Sunday, April 29, 2007

Twas A Day To Remember In Chili History...

My last post was just before we left to try our luck at yet another chili cook-off. The weather was beautiful, their layout for the cookoff was great, and because we had paid for two entries we got two full tables-the most room for cooking we ever had! 16 teams were entered, most were rookies but were friendly and in good(drank like fish!) spirits. They had some things to learn about what was fair for all in judging, but they changed what they could immediately, and will do a few things different next year. Alot of different ways to win a trophy( best booth, best vegetarian, best white, best overall, 2nd best overall, hottest and worst) . Normally, you would see 1st, 2nd,3rd, best white, best booth. Our batch was pretty good, so I liked our chances in both red and white. And the winner is..... for best White Chili-us! Then came the surprise-Best overall chili- Buffalo Dicks' Wicked White Chili! I haven't seen a white chili win top prize in the 13yrs I have competed! In fact, they hadn't provided a trophy for the best Red Chili, because it was assumed a red would win overall. That made some people a little unhappy-mainly the guy I cook with because after reviewing the results our red chili would have won that category too!
The only down side is (I can't believe I'm going to bitch about this...) the 2 trophies we won were the dinkiest we have ever gotten....
Over $1700 was raised for the charity (C-Snips- a local non-profit pet neutering service), so it was a good day indeed!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Double Cook-Off Try Today

We signed up for a 1st time chili cook off to be held today at a rural bar and restaurant. It is to raise money for C-Snips, a low cost neutering service for mainly dogs. We found out later they would be having a White Chili and Red Chili catagory, so we got into both! It doubles the work, but doubles the odds we can place too. We know the Health inspector will be there, so we have to make sure to bring extra gloves, thermometers, and ice. I may have described my Wicked White Chili before, but for the ones who don't know what the hell I'm talking about-here goes!
I will use 4lbs of boneless,skinless chicken breasts,cubed and sauted, 2lbs of Italian mild sausage that has fresh basil and grated romano cheese right in it, tore up into pieces and browned. Base liquid is chicken broth, seasoned with cumin,Mexican oregano, chopped Jalapeno peppers, garlic, white pepper and celery seed. Chopped onions, bell peppers, canned corn, with white beans all go in it too. Our final, not-so-secret-anymore ingredient is a jar or two of Alfredo sauce. Doesn't take long to cook-just simmer for about an hour, adding the alfredo about 10 minutes before done. Can be topped with grated Parmesean&Romano and sliced black olives. Wish us luck, as we'll need it being the out of towners again!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Here I Am Under Michigan Skies(Gray) And I'm Thinking About Rainbows..

Just look under web search" Somewhere Over The Rainbow Israel" (Should take you to U-Tube) on Search and listen to this deceased Hawaiian, then look under "The Rainbow Connection" (Again, U-Tube!) and listen to the everlasting frog, Kermit. Then tell me your day didn't just really improve? Just thinking about my kids today when they were younger and in wonderment of the world....

Monday, April 23, 2007

Customer Appreciation Season Has Begun!

Today, along with 3(to 9-I'll explain later) other fellow workers we cooked for about 100 people-all employees of a good customer of mine! We do these cook-outs as a "thanks for the business", but believe me, they are alot of work. First you must decide on the menu (We had pop,water, 1/2lb hamburgers/cheeseburgers, brats, potato salad, munchies, cookies-along with all the condiments and toppings you could imagine!). Then you gotta physically go get it(I HATE SCHLEPPING!!!) , store it until needed, then lug it all to the customers and set it up and cook it. Don't forget clean-up! I bought all the stuff & lugged it. One other guy I have taken to calling The Wedding Planner(loves to be in charge and works his ass off, but could be alot more organized!) , drives the truck and trailer and does the grill setup and cooking. The other two are pretty much there to do what they're told. The other six from our company show up to eat and schmooze, with the truck driver, and shop guys later helping with the cleanup. It was windier than all get out today and we were fortunate to be able to cook in one of their truck bays. I set up the table like you would a buffet-first plates, napkins,etc., progressively working down towards the cookies for dessert. Made both sides of table accessable to speed things up. The best laid plans of mice and men... they all come in from the opposite direction, in a single line. By now I really don't give a sh*t, and most of them spent alot of their lunch period in a damn line.
When there are things like this in your life, don't you wait 'til the line gets shorter and THEN get in the line? Nothing sadder than people walking like they're in a chain gang for 20 minutes, instead of sitting for 15 and then getting into line for 5....

Friday, April 20, 2007

Old Tradition-Friday Nite Pizza Nite!

Many, many moons ago when my wife and I were newlyweds, we didn't have squat. She was fresh out of Junior College (age19) with an Associates' degree (I had gotten mine a year previous and was now age 20) starting new jobs and were in our first apartment. Had a rent payment, car payment, one utility bill a month, and thought we had the world by the ba*ls! We were young and were learning that it cost more money than we thought to get though life! Early on in our marriage, we got into the habit of Pizza Friday. Every other week I would get a paycheck, and we would go grocery shopping. We would buy one of those nasty Chef Boy-Ar-Dee boxed pizza mixes,go home, doll it up with pepperoni, a can of mushrooms, and Mozzarella cheese-along with a six pack of Strohs' beer! That was our extravagance night until we had saved enough money to buy our own house! We still kept friday night as Pizza Nite all through our lives-changing to homemade crusts, designer toppings or just ordering one from our local Pizza Guy! We have a hell of alot more money and stuff than we did when we were just starting out, but I don't know if we were ever happier than when we looked forward to Pizza Friday back then...
Oh by the way, tonight we're having a sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza(homemade!). Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Great Way To Start The Chili Cook-off Season...

