That's probably why I respect and admire these slow cookers so much. There are no short cuts, no tricks they can play to create the most memorable bites, what they hope will be a grand champ after the meat has been turned in, tasted and judged.
But there was a delicious detour from the low-and-slow agenda at the first-ever Kingsford Charcoal Invitational, held last fall near St. Louis. The teams gathered to cook in this competition represented the best of the best, the ultimate battle of the Grand Champions, and it was so on. While this was by far the smallest competition I've ever witnessed, it was also the most dead-serious. Sure, a few beers were enjoyed, but everybody brought their A games, many hauling their custom rigs great distances to participate.
The warm-up to the big show, the tasty tease, if you will, was the One-Bite Challenge: Prepare an appetizer lickety-split using just five ingredients, grill it and wow the distinguished panel of judges, including my pal Amy Mills. I'm not going to reveal who won the One-Bite because it's all going to be featured on an hour-long show March 17 on Destination America -- part of a BBQ Pitmasters marathon! I'll just say that I was completely in agreement with the judges.
Now, here's something very cool: You can demonstrate your considerable cooking chops by entering Kingsford Charcoal's One-Bite Challenge. Winner gets a trip to Memphis in May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, aka the Super Bowl of Swine. (I'll be there this year!)
It's easy to enter. Just submit your five favorite ingredients and a recipe name to Grilling.com. Entries are accepted until April 15. Oh, and here's a fantastic recipe from that challenge cooked up by the reigning barbecue queen, Melissa Cookston. Go Yazoo's Delta Q!!
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Shrimp
Makes: 20 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 5-10 minutes
20 Gulf shrimp
20 slices pepper-cured bacon
1 8-ounce rectangular package cream cheese
1 jar whole pickled Jalapeños
Thai sweet chili sauce
1. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat using Kingsford® charcoal. While grill preheats, peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails on.
2. Cook bacon directly on the grill grate until it is close to being fully cooked, but is not crispy. Set aside.
3. Slice cream cheese into 1/4 x 1/4 x 1/2-inch long slices. Select pickled jalapenos that are roughly the same dimensions as the cream cheese. Remove stems and seeds.
4. Place one strip of cream cheese and one jalapeno piece on each shrimp, then wrap with a slice of grilled bacon. Secure with a toothpick, then place the shrimp with tails on the cool side of the grill so they won’t burn.
5. Cook for 2-3 minutes until bacon is crispy and the shrimp is pink throughout. Remove from fire, brush liberally with Thai sweet chili sauce and serve.
Recipe created by the Yazoo’s Delta Q competition barbecue team for the One Bite Challenge category of the Kingsford® Invitational.