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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Adventures in Tailgating: Game Day the Navy Way

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to check a box on my Bucket List.  I have always wanted to go to a college football game at a Service Academy.  So, we followed our Pitt Panthers down to Annapolis, MD to watch them play the Navy Midshipmen.  We were not disappointed.

First, for a 1 pm game, we arrived at the Germantown Elementary School at around 8 am for our tailgate.  A key piece of knowledge for those on the road.  Get there early.  $20 to park and the proceeds go to the local PTA.  It is a five minute walk from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

We kept things simple for our tailgate since it was a road game.  Subs to order, pasta salad, and munchies.  Oh, and beer.  Our neighbors were grilling up hot sausage and making Primanti style sandwiches with capicola.  For those who don't know, a Primanti's sandwich is one that has cole slaw and fries added to the meat and cheese.  If you care to know more, here is a link to the history of Primanti Brothers.

Everyone was in a festive mood.  Even our four legged friends.

After having our fill of tailgate fare, we cleaned up and made sure to be in the stadium early.  The Midshipmen form up on the academy grounds at Noon and the whole brigade marches into the stadium at 12:30.

One of the great things about being at the academy is all of the history and memorials.  You can't walk 50 feet without running into another memorial.  Ironically, the first memorial I ran into inside the stadium was one commemorating WWII submariners.  My Great-Uncle served on the USS Perch, the fifth sub listed on the left.  A few weeks into the war in the Pacific, his sub was sunk and he became a POW for the rest of the war.  It was nice to see something that honors his crew mates that did not live to come home.

When you first see the main stadium, you notice that the facades list all of the significant engagements in US Naval history.

It is rumored that in the 70's, a Pitt player was taking in the history, turned to Bill Hillgrove (Pitt's play by play announcer) and said, "Damn, they play a tough schedule".  When you read the names, Midway, Leyte Gulf, Philippine Sea, etc..., there could not have been a more accurate statement.  

At 12:30 sharp, the Navy Band marches in, heralding the arrival of the Brigade of Midshipmen.

The Brigade marches in by company and lines up in perfect formation on the field.

The Navy Glee Club sings the National Anthem the way it is supposed to be: respectful and with out craziness.  Then, the whole Brigade does an about face, in perfect unison, to salute the visitors.

How do they all turn perfectly?  There is a Midshipman in the upper deck with two red flags that makes signals telling the Brigade what to do next.

I went for a walk in the third quarter to take in the whole stadium.  In the north end zone is a memorial walk that everyone should take 30 minutes to see.  It covers the whole history of the US Navy and pays tribute to those that have served our country.  

The Brigade in the stands

At the end of the game, the Navy football team comes over to stand in front of the Brigade.  The band then plays the USNA Alma Mater, Blue and Gold.  If this video doesn't give you goose bumps, nothing will.

In the end, the Panthers lost.  But, this was a great day.  The whole day was college football the way is used to be.  Respectful, no entertainment overload, no taunting, etc...  It was the first stadium that I was inside without armed policemen.  Midshipmen in fatigues provided the security.  No need for the security in yellow shirts.  Also, the Midshipmen I talked with were respectful and lots of fun.  It was homecoming weekend, so there were lots of graduates there.  They were very helpful in explaining all that was happening and why.  If you like college football and miss the way it used to be, I highly suggest you plan a weekend at a Service Academy to take in a game.  We will go back.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Simple Roasted Carrots with Olive Oil, S&P

I heard about this recipe while listening to sports talk radio on the way home from work one day.  Of all places to get a recipe.  Josh Miller, the ex-Steelers punter, was talking about this recipe and I decided to give it a try as a side for some BBQ'd chicken.

First, clean and peel some whole carrots, slice thinly lengthwise, then cut in half.  Keep your dog out of the kitchen if they love carrots.

I took some olive oil and added some sea salt and fresh grated black pepper.  Then, I put the carrots in a bag with some olive oil and let sit.

Spread into a single layer on a cookie sheet for roasting.  I did some asparagus at the same time.

I placed on the top rack of our smoker at 350 F.  After 20 minutes, I stirred with a spatula, then let cook for 20 more minutes.  Here is what the final product looked like.

Crispy and sweet with a hint of salt.  They tasted just like sweet potato fries.  Good stuff.  We will be making this again for sure.

They went really well with our BBQ'd chicken.

Thanks for the idea Josh.