Yesterday, The Buffalo Bros. Team Chili participated in what we consider the first cook-off of the 2007 chili contest season in West Michigan. It is held at the Snug Harbor Bar & Restaurant, that is located right on the channel in Grand Haven, MI (on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan!). It's a fun event, part of a blues festival that goes on Friday and Saturday, featuring live music from name brand bands from Chicago and other large cities.
We were concerned about how cold it would be- the wind off the lake this time of year can be brutal. Fortunately, the air was pretty still and the patio we cook on was blocked from the elements. We ended up next to our good friends, Dragon Spit Chili. Our chili is called Buffalo Dick Chili, and we were responsible for getting them into these cook-offs about 5yrs ago. They have kicked our ass alot since then, with us placing and them winning. Yesterday was no different, but a great day none the less. Our batch took 2nd place, missing 1st by 1 point. Guess who won for the third year in a row? Bastards... We will get them at the next event!
P.S.- The trophies this year were the coolest ever(granite base, heavy glass body, topped with an iron frying pan with a ceramic painted chili pepper in the pan).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Craving For a Polish Specialty-Kielbasa

Ever since Easter, I have had a craving for a traditional Easter/Christmas treat (at least around where I live!) Polish Kielbasa or commonly called Polish sausage. It comes in a variety of ways-fresh, smoked, and double-smoked. On top of that, there are as many recipes for the make up of this sausage as there would be for German Bratwurst. We have at least 8 meat markets or stores that have meat counters all making a different version of this stuff, with the worst one being still pretty good sausage! Some are spicier(marjoram being a main flavor, along with black pepper, salt, onion and garlic for sure!), some simmer better, some roast better, some grind the meat coarser, some use thicker casings, etc.(you get the idea!). I decided to get Levandoskis' this time. It is a larger diameter than most, with a strong dose of spices in the mix. I will roast this in a 325F oven for about an hour, in about 2" of water(or beer!). My good friend is a die hard Polish Catholic who as a tradition, always makes for Easter a fresh horseradish sauce from scratch. This stuff when freshly made (ground root, salt,sugar, and white vinegar) is as pungent as anything you may have ever eaten! It is usually made in the garage, or in the open air because the fumes can make a house uninhabitable until they dissipate. Just opening the jar and breathing it can make you cough! In an oversize good quality hot dog or brat bun(I'll use catsup,polish mustard and horseradish!) this is one tasty way to eat Kielbasa....

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter Dessert- I Bet You Haven't Ever Had This...

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted something citrusy to foil some of the rich food on the menu. My family does not like pie- prefers cake (weirdos anyway...), so I decided to make a Key Lime Pound Cake! Instead of the whole cake topped with a flavored icing, I plan to serve it sliced, spread with some Key lime curd I've been hoarding and then topping it off with whipped cream. It's in the oven right now, and looks like I used a little more baking powder than necessary-we shall see...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Easter Dinner- The Planning Begins!

I look forward to preparing something special on Holidays, even though with my folks gone and my children grown and living on their own, they aren't the feasts we used to have. I asked my youngest son what he'd like on Easter; Prime rib, roast turkey, or leg of lamb. He wanted lamb! While I was at the store looking the lamb over, I noticed they had thick lamb chops(the ones that look like mini T-bone steaks!)Loin chops I believe they're called. These cuts, in my Simon & Garfunkel marinate( Parsley,sage,rosemary & thyme, garlic, salt, pepper,fresh lemon juice and olive oil!) then grilled quickly over glowing charcoal, are delectable. For those of you that have never had lamb, or had it once and didn't like it-please try this cut of meat and cooking method. Fresh asparagus, garlic mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh homemade bread, and a lemony dessert yet to be determined should fill the bill. Blog back your Easter plans-I'd like to hear them!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Lash At Candymaking-For The Adult Palate...

I have only dabbled in simple candy making, but it is my intent to become proficient at it someday. A good friend of mine has made candy making his main hobby, and I'm sure I'll be doing some as his apprentice(for awhile) someday! Today, I took some milk chocolate chunks (2lbs) and melted 3/4 of them in a double boiler, while I microwaved the remaining 1/4. Why you ask? To see which method worked best! The microwave won out because of speed, less mess, and a more controllable liquid consistency. I then mixed chopped dried sweetened cranberries and chopped walnuts into the chocolate and spread it out over wax paper sitting on a cookie sheet. It is firming up in the refridgerator as I write this. I did sneak a sample and the cranberry/walnut thing with the milk chocolate is definitely going to work! Remember the "Chunky" candy bar? Milk chocolate, raisins, and nuts in a thick piece. Sorta reminds me of them, only cranberries rule over raisins!