Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Legend....oh and Mike Mills too!

My friend Amy Mills Tunnicliffe and her daddy Mike Mills co-wrote one of the greatest barbeque books ever: Peace, Love and Barbeque. (don't have it? shame on you! get it on Amy and I share many things in common. One is that she and I love our daddies. Amy went so far that she wrote a book and pretended her dad helped! (Just joking. When I envision it it's more like how it would be with me and my daddy...I'll write the book if you'll stop telling me that story daddy!) By the way, Amy's dad is Mike Mills. In case you haven't read about him in Bon Appetit or Vogue and in case you've never seen or heard of the Food Network, Mike Mills is known as 'The Legend'.

Mike own Memphis Championship Barbeque and 17th Street Bar and Grill; he's the creative consultant for Blue Smoke in NYC. Mike also "owns" a little contest called Memphis in May due to his holding the Grand Champion title oh 3 or 4 times, some trivial record that stands to this VERY day!

We got to spend some time with Amy and Mike at this year's Memphis in May. Thanks to Mike we are included each year in the Big Apple Barbeque Block Party. It's an honor to be included in the block party, but for Daddy and I, it's a big deal to be included at Mike's suggestion.

Amy sent me an email with a recent article about "comeback sauce." It seems that comeback is a southern staple, but nearly totally Mississippi-centric. I've looked at lots of descriptions and 'thousand island dressing meets remoulade" seems to be the most apt. Most of the recipes I've seen have 2 secret ingredients and several steps. All restaurants in Mississippi have a special comeback sauce/dressing. We are no exception. Mine is just very very simple (yet oh so Ubon-centric!)

1 cup Mayo. 1 cup Ubon's BBQ Sauce. 1 tablespoon Ubon's season t'up. Mix. pretend you worked all afternoon. squeeze a lemon or wave a magic wand over it and call it a secret ingredient, but it's just those 3. But sh! don't tell. There are people who want us to bottle it!

This little magic sauce is good on anything you can imagine. Onion rings. Fried pickles. Sweet Potato Fries. Pork sandwiches.

The picture is my mom, Mike and the Princess herself (me).

Think if I start calling myself the princess it will catch on? hm. I'll give it a try.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Doc had a birthday

This week was my husband's birthday. Sometimes I feel like I've stolen him from his family of origin and displaced him into my own world. Reality tells me that we've done a good job of creating our own world with very good friends and close family.

One of my strengths is how easy it is for me to plan and feed a dozen friends. I decided this week to celebrate Heath's birthday with 12 or 15 close friends. Heath loves lasagna and so that's what I did for him.

Lasagna for 12

3lbs of ground beef browned with 1 bag of season blend (onions, peppers and celery. You could do the chopping but I didn't.) Add 4 cans of diced tomatoes, 4 large cans of tomato sauce, 1 cup of red wine, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, sugar. (a teaspoon or so of each.) Allow to simmer for as long as possible. You will need to assemble this at least an hour before it starts to bake to re-hydrate the lasagna noodles. No I refuse to precook those! I suppose you could but it's a pain in the ass and doesn't change anything. OK to assemble. layer sauce, then dry noodles, then ricotta cheese. sprinkles shredded cheese of choice: I used parmesan, mozzarella, assiago. You can adjust to your taste. cheddar isn't a bad idea, but for the love of heaven, let's avoid processed cheese food. NOW repeat layers, sauce, noodles, cheese, cheese. I would make sure I had at least 3 layers. Here's the secret to lasagna that will slice and not fall apart. cook low, 275 for about an hour and allow to sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

I also did a freak out. What if I didn't have enough food? This is almost never the case. But to be safe, and to make sure the little kids had a 2nd option I made a cheese lasagna. I think I made this one up on the fly:

melt butter in a pan and add an equal part of flour. To this add chicken stock and a splash of sherry. ok, maybe a gulp of sherry. Once this is bubbly I started adding cheese. cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, colby...whatever I had. The sherry gives it sort of a fondu flavor. I layered my cheese sauce with the noodles and separated noodle layers with ricotta cheese. this baked with the lasagna.

