Smoke-Roasted Prime Rib of Pork (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

It's Good Friday, and do I have something good for you! I've recently partnered with the great folks at Snake River Farms. It's no exaggeration when I say that they are the producers of some of the best beef and pork on the planet. They sent me some of their Prime Rib of Pork, and I used the opportunity to put my spin on this incredible cut, just in time for Easter.

In the past I've discussed the difference between real pork and what Americans have come to know as pork. In short, the pork that you find at your local mega-mart bares about as much resemblance to real pork as a Chevy does to a Mercedes. The general form and function are the same, but the quality is vastly different. For those of you who might be thinking, "Yeah, but how much better can it really be?", the short answer is night-and-day. Snake River Farms pork is Kurobuta which means "black hog/pig" in Japanese, which translates to heritage Berkshire hogs in English, and crazy good in foodie.

Given the incredible quality of this pork I decided to do a minimal preparation so that the meat could shine on its own, so I opted for a relatively simple garlic and herb paste. For cooking I roasted it over Kingsford charcoal (a 50/50 mix of their Competition and original briquets) on the rack in my Pit Barrel Cooker. You can use whatever grill you have, or you can simply roast it in your oven.

Let's get this show on the road.

Note: My roast was bone-in, and it's traditional to French the ends of the bones for a nicer appearance. I chose not to so as to not waste any of this tremendous pork.

Ingredients
7 lb Prime rib of pork
6 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Olive oil, extra virgin
2 Tbsp Chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp Chopped fresh oregano
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp Dried herbs de Provence
2 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh to a medium grind

Method
Combine all of the ingredients, except the pork, in a medium mixing bowl and stir well to combine.

Rinse the pork under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Smoke-Roasted Prime Rib of Pork (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Coat the roast evenly with the herb mixture.

Smoke-Roasted Prime Rib of Pork (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Note: You can season and refrigerate the pork 4-6 hours in advance.

Start your grill and prepare for indirect cooking over medium heat (300-350º).

Grill over indirect heat until the temperature in the center of the thickest part of the roast reaches 135°.

Remove the roast to a platter, tent loosely with foil and let rest 15-20 minutes.

Carve into one or two-bone portions, serve and enjoy!

Note: If you've cooked the pork properly it will have a pink color in the center. Pink does not mean dangerous, it means delicious.

(Makes 4-6 servings)

Disclaimer: I am a partner of Snake River Farms and I was compensated for this post, but the thoughts and feelings expressed here are completely my own. Regardless, their products are incredible and I recommend them very highly. Gitcha some!

Cheesy Pesto Garlic Bread (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

I am a pasta freak! I am also a bread freak! It just so happens that good pasta requires good bread, and that's where this recipe comes in. This is really just a modified version of my previous Cheesy Garlic Bread recipe. Pretty creative naming, eh?

As I mentioned in the original recipe, the recipe makes more than you'll need for a loaf of bread, but since it's really just a compound butter there are all kinds of great ways to use it. A pat of compound butter melted on a steak is devine! Or, you could color a little outside the lines and use it to funkify a grilled cheese.

Ingredients
2 sticks (1/2 lb) Butter, unsalted
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp Olive oil, extra virgin
1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
3 Tbsp Pesto
2 Tbsp Honey
Dash Ground cayenne
1 Par-baked (take-n-bake) 12 oz French baguette

Preheat your oven to 400º.

Melt half of the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic, and cook two minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the other half of the butter and all of the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine and let cool.

Slice off about half an inch of the top of the baguette, lengthwise. Smear the cut side of the baguette well with the butter mixture.

Bake the baguette per the package instructions.

Turn the oven to broil for a couple of minutes to brown the top nicely.

Caution: Watch it very closely, as it can burn very quickly.

Remove the bread from the oven.

Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Cheesy Pesto Garlic Bread (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Suggestion: For me great pasta and great bread require a great glass of red wine. Alamos Malbec is a frequent go-to for me. You may have noticed it in the background of the picture above. Get some and thank me later.

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Spicy Tomato-Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich is about as all-American as it gets. I grew up eating and loving this meal, as I suspect many (if not most) of you have. This is my homemade Daddio-style take on this familiar classic.

