The Kansas City Star
What’s your favorite sport?
For Carolyn Wells, Ardie Davis or Paul Kirk, the answer is competition barbecue.
The three friends are the sauce-stained and smoke-stoked minds behind “The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook: 25th Anniversary Edition” (Andrews McMeel, $24.99), a collection of 200 recipes and a snapshot scrapbook released in honor of the nonprofit organization’s 25th anniversary.
This breakfast interview was conducted at Johnny’s Hickory House Bar-B-Q in Mission over plates of ribs and chicken. Kirk, a professional chef and winner of more than 475 cooking and barbecuing awards, brought along Brisket and Gravy With Flaky Biscuits, a recipe that appears in the cookbook.
Q: So you guys eat it for breakfast. You eat it for dessert. Is there any time you can’t eat barbecue?
Kirk: (Laughs.) No, not that I know of.
Wells: We haven’t found it yet.
Kirk: And I’m not looking!
So take me back 25 years. Could you ever have imagined the success of the KCBS?
Wells: Never. All we wanted to do was drink beer and cook and go home with meat.
Davis: It’s amazing because there are a lot of other barbecue organizations. Some have come and gone, and some are a lot older than we are. … I guess we just didn’t know it couldn’t be done. But for some reason, KCBS just took off.
Wells: Now we’re over 13,000 members.
Do you think the success of KCBS is because of what you’re doing with the organization as opposed to other organizations, or is it because the KCBS’ home base is Kansas City?
Davis: Some of both, but I think KCBS has a reputation for fairness. Most cooks prefer the blind judging format, and the reputation helps attract members and contests. Some of them have elaborate numbering systems, and competitors try to figure out how to beat the system.
Ours is just very straightforward, and everybody trusts it’s going to be blind judging so everybody knows they can get a fair shake. They even rotate the entries so that the same table doesn’t get the same entries every time.
I mean, it’s taken 25 years, and we’re constantly fine-tuning it. That’s why we say in the book, check the website ( http://www.kcbs.us/) for current rules and regulations.
Wells: And then culturally, barbecue is the ultimate comfort food. It’s everyman’s food. So even in tough economic times, people just sort of gravitate toward it. It’s all about food, family, fun and friends. Barbecue is not a solitary pursuit.
But with funny team names, pig noses and jazzed-up cookers, does KCBS win out because the members are wackier than other organizations?
Wells: The others are just as wacky, but they’re not as vocal about it. My catchphrase is barbecue people see themselves a couple of steps off center, and they like themselves that way. It’s a “Why be normal?” thing.
Putting the cookbook together over the last year must have been a real trip down memory lane for all of you.
Kirk: Some critics have said, “This looks like a yearbook.” You’re right. Thank you. But they said that to diss us.
Wells: We think the 30th anniversary book could be twice the size.
Are you already looking ahead to the next cookbook?
Your first cookbook, “The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook” (Favorite Recipes Press), was it timed to an anniversary?
Wells: No. But our last book sold 118,000 copies and made the Walter McIlhenny Cookbook Hall of Fame.
Davis: The book is full of memories, some of them bittersweet. You see friends that are gone. And we don’t want to forget them.
Is the cookbook something that you think will drive new membership?
Wells:You’d never believe that everybody in the world wants to be a barbecue judge. We’ve certified more than 15,000 judges, and they tend to travel in a pack like we do. So they’re friends with other judges, and it’s a great way to visit places you wouldn’t normally go and experience friendships you haven’t made yet.
Barbecue has got a fair tourism component to it, to the point that people are now doing economic impact studies to see how much revenue a barbecue contest brings to, say, Greenwood, S.C. There it has gone from $500,000 to $3 million in three years.
Kirk: I figured up what I spent for the Lenexa Barbecue Battle over the years, and it’s over $35,000 in meat alone. So if that’s bought in one small town, that’s a hell of an impact.
Wells: Anothercool thing is to see the industries spawned from competition barbecue. We didn’t invent rubs, but they became more of an everyday item after competition barbecue started coming along. While rubs may be expensive, we also know it takes years off the learning curve for competition cooking. The number of restaurateurs and caterers who have branched out from competition barbecue is considerable.
Kirk: The people I teach say rubs take three to five years off the trial and error.
Are younger cooks going to move up into leadership roles with the KCBS?
Wells: The next generation is equally passionate. But it’s an expensive sport, so you probably can’t afford it in your 20s unless you band a lot of people together.
But there’s plenty between 30 to 45 — the years when you’ve got the stamina and means, and/or sponsorship. Plus, these days people are professionally branding themselves now.
Davis: There’s a team out of California that is introducing an Asian influence. They’re savvy to umami (in addition to sweet, sour, salty or bitter tastes, the Japanese identify “umami” is an overall delicious, savory essence). They won the Great American Barbecue Contest last year. They’re a fairly new team, and they’re just cleaning up at competition.
I think part of their secret is they know flavors. They know how to balance and put things together.
Wells: The flavor profile is much more complex than it used to be. There’s so much more layering.
Kirk: It’s gone from salt and pepper to umami.
How has the structure of the organization changed?
Wells: Organizationally speaking, we are teenagers right now. Over the last five years, through necessity, we’ve turned into, this is not the right word, but bureaucrats. We’ve added structure to the point where it is sometimes painful.
But we have to. Our combined purses are over $2.5 million a year. Anytime you get that much money involved, you have to. It’s a necessary component. And while we’re trying to keep the spirit of fun, we’re much more regimented than we used to be.
