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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Smoked Leg of Lamb Gyros

A perfect storm came together in the last few months that facilitated some experimentation with the smoker.  Number one, Costco over stocked on lamb for Easter.  The week after, they had a whole case filled with boneless legs of lamb at $4.99/lb.  Their mistake was our gain.  I snatched up one for our freezer at home.  In hindsight, I should have grabbed a few.  Number two, Hope went out of town for the weekend.  So, the menu was wide open.  Lamb falls in Hope's "too cute to eat category" and I take advantage of the times she is gone to eat from the forbidden list.  That's just more for me.

Last year I prepared a rack of lamb for me and The Youngest to devour.  This year I was looking for something different.  My choice was a smoked leg of lamb gyro.

First, I prepared an injection for my lamb.

"Greek" Style Lamb Injection

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup brine from the olive jar
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic, diced fine. I also ran the spices through my coffee grinder to make them fine. I injected and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day I prepared a rub to season the leg of lamb further.

"Greek" Style Lamb Rub

1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper run through the spice grinder to make fine.

I massaged some olive oil onto the surface of the lamb and coated liberally, making sure to apply the rub to all of the cracks and crevasses in the meat.  Then, I let the lamb sit on the counter top to come to room temperature.

I was going for pulled. so I smoked at 250 with grape wood as was intending to take the leg to 195 F internal temperature.  But, it was late when I started smoking the lamb and by 7 pm I was ready to gnaw my arm off.  So, when the lamb was at 165 F internal temperature I abandoned the pulled lamb idea. I removed the leg from the smoker, let rest for 20 minutes, then sliced.

I made some homemade tzatziki sauce and served with onion, tomato and spring mix. The bread was store bought pita flat bread. Believe it or not, 30 seconds in the microwave between two damp paper towels and it was just like a gyro store pita.  Soft and chewy.

Oh yeah, this is what I was looking for, a high quality gyro made with smoked lamb.  Much better than your "Elephant Leg" mystery meat.  The next time the store puts lamb on sale, I will have to be sure to pick up more to make these in the future.  

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Roc City Rib Fest 2015: BBQ and Blue Angels

Last weekend, the Three Dogs Road Show packed up and headed to Rochester, NY to compete in the Roc City Rib Fest.

A field of 57 strong teams from all along the Midwest, East Coast, New England, and Canada in both the World Bacon Championship on Saturday and the KCBS sanctioned BBQ contest on Sunday.  What more could you ask for?  Well, how about and airshow with biplanes, parachuters, and World War II vintage planes?  Check.  What about highly trained fighter pilots performing death defying feats?  Check.  When walking out of the trailer on Friday afternoon, I was treated to the Blue Angels, screaming over the Gennessee Valley Park in tight diamond formation, feet separating all four.  This could be a very distracting weekend.

After putting the aerial fun behind us, we started to focus on our Saturday competition, the New England Barbecue Society sanctioned World Bacon Championship.  The four categories were:  Bacon in a Box, Breakfast that had to contain egg in some form, Turkey, and Dessert.

Our breakfast turn in was a sweet pepper stuffed with scrambled egg, onion and bacon.  The turkey offering was a white wine brined turkey breast with a basil pesto and bacon stuffing.  Dessert was chocolate lava cakes with a candied bacon topping.  I thought the turkey dish was outstanding, but we only came in 29th out of 38 with our offering.  Bacon in a Box came in 25th, breakfast in 33rd, and dessert in 35th.  This was good enough for a 34th place overall finish.  Lets face it, we do not do well in the WBC.  But, we keep trying and some year, we just might find what it takes.

Also on Saturday was the Roc City Rib Cookoff, a non-sanctioned event that benefits the Roc City Rib Fest charities.  With some poking and prodding, I talked Hope into cooking our turn-in for that contest.

As you might remember, Three Dogs BBQ was the 2014 Grand Champion in this contest.  We were hoping to repeat.  Unfortunately, we did not.  We came in 43rd out of 54.  More importantly though, I think Hope did very well and turned out a nice box for her first time cooking.  Hopefully, I can get her to try her hand at cooking more often.

In the Sunday KCBS competition, we fared a little better.

Overall, we came in 29th out of 57 teams.  So, no swag for the weekend.  Two positives to take away are that we increased our total score over the prior week in Syracuse with three of our tables falling into the lower half of the scoring for the day.  Also, our brisket and ribs continue to be strong this year.  It looks like our winter time practicing is paying off this summer.  Also, our chicken has picked up where it was last year.  Just a few tweaks with our pork and we will be happy for sure.

We would like to thank Brian, Kelly, and the rest of the Roc City crew for putting on another good festival.  I don't know where you get your bands, but they are always rocking the house.  Finally, congrats to Luke and Kim from Old Virginia Smoke, our Grand Champions and to Bill, Shaune, Alan, and their Jack Russell sidekick Shakes with Smokin' Hoggz (reigning American Royal Invitational Champs) our Reserve Grand Champion.

It is time to take a bit of a rest.  We'll see you in a few weeks in Wilson, NY for the Crossboarder Blues, Brews, and Que.  If you have never attended, I highly suggest that you make some time to go Fathers Day weekend.  The bands are great and the beer at Woodcock Brewing is outstanding.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Salt City BBQ Festival - Syracuse, NY

Last weekend, the Three Dogs BBQ roadshow packed up the trailer and competed in our second competition of 2015 at the Salt City BBQ Festival in downtown Syracuse, NY.

This festival was set up to benefit Phoenix Philosophies, an organization that purchases and renovates homes to house homeless veterans in Syracuse, NY.  A fine charity to help raise funds for their cause.

The competition was held in Clinton Square, so the competition areas were a bit tight.  But, after some slick trailer work, we were ready to fire up the smokers and get ready for the upcoming festivities.

We were looking to rebound from our less than stellar performance in Annapolis two weeks prior.  But, we didn't let a steady rain overnight on Friday dampen our spirits.  Our friends Sean and Adriane from Red Valley BBQ were in the site next to us and their sense of humor helped to get us through the soggy night.

After a long night of the smokers rolling smoke, full of meat, Saturday dawned clear and mild, making up for the rainy evening.

I even had a chance to get a quick shower when clearing the trailer awning of accumulated rain water.  If I only had thought to grab my shampoo...

After drying off, it was time to buckle down and prepare for our upcoming turn-ins.  Would we improve?  Would we slide back further?  Here are our turn in boxes.  You be the judge.

So, how did we do?  Well, our scores were very satisfying.  We received three top ten's: 4th in brisket, 8th in ribs, and 10th in pork, along with an 11th in chicken.  That added up to 9th place overall, good enough for our first top ten finish.  Needless to say, Hope and I were very happy.  But, BBQ is a lot like golf.  For every step forward, you tend to take two steps back.  But, like a birdie on the 18th hole, we will take these results and move forward, hoping to improve further.

Congrats go out to Priorville, our Grand Champion and to Good Smoke BBQ, our Reserve Grand Champion.  We would also like to congratulate Pig Iron BBQ on their strong 5th place overall finish, Galloways Hellfire BBQ for their first place ribs, and to Red Valley BBQ for their strong finish as well.

No rest for the weary this week.  Time to prepare for the Roc City Rifest this upcoming weekend in Rochester, NY.  If you happen to be there, stop by and say hi.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Smoked Pork Roast Braised in Bloody Mary Mix

Sometimes you go out for dinner and the dish you order is so good you want to try it at home.  Last August, while traveling to the Hudson Valley Rifest, we spent the night in Bloomsburg, PA and went to the Turkey Hill Brewing Company for dinner.  I ordered the special: Pork shank, braised in Bloody Mary mix.  It was very good.  So good that this instantly hit my re-creation list at home.  It may have taken nine months, but I finally got around to giving this recipe a try at home.  I must say, I think I did pretty good.

I cannot find pork shank in my little neck of the woods.  So, I substituted a bone in pork roast, about three and a half pounds in size.

Next, I diced the following: half of a sweet onion, two ribs of celery, two peeled carrots, and four cloves of garlic.  I tossed this mix in two tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp sage, and some salt and pepper.  Once mixed, I spread into the bottom of my nine quart cast iron dutch oven.

Next, I ground 1/4 tsp each rosemary, thyme, and sage in my "coffee" (spice) grinder.  Then, I massaged some olive oil onto my pork roast and a applied this spice mix along with a light grinding of salt and pepper.  Once complete, I placed the pork roast on top of this bed of veggies.

While I was prepping, my smoker was lit and coming up to a temperature of 350 F.  Once I was ready to start cooking my roast, I threw two chunks of apple into the ash pan for smoky flavor.  Once I had some thin blue smoke rolling, I placed the dutch oven in my smoker, lid off, too cooker 60 minutes.  Here is how the roast looked after an hour.  Perfect.  A little bit of brown on the roast and the vegetables were starting to caramelize.

Next, I added four cups of store bought Bloody Mary mix (that's one bottle) and two cups of dry white wine into my dutch oven for my braising liquid.  Then, I put the lid on top, lowered my smoker temperature to 325 F, and walked away for three hours.

When I returned three hours later to retrieve the dutch oven and bring inside, the smell emanating from the smoker was intoxicating to say the least.  I could not wait to get inside and slice this pork roast for dinner.  After resting with the lid on for 20 minutes, I removed the roast and started slicing.

There was a little bit of everything on this piece of pork.  The meat near the bone was pull apart tender and the bulk of the roast was sliceable.  Tender, juicy, and cuttable with a fork.  The wine, bloody mary mix, and spices came together to make a sauce packed with flavor.  The veggies on the bottom were thoroughly soaked in the flavor.  

The one minor issue with the Turkey Hill offering was they they served their pork shank on a bed of roasted root vegetables.  Good, but not great.  This sauce screams for something creamy, mashed potatoes or perhaps even grits.  I opted for grits.  So, I whipped up a batch of grits for my sauce.  I even sautéed some mustard greens for the side as well.  

I was more than satisfied with how this re-creation turned out at home.  I can't wait to make this dish again.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Naptown BarBAYq Contest and Music Festival - KCBS Competition

Last weekend the Three Dogs BBQ road show headed down to Annapolis, MD for our first competition of the year at the Naptown BarBAYq Contest and Festival.

The festival is held at the Anne Arundle County Fairgrounds and features the BBQ competition, food vendors, bands, and a judging class on Sunday.  In all 64 teams were competing for awards and bragging rights for the year.  The contest was also a opportunity for us to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.  Here are some pictures from the weekend.

The highlight of the weekend was being able to sign the banner honoring our late friend, Bill Allen, who passed away earlier this year at a BBQ competition.

If you are competing in the MABA region this year, look for this banner at the Smokin Foolz cook site and stop by to sign.  Smokin Foolz will present the banner to Kathi Allen, Bill's wife, at the end of the season.

As for our cook, we did not get off to the start that we wanted to this season, ending up 47th out of 64 teams.  Here were the pictures of our turn in boxes.

Our timing was off from the start, the skin pulled back on the legs, the ribs were slightly over done, the brisket was slightly under done.  Not a good weekend at all.  But, we'll learn from the weekend and move forward.  We can only go up from here.

Thanks to Doreen Vavrek (a Pittsburgh girl!) for putting together another great competition.  Congrats also go out to 3Eyz BBQ on their back to back Grand Championships at Naptown and to Chix, Swine & Bovine BBQ, our Reserve Grand Champion.

We hit the road next in two weeks at the Salt City BBQ Festival in Syracuse, NY.  If you are in the area, stop on by and say hi.

Thanks for stopping by,