Bedford barbecuers headed to Jack Daniel's world championships
Eric and Cindi Mitchell, who have been competing since 2006, are the team known as Yabba Dabba Que, and their barbecuing adventures have taken them to competitions throughout the Northeast and as far away as Missouri.
Eric Mitchell, who owns a land surveying company, said it's an honor to attend the invitation-only competition.
'Everybody there is a champion, but not all champions get to go,' he said.
The Mitchells also attended the event in 2009, but didn't place. This time, they're in it to win it.
'Nobody goes to a competition to lose,' he said. 'You might say you had a good time, but you don't go down there to have a good time.'
The Mitchells got their feet wet gradually, starting out as competition judges certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
'After judging a few competitions, we felt we could do the food just as well,' Mitchell said. 'We got a sense of what was out there.'
Yabba Dabba Que was named Rookie Team of the Year in 2007 by the New England Barbecue Society, and the Mitchells haven't looked back since.
'Once you get involved, once you get the bug, you just want to do more,' said Mitchell.
The competition circuit isn't always glamorous, Mitchell said, but it is a lot of fun.
'A lot of the competitions, I say, are like camping with meat,' said Eric, explaining that they're often outside at the mercy of the weather, with limited access to water and electricity.
'We're sort of meat gypsies with an EZ Up (canopy),' laughed Cindi.
The monetary prizes aren't going to send them to an early retirement, but the Mitchells said they have made friends by participating in the competitions.
'Everyone is very willing to help each other out,' said Cindi.
In most barbecue competitions, Eric said the focus is on four meats — chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket — but there are other occasional categories where participants can be more creative.
For example, Eric earned a perfect score in a dessert category in 2009 in Kansas City with his creme brulee.
In freestyle and grilling categories, he's made pizzas, Cornish game hens and even deep-fried coconut shrimp on his Big Green Egg, a ceramic grill/oven/smoker combination he hauls to competitions.
While earning bragging rights is one of the big draws, Eric said he competes for other reasons, too.
'Part of this passion is in just cooking for other people,' he said. 'And part of it is the competition, not just with other teams, but also with myself,' adding that he likes to challenge himself to cook things he's never done before.
Eric insists that while he loves to barbecue, he isn't a gourmet.
'I'm not a chef, I don't even say I'm a cook,' he said. 'I'm a food enthusiast.'
He intends to give his all at the Jack Daniel's competition.
'Getting to The Jack is really the ultimate honor,' he said. 'It's everybody's goal.'
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Coffee Encrusted Pork Tenderloin
2 Pork Tenderloins
2 Tbsp olive oil
Use DizzyPig Red Eye Express (dizzypigBBQ.com) or prepare your own:
3 Tbs ground coffee
1 Tbs Kosher or Sea salt
1 Tbs dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Orange marmalade glaze:
1 cup orange marmalade
2 tsp Grand Marnier
1 tsp triple sec or Cointreau
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp olive oil
Mix all glaze ingredients together and simmer over low heat until reduced by about one half, about 10-15 minutes.
Mix all dry rub ingredients together.
Remove silver skin from tenderloins. Rub meat with olive oil. Rub and press coffee rub onto the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
Sear rubbed tenderloins over high heat (500 degrees) for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Reduce heat or move to cooler part of grill at 350° - 375° for about 10 minutes, turning twice.
When internal temperature reaches about 120°, brush on orange marmalade glaze. When internal temperature reaches 135°, remove, re-sauce, cover and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Internal temperature will rise to about 145°. Cut into half-inch slices. Serve hot or cold.
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Sweet Potato Sandwich
2 sweet potatoes, about 2 inches in uniform diameter
1 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup pepper jelly
1/4 cup Craisins (chopped)
1/4 cup pecans
2 Tbs barbecue rub
2 Tbs olive oil
Peel and cut potatoes into ¼ inch slices. Shallow fry in oiled cast iron skillet or grill plate or brush with oil and grill on a grill topper with holes until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from grill, sprinkle with rub and let sit on paper towel.
Mix cream cheese, pepper jelly and Craisins together, spread on a slice of potato, add some pecans on top and place another potato slice on top to make a sandwich. You can add some Orange Marmalade Glaze (see recipe above) to the top. Serve warm.