Nov 29 2006

Why Hire a Caterer?

Why do people hire caterers instead of trying to do it themselves…or worse…getting a friend to do it? Well, there are many answers to that question, but The General thinks the most important answer of all is when you want your function to go smoothly and without incident. This is the time you call on foodservice professionals. It never ceases to amaze TG as to how many price driven calls we get. I can usually distinguish them when the prospective client starts out something like this…’How much is your food?’ This is a price-driven shopper. Such is the case of this past weekend with both elements in play.


Bass Pro Shops of Savannah wanted us to feed their two shifts of employees (150 people) the Saturday after Thanksgiving so the employees would stay on premises and not be delayed getting back to work as a result of the heavy traffic around the mall. Incidentally this weekend is one of the biggest weekends of the year for retail. They only had a $6.00 per person budget and in these situations TG always thinks about his reputation…wanting to make a decent showing, but not going into my pocket to do so. (Usually I back away from jobs like this, but it was something I wanted to do in the hopes of building a long-term relationship with them.)


Here is an ideal meal for a low-budget situation: chopped or pulled pork, chicken quarters (leg and thigh), cole slaw, green beans and buns. I even threw in a cake that had the Bass Pro Shops logo. This is the first time I have offered green beans on this type of a party (against the rantings of TLW). We were amazed at the results…they loved ’em. So, if you are in the mood to do a large batch of green beans, here is the recipe. I used 5 lb. frozen packs of green beans from Sam’s…this eliminated the ‘canned’ taste. I then used minced garlic and garlic pepper to season them. Using my turkey fryer, we boiled 15 pounds at a time. The green beans came into play for two reasons. First, they were much more cost efficient and also didn’t require the labor that our regular baked bean recipe calls for. Secondly, baked beans have a reputation for causing people to have flatulence (gas), and TG thought 150 sales people out on the floor expelling wonderful odors might not be appreciated! The chicken cost about 50 cents a pound and if there is such a thing as a nice complaint, some women mentioned the pieces were too large for them. The meal was very successful.


Now for the challenge…and this is why one should always hire a professional caterer. TLW and I pulled the pit and RV on site and I stayed the night as the pork smoked. All went smoothly until sometime in the middle of the night, I saw that the pit was no longer running. The pit is electricity dependent…and there was no juice!!! Needless to say, for the remaining part of the night and into the next day, we were able to regain our power sporadically. I then realized that the pit was unable to maintain a constant level of heat which is unusual. Our pit usually maintains within one degree of the desired heat
…this was a problem with the propane. About 9:00 am, The General went into full crisis mode. In most competitions, propane is not allowed. A long time ago, the pit was altered so that it could cook without propane, simply with charcoal and wood and that is what I resorted to. Having done this hundreds of times, I pulled it off, by opening the line for the first shift at precisely 11:00 am as agreed in our contract.


Another issue we experienced was completely out of our control. Our ‘kitchen’ was set up in the parking lot. To get to the break room, we had to maneuver through receiving to the service elevator. Well, you guessed it. The service elevator broke down half way through the day. Just another ‘blip’ on our radar. Luckily the customer elevator worked…although it was not convenient to our location.


Here are a few important points to ponder, whether you are cooking at home or for a large group. The fewer people who know you are having a problem, the better off you are…because there is far less confusion.
Never let the client know that you are experiencing difficulties (unless of course it is unavoidable). Usually, the only time you should open your mouth is to bite your nails! I would define a successful party, regardless of issues and things going wrong, by having a happy client – one who is unaware of what went on behind the scenes and that is precisely what happened Saturday.


Nov 22 2006

Turkey Hotline

Turkey How To’s

Turkey Hotline 1-800-Butterball

Have a great Thanksgiving Day!


Nov 19 2006

Carnival of the Recipes: 2006 Thanksgiving Edition

The Little Woman and I are proud to be the hosts for this week’s edition of the Carnival of the Recipes. Since we are in a “Thanksgiving State of Mind,” we have plenty of reasons to give thanks.

First of all, we are so thankful that today we are both enjoying good health. We both recognize that we always need to work harder and to that end, let’s visit Dr. Joel at Disease Proof. His recipes for Goji Oatmeal Clusters and Orange Goji Bars will put us all on the road to better nutrition.

Secondly, we appreciate how much the love and support of families mean to us. This year we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with our nephew Michael, his beautiful wife Helaine and their adorable daughter Phelan. They have volunteered to host the feast and it will definitely give TG and TLW a day to sit back and relax. Here is a lineup of some great recipes for your groaning board:

Keewee sends along Beer-B-Q Links. This traditional appetizer is definitely a favorite of ours and is sure to please your hungry hoards. Gluten Free By the Bay has perfected a gluten free knish to nosh! Try her Spinach Potato Knishes. Hoorah for you, GF!

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How about a salad? Famous Recipes sends along
Jerusalem Artichoke Salad with Greens and Herbs. Did you know Jerusalem artichokes have nothing to do with Jerusalem and are not related to artichokes? Go figure!