For this recipe I wanted to keep the tradition firmly in place, but I also wanted to bring a new freshness to the party. This is one of those meals that is so emblazoned in the mind and on the tastebuds that it's really easy to mess up an already nearly-perfect thing. A mere glance at a can of Campbell's tomato soup is all I need to taste it in my mind. I immediately imagine that rich creamy tomato goodness dripping off of the corner of a a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. I know that I have raised my kids properly when they are immediately dubious of the notion of "homemade tomato soup". It's sort of like that popular internet meme of late, "One does not simply... Make tomato soup."

Well, I did, and here it is.

For the soup
1 Tbsp Light olive oil
1 cup Diced white onion
1 cup Shredded carrots
1/2 cup Diced celery
1 tsp Minced garlic
1/2 cup Dry white wine
1 cup Chicken stock
3 cups Tomato puree
1 can (14.5 oz) Fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 cup Half and half
1/4 cup Brown sugar, golden
2 Tbsp Chopped fresh basil (or 3 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp Ground white pepper
1/4 tsp Ground cayenne pepper

For the croutons
6 slices Texas toast
6 slices Medium cheddar cheese (I use Tillamook®)
8 Tbsp Butter, unsalted
1 Tbsp Dry parsley
1/2 tsp Granulated garlic (not "powder")

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook uncovered until the onions and celery are translucent, stirring frequently.

Add the garlic to the pan and continue to cook, uncovered, one minute, stirring frequently.

Add the wine and cook two minutes longer.

Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes.

Blend with an immersion (stick) blender until smooth, cover, and keep hot.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Combine the butter, garlic and parsley in a small bowl and microwave one minute to melt the butter.

Brush one side of each of the slices of Texas toast evenly with the melted butter mixture.

Assemble the sandwiches by arranging three of the slices of the buttered bread, buttered side down, on a large sheet pan. Add two slices of cheese to each piece of bread and top with the remaining bread, buttered side up. We're simply making three grilled cheese sandwiches the easy way.

Put the sheet pan on the center rack of your oven and cook until the underside of each sandwich is golden brown. You'll have to check them periodically, but it should take about five minutes.

Flip the sandwiches and continue to cook them until the pan side is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let sit for five minutes.

Cut each sandwich into one-inch squares.

Pour a serving of soup into each of 4-6 bowl and float an even portion of the grilled cheese croutons in each.

Spicy Tomato-Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Serve and enjoy!

Makes 4-6 servings

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Turkey Udon (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Thanksgiving is toast, but now we all have a common dilemma — leftovers. Typically my first leftover meal, aside from the obligatory midnight turkey sandwich, is turkey noodle soup. This year I decided to color way outside the lines and go with a Japanese version.

The first prerequisite for this recipe is a rich homemade stock. Making homemade stock is a great way to use the carcass, and homemade really does make a huge difference. Just say no to the box/can! If you're lazy and impatient like me, just follow my simple pressure cooker recipe. If you smoke or fry your bird you should buy some extra turkey parts (I recommend wings and/or necks) just for the stock. Smoked stock might be good for some applications, but this isn't one of them. If you have extra room in your oven just throw the parts in a pan and roast them along with your standard Thankgiving food. Another great tip is to throw a pound of ground turkey in the pressure cooker. It really helps to make a very flavorful and rich stock.

I did some research to try to make this as authentic as I could, but the recipes were pretty much all over the map. Ironically, it turns out that udon is the Japanese answer to the "What am I going to do with all of this leftover _____?!" question. I'm pretty sure that there aren't many turkeys running around in Japan, so my attempt at authenticity is probably out the window. Given that, I don't know what turkey udon is supposed to taste like, but I do know that it was good enough to give my traditional turkey noodle soup a serious run for its money. Aside from being good, it was a welcome break to turkey overload. In fact, I'd bet that you could blindfold someone and feed them this and they'd have very little clue that it was turkey.

OK, strap on your best rising sun headband and let's get cooking!