And of course the cake...

Jacob and I decided to try our hand at baking and we made a pretty good effort. We used a strawberry cake mix and added an extra egg to make the cake, hm, i don't know, more dense? we also added fresh strawberries. these turn purple in the cake and maybe it wasn't the best idea but it sure was good. after our cakes cooled we layered the first with sliced strawberries then a layer of a simple chocolate ganache. This is so simple that I am almost ashamed! heat 2 cups of heavy cream and pour over 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips. blend with a whisk until all combined. it will be glossy and yummy. place the top layer of the cake on. for the icing: 1 sick of butter flavored crisco. Trust me here, it holds up better than regular butter. Add a couple of cups of powdered sugar, then a couple more. You will know when the consistency is right. add a little vanilla paste and cream to help everything come together. Now I was frosting this cake after I took a sleeping pill so it was UGLY. I couldn't figure out how to get a good crumb coat and my layers were a little uneven. Even so, this cake was pretty good.

OK, I'm off to the barbeque world.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Memphis in May

Well, we've managed to survive another Memphis in May. What a great one! We were honored to have some great friends and fabulous cooks to hit the big stage: Sassy Sows (the real queens of bbq!), Gwatney, and Mark Lambert all are familiar with Ubon's and made us proud! Our BBQ neighbors Natural Born Grillers did a great job with a first place Whole Hog and a Grand Champion. (They don't use our sauce but we helped keep them sauced all weekend.)

We had a beautiful couple of hogs. We had a big team and everyone jumped in and pulled their weight. Brian is a fearless leader and a hog magician. Maybe we can talk him in to running through the entire process to cook a whole hog. All together now: BEEVE BEEVE BEEVE BEEVE.

We had a number of awesome moments this weekend. I love an audience and secretly so does Brian. We had the chance to talk a little about our cooking process, sauce and general bbq ideas with a great group touring with the Memphis in May Cooker Caravan. Thanks to everyone for listening and indulging Brian and I.

Our standard Memphis weekend calls for a few traditions. 10 am calls for a Ubon's Special:

1 part Jim Beam
1 part pineapple juice
1 part Sprite
1 fresh pineapple spear
Mix with ice, drink quickly and have a 2nd.

This year we added to our repertoire. I'm still trying to find the right name for this Ubon's Bloody Mary. Seriously this is the best bloody Mary of all time. My biggest problem is that I don't have the recipe for the most important element. Vivian made some homemade dill pickles. (All together: V V V V V and maybe she'll email me the recipe to post.) So this is the actual and then the make at home as best you can version.

1 part vodka
1 part tomato juice
1 part bloody mary mix
1 part Vivian's pickle juice
1 large sprig of dill
2 table spoons Ubon's BBQ Sauce

My best guess for pickles and I'm sure I'm very far off...but you'll mostly need the juice.

boil 1 cup of vinegar 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 cup of pickling salt, and 2 table spoons of pickling spices.
cut cucumbers into spears and place in a jar. quarter an onion and place the jar. throw in a handful of garlic cloves. pack every available space with fresh dill. pour boiling liquid over the vegetables and allow to sit until cool. When cool cap and place in the fridge.

At noon on Memphis Fridays we have the perfect sandwich. Prime Rib sliced and layered on an onion roll with mayo, mustard, horseradish and Videlia onions. Sweet mercy!

We had some new friends join us for this year's Memphis. These guys paired with our old friends helped us have a great weekend. Did you know that there are Rednecks in NYC? Well, they will be until their sunburns wear off. See if you can spot them. I watched male bonding at it's best this weekend: diverted fights where the benches cleared and everyone was the insulted's brother, fake threats being made by a short man (my dad) because he knew he had some big guys around, affectionate insults hurled at old friends, and cheers for Rusty at the dogtrack. Thank goodness the included me.

If you got pictures, please send them to me at My mom doesn't quite remember if she had a good time or not. Did I mention you CAN have too many of those Ubon's Specials?