubbed ribs.  This is a "free cook," where I'm just cooking for the enjoyment so I won't lay out a full detailed recipe here.  

Grilled pork chops with fontina cheese mashed potatoes.

I used the dry-brine technique on the pork chops to create flavor and retain moisture during the cooking process.  The dry-brine method is applying a salty rub to meat and letting it rest, refrigerated, for a while.  At first, the salt draws out moisture from the meat but then as the concentrations change, diffusion pulls the now seasoned moisture back into the meat.  There's more to it than that, but that's the gist of it.
 
Tips for how to dry brine pork chops
I applied the dry brine before I left for work in the morning, so it had 9 hours to work its magic.
The dry brine was simple but covered the bases - salty, sweet, savory, and heat. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Midway Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Hoagies

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The Tennessee Valley Fair has been running in Knoxville.  As a kid, I loved the local fair with its bright lights, blaring sounds, and whirring "one loose bolt away from a catastrophe" rides.  Then there was the food - eating brilliant red candy apples, clouds of cotton candy, and fried funnel cakes until you might explode.  

One of my favorite memories of the fair is the smell of peppers, onions, and sausage wafting across the midway.  Here's how I make the best fair sausage hoagie at home on my Big Green Egg.  These are quick and they are also fantastic for gameday food.


Midway style sausage, peppers, and onions on a toasted hoagie.

So, this isn't as much a recipe, I mean, it's just sausage, peppers and onions, right?  But there are a few key steps in my process that make it better.

  1. Toasting the bun
  2. Using a griddle or cast-iron skillet 
  3. Seasoning the peppers and onions
  4. Splitting the sausage
  5. Using ultra-thin provolone on the veggies and meat

Big Green Egg using a Smokeware thermometer.
I like to run the grill about 400°f for sausage hoagies.

I toast the hoagie rolls cut side down without butter or anything.  I skip brushing them with butter or anything because there is enough rendered fat clinging to the sausage and veggies.  

Friday, September 6, 2019

Competition Style Ribs

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I did a couple of racks of competition style ribs and then fed them to our neighbors at the pool a few weeks ago.  My competition rib process hasn't changed that much so I won't rehash it here.

Competition style pork spare ribs from a Kamado grill featuring Cheshire Heritage Pork ribs


Big Green Egg Modular Nest with two racks of spare ribs
I start with thick Cheshire Heritage Pork St Louis-style trimmed pork spare ribs.  They aren't cheap but I have had the best results with these.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Event Coverage: 2019 Big Kahuna Wings Festival a World Food Championships Qualifier

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The 7th Annual Big Kahuna Wing Festival was this past weekend.  The crowds consumed some 20,000 pounds of delicious Springer Mountain Farms chicken wings during the festival and enjoyed a full schedule of entertainment activities.  

Big Kahuna Wing Festival in Knoxville, TN

Thirty-One teams competed for the "Big Kahuna" title, giving them bragging rights for the best wing in Knoxville.  But this is also a World Food Championships Qualifying Event, so the winner gets to go to Dallas later this year to compete for $100,000 at the World Food Championships sponsored by Walmart.  

Three members of our BBQ team are EAT Certified Food Judges and we were selected to judge this qualifying event.  Here is how to become a judge for the World Food Championships, if you're curious.  

Alexis and I have been judges for a few years and have judged both regional qualifiers and categories at the World Food Championships.

Mike McCloud of the World Food Championships giving judging instructions.
World Food Championships founder, Mike McCloud, gives the certified food judges assignments and special instructions for the event.

The judging format for this event was altered from the typical EAT methodology, with the approval and oversight of the WFC organization.  The judging utilized the EAT scoring system but instead of double-blind judging, this event had live on-site judging like Memphis in May.  The competitors got to present and explain their wings to us, and we got to ask questions.  As a judge, I found this experience to be much more fun and feel that I had a better understanding of the wing that I was judging.  That said, blind judging has its own set of benefits.

I was excited to be a part of this controlled experiment, and I'm glad that WFC has the confidence to explore alterations to the EAT methodology, such as on-site judging.  Who knows if this will lead anywhere, but WFC is all about innovation so you never know.  

Due to the altered format, we had a different scorecard than EAT Certified Food Judges typically use.
We were broken up into groups of 5 or 6 judges with a captain and assigned a section of teams that our group would be judging.  Then we were off to carefully evaluate the wings served to us.


Big Kahuna Wing Festival in Knoxville, TN
The location of the festival is the site of the 1982 World's Fair, thus the cryptically named World's Fair Park.  The Sunsphere, is a remnant of the World's Fair and is a Knoxville landmark.