Clippings: Ringer helps in barbecue throwdown

Every family has had at least one since pre-historic times: A designated grill grunt to supervise the roasting of large slabs of meat over an open flame to provide nourishment for the clan. Someone raised my hand when the assignment was offered up in our family a few decades ago, and no one has yet to wrestle me for the tongs and spatula.
So with more than a few grill marks on my gun belt, I guess it made a little sense when my brother-in-law, Peter, invited me to compete in his third annual ribfest.
I was wary at first. The nearest I had come to a big-time smoker was my grandpa Fred, who had a two-pack-a-day habit. I’ve shaken my head in disbelief at the sight of those RV-size smokers that people haul behind trucks from competition to competition, wondering (a) if they can double as a Jacuzzi and, (b) whether they brake for vegetarians.
So, not having a smoker and not being patient enough to observe the requisite “low-and-slow” cooking technique, I knew ribs were not on my culinary prep menu. But Peter got my attention when he said he’d added a “chicken” category to the competition. Entering, I figured, was a no-lose proposition. A win would mean family bragging rights and the opportunity to dole out some good-natured “ribbing” to the competition. A loss would allow me to forever cede the cooking utensils to the winner for future family dinner grilling duties. So I chipped in the $10 entry fee for the chicken category and began to strategize.
It didn’t take me very long to figure that the (only) way to punch my ticket to the poultry podium was  through a ringer: my son-in-law, Oshane. You see, Oshane is Jamaican. And as everyone knows, jerk chicken is number four on the list of things most stereotyped about Jamaica (the other three being Bob Marley, whacky tabacky and Rastafarians). So I recruited (forced) Oshane to be part of “Team Jamaica” for the barbecue throw-down. Fortunately, Oshane had worked in the food service industry in Jamaica and was willing to make the trek with our daughter Diane from Burlington to Bristol this past Saturday.
“Team Jamaica” was in place. It was an infinitely better moniker than the alternative, “Two Jerks.”
Hours before the start of ribfest, we hastily assembled our tools and supplies. They included an old Weber charcoal grill borrowed from Addison Independent photographer Trent Campbell, some dry and wet jerk seasonings, onions, garlic powder, ketchup and, of course, some Red Stripe beer. On the way down to the ribfest site we picked (stole) a couple of habanero peppers from my mother-in-law’s garden to add some extra punch to our Caribbean concoction.
Other ribfest competitors trickled in, toting some impressive cooking devices. Among them was Peter, who, like Dr. Frankenstein, had disappeared into a workshop for the better part of a week welding together his creation from spare parts. On Saturday, I expected him to rub his hands together and deviously shout “It’s alive!” when he unveiled his super-smoker. He had even embossed his initials on it. Peter had entered only the ribs category, so I was a little relieved.
After rubbing and marinating our bone-in Misty Knoll chicken, we popped it on the grill, making sure not to expose it to direct flame. In a saucepan, Oshane and I mixed up some additional jerk seasonings with some water, ketchup, Red Stripe and one of the habaneros. We basted the birds periodically and flipped them often to keep them juicy and make sure the skin stayed golden, not charred.
At the final call, we plated our best pieces for the judges. We were pleased to have eked out a narrow win over my wife’s cousin Harty and his excellent Cabo Wabo chicken breasts.
In the rib category, Peter graciously came to terms with a slim defeat — at the hands of his wife, Ashley. She didn’t even gloat.
The competition over, it was all about having fun — volleyball, Frisbee and avoiding the meat-sweats, as there was pork and poultry as far as the eye could see.
Should we defend the title next year or retire? I’m not sure. I’ll ask Oshane what else he can make. 

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