First let me include this disclaimer. I am not an employee of Workman, or Raichlen Inc. I'm just a schmoe with some grills and an appreciation for good food cooked over live fire.
When I learned Steve was going to do a cooking class right up the road from me on this website, I had no choice but to attend since I own all of his BBQ books and have tremendously enjoyed them. So if anything I had to thank him for the many entertaining evenings my family and friends have had consuming dishes I created using his books. I figured it would be fun to cook something up and bring it to see what he thought, so I decided on a pork shoulder since that's the main dish here in North Carolina and it was easy to do ahead of time. I smoked the shoulder with hickory; I usually use an oak/hickory blend but was out of oak at the moment. In any case, I smoked it for 10 hours and the meat was succulent with a good smoke ring. Only one problem. When I left fror the cooking class I forgot the sauce!
When I pulled into the parking lot of A Southern Season, Steve's BBQ Bus was easily visible and had 5 grills setup next to it; a Weber Gold, Weber Ranch, Weber Summit Gold and a tow-behind with 2 rigs that could alternately use gas or charcoal/wood. A number of dining tables seating 4 had been set up in a semi-circle around a line of tables that were stacked with ingedients and cooking utensils. I walked up and introduced myself to Steve since there were few people around as of yet. He was friendly and cordial and noticed my pork shoulder offering immediately. I almost didn't have to offer it to him before he was happily consuming it and complimenting me on my work. I certainly appreciated what seemed his genuine approval of my Carolina Q, I just wished I hadn't forgotten my sauce! After that, I offered to help setup but he indicated he would need some help once the grills were fired up. A number of Southern Season's employees and a chef were helping Steve with prep so I took a spot and soaked it in as racks of food and tools were ushered from the store to the BBQ area. Soon more students began filtering in and the tables were almost full.
The weather was very pleasant, as good as you could ask for with a mild breeze which played a trick on Steve and shifted so that the smoke was carrying over the tables. By the time cooking began in earnest however, the breeze had lightened somewhat and only one table had to be moved. All 5 grills were going full bore when Steve began class with Smoked Tomato Gazpacho from his Miami Spice book. They used the Weber Gold for this and in no time the soup was done and everyone was enjoying a cup. Next up was beer can chicken. Steven polled the audience as to if anyone had not heard of beer can chicken to which a number of hands went up and Steve showed some relief in saying "I'm so glad there's still a market for it" and everyone got a chuckle. Throughout the class Steven had a number of funny quirky things to say which made the evening that much more entertaining. With the number of dishes he was preparing, I was impressed with how he was handling the logistics of it all since one of the biggest things I wanted to get out of the class was to see how he managed time. He's very deft with it I can assure you.
After the beer can chickens were going, Steven suggested we cook something we could eat right away so he moved on to Shrimp on Sugarcane w/ Mount Gay Rum (mmmmm!). He showed us the best way to prepare the shrimp and offered numerous alternatives to sugar cane to skewer shrimp including cinnamon stick, rosemary and lemon grass. He also showed us the best way to slice sugar cane to get nice even skewers. After he finished prepping the shrimp, he asked for a volunteer to cook them on the Weber Ranch and since the Ranch is my dream rig at the moment, my hand shot up for a chance to cook not only on a Weber Ranch but on STEVE'S Ranch!!! Lucky for me, everyone else was too timid to volunteer and I got the job! Up to the Ranch I went and was handed the tongs. I thought I'd be nervous but it was like a duck to water once I was standing there in front of the grill so I got to it. The only complication was I had 2 Southern Seasons employees 'helping' me and they weren't well versed in grilling shrimp. The fire Steve had going in the Ranch was quite hot and since shrimp can go from raw to overdone so quickly, I had to work twice as hard to compensate for my helpers mistakes as they would dump the shrimp on the grill one the hottest part of the grate. Since I also had to glaze them as they cooked, the shrimp were better off in a slightly cooler zone of the fire so I had to move shrimp from where they dumped them to the proper heat before glazing. On top of that, one of them was intent on continuously flipping the shrimp so that it was hard to keep track. I think I did ok with them considering but a couple ended up burnt. But I figure 3-4 burnt shrimp out of 5 or so pounds wasn't so bad and everyone seemed to enjoy them. I'd like to try this with tequilla now. For me, I was just tickled to be grilling right next to Steve on his Weber Ranch while he taught . Wow! I hope I get another chance someday soon!
After the shrimp, Steven went on to Grilled Corn with Shadon Beni Butter from his How To Grill book which was exquisite. The corn was silver queen and he cooked them with the husks off. Yum! Next up was Bacon Grilled Trout from the BBQ USA book and Steven demonstarted the techniques involved with preparing that dish. This dish was probably my favorite of all of them, maybe because I hadn't tried it before but it was certainly very good and would reccomend it to all of my BBQ brothers and sisters the world over. About the time I was having the trout, a local paper came over and interviewed me about BBQ, Steve and his books. She asked me which books I owned and I told her all of them. Then I was asked which was my favorite and I told her all of them. They all have their unique contributions and to single one out wouldn't be fair since I derive such enjoyment from all of them. Besides, it might be printed so it wouldn't be prudent to limit Steve's potential sales With that, Steve had some volunteers help him with Nicaraguan-Style Steak (Churrasco) from the Beer Can Chicken book and emphasized surface area exposed to the flame and the importance of flattening out some meats to expose as much of the meat as possible to the fire. No surprise, this dish to was superb. Not a dud all night but then I didn't expect there would be from a master of the flame as Raichlen unquestionably is.
Lastly was Coco Loco Brulee from The Barbeuce Bible. I had never done a brulee so I volunteered for this as well and enjoyed torching the deserts in their halved coconut shells. It was truly a beautiful desert worthy of any five star table. As I started carmelizing the ultra fine sugar on top of these, Steven asked if when I was a kid I'd blow up my toys with fireworks and thereby exposed me for the pyro I am! I suspect however, Steven was also this kind of kid and probably also owned a Hibachi by age 12 as I did.
When all was finished, Steve held a question & answer period and told a couple of fun stories about Iron Chef and other things. I think he's evolved from the entertainment aspect since taping his PBS series, not that he wasn't before, just that he's better now. I also got to meet Amy (aka Info). She was very nice and gregarious.
All in all I had a tremendous time, ate some good food, cooked with the master side by side, and met a couple of new BBQ brothers and sisters. If the BBQ bus rolls by near you, and you're a fan of his books or even curious about BBQ, by all means, take the opportunity to attend and be sure to give Steve a well deserved THANK YOU!