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, October 25, 2013

Basic Tri-Tip

Last weekend, when Hope came home with the Cheeseburger on a Stick, she brought this beautiful piece of beef home:

A beautiful tri-tip if I say so my self.  I was in a simple mood, so I seasoned all sides with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.  I lit the grill and brought to high heat.  Then, I placed the tri-tip on direct heat for seven minutes a side.  Then, I pulled off of direct heat and let go for another seven minutes a side.  This brought the internal temp to 135 F.  Then, I brought inside, let rest for 10 minutes, then sliced.

Perfect rare to medium-rare.  We served with a nice baked potato.

Nice, simply seasoned beef, grilled to perfection with the ultimate grilled beef side dish.  What more can you ask for?

Thanks for stopping by,


Monday, October 21, 2013

Cheeseburger on a Stick

The other day, Hope made an impulse buy at our local butcher and bought some of their Cheeseburgers in stick form.

What is cheeseburger on a stick?  Well, it is ground round, Hi-Temp Cheddar Cheese that you put in your smoked sausage and beef sticks, and meat loaf seasoning.

So, I tossed them on the grill for about 3 minutes a side and gave them a try.

How were they?  Not bad.  The cheese stayed in place and the meat loaf seasoning was not over powering.  These flavors mingled nicely with the flavor of the ground round.  With a dipping sauce, perhaps a nice chipotle sauce, these would be a great game time appetizer.  Time for some experimentation!

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, October 18, 2013

Smoker Baked Mac and Cheese

One dish that we like around here is baked Macaroni and Cheese.  Baking it on the smoker only makes it that much better.  Here is how we make ours.

Boil 2 cups of elbow macaroni.  Boil for 8 minutes, drain, and set aside.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a sauce pan.  Then, add 2 heaping tbsp of flour.  Raise the heat to medium and incorporate the flour with the butter, stirring constantly.  Once the flour is brown, your roux is complete.

Slowly add 2 cups of milk to your roux while stirring with a whisk.  Whisk until the lumps are gone.  Then, cook on medium low heat until the mixture thickens slightly.

Turn off the heat and add 2 cups of shredded cheese and stir until melted.  Then, you can season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add in the cooked macaroni and stir until incorporated.  Then, pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover mixture with 1 cup of shredded cheese and sprinkle with paprika.

While this was going on, I heated the smoker up to 350 F.  Once at temp, I add one hickory split into the ash pan for smoke flavor.  Then, the dish goes into the smoker on the middle rack.  Bake until brown and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.

For cheese choices, we mix it up.  Sometimes we use co-jack.  Sometimes we use cheddar.  I even add caramelized onion and jalapeno on top for a little kick.  

We love the addition of a little hickory smoke to this dish.  And who doesn't like baked mac and cheese?  Crispy on the top, gooey on the inside.  This is the perfect accompaniment to a pot of beans. 

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Italian Style Baby Backs with Hot Pepper Vinegar

Folks, BBQ Silly Season is here!  That means experimentation without sauce and BBQ rub.  Just good old experimentation with other flavors.  Settle in and enjoy the ride.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to post or send an e-mail and we'll give it a try.

A few weeks ago, Hope and I went to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza for dinner.  They have a great menu and a good beer selection.  One item on the menu that popped out were the Italian Style Spare Ribs with Hot Pepper Vinegar.  The ribs were great.  At that moment, I vowed that this would be my first experimentation after the BBQ season was over.  So, here is our recreation.

First, I pickled some hot and sweet peppers with garlic cloves and olives.  My pickling liquid was just a basic pickle brine:

1 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar.  I used the white wine variety as I did not want the vinegar to be overpowering in the dish.
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp of sugar.  I used Turbanado
1 tsp of kosher salt

While the above was coming to a boil, I cut some sweet and hot peppers, then packed into 1/2 pint jars with:

2 garlic cloves
A mix of green and kalamata olives
1/2 tsp oregano

Once the brine was boiling, I poured into the jars and sealed and let pickle for 24 hours.

The next morning, I fired up the Stretch and brought to 250 F.  While the smoker was coming to temperature, I pulled the membrane off of three half racks of baby backs, rubbed with olive oil, and seasoned with kosher salt, pepper, granulated garlic, thyme, and rosemary.

I placed the ribs on the top rack and put two hickory splits in the ash pan.  Here is what they looked like after two hours.

After three hours of cook time, I placed the ribs in foil pans, covered with the vinegar/pepper/olive mix, sealed tight with foil, and placed back in the smoker for one hour.

After one hour in foil, I pulled from the smoker, removed the foil, and let the ribs rest.