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups Turkey stock
3 Tbsp Soy sauce (more or less depending on how your stock is seasoned)
2 Tbsp Mirin (in the Asian section of many grocery stores)
2 Tbsp Sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 bundle (about the diameter of a quarter) Dried udon, cooked per the package instructions
2 cups Frozen Asian vegetables, steamed
1 cup Cooked turkey, chopped
1/2 cup Fresh shitake mushrooms, steamed until tender
1/4 cup Green onions (green tops only), sliced on a bias to 1/4"

Combine the stock, soy sauce, mirin and sake in a medium sauce pan, bring to a simmer and cook ten minutes.

Put half of the noodles, turkey and vegetables (hot) into each of two bowls.

Add half of the broth mixture and half of the green onions to each bowl.

Serve and enjoy!

Makes two servings

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Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas Barbecued Sweet Potato Pie Grilled & Glazed Carrots The Ultimate Thanksgiving Turkey Brine Barbecued Sweet Potatoes Thanksgiving Stuffing Balls Simple Barbecued Turkey

Well, Thanksgiving is upon us so I thought I'd share a round-up of my recipes in a sort of one-stop-shopping way. Here I think you'll find something that will add a unique twist to your Thanksgiving feast. If you try one of these recipes, please drop me a line in a comment and give me your thoughts.

Just click any of the images to get to the recipe.


Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

When I was first offered the opportunity to review the T-fal OptiGrill I was just as much skeptical as I was intrigued. After all, as a "grilling pro", what could it possibly offer? Well, I was surprised at the results of my extensive review.

You can read all about the grill at their web site, but here's my bottom line. This is an 1800-watt indoor grill with six programs that automatically adjust the cooking time and temperature according to the type and thickness of what you're cooking.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

That all sounds pretty cool, but the obvious question is, "Yeah, but does it deliver?" The short answer is yes. It's about as brain-dead to operate as can be. You look at what you're cooking, set the program, and wait until the indicator light (I call it the magical orb of done-ness) tells you that it's perfectly cooked. In fact, it's so easy that my three girls have come to use it frequently.

Now, you might be tempted to think to yourself, "Come on Daddio, it's just a glorified panini press!" Well, I feel ya, but that's simply not the case. There is indeed some kind of electronic wizardry that takes place under the hood. Sure, a grilled cheese or panini is a no brainer, but let me show you two simple extremes that I think will illustrate what I'm saying.

Here's a frozen Johnsonville® brat patty cooked to perfection using the frozen burger setting. You simply pre-heat, set the food in there and wait for the light to get to the proper color for the desired done-ness (in this case well-done). Oh, and there's an alarm that sounds at each level of done-ness. I turned the patty 90° about two-thirds of the way through the cooking process to get those pretty (OCD) grill marks.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Yeah, a frozen burger is not all that impressive, so let's turn up the heat (pun intended) to put this thing to a serious test. Let's put a quality steak on this bad boy and see what happens. This was a one-inch thick USDA Choice ribeye that I seasoned straight out of the fridge with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

I preheated it on the steak setting, threw the meat in it, closed the lid, and came back 8 1/2 minutes later (medium-rare on the indicator light) to this beautiful specimen. The outside was very nicely seared, the done-ness nearly perfect, and the flavor was great. I cook steaks outside over charcoal all the time and it's very hard to reliably accomplish that with a one-inch steak.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Oh, and by the way, I checked the internal temperature of the brat patty and the steak with a Thermapen® and each was dead-on for the advertised done-ness.

Another great plus is that the non-stick cooking plates and drip pan come out very easily with the push of two buttons, and they are dishwasher-safe. The clean-up really couldn't be any easier.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Kitchen appliances like this often come with some cheesy recipe booklet that is typically not even worth the paper on which it's printed. Given that, I was really impressed with the recipe book (not booklet) that comes with the OptiGrill. The recipes are well thought-out and the photography is great. Here are some samples:

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

My only complaint about the OptiGrill is its capacity. At $180 it would be nice if it were larger. For a family of five like mine you have to work in batches, which can be a pain. Other than that, this unit does exactly what it promises and it produces great indoor grilled food. Sure, it won't replace your outdoor grill, but you'll be surprised at how often you'll use it. Our family typically uses ours several times a week.

Disclaimer: The OptiGrill set was provided to me at no charge from T-fal, but the review is entirely my own.

