Drunk-in-Memphis Peach Cobbler


My friend, Billy Terrell, is an Angel of BBQ.  We’ve done some catering gigs together both at the studio and off campus.  He’d been after me for 2 years to come out and visit him and his team at Memphis in May.  When I arrived on Saturday, the judging was in process.  Three judges come individually to sit with each Pitmaster, taste the fine swine, make comments and issue a score.   All the BBQ team fellas were dressed in their Beached Pig chef coats, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with remarkable posture in a semi-circle while Billy sat with each judge.  They were all exhausted, probably hungover (cooking a whole hog requires an overnight stint watching temperatures on the smoker and consuming vast amounts of cheap beer and good whiskey) and sweating bullets.  The quality of this competition is such that there are only hundredths of a point between the winners and the runners-up.  Billy didn’t place this/that year, but the joy of the comradery and the stories that he’ll tell for years to come make it all worth the effort.  I got my own story out of this one!

After the judging, everybody kind of drifts out, goes back to the hotel for a shower, walks around the festival site or down by the river, plays or listens to music, or just lays back in a chair for a snooze.  Later in the afternoon, though, everybody shows back up TO EAT THE HOG!!!  Billy was walking in circles by then and Tina, his wife and Catering Queen, was a bit of an anxious mess.  My friend, Chef Lindy Howell and I, along with a couple of other sweet ones, hopped into the kitchen to lend a hand in creating a Whole Hog Taco Bar.  Tina told us how she wanted it and we followed through: mango salsa, corn and avocado salad, apple slaw, tortillas, salsa verde, etc.  At some point she said, “I was going to make those hoe cakes and a Peach Cobbler, but I’m just too tired…”.  All the eyes lit up in great joy for just a second.  Since I could see the disappointment that immediately followed, and I was a couple beers and some moonshine in, I volunteered my buzzed-but-able self to make the cobbler.  Dave Grohl, who is part of Billy’s BBQ team, said, “Can I watch?” and followed me into the kitchen trailer and sat down on a pickle bucket.

I started reaching for ingredients, finding challenges at every turn. 

Billy:  What do you need?
Me:  Flour, baking soda or powder…
Billy:  Here’s the flour, it’s self-rising.
Me:  No it isn’t.
Billy:  Fuck…
And then we couldn’t find any leavening.
And Dave left the kitchen. 

Since there were tortillas, we decided not to make the hoe cakes for the pork and, instead, put the cornmeal mix to work.  Plan B:  Peach Cobbler with a Corncake Top. 

Me:  Vanilla?
We couldn’t find it.
Me:  I’ll go get some whiskey off the bar.  (because Maker’s is great in baking)

So here’s how it finