Here is my Harvard Fall Festival recap…
Suzanne and I split up the categories for the first time. I took the wings and sausage and she took the seafood and dessert. Everyone knows how much I hate cooking chicken wings, but I figured since organizers continuously torture us by including wings in grilling contest, I’d better learn how to cook them well. Getting 7th out of 19 teams doesn’t sound all that great, but I still consider it a victory. I thought the wings were pretty good, and I took a bit of a risk by making them spicier than usual. I can’t say that I’ll use this exact recipe again, but it’s a solid base for future wing categories. I doubt wings will ever go away.
Sausage (in casing only…no fatties)
Another one of my categories. We don’t eat a lot of sausage, so we had to practice this one at home a few times with different types to see what we liked best. One type of sausage was our overwhelming favorite, so we went with that one. All organizers should include some type of sausage in their contests. That would make me very happy. Sausage is relatively cheap, easy to cook, and we seem to do well with it.
Seafood (Shrimp or Crayfish only)
Suzanne took over creative duties for the shrimp category (because who in their right mind would do crayfish in New England?). She came up with a great idea, and we were pretty happy with our tests at home. The day of the contest, the entry didn’t really cook as well as we had hoped. So although we both still think it was a great concept, the execution was a bit lacking. Finishing in the top half was fine with us.
Suzanne came up with the concept for this one as well, and it was a great idea. I did a little recipe research and testing, but Suzanne was the one that decided on the final product. After practicing it a few times at home, we were happy with the outcome. The cooking process at the contest went according to plan, and it was the most “relaxed” turn-in of the day.
Judges, please don’t walk around after the contest and ask me “what did you make?” I find it very awkward. If you want to stop by and tell me what you liked after judging, that’s fine. In the past, I’ve been pretty open but from now on I’m not going to tell you what I made. Our “average” dessert took first place…so what did any of us really learn? Other than knowing that you almost cost us a perfect 180 score in this category.
Rank: 2/19 – Reserve Grand Champions
This was our first RGC call, and I have to admit it was great. The only thing better would have been to win Grand, but I Smell Smoke flexed their muscle once again and took that honor. It was a real team effort for us, and although these grilling competitions are fast-paced and stressful at times, we still had a lot of fun. We are already talking about our next grilling competition. Now if we could just get this barbecue thing figured out…
We didn’t get our chicken turned in on time. It was a learning experience and it won’t happen again. It isn’t against the rules to turn in raw meat, but I don’t feel it’s the right thing to do (especially with chicken). I didn’t feel it was safe, and as a judge I would be appalled to get raw meat. This has happened to me before, and it isn’t good. Not to mention it could affect the remaining teams' chicken entry scores for those at that judging table. As a judge, if you eat a piece of raw chicken how would you feel having to potentially take another bite of 5 other entries? I’d be worried that the others could be undercooked as well. Some other competitors would have turned in the entry in an effort to get all the points they possibly could, but we stick by our decision.
The ribs were done ahead of time (go figure), so we had to hold them for quite a while before turn-in. That didn’t seem to be an issue. They came out pretty good, and we got our best call of the contest with ribs. The ribs seem to be getting better and better, so I’m happy with that. We should continue to do well with them
I’m a little surprised our pork didn’t do better. We both thought it was good. I thought it was just as good, or maybe even a little better, than our 5th place finish at the same venue a year ago. To finish in the middle of the pack was a bit disappointing. Such is life. I’ll tweak a few things with the pork over the winter and see if that solves the pork mystery.
When you cut into a brisket, you pretty much know if it is going to be a winner or not. This was no winner. Unlike the pork, I knew brisket wouldn’t get us a call on this day. It wasn’t bad…it just wasn’t great. We finished about where I thought we would.
Obviously not turning in a category means we tanked overall in the barbecue contest. I’m going to revise our cook schedule to help improve the timing…not only of the chicken but for all categories in general.
Thanks to Ken and Kathie Dakai for once again being excellent contest representatives. Thanks also to Chris Ryan for again organizing this contest. We had a few minor issues with the contest this year, but nothing major which would prevent us from returning next year.
Congratulations to I Smell Smoke for winning the grilling contest and to Mighty Swine Dining for winning the barbecue contest by getting first place in 3 of the 4 categories. Absolutely amazing. Great job guys!