Then, I sliced and dug into the ribs with anticipation...

Outstanding.  The peppers and olives soaked up the smoky pork fat and the pork fat soaked up the spicy vinegar.  The meat was tender and almost 100% fall off the bone, but not quite.  Still some of that tug I am looking for in a rib.  They turned out better than I could have hoped for a first time experiment.  This is on the to-do again list for sure.  I may try with a pork butt and serve on crusty bread with melted provolone on top of the peppers and olives.

Thanks for stopping by,


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chicken Bacon Corn Chowder with Cheddar and Jalapeno

Ok, where was I before all this travel and competition?  Oh yeah, practicing for competitions.  For Oinktoberfest, we had to turn in a Chowder entry.  We decided to make our tasty Chicken Bacon Corn Chowder with Cheddar Cheese and Jalapeno Pepper.  This is a great soup that is easy to make either full fat or low fat.  For competition we made the full fat version.  At home, we make the low fat version and we do not think it is missing anything.

First, in a rough dice, make your basic mirepoix, plus jalapeno, seeded.  You can keep the seeds for extra heat.

Next, I cooked four slices of bacon that were roughly diced.

Once the bacon was starting to crisp slightly, I added my mirepoix, along with a healthy grind of sea salt and pepper.  I cooked until the onions started to become translucent.

Then, I added 1/2 cup of flour and cooked an medium heat until the flour was starting to brown.  It is very important to stir constantly during this step so that the flour does not burn.  Once the flour had browned, I added two cans of chicken broth, brought to a boil, and allowed to simmer for 30 minutes.

While the mixture was simmering, I diced:

4-5 medium sized red potatoes
2, boneless and skinless chicken breasts
And removed the kernels from four ears of fresh corn

After 30 minutes of simmer time, I added the potatoes and simmered for 15 minutes.  Then I added the chicken and allowed to simmer for 20 more minutes.  Finally, I added the corn, one cup of half and half, and 1 cup of shredded cheese.  I brought back to a light simmer and stirred until incorporated.

Here is the final product.

Creamy with a slight hint of spice from the jalapeno.  The fresh corn makes this chowder with a sweet crunch, along with a slight smoky flavor from the bacon.  This is a winner of a chowder.  I can't wait to make this when it gets a little colder.

Here is what it looked like at Oinktoberfest turn-in time.

We scored a 14 out of 17 with a 162.2628.  How do you score chowder in a cup for appearance?  Anyway, other teams were loading up with sausage type chowders.  I will need to change to a sausage base if we plan on entering a chowder competition again.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Keystone Classic Barbecue 2013

This past weekend, we competed in our last competition of 2013, the Keystone Classic Barbecue in Harrisburg, PA.  The event is tied to the Pennsylvania Livestock Exposition.  So, you can imagine that we made a lot of four legged friends.

A Six Horse Hitch ready for competition.

Getting all primped before being hitched.

One big dude...

My buddy who liked his nose scratched also posed for a picture.

So, after set up, we walked around and took in some of the teams.  My favorite was Great4UQ.  He just bought this fire truck 2 weeks ago and is going to turn it into his competition rig.  I can't wait to see what they do with this for next year.

Fellow Stumpers Fire and Spice.

And an assortment of teams...

So, how did we do.  Not too bad.  We came in 34th out of 55 with a point total of 615.9088.  A bit lower than our last two times out, but good for our third best score of the year.  The scores overall seem to be a bit lower in Pennsylvania.  We'll just have to try a little harder next year.

Here was our chicken box:

This was good for a 161.6800 and 16 out of 55.  Strangely enough, 16th place over all, but we won our table.  Tough crowd...

Here was our rib box:

This was good for a 155.9772 and 24 out of 55.  A nice 15 point improvement over our last competition.

Here was our pork box:

This was good for a 154.2744 and 37 out of 55.  A bit of a dip after the last two competitions.  I have no idea why.  We thought it was pretty good.

Here was our brisket box:

This was good for a 143.9772 and 42 out of 55.  The flat was a bit over cooked.

Congrats to Flying Porkers, our Grand Champion and Hawg Nation, our Reserve Grand Champion.

Overall, 2013 was a great year for Three Dogs BBQ.  We made some new friends and improved our scores over the course of the season.  Time to take a break and recharge for 2014.  Hopefully we can come back ready to improve even more in 2014.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years and those who visit and comment on this blog.  Now it is time to catch up on some recipes and other topics between now and next year.

Thanks for stopping by,