What’s the future of barbecue as sport?
Wells: I would like to see us doing more things to preserve grills, memorabilia — basically we need a shrine for a food group.
Where I see us going is embracing basically all forms of outdoor cooking. The next great migration will be a backyard barbecue contest, things you can do in one day. A place where people aren’t intimidated and can bring their kids. Kids Que’s. Going into tailgating. Dutch oven stuff. And even cooking with gas.
Wells: Anything that you can do outdoors that represents outside-the-box talent. Again, it’s about the extended family, and tailgating promotes that same sort of thing as competition barbecue, and that’s where younger ones are going to come in droves.
Brisket and Gravy With Flaky Biscuits
One of the mottos of the KCBS: “Barbecue … it’s not just for breakfast anymore.” Charter KCBS member and world champion cooker Paul Kirk, aka the Baron of BBQ, shares his biscuit and gravy recipe in the book.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
For the gravy:
1/2 pound bulk mild sausage
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 pound barbecued brisket point, diced
2 to 3 cups milk
Salt and black pepper, to taste
For the biscuits:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup bread flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
3 tablespoons lard or solid white vegetable shortening, chilled
3/4 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
For the gravy: Crumble the sausage into a skillet and cook over medium heat until browned. Sprinkle the flour over the browned sausage, stirring constantly. Blend in the brisket. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, slowly add the milk a little at a time until you reach your desired thickness. Stir constantly until creamy and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the biscuits: Preheat oven to 425 degrees and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt; mix well. With your fingertips, two knives or a pastry blender, cut in the chilled butter and lard until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in the cold milk and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gather the dough into a ball and place it on a lightly floured work surface.
Roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, flouring the cutter between cuts, cut out the biscuits, gather the scraps and form the dough into another 1/2 -inch thick piece of dough, being careful not to work it too much.
Place the biscuits 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet and brush the tops with melted butter. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately with warm gravy.
Per serving, based on 10: 374 calories (59 percent from fat), 24 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 56 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 562 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Grilled Pork Roast With Pepper Jelly Glaze
Makes 8 serving
1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin roast
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup hot pepper jelly
1/3 cup hot pepper jelly
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Place the pork in a large resealable plastic bag. Heat the marinade ingredients together over medium heat until the jelly melts, then pour the mixture over the pork in the bag. Seal the bag tightly and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Prepare a medium-hot grill. Remove pork from the marinade and discard marinade. Place the pork roast on the grill over a drip pan and close the grill hood. Grill for 30 to 45 minutes (about 20 minutes per pound), until the internal temperature on a meat thermometer reads 150 degrees.
While the meat is cooking, stir together glaze ingredients. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, coat the roast with the glaze. Remove the roast from the heat and let it rest until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, about 10 minutes.
Per serving: 179 calories (31 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 49 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.
Corn Bread Salad
Competition and camaraderie are what it’s all about. Carolyn McLemore of Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Ala., shared this recipe.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups buttermilk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (1-ounce) package ranch-style dressing mix
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallion
2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups cooked and crumbled bacon
1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
To make the corn bread: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a cast-iron skillet with the vegetable oil and heat it in the oven. Mix the buttermilk and eggs in a bowl, then add the cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt and chilies, stirring briskly. Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely, then crumble.
To make the salad: Whisk together the ranch dressing mix, sour cream and mayonnaise and set aside. Combine the tomatoes, green pepper and scallion to form a salsa and set aside. Put half the crumbled corn bread in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Top with 1 can of the pinto beans. Follow with half of the salsa, half of the cheese, half of the bacon, half of the corn and half of the dressing mixture. Repeat the layers, starting with the rest of the corn bread and ending with the rest of the dressing mixture. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Per serving, based on 10: 736 calories (63 percent from fat), 52 grams total fat (17 grams saturated), 117 milligrams cholesterol, 42 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 1,863 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.
KC Rib Doctor’s Baked Beans
Guy Simpson, aka the KC Rib Doctor, had his baked bean recipe published in Woman’s Day magazine in March 1987. It has been continually tweaked over the years.
Makes about 6 cups
1 cup diced sliced bacon (about 1/2 pound)
1 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 large red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup tomato-based barbecue sauce
1/3 cup real maple syrup
3 (28-ounce) cans pork and beans, preferably Bush’s Original
Chopped brisket burnt ends, as desired
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fry the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Add the onion and red pepper and cook for 3 minutes, until the vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir in the brown sugar, barbecue sauce and maple syrup. Put the beans in a 12-by-6-by 3-inch foil pan. Add the bacon mixture and burnt ends; stir to mix.
Loosely cover with a sheet of foil. Place the beans in the oven and bake for 40 to 60 minutes, stirring 3 times.
If you’re going to cook the beans in your smoker, preheat it to 230 degrees and cook uncovered for about 4 hours, stirring 3 to 4 times, adding barbecue sauce or liquid if the beans get too dry.
Per 1/2 -cup serving: 430 calories (26 percent from fat), 13 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 67 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 130 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.
Wanna do lunch?
You’re invited to join barbecue masters Paul Kirk (from left), Ardie Davis and Carolyn Wells, along with other Kansas City Barbeque Society members, when they meet for lunch at Johnny’s Bar-B-Q in Mission, 5959 Broadmoor St., on the first Wednesday of each month. “Literally everyone is welcome,” Davis says. The gatherings start at 11:30 a.m. Everyone pays his or her own check.