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Filipino-style Pork Buns (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

These are an Asian fusion spin on pork buns. The soft pillows are filled with pork belly that is first braised then grilled and glazed with a mixture of banana ketchup and hoisin sauce, and finished with authentic Filipino atchara.

Pork buns have become incredibly popular thanks to Michelin-starred chef David Chang who owns a bunch of uber-successful restaurants. His first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar and his signature buns have made him the undisputed king of pork buns.

After reading all of the pork bun hooplah for quite a while I wanted to try my hand at them, but I've been more than a little intimidated given my serious lack of Asian roots combined with the fact that I have never had one. How do you know if you have made something right if you've never eaten it? It's a big-time credibility killer to say, "Here, try my pork buns, they're great, I think." So, please join me, your blind guide, through the mean streets of Pork Bun Alley. You've been warned.

The good news in all of this is that I recruited some help from the interwebs to avoid making a complete fool of myself. First was the buns. It's no secret in our house that I am no pastry chef. In fact, I often kid my wife (who can bake) by saying, "I'm a cook, anyone can bake." She replies with, "Everyone but you.", to which I readily agree, albeit usually with an eyeroll. These buns come from an alternate and lazy-non-baker-friendly recipe from Jaden Hair over at Steamy Kitchen. She has a great blog and it's even greater when she teaches me how to make these buns from canned biscuit dough. Score! While I was reading her recipe I also decided to borrow her pork belly braising process, which worked beautifully. Thanks, Jaden.

The Filipino influence in this experiment came from a friendly Filipina who works at a local store. I was there buying some sauerkraut and pork recently when she mentioned that if I love sauerkraut that I should try making pickled green papaya (atchara). I picked her brain a bit and she told me of a local Asian market where I could find green papaya. It was almost like she knew that I was looking for a funky twist for my pork buns. While perusing the web for atchara recipes I ran across many mentions of banana ketchup (yes, that is the proper spelling, so says me — with a K), which is the Filipino answer to tomato ketchup. It seems that there was a serious shortage of tomatoes during World War II, so they turned to, of course, bananas. What?! Oh well, bring on the banana funk! I'll try almost anything twice.

OK, that's enough background banter. Let's get this show on the road before I'm tempted to get into the finer points of pork belly, or how they get the non-stick coating to stick to the pan.

Notes:
  • The atchara recipe makes about 2 quarts, and the banana ketchup recipe makes about 3 cups, so cut them if you think you won't use the remainder. I plan to use mine.
  • It's best to make the atchara at least a few days in advance. I know this from my vast atchara experience.

Ingredients
2 lb Pork belly, skin removed
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh
1 can (large-size) Buttermilk biscuit dough (10 biscuits)
1/2 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 cup Banana ketchup (recipe follows)
1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
3/4 cup Atchara (recipe follows)

Atchara
1 large Green papaya, julienned or food-processed thin (about 6 cups)
2 tbsp Kosher salt
1 large Red bell pepper, julienned or food-processed thin (about 2 cups)
1 small White onion, julienned or food-processed thin (about 1 cup)
2 large Carrots, sliced thin (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp Minced ginger
8 cloves Garlic, minced (about 2 1/2 Tbsp)
3 cups Distilled vinegar
2 cups Sugar
2 tsp Coarse black pepper, ground fresh
1 tsp Crushed red chile

Banana Ketchup
1/2 cup Diced white onion
3 cloves Garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
2 cups Water
2 Bananas, very ripe, peeled and smashed
1 Plantain, ripe, peeled and diced
2/3 cups Dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp Smoked paprika
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1/8 tsp Ground cayenne

Method
Put the cut papaya into a large bowl, toss with the salt and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.

Rinse the papaya with cold water and wring as much water as you can from it (in cheesecloth really helps). Return the papaya to the large bowl and add the bell pepper, onion, carrots, ginger, and garlic.

Bring the vinegar just to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the pepper and chile, remove from the heat, and pour the liquid into the bowl. Toss the vegetables to coat well and portion into sterilized jars. Seal, let cool and refrigerate at least overnight, but preferably for a few days.