Now for the real deal…the main course… El Capitan at Baboon Pirates sends us Roast Possum with Apples and Sweet Taters. Come on, Capitan…Possum for Turkey Day? Well, maybe someday The General will give possum a try (but TLW will definitely not be eating that lil’ critter!)

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David, from Third World County, submits a
battle plan for an easy Thanksgiving meal…The General loves battle plans! Not wanting to cook a large bird? How about a small one? Chicken Recipes serves up a dandy Grilled Moroccan Chicken Citron. How about duck? Kevin from Seriously Good presents Smoked Duck Breasts. Sounds really tasty…you know The General will try this one!

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The sides…who can resist sides? Now TG has never been partial to cranberries since the ‘Cranberry Scare’ of 1953, but TLW, growing up near the Massachusetts cranberry bogs, loves anything made with cranberries. Marsha from A Weight Lifted provides us with an interesting
Fresh Cranberry Relish.

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World Famous Recipes has a healthy and tasty vegetable for us to try, Butternut Squash with Whole Wheat, Wild Rice and Onion Stuffing. Sounds mighty tempting! World Famous also sends along a twofer… Sweet Potato Biscuits…sweeeet! David, from Third World County, wants to woo us with a healthy and yummy Thanksgiving Pumpkin Bread.

Desserts…did I say desserts…this is when the groaning begins! Triticale – the wheat /rye guy- sends along a triple-threat,Coffee Kissed Triple Pecan Pie. Sounds like a winner! Maybe I’ll be lucky and TLW will whip me up one! From The Common Room, we have an Egg-Free Rice Pudding submitted by the Deputy Headmistress…yum… How about some coffee with your desserts? Third World County sends along some neat Holiday Coffee Additions.

I like to think that the best part, well, maybe not the best but close to it is the leftovers from the Tday feast. I personally love just a plain turkey sandwich with plenty of mayo, salt and pepper. Here are some mighty tempting recipes for your leftovers. Our Recipe Goddess, Shawn, is a temptress with this Turkey Enchiladas dish. Riannan from In the Headlights has a Quick and Easy Chicken Curry for us to try. Bet turkey could be substituted…

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Walking the Berkshires gives us a treasure with his post on
Fort Wingate Flatbread, 1886…verrrry interesting….

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Finally, we would like to give thanks for all the great chefs out in blogland who share their wonderful recipes so willingly and a big Thanks to our fearless leader, Shawn!


Nov 18 2006

Day of Great Thanksgiving Takes Place

TLW and I woke up to blue skies, gentle breezes and weather promising to hit the mid 60’s*. Perfect for the Old Savannah City Mission’s Ninth Annual Day of Great Thanksgiving! See earlier post.

We ventured down to Forsyth Park anxious to participate in the event and try some of the food…147 turkeys later. The event is open to any and all…millionaires and those without a dime! Every guest sits down at a table and is immediately served by a throng of volunteers. The turkey tasted great…the pepper and seasoned salt used as the rub, penetrated our servings and made the turkey very tasty. Along with the turkey was candied yams, dressing, cranberry sauce, green beans and a roll. We even received a slice of pumpkin pie. Dining at our table were three 13 year old volunteers and three guys (all named James) who looked like they hadn’t had a good meal in a while.



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Jim Lewis, executive director of the Mission, explained to us that he wanted the event to be reminiscent of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, MA. The Indians helped the Pilgrims plant their crops and they all sat down to share in the bounty together.
We won’t talk about the treatment of Native Americans after that point….Instead, we will focus on the warmth and sharing of their first celebration.

TLW and I continue to be very impressed with this ministry and everything today was well executed and very professional.


Nov 16 2006

Ninth Annual Day of Great Thanksgiving

This is TLW again!


On Saturday, November 18, 2006, Old Savannah City Mission will be celebrating its
9th Annual Day of Great Thanksgiving. It will be held under a tent in our beautiful Forsyth Park. (Virtual tour provided by Quantum Tour.)


Answering an article in our local paper about volunteers being needed to help smoke the 220 turkeys needed to feed approximately 2,000 meals, the General brought his trusty pit to the Mission and has been smoking turkeys all day long with several other volunteers.

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Inside the mission, pans and pans of stuffing were being filled…

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and all the turkeys were being pulled (boy, I’m glad he didn’t volunteer me for this job!).

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If you live in the Savannah area, come on down to the park, and either help serve…or sit down and eat. It has been a marvelous opportunity for us to learn about the Mission and the amazing job they are doing for their students. This is the first of many times that the General and his Little Woman will be helping this fine organization!


Nov 14 2006

$10,000 Turkey

Remember the movie ‘Million Dollar Baby?’ Well, how about a $10,000 turkey? In the Savannah Morning News Sunday edition, there is an insert called USA Weekend. This week it featured a story about a woman winning America’s Top Recipe Contest 2006 and a $10,000 prize for her turkey recipe. She beat 9,004 other entries. They tested all the recipes to determine 25 finalists in 5 categories. As soon as I read this particular recipe had Cuban influence, I knew that TG will be trying this recipe for our Thanksgiving meal. Check out all of the winning recipes here!

