Monday, July 25, 2011

Entertaining: Notes on Kansas City BBQ

I love entertaining, but before every dinner party or backyard BBQ there is a moment when I just want to call everyone and tell them not to come. This weekend that moment came on Sunday at 6:47 AM.  But let’s back up a little.

I spent many of years in Kansas City where I developed a snobbery about BBQ. I know that there are different ways to BBQ, different meats, different sauces, and I haven’t tried every single one on the planet, but none of the ones that I have tried have taken the glory off of the good old KC stuff. Maybe it has more to do with memories of eating it with family or friends or maybe it is just the sauce.

During my recent trip to Amish Country I was apparently high from too many baked goods when I came up the idea of having a Kansas City BBQ. No hamburgers or hot dogs here, just slow cooked meat covered in tangy sauce, all the fixings, and my 4857 attempt to make a pie.

I deemed it an event worthy of the title hootenanny* and sent out the invite.

And then I remembered just how long good BBQ takes.   Preparations for Sunday dinner started on Saturday. I don’t cook meat for myself all that often, which might explain why I turn into the biggest hippie whenever I do.  As I was preparing, cleaning and trimming that huge hunk of brisket there was this moment of great gratitude for the cow. Since I believe that there is a story behind almost everything I thought about the cow, who once was alive, but no longer was, and how this circle of life allows me to celebrate with my friends.  Weird, I know, but to me it was a lovely thought.  Then I (accidentally) sliced open my finger (nowhere near the meat), not so lovely.

Because I am skeptical of any BBQ sauce in a bottle on the East Coast, I made my own sauce and rub (I am such a show off).  Kansas City style BBQ sauce is tomato based and has this tangy sweetness to it, I think that I got pretty close to my favorite neighborhood BBQ joint back home.  I let the rub marinate into the beef overnight.

I set my alarm to wake up at 6:00 (on a Sunday. What?)  so I could start slow cooking the meat. The meat had to cook for 8-10 hours, and the oven was going to be used for other fixings, so I set up a couple of slow cookers.  I then proceeded to trip the fuses in the kitchen 3 times, which meant 3 trips to the fuse box in the scary basement where I somehow got  myself in cobwebs, which of course led to the I am covered in cobwebs freak out dance.  After seeing sparks from one of the slower cookers, I put my thinking cap on and figured out that was the problem.   I carefully put aside the crock pot of death and was able to fit all the meat into the other one.

Realizing that I do in fact have the power and obvious talent to drain electrically from the house during one of the hottest days of the year and/or burn the house down with faulty appliances, I decided that it might be a wise decision to make the strawberry rhubarb pie then too, just to get it over with.  True to form, I misread some of the crust recipe and made a huge enough mistake that I was sure that I could hear my great Aunt Theresa, the legendary family pie baker and fancy hat wearer, screaming at me from heaven, in Hungarian. (Spoiler Alert: I was able to savage the pie). 

This is moment, covered in cobwebs, BBQ sauce and flour, I wanted to cancel the whole thing.  But I didn’t.

In fact, it was a lovely evening, which of course everyone knew it would be. Due to the extreme heat we ended up eating Sunday dinner family style inside with a couple of tables pushed up together. We passed the bowls and platters of food around the table, peeled husks off of roasted corn and drunk cool lemonade from mason jars.  I have always wanted to have a big a family, and looking along the table for set for 12, I realized that I already kind of do.

*yes, I know that the term hootenanny usually refers to a group of folky type peoples coming together to play music, but I like to take the urban dictionary approach:

hoot·en·an·ny/ˈho͞otnˌanē/ : A party, most generally one that is, well, chock full of hoot, with just a little bit of nanny.


  1. Can I keep raving about this pie?


  2. I wish I could be more of a calmer cook. I am starting to believe that freaking out is my "secret ingredient." Thank MB for the pie recipe. It is reason #495850 why if she opens her own eatery, I will be there every single day. Also, a touch of almond extract in the whipping cream make almost everything taste lovely.