Girls vs Boys Southern Smokehouse Cook-off

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A man, a coffee and a smoker

It was to be another cook-off at foodisthebestshitever HQ. The teams were girls versus boys; the girl’s team comprising of my wife Jennee and her sister Liz (who can get an extra special mention right now because she flew in from the other side of the country especially for the occasion), while the boys team was made up of myself, yer ol’ uncle Grazza, and Jennee’s brother, Queenie. The theme was “Southern American Smokehouse” or something thereabouts. The esky was full of booze. The table was set. The competitors were ready. The Girls v Boys Foodisthebestshitever Cook-off 2016 was about to begin…

*The people in the story may be fictional, but the events are real.

The boys

We (the boys) felt there was a lot of smack talking from the girls. Like, a lot of smack talking. The girls were being particularly good at smack talking. In fact, I was walking down the street in a local town when I was approached by a young man who informed me that he had heard a rumor my man Queenie was very slightly hung. Now, Queenie may not be the manliest of guys names but I know for a fact that this brother is packing the equipment needed for the job. Well, I’ve heard he’s packing… don’t look at me like I’ve been sussing out my brother’s package. Holy shit you guys know how to contort a story… much like the women folk around these parts… great segue. That bloody smack talk.

A weaker boys team may have crumbled, but our resolve would not waver. We cleared our minds and our pipes, centered our chi and got the eff on with the job.

Our little tree motif was whittled by Queenie, made from 100% repurposed wood that was otherwise just laying around, taking up space and producing air and shit.

The rocks displayed our organic approach to our cooking and our lives, and the ebb and flow of the world we live in.

The plates were also repurposed old plates, which were recently introduced to their new life as, well, plates.

That was our story and we were sticking to it.

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Feel the emotion

Our Ode to the South was based on nothing more than a child hood obsession with KFC and an adult (or maybe more correctly termed; a 30-40 year old) obsession with smoked meat… and fried chicken… and an old Elvis 7inch. Still, it was our Ode to the South none-the-less, and it went a little something like this;

• Pulled pork finger, cheesy jalapeño crust, pickles, kimchi mayo
• Smoked rib, Big Red Rub, mustard sauce
• Tater tots injected with white trash heroin AKA cheese sauce
• Beer battered onion rings, ranch dressing
• Fried and then smoked and then fried again chicken, hot sauce, blue cheese sauce
• Smoked jalapeno popper
• Smoked brisket burger, crumbed (breaded) milk bun, slaw, barbecue sauce

The girls

The girls relied heavily on smack talk in an attempt to throw the boys from their game. But they did eventually bring some tasty and creatively produced treats to the table, ensuring a close competition.

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That layered salad was pretty special

The girls based their plate on a love of the hush puppy and 1980s layered salads. Happily re-jigged to fit with-in the guidelines of the “Smokehouse” brief, their entry went almost exactly like this;

• Layered salad with crumbled corn bread, smoked capsicum and corn, pickle and iceberg lettuce
• Smoked pork rib
• Smoked prawn, smoked Andouille sausage and smoked eggplant hush puppies

The result

Once the smoke had cleared and the gloves were un-tethered and removed to reveal calloused hands strapped crudely with ordinary house hold masking tape, the votes were tallied and the announcement of a winner was tasked to our youngest child, Obi. It was said around the table that both boys and girls had brought their A-games to the kitchen this day but unfortunately there could be only one winner – one team whose A-game was in fact a little A-er.

On this day of our lord, Sunday March 27th 2016 *drum roll please*… it would be the boys that would march away victorious from this cooking stadium, heads held high and then swiftly and smartly the victory was relegated to a distant memory, one that would not be spoken about ever again, as we were the men folk and we knew about the way of the world…

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That onion ring. Bangin’

A recipe for the WINNING BEER BATTERED ONION RINGS (enough for a few sides or maybe a Friday night on the couch watching midget wrestling)

2 med-large onions of your choosing
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon Big Red Rub or Cajun/Créole spice mix
1 bottle o’ beer… whatever you’re drinking will be fine
Oil for deep frying
Seasoning
Ranch dressing and extra Big Red Rub to serve

• Slice onions into 1cm-ish rings, popping the first 4-5 center rings out for something else you’re cooking that has onion in it
• Heat oil in a deep fryer or pot or plastic bucket if you’re not that smart. 180C is the go
• To make batter mix flours, oil and spice mix. Slowly whisk in beer until your batter is quite smooth and is thick enough to coat your finger nicely. Not too thick is the key here
• Coat the onion rings with plain flour and then dip them into the batter. Drag them out of the batter and ever-so-slightly drag them across the side of the bowl to remove excess batter
• Lower them gently into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through
• Drain on kitchen towel, season with salt and pepper and a little extra Big Red Rub, serve with ranch sauce on the side

Wooli part 1… Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce

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We’ve hit Wooli. No not wooly, Wooli. Wooly is something like slippers or a word that is like verbal Viagra to a Kiwi. So Wooli, another of those cracking little seaside towns the boys and I like to frequent on my annual break.

We have arrived at our little holiday shack which is adorned in the very finest of beachside holiday chic; pine furniture via the 1980s, op-shop pots and pans, the odd family heirloom carafe, pelican ornaments in the front garden and, of course, ocean blue and lemon yellow painted walls through out. This never ceases to amaze and truly impress me. Maybe the owners of these places do all get their supplies from the same old junk shop and maybe the only paint they can get through the seaside village quarantine is ocean blue and lemon yellow, but it still impresses the hell out of me how the same all these places are.

We have brought with us a seafarers bounty of the finest provisions my pay check would allow thanks to Jennee (I’m pretty sure when she went shopping this week the supermarket would’ve closed for the evening to re-stock their shelves and admire their full wallet), plus (on a little more unfortunate note) a heap of cool shit from the restaurant I worked at as the owners decided to sell up and turn our two week holiday into somewhat of a permanent one. A story for another time right there.

So we’re here.

I’m sitting down having a beer and typing away, partly because it is one of those things I look forward to about a holiday partly because I think people standing up drinking and typing on a laptop just look plain silly, but soon it shall be time to cook the evening meal. And the boys, well the boys are happily catching up on the TV they don’t get to watch at home (please don’t hate me Jennee). Something easytastygood sounds like what I should make for dinner, just to ease me into this holiday thing all gentlemanly like.

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Steak. There’s plenty of steak. Steak it is – with sautéed broccoli and cauliflower (you could do a cauliflower-broccoli cheese here. That would make your life heaps simple to match your demeanor… and word skills… and performance under the sheets… I’ll stop now as this could go on forever) and blue cheese sauce. I use Nimbin Dairy Cows Blue* and their Goats Blue is a cracker too, but use whatever it is that you can get hold of.

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STEAK WITH SAUTEED BROCCOLI & CAULIFLOWER AND BLUE CHEESE CREAM (for 3)

3x 250g steaks that you like to eat. It was rump medallions for us
Seasoning
A few sprigs of thyme if you have some
2 bunches baby broccoli or broccolini, cut into 5cm pieces, any thick stalks halved through the middle
¼ cauliflower, cut into florets a bit bigger than your thumb
• Get your steaks out of the fridge for 15 minutes so they can come to room temp. Season and sprinkle with a little thyme
• Cook steaks exactly how you like to cook them, while this is happening get your sauce on and blanch your broccoli and cauliflower in boiling water for 1 minute
• While your steaks are resting (you know about resting steaks by now, yeah) get a pan on for the broccoli and cauliflower. Add a splash of oil and sauté veg until they are starting to get a little colour (a bit of sliced bacon could go in here right now and be very happy with how it’s life turned out). Season and get onto a plate or other suitable receptacle
• Serve with steak and heaps of sauce poured over

BLUE CHEESE CREAM

100-150g blue cheese, depending on how much you like it or how much was left over from your last day at work
400ml cream
1 clove garlic, chopped
A splash of white wine
Seasoning
• Combine cream, garlic and wine in a sauce pan and simmer over low heat for 5-6 minutes or until reduced by one third
• Add cheese off heat and stir to combine
• Check seasoning and adjust. It shouldn’t need too much salt because of the saltiness of the blue cheese

*I know the Nimbin Cheese folks do the Byron Bay and Bangalow Farmers Markets. Get some if you can