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Mavens at the grill — Connecticut BBQ team competes in national kosher cook-off

By Cindy Mindell

TRUMBULL – Last summer, the Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship and Kosher Food Festival made its debut. The event was the brainchild of Marvin Rembo, a member of Temple Beth Torah in Westbury, N.Y. who had experienced a kosher barbecue contest in Kansas City and wanted to raise awareness about hunger on Long Island. Working with several sponsors and area charities, organizers attracted some 2,500 attendees and donated proceeds and leftover food to several Long Island non-profit groups.


At the competition, Warren Rockmacher shows off Burnt Offerings’ ribs as teammate David Feldman looks on.

The endeavor was so successful that Beth Torah decided to repeat it this year. Rembo died five days before the June 9 festival, held again at his synagogue and dedicated to his memory. In addition to kids’ events, vendors, and kosher-food sampling, the World Kosher BBQ Championship-sanctioned Kosher BBQ Championship drew 22 teams from around the U.S., who competed in seven different categories.

This year, a Connecticut team threw their hot sauce in the ring. Trumbull resident Warren Rockmacher first learned about the competition in January, after watching a TV show on a barbecue competition. He Googled “Kosher BBQ” and was surprised to discover a circuit of Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned contests, including the one in Long Island.

Competitors were to be judged in six categories: Best Brisket, Best Ribs, Best Chicken, Best Beans, Most Original Team Name, and Best Booth Decoration.

Rockmacher, a member of Congregation Rodeph Sholom of Bridgeport, recruited three friends to form a team. “The obvious question was, why a kosher competition, since none of us keep kosher homes,” he recalls. “I said that I thought it would be a great experience and that everything would be provided for us.” He volunteered to serve as pit boss and brisket-master, and enlisted fellow Rodeph Sholom congregant Seth Nuland, also of Trumbull, for chicken duty; and David Feldman of Fairfield, a member of Bridgeport’s Congregation B’nai Israel, for ribs. Then he saw a Facebook post from friend Gregg David in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., with photos of meals he had prepared, including baked beans. Rockmacher invited him to join the team.

Unfortunately, just prior to the event Seth Nuland’s wife had a death in the family and he couldn’t attend the event. And so, Rockmacher and David, who also served as baked bean chef, handled the chicken while Feldman tended to the ribs.Grillin Tefillin

The team came up with their name, “Burnt Offerings,” after looking over the names of competitors from last year’s event. “It’s a play on burnt ends, made from the point of the brisket and one of my favorite types of barbecue,” explains Rockmacher. Nuland’s wife Lisa, a graphic designer, came up with the logo.

The Long Island Kosher Committee distributed foodstuffs, prep tools, and kettle grills to each team. On-site mashgichim checked outside ingredients, supervised the entire event, and lit all the grills.

On the Thursday before the competition, Rockmacher traveled to Westbury to choose meats and ingredients and prep the meat for storage in a mashgiach-supervised on-site refrigerated truck. On Saturday after Shabbat ended, the team returned to set up the booth and begin the all-night cooking process. The brisket went onto the grill at midnight.

Each item had to be turned in at specific times: chicken at 11:30 a.m., beans at noon, ribs at 12:30 p.m., and brisket at 1 p.m. Food was rated for taste, texture, and appearance by six KCBS-certified judges and kosher food experts; non-food categories were evaluated by celebrity judges, including media personalities.

Burnt Offerings took home prizes for Most Original Name and Best Decorated Booth. “The booth award really came as a shock since we didn’t really decorate our booth,” Rockmacher says. “We had our two ‘Burnt Offerings’ banners hanging on the canopy and David Feldman ran out and bought a roll of red ribbon to hang around the canopy. My wife brought a Chanukah tablecloth for our table and a mezuzah for the canopy post. We had some great blues music playing and we were having a great time interacting with the crowd. At times the line to get near our booth to sample our food was 20 to 30 people deep.” Burnt Offerings beat out last year’s winner “The M.O.B.: Mavens of BBQ,” whose booth was tricked out to resemble a New York Italian restaurant with photos of movie stars and gangsters on the walls.

“During the competition, people were asking for recipes and whether we catered,” Rockmacher says. “Gregg David made a comment about how much fun he was having and how he was already looking forward to next year. I asked, ‘So you want to do this again next year?’ and both he and David Feldman said at the same time, ‘Hell, yeah!’”

Team Burnt Offerings will be back at the Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship in 2014. In October, the team will vie in the second annual Atlanta Kosher BBQ Competition, home turf of Team Grillin’ Tefillin, who took home the grand championship trophy from the Long Island contest.

Burnt Offerings’ advice to fellow grillers? “You have to keep it simple,” says Pit Boss Rockmacher. “The judges want to taste the meat.”

Wisdom from the pit master:  

Warren Rockmacher’s Recipe for Smoked Brisket

Start with the best cut of meat you can find. Brisket can be one of the toughest pieces of beef to cook – just think about how many times over the years you and your family have sat down at the seder table and cut into a wonderful looking brisket only to discover you were biting into a piece of shoe leather.

Usually when cooking a brisket in the oven most people buy the flat and don’t realize that there was another piece, the point, attached to it. The whole brisket can weigh up to 14 lbs. To start, take a brisket and trim the fat cap down to about 1/4 inch all around. Do not separate the point from the flat. I slather on a coating of yellow mustard all over the brisket including the fat cap. The rub I use is a combination of spices on the brisket. During the smoking process, it is the rub that creates the dark flavorful bark on the outside of the brisket. It also soaks into the meat to enhance the flavor. The rub is no secret; variations can be found all over the Internet on BBQ websites like www.bbq-brethren.com. The secret of any rub is not to use too many spices. An over-seasoned rub will overpower the brisket and you won’t taste the smoke flavor of the brisket.

Rockmacher’s award-winning rub recipe:

1/2 c. dark brown sugar

1/2 c. kosher salt

1/2 c. sweet Hungarian paprika (not the stuff you get at the supermarket)

1/4 c. mix of fresh ground white and black peppercorns

Pinch of fresh cayenne pepper powder

(again, not the stuff you buy on a supermarket shelf)

Put all the rub ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Once mixed, the rub should be reddish in color with specks of the white kosher salt visible. Liberally cover the entire brisket with the rub. I usually put a little rub on the fat cap although it is not necessary. Place the brisket into a large 3-gallon Ziploc bag and place it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Take the brisket out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature before placing it on the smoker. I get my smoker pit temperature to about 235˚ before I place the brisket on it. The brisket will cook up to 14 hours before it hits the proper temperature of 185˚. I have had them cook in as little as nine hours and take as long as 15 hours. Each cut is different and each will cook at its own pace depending on how much fat content is in the brisket and how long the “stall” process lasts. Once the brisket reaches the proper temperature on the pit, remove it from the smoker. The cooking process is not yet done; now it is time to wrap the brisket in several layers of aluminum foil then wrap the foiled brisket in large towels and place the whole thing in an insulated cooler for a minimum of one hour before cutting. This is called “The Rest” and it allows the juices to get absorbed back into the meat. The brisket will stay hot for up to six hours and will still be too hot to touch with bare hands when it is removed from the foil. Slice.


Comments? email cindym@jewishledger.com.

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