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Nov 13 2006

Savannah Blues and BBQ

One great thing about Savannah is that it is a very historic city. Preservation of that city is most always top priority. Another great thing is that it is also a very charitable place. We have felt since we arrived here that if we could use our BBQ skills and expertise for these two purposes, it would be a great way for us to get to know more people in the community (as well as build our business).


Such is the case this past weekend. We volunteered to cook for the
Coastal Heritage Society’s Blues and BBQ fundraiser. This was held at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum. If you are a train ‘buff’, this is a must-see. Most of the buildings go back to the 1920’s and some go back to the 1850’s.


The event featured two nights of entertainment and BBQ. We cooked most of the pork butts for the event because of our large capacity. They used a mixture of Kosher salt, black pepper, and

Tony Chachere’s seasoning as a rub for the butts which TLW actually approved of. It formed a thick salty crust and was mighty tasty…even though we would never try it in competition.

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Nov 12 2006

Turkey Talk

Finally, we can now start talking turkey! During the last 11 months, I was told by TLW to keep off the subject of turkey until close to Thanksgiving. I think it is great year round, but I had to concede that one. Now I will dedicate a lot of this month to different cooking methods for turkey. The one that seems to be the most popular is deep fried turkey…at least here in the South.

I went to Bass Pro Shops a few days ago and, boy, are they ever well-stocked on turkey frying equipment! They have all of the injections, marinades, rubs, and equipment to do the job…they even carry oil! Speaking of oil, my favorite for frying turkeys (or fish) is always peanut oil.



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***A word of caution***Frying turkeys at 375* can become a dangerous situation and one always needs to be extremely cautious. Lots of times there are news articles around Thanksgiving of home chefs not only frying the turkey, but also themselves and their homes. NEVER fry a turkey on a wood deck or inside your garage. Always set up your equipment outside on concrete…away from anything flammable. Always wear protective clothing. TG loves his red zinfandel, but this is clearly a time to put all alcohol aside until you are finished.

Almost all turkey frying kits include a long stemmed thermometer that clips onto the side of the pot.



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Heat the oil to 375*. (First remember that when you put a 12 pound turkey in the oil, it will take up a lot of real estate. Put in enough oil to cover the bird, but not so much that it will overflow once the bird is immersed in the oil.) In your kit you will have a hanger and a rod that you insert through the bird. This allows you to safely, and slowly, lower the turkey into the oil since there will be a lot of bubbling up of the oil when the cold bird hits it.



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Have your instant read meat thermometer handy. You will need to insert the probe between the breast and where the leg connects which is the thickest part of the turkey. I know from experience that someone reading this will say, “How long do I cook it?” You cook it until your thermometer reads 170*. This usually takes between 25 and 30 minutes, but remember temperature always prevails over time.

If you are in a production mode, gather some friends who want to fry turkeys too. The oil is good for about 15 cycles…so you could make this a neighborhood event. Again, TG cautions: Save your alcohol for when you finish…and toast a great fried turkey!

In the most current issue of Chile Pepper magazine, they mention a website, EatTurkey, that is totally dedicated to turkey. This website goes into great length about frying turkeys and gives recipes for making your own spice to flavor them. It has sections dedicated to the home chef, as well as the pros. Any kind of turkey recipe is there, also.

After looking at all of the different varieties of seasonings at Bass Pro Shops, the real fun of turkey frying is somewhat of a combination of coming up with your own spices vs. the marinades and spices available on the commercial market.

If you like turkey year round, the ideal Xmas gift to get or give is a vacuum seal machine – always available at either Costco or Sam’s Club. Vacuum seal your turkey, label it with a date and put it in the freezer for future use..


Nov 8 2006

Barbecue Championship Series

The second season of the Barbecue Championship Series, produced by our friends John Marcus and Chris Lilly, has started. It is shown on the Versus Channel (formerly OLN). TLW could not find it in our local TV guide, but when she went on the VS. web site she found the channel. This show pits a “champion” bbq chef against a contender and an amateur. Along with celebrity judges it makes for some interesting viewing. Check it out!

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Nov 7 2006

Some Points Added

After a good meal, TLW confessed last night that she had been blogging on her own and showed me yesterday’s entry. I think she did a fine job, but I would like to add a few points to it.


Over the years we have been blessed with some really fine help, but the one thing that we have known since we won the GC of the Nashville Shores, TN, contest 5+ years ago is that we actually do better when we cook on our own. I believe the reason for this is that the transfer of information and the consistency of what you do is vital to your effort. The problem comes in their interpretation of what you are saying. I have always believed that my place at a cook off or a catering is at the back of the pit to maintain the consistency needed to win. Consistency wins every time.


On my way back home on I-95 I stopped by to see our friend ‘Blue’ at Exit 3 (three miles from the Florida line). His actual name is Larry Harris, but the name of his business is Blue’s BBQ, situated right near the Dairy Queen and the Wendy’s. Not often do we recommend other BBQ spots, but Blue really does have a consistently good product and it would be well worth your time to stop in and get a pork sandwich with his mustard based sauce or his chopped brisket.