It’s almost August and Kansas City is getting ready for its second annual Kosher BBQ festival. As exciting as that is, I am thrilled that I stepped down from the judging table this year to compete in the event.
My team, The Epicurean Bite, is making its debut this year and will be one of twenty teams judged by a panel that includes Iron Chef America Judge, Simon Majumdar. Event organizers expect to beat last year’s attendance of 3,000 people so In preparation for the August 18th event I have been spending less time in the kitchen and more time in the yard at the smoker.
Seriously, there are a lot of different ways to make BBQ.
Although I’m confident today that I can cook and prep an entire Shabbat meal in the back yard, it was just a few years ago that I would shy away from cooking with any sort of meat that wasn’t ground up ready for me to make meatballs or burgers. This journey to the world of BBQ takes time, but get it right, and it’s a piece of art. With nature at my side, here’s what I have learned about BBQ from hummingbirds.
1. Getting your bearings,then take flight
Hummingbirds spend the first 3 weeks of their life in the nest — flightless. Considering many hummingbirds live just just eleven months, although some live 3-5 years, that’s a pretty long time. Unfortunately, falling from the nest is a common fatal accident so that time invested in getting flight right is necessary.
I’ve been writing about food and drink for two years, and been cooking for even longer and yet each day I can find something new to create in the kitchen. The first time I smoked a duck was just a few weeks ago. It takes time to learn your preferred BBQ tools and even longer to know how to brine a turkey or when you use a wet rub over a dry rub.
Just like our hummingbird, you might fall from the nest from time to time, but once you know what you’re doing, you’ll be combing flavor profiles like a bird in flight.
2. Eyes wide open
Attention to detail is key. There might be time to take a nap or rest your eyes if you’re smoking a brisket overnight but timing is one of the most overlooked details when it comes to this form of cooking.
I’ve also come to learn that I can marinade a chicken in a wet rub for 24 hours and smoke the bird for two hours on a Friday afternoon. Use those wide eyes to discover the food and flavors that are around and spot a great recipe concept from 500 ft above.
3. Always peck and taste something new
Other than a few key dishes that are too good not to repeat, almost every meal I make is unique because I see food the same way I see travel. There’s a world out there of new experiences — try discover them all.
Use taste to guide you to those experiences, and don’t be afraid of new flavors. Do you really think my BBQ beef sushi would have happened if I hadn’t put wasabi or borscht in the rice?
If you’re eating at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask restaurateurs or wait-staff to write down the ingredients that go into the dish. The worst they can say is no — and in my experience, no one ever has.
4. Beautiful shades and colors
Rubs, marinades and sauces can bring the flavor and smell of a dish to life and they come alive as they sit on your meat overnight. I love adding different color herbs and spices to a small wooden bowl then mixing them together and enjoying the color of this natural art form.
Farms of the world are rich with color, produce can add depth to any dish. If you look at BBQ sauce and see one tone of brown, you’re missing the shine and possibly missing the real taste too.
I have to imagine it takes a lot of work to flap your wings 100 times a second during displays of courtship, or 20-30 times a second just to stay in the air. Somehow, despite all that energy, the hummingbird always seems to be at peace.
There’s a bunch of prep work that goes into BBQ, but when you finish a celebratory plate of ribs or enjoy a plate of pulled BBQ brisket, there’s a moment of zen because you just ate very well.
Sure, That brisket would have been OK if you’d have opened a jar of sauce and let it simmer, but learn from the hummingbird. Go that extra mile and and you can have a magical BBQ dinner.