Filipino-style Atchara (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Make the banana ketchup by heating a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent and just starting to brown around the edges. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer. Add the remaining ingredients and bring back to a simmer. Blend until smooth with an immersion (stick) blender. Reduce the heat to a low simmer for 20 minutes. Portion into sterilized jars, seal, let cool and refrigerate overnight.

Several hours before you plan to serve (or the day before) braise the pork belly. Preheat your oven to 275°. Season all sides with the salt and pepper then wrap the pork tightly in a double layer of heavy duty foil, ensuring that you seal it well enough to prevent leaks. Cook the pork on the center oven rack for two hours. Remove from the oven and let cool wrapped for two hours then refrigerate.

About an hour before you're ready to serve make the buns. Cut 10 4-inch square pieces of parchment paper and set aside. Flour your surface and roll each biscuit into an oval that's about 4 inches long and about 3 inches wide (at the widest point). Fold the dough in half, put it on a piece of the parchment and set aside. Repeat this process for the remaining biscuits.

Put about an inch of water in a shallow wide pan (with a lid) and elevate a plate or rack in the pan (out of the water) so that it acts as a steamer. Bring the water just to a boil over medium-high heat. Working batches, steam the buns covered for exactly 12 minutes then remove with the parchment to a rack to cool.

Start your grill and prepare for direct cooking over medium heat (about 300°). You could also do this in a wok or simply on the cooktop in a saute pan. I used my new super-cool T-fal OptiGrill which I am reviewing reviewed. It worked really well for this application.

Combine 1/2 cup of the banana ketchup and the hoisin sauce in a small sauce pan and warm over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Unwrap the cooled pork belly and slice to about 1/3" thick and 3 inches long.

Filipino-style Pork Buns (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Filipino-style Pork Buns (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Grill the pork belly pieces until they are nicely browned.

Filipino-style Pork Buns (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Filipino-style Pork Buns (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Remove the pieces from the grill and immediately brush each piece with the banana ketchup and hoisin mixture.

Put two pieces of the pork belly into a bun, drizzle with some more of the glaze, and top with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the atchara. Repeat with the remaining pork and buns.

Filipino-style Pork Buns (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Serve and enjoy!

(Makes 5 servings)

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Santa Maria Beans (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Here's my take on traditional Santa Maria-style beans. Serve these with your tri-tip and chicken for a true taste of California barbecue. I've tried a few variations and this recipe is the current front-runner, but of course I'll continue to experiment.

Ingredients
12 oz Bacon, diced
1 large Yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
12 oz Beer
2 cups Water
1 Tbsp Minced garlic
1/2 cup Brown sugar, golden
6 cans (15 oz) Pinquito beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp Ground cumin
2 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Black pepper, ground fine
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp Ground chipotle (optional, but recommended)

Method
Heat a stock pot over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until it just starts to crisp on the edges. Drain half of the rendered fat.

Add the onion and cook for about five minutes, or until the onion is transluscent. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer. Pour in the beer and water, bring to a low boil for five minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring back to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve and enjoy!

(Makes about 16 servings)

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Pig Gig III (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

After seven years of competing in barbecue contests I finally scored my first grand championship last month at the Pig Gig III here in Boise. I've had a few reserve grand championships (second place overall), but the grand had eluded me.

The Pig Gig is a great troops-and-vets competition that is held at Gowen Field, the local Air National Guard base. Last year I judged, but this year I decided to throw my hat in the ring doing what I really love, cooking. It's a small competition, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in camaraderie and fun. Being a vet, it's always nice to hang out with my military brothers and sisters on their home turf.

Here are some pictures from the competition. All of my entries were cooked solely on just two Pit Barrel Cookers, which I have reviewed and written about extensively on this blog. You can see them in the background in this picture (one is still in the box). I traveled way light this time, and that was a good move.

Pig Gig III (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

My chicken turn-in (3rd place)

Pig Gig III (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Ribs (1st place)

Pig Gig III (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Pork (4th place)

Pig Gig III (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brisket (2nd place)

Pig Gig III (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

There was a required ancillary category which had to include bacon, and I went way simple. I grilled some of the best bacon on the planet (Benton's) and simply rolled and glazed the slices with a bit of honey mixed with a little of my friend Kosmo's Killer Bee Chipotle rub. My lack of creativity and sloppy boxing were evident in my middle-of-the-pack fifth place.

