Noun 1. gastronome - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)bon vivant, epicure, epicurean, foodie, gourmetsensualist - a person who enjoys sensuality. Follow me on Twitter: @Aghastronome

Friday, October 29, 2010

Montrose Beer and Gun Club 10th Annual Cook-off and Music Extravaganza

Last Saturday, I had the most fun you can have with your clothes on - and I was working.    If you weren't in attendance, you missed out on some excellent food, a silent auction full of great stuff, belly dancing, fabulous live music and the awesome t-shirts, koozies and "2nd Coarse, The Texas Food Chain Massacre Second Edition" that were available for sale. The new cookbook contains some revered recipes from the original (like Jalapeno Margaritas from Houston Roller Derby) and also new things from MBGC members, friends and, of course, the cook teams.  There are recipes from soup to nuts, everything from Cold Beer to It's No Joke (which is a potato chip, coke and ice cream concoction).  I have about 4 or 6 recipes in there too, like Chicken & Dumplin's from my Granny Jo, and modified by me.  I'm not "taunting" you with the cookbook.  I understand that a very limited supply of cookbooks "might" still be available for sale, along with koozies at the Antique Warehaus, which is conveniently located at 1714 Westheimer St. @ Park.  The weather is turning spectacular here, so swing by and peruse the store, get a cookbook and maybe something more while you're there.  If they're out of the cookbook, peruse the store anyway - it's cool.

I was fortunate enough to judge some of the categories, specifically chicken, pork and wild game.  I was on the final table, and I have to tell you - it was all good, even the walrus.  Those who placed in the top 5 in their category got the coolest trophy I have ever seen.  I'm rounding up some photos for you of how they were created, and what they looked like.  I will state here that I would have loved to have hauled my weaponry along and participated.  The real deal for me, given that I'm an eater of food that writes about it, is the food.  I love working cook-offs, they're the perfect venue for me - raising monies for charity, eating, drinking and socializing in a relaxed atmosphere with people of all varieties.  Plus, Tejas Barbacoa, the team my friend Christy is on, won three trophys!  Third Place Chicken, Second Place Chili and Second Place Pork - awesome for their first time to compete here!

One of the team captains shared a college paper of his daughters with us this morning.  How food is the key ingredient in bringing people together, specifically to raise money for kids who wish things were better.  Here's a taste of it:

"Every year, the MB&GC uses food to bring people together by hosting a cook-off for kids who wish things were better, benefiting the make a wish foundation. My family are “active” members of the Montrose Beer and Gun Club. My Dad, Uncles and Cousins - we all are card carrying members and are very proud of our status.

October 23 will be the 10th year that this club of misfits, professionals, artists, college kids and everyone else come together around their ice chests and barbecue pits to share their food for a greater cause.

The annual cook-off was created by the founding members of the MB&GC. They decided to host a benefit for its members to raise money for those who are less fortunate.

They organized a cook-off and invited the clubs members to create their individual teams and compete with their recipes in hopes of drawing in a large crowd who would be eager to eat the food and open their wallets.

The first year of the cook-off, the money was donated to the local women’s shelter. They then decided to help children with cancer and the second year the money was donated to MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Center.

The members then realized that in no way would they be able to raise enough money to cure anyone so it was decided to raise money for Make-A-Wish so they could provide a small measure of happiness for children and their families who don’t have much to be happy about.

My dad has a cook-off team that consists of him, my mom and my Uncle Danny."
"The real beauty of the event is the people. There are people from all walks of life at the cook-off. I can tell you all kinds of stories about the biker guys who come with their scraggly beards and rebellious attitudes who are ultimately really nice, and entertaining, guys.

I can tell you about the young families who bring their kids to check out the good food. There is always the roller derby team - who are a little scary. There is a team of women that comes every year from Corpus Christi and they set their tent next to ours and always flirt with my dad while my mom laughs, rolls her eyes and offers him to the highest bidder.

There is the Scottish team who wear their kilts every year and then there is the team of business men who can never quite understand casual dress in their loafers and button up shirts.

The beauty of the cook-off is that all these people are brought together with their shared love of great food and their desire to support the kids.

I know I don’t just have the one story about food. The thing is all the little stories and experiences make up the great story that is the MB&GC Annual Cook-off. It’s an experience I can’t describe in 5 minutes.

It’s an event for everyone who wants to support a cause and doesn’t feel like wearing tuxedos and fancy dresses. All these people who didn’t know each other last year or even yesterday come together and share stories of life over a meal; even if that meal is served in thousands of plastic cups."

It was six days ago, and I am already looking forward to next year. I did have a jalapeno margarita last saturday, it was delightful - slighly sweet, tart, hot and iced.  Perfection with a touch of burn.  Good thing I have both of the cookbooks, I can make some of my own!  Since I have yet to provide anyone with a single recipe, here's one from the cookbook for you:

Chicken & Dumplin's (Thanks, Granny)

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or a pkg of mixed pieces or 4-6 bone-in, skin-on breasts
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, scraped and cut into 1" pieces
2-3 ribs of celery, cut into 1" pieces
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic (or 2-3 cloves - to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (or 1 teaspoon each, minced fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano - if you have fresh tarragon, it's a nice addition)
1 bag frozen green peas (optional)
3-4 quarts water
salt/pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, bring all ingredients to a boil. Lower to a gentle boil and skim the surface until the water no longer "foams". Continue to simmer until the chicken is tender - remove, cool and de-bone meat, cutting into bite-sized pieces. If desired, you can strain the broth to remove the cooked vegetables, we like to leave them in. Return stock to a slow boil, keep an eye on it. While the chicken is cooling, make the dumplings, as follows:

2 cups flour (do not use self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup milk

Combine flour, salt and shortening, cutting the shortening in so that the mixture looks like it has small peas in it. Add milk, mixing with a fork or spoon, until you have a stiff dough, that is not sticky (you'll need to get your hands in it at the end - add a little flour if needed).  If the dough is too thick, add a splash of milk.  Try not to overwork the dough, you'll have tough dumplings. 

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is a quarter-inch thick. Flour the top and rolling pin, it helps. Cut dough in to half-inch squares (we put the squares back in the dough bowl, for convenience).

Bring broth to a rolling boil and drop the dumplings in a few at a time. Reduce to a simmer and add chicken. At this point, you have options! 1). Dig in. 2). Add green peas if you like them and want more veggies in the mix. We recommend, 3). Add a cup of water you have whisked almost a half cup of flour into, until smooth. Then stir gently, but kinda like crazy, to incorporate the flour/water, and simmer until thickened - this will make the final outcome creamier and less like chicken soup. Re-tests for seasonings.

If you choose to use boneless/skinless chicken, add two tablespoons of Knorr's Caldo de Pollo to increase the flavor of your broth. There is some scuttlebutt that you can just use cut flour tortillas - don't subscribe to that theory, or the one about cutting up whomp biscuits (the kind where all you do is whomp the can open and cook). Love the heat? Add a minced habanero or other hot pepper.

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