We’ve been here six years. And every year, on labor day weekend, people at Dyess talk about the chili and barbecue cook-off at Buffalo Gap. We’ve been wanting to go, but always overslept on the days of the event. So we always say… “Oh well. We’ll just go next year.” And then next year comes and the same thing happens. And then finally, after hearing about it for the past five years, Willie said “OK… we’re going to that chili and barbecue event on Saturday. Jason said he is going to cook chicken and ribs for the contest.” Jason is Willie’s colleague at work, a manager for another contracting company.
So, Saturday we went.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve tasted a really good barbecue from a restaurant around here, so I was hoping to sample all types of barbecue. Good barbecue.
My expectations were a bit too high. I had imagined the place was going to compose of all these booths competing for the cook-off. And we are going to sample plenty of barbecued chicken, ribs, and brisket. Or at least I was hoping for all these things.
Two dollars per person, to get in. That’s all we knew. But then when we got there, all bets were off. We also had to pay for tickets to taste the food from the participating booths. That’s the key word “participating.” There may have been 90 contestants for the cook-off. But I did not see 90 booths or tents there. There were only a handful of booths who had the “People’s Choice” signs. Which are the ones that gave away samples. At the gate, we were told these people had cooked extra food for people to sample. Where are these people? Where’s the food?
The samples were tiny morsels of food. Leftovers or extras from what they submitted for the contest. WTF. Can I at least get one rib? A chicken wing? Something!
OK… I was the fool that expected too much. Food is not cheap. And these people – the contestants paid $60 or more to enter the contest, plus the cost of the meat and woods or charcoal to cook it. I thought of this the night before we went. But I ignored my feeling. I hoped for something exciting. Something that’s going to blow my mind. In Abilene Texas? I have been living in my head too long!
Unless you are a business, or owns a restaurant to participate in this cook-off, all the cost is a personal expense. And if you don’t win the $4,000 top price? Better luck next time.
As far as getting food for nothing… No such thing. There were commercial booths inside the camp ground that literally priced and sold their foods. I don’t think they were among the contenders for the cook-off. I think they were there to cash in on people who thought they were going to get food for cheap. Instead the got hungry.
We were among the attendees who were highly uninformed. We weren’t told much at the gate as they took our money. After stamping our arms with the word SAT. Which means our entry was for Saturday only. We were waved through with no additional information. It felt like we have been lured into this place. And now that we are in, the harvesting begins. They even forgot to tell us about the truck they were giving away. The raffle ticket was $20 and you had to come back the next day for it. Nah. That’s OK. I’ll take the zero.
We did ate a few ribs. The best ones we had there, and even the best compared to the ones we’ve had in a restaurant here. That was Jason’s ribs. They were amazingly tender and juicy. Willie thought they were perfect. I though they were awesome too. But it needed a bit more seasoning. Just a tiny adjustment. And yes. They would have been perfect. Still. Even with the tiny adjustments needed, they were still the best ribs we’ve had in a long time. Even his chicken was moist. Cold chicken that is. Left over from what he submitted for the contest.
For Sunday, they also plan to submit an entry for the brisket and desert. Bill, Jason’s friend was excited about his dessert. “Yeah. I’m going to make my pineapple upside down cake in my dutch oven. They are gooood. One thing I can brag about.”
Ironically, Jason’s entries did not place. Not even his ribs. We found out Tuesday when Willie saw him at work.
Willie sent him the pictures I took at the cook-off. Which he was glad to have. And even offered to tell me how he cooked his ribs if I wanted to know. And he said, “Yeah. For next year. I’d like you guys to be my official tester. You’ll be a priority and you’ll get more food next time.”
Alright. We earned a position for next year’s events!
Oh… as we were living, I found out that the judges were picked from the crowd. If you are near, or around the judging pavilion, at the time of “judging.” They could pull you to become one of the judges. I think I will hang around the judging pavilion next year. It would be fun to judge!
Abilene Fire Fighters Association was responsible for cooking a 500 gallon pot of chili – the World’s Largest Chili Pot. The cooking began on Thursday night, September 2nd, with 1,750 pounds of ground beef and 200 pounds of chopped onions.
The chili was OK. Willie ate his. Ramon didn’t. The chili was all meat. A typical of Texas chili. I had a tablespoon off Willie’s bowl. It was too meaty and a bit gamy for me. We like our chili with kidney beans.
The ribs smoking in Bill’s 50 gallon drum. The ribs were seasoned 30 minutes before it hits the smoker. And then they are smoked for one hour before transferring them to a a grill. They are slow cooked for three to four hours.
The ribs after four hours of slow cooking. Once cooked, they are placed in aluminum foil, apple juice is poured over it and wrapped. Kept over the grill until time of submission. I think the apple juice is what made the ribs very moist.
Since I can’t grill outside. Let me just leave you a recipe for a Lime Balsamic Marinated Roasted Chicken on a bed of Chipotle Teriyaki Tomatillo Dressing. A very tasty combination.
Lime – Balsamic Marinated Split Roasted Chicken
1 – 4 ½ to 5 pounds whole chicken – split in half
Lime – Balsamic Marinade:
2 TBSPs. fresh rosemary – finely chopped
Zest of 1 ½ large limes
Juice of 2 large limes
5 garlic cloves – peeled and grated or smashed
1 ½ tsps. dried thyme
20 black pepper corns – whole
2 bay leaves – torn into pieces
1 TBSP. kosher salt
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup teriyaki sauce
¾ cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Wash the whole chicken… and remove the chicken wings. Split the whole chicken using a cleaver knife from the back down. Also… it’s easier to split the breasts from the inside and work towards the front. (Please note that I removed the wings on purpose. I like to remove the wings because they obstruct heat that should be directed to parts of the chicken breasts.)
Place the split chicken and the wings in a gallon freezer bag (I prefer Ziploc) and pour the marinade in the bag with the chicken. Marinade the chicken for at least an hour at room temperature over overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Line a large – heavy duty cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place a stainless cooling steel rack over the lined cookie sheet and arrange the chicken halves – skin sides up. Remember to include the wings. Place them on the side, next to the chicken breast.
Roast the split chicken for 15 minutes at 450°F… then baste. Roast another 10 minutes… then baste. Reduce the oven to 350°F and roast for another 25 minutes… then baste. Turn off the oven and let the roasted chicken rest for 10 minutes in the hot oven. Serve 3 – 4 people.
You can serve this roasted chicken anyway you want. For me I decided to serve this with Avocado slices on a bed of Chipotle – Teriyaki Tomatillo Dressing.
Chipotle Teriyaki Tomatillo Dressing
2 to 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – depending on how spicy you want
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup teriyaki sauce
1 TBSP. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
½ cup olive oil
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
8 tomatillos – washed, husk removed and chopped coarsely
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce come in a 7ounce can.
To maximize the taste from the chipotle peppers and its sauce, spoon 2 to 4 peppers into a mixing bowl. Add red wine vinegar and teriyaki sauce. Carefully rinse the peppers with the vinegar and teriyaki sauce and remove the peppers unto a chopping board. Split the peppers, remove the seeds and chop finely. Add chopped chipotle peppers back into the mixing bowl with the vinegar and teriyaki sauce.
Add balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt, dried basil leaves. Whisk all ingredients to combine. Gradually add the olive oil… whisking until lightly creamy. Add chopped tomatillos and cilantro leaves and stir until well combined.
Line slices of avocados around the plate and scoop about ½ cup of Chipotle Teriyaki Tomatillo Dressing into the plate. Top with one or two pieces of roasted chicken. Serve with warm, crusty garlic or sesame bread.
Tess’ Kitchen Secrets:
#1 – Roasting a split chicken cooks so much faster than the whole chicken.
#2 – Marinade always makes a roasted chicken tasty, flavorful and moist. Here the lime and balsamic vinegar are an awesome combination which rendered the chicken its mouth watering flavors.
#3 – The dressing has that smoky and spicy flavor from the chipotle; sweetness from the teriyaki sauce and brown sugar, tartness from red wine vinegar, and the tomatillos.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!