Pig Gig III (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Winning the competition was great, but I was more proud of my three daughters who marched at the event as part of the Treasure Valley Drill Team. They won a state championship in the dance category in June. They are a great group of girls who work very hard and put on a stellar show. Way to go Hailey, Shelby, and Chloe! Keep calm and march on.

Treasure Valley Drill Team (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

So there you have it, my first grand. Here's to a few more down the road.

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Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Last month my wife Sandi and I were delighted to be invited to attend Brat Days in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as guests of the great folks at Johnsonville. We had a great time, so I thought that I would share a quick trip report.

Each year Brat Days is held the first weekend of August in Sheboygan's Kiwanis Park. Sheboygan, the home of Johnsonville, is a very charming small-ish town of nearly 50,000 located about an hour north of Milwaukee on the shore of Lake Michigan. It's exactly the kind of place where you'd imagine that a festival which celebrates brats should be held, as it has been for 60 years.

We arrived in Milwaukee Friday afternoon and enjoyed the drive to Sheboygan. I spent some time in Wisconsin (mainly passing through) while I was stationed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I hadn't been back since leaving there in 1994. It was nostalgic to reminisce a bit and share some of my memories with my wife. Wisconsin oozes with old-school Americana and German influence.

We stayed at the lovely Blue Harbor Resort which sits on the beach.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Our room overlooked the lake and the weather was absolutely perfect all weekend.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Friday evening we joined our host, Stephanie Dlugopolski, her daughter, Brandon Gunning (Tailgating Ideas contributor) and his wife Katie for dinner at a local farm-to-table eatery where we enjoyed good food and conversation.

We were up early Saturday morning to participate in the Brat Days parade. And when I say participate, that means in a very cool convertible emblazoned with our names. Our driver, Paul, was great.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

The parade starts in downtown Sheboygan and ends at the festival grounds in Kiwanis Park. It has a great feel of that old-school Americana that I mentioned earlier.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

We were very fortunate to be right behind the University of Wisconsin Badger Marching Band. It was pretty neat. Sandi was a member of a very successful marching band in high school, so she really dug it.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

The band also performed at the festival grounds.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

We wandered around the park a bit and hung out at the Johnsonville karaoke booth while we waited for the brat eating contest to begin. At the booth folks could record their own music video version of the "Don't Pierce The Brat" anthem for a chance to win $5,000 and a year's supply of brats. You can see the entries here.

Stephanie tried her best to get me to give it a go, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, I made my own version when I got home, but I missed the entry deadline. As you'll see, I didn't have much of a chance anyhow. It goes without saying that my day job is in no danger.


The brat eating contest was quite the spectacle to behold.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

When the sausage settled the winner had eaten twenty (yes, 20) brats in ten minutes.

As expected, the festival features brats in many permutations. We tried the brat egg rolls, and of course I had to have a "double brat", which is two full-sized sausages on the requisite Sheboygan roll (essentially a kaiser). I naturally had mine loaded with kraut, onions and mustard. My German grandmother would have been proud.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

A brat festival of this magnitude clearly requires a boat load o' brats. I asked Mike, the man who has been in charge of brat cookery for many years, how many brats he and his crew cook for Brat Days. If memory serves he said that it was about ten thousand. Talk about putting the heat to the meat!

I was intrigued by the ingenious grilling method that the guys use. It's a giant charcoal-fueled grill that must stretch at least 70 feet. It's built right on top of the ground using a steel frame and sheet metal.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

The ingenious part is how they flip all of those brats. They lay another grate (with handles) over the sausages and flip the whole batch at once. Pretty cool, eh? I watched as they flipped several hundred in a matter of seconds.

Brat Days (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

We had a blast at Brat Days! If you ever have the opportunity to go, do it. It's a wonderful family-friendly festival in a wonderful location. Oh, and did I mention that there's sausage?

Disclaimer: The trip was paid for by Johnsonville. I'm proud to call them a partner. Thanks, Steph!

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