Girls vs Boys Southern Smokehouse Cook-off

IMG_6214
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.

SAMSUNG CSC
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.

SAMSUNG CSC
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…

SAMSUNG CSC
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

Roasted Pork Belly with Vegetables From The Garden

roast pork belly
We here at foodisthebestshitever are venturing forward in a new direction, we shall go forth and expand our culinary vision and facilitate this vision through the exploration of contemporary cuisines previously unbeknownst to us. We shall visit regions previously deemed out of reach, in the spirit of searching out something totally new and different.

Yes folks, today we shall be exploring the wonderful work of… well… pork.

Ok, you got me. I’m not doing anything profound or original for this blog. I am merely cooking pork again and am trying to make myself feel better about my addiction. I use the local free-range pork if that’s any conciliation for the armchair activists out there.

Today I’m talking pork belly.

Pork belly is one of my favouritest pieces of meat of all time. If I were a gay man I still think pork belly would be at the top of my favourite meat list. There is not a whole heap I don’t like about pork belly; it is flavoursome, luscious, tasty, delicious, really good and a whole heap of other synonyms for the same word. It is a meal that I always want a little more of, and I always cook extra so I have leftovers for the next day… and mostly that extra pork even makes it to the next day. Actually, a lot of the time we eat it all on the night… well, most of the time. You see, Jennee brings her “we all know the crackling won’t be any good tomorrow” game to the table (what I like to call her A game) and generally manages to convince us that it’s OK to finish the lot now because it is a certainty the crackling will contract a disease rendering it flaccid and inedible, in turn contaminating the remaining pork and making it unfit for human consumption.
Well, this night I was going to take my chances with flaccid crackling and rancid meat, as I was already hella keen on pork belly for my dinner again tomorrow. Hella keen…

We have had a good harvest of heirloom carrots and kale so they featured heavily in the meal. This is truly my favourite eating; food that comes from our own garden or is grown by people close to us. Food that was cared for before it hit the pan. Food that, well, food that just doesn’t come from one of the big supermarkets really…

The belly didn't really fit into the pan but eventually it did after a bit of post coital shrinkage set in
The belly didn’t really fit into the pan but eventually it did after a bit of post coital shrinkage set in

Porky belly all cooked up
Porky belly all cooked up
Those roast vegetables were damn fine
Those roast vegetables were damn fine

Yes, those roast vegetables
Yes, those roast vegetables

ROASTED PORK BELLY with VEGETABLES FROM THE GARDEN (serves 4)

1.5 – 2kg pork belly. That should be enough for leftovers…
½ – 1 teaspoon garlic powder
A good pinch of salt and pepper
A selection of vegetables from the garden/fridge. We had potatoes, heirloom carrots, radish and onion
½ tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
A bit more seasoning
Olive oil
Sautéed curly kale and jagallo nero (a spindly awesome type of kale) with oyster sauce and carrot top salsa verde to serve

• Pre heat oven to 160C
• Season pork belly with salt, pepper and garlic powder
• Roast pork belly in oven for 2.5-3 hours until the smell causes you mouth to water and your loins to stir, and it is super tender
• While pork is cooking chop your assorted vegetables into fairly similar sized chunks. Put them into a separate oven dish, lube up with a splash of rendered fat from the pork belly, splash with the vinegar and season. After the pork has been cooking for 1.5 hours the vegetables can go into the oven too. Roast for one hour or until vegetables are just cooked, and then remove from oven until pork is ready. Once pork is ready turn the oven up to 180-200C and return the vegetables to the oven for a final five to ten minutes to get a bit of crispness, and that should do the job on the pork crackling for you too (if crackling is being a bit stubborn a few minutes under the grill (broiler) will sort it out)
• Carve the pork and serve with roast vegetables, carrot top salsa verde and sautéed greens… and try not to eat it all tonight…

One more look at that pork belly
One more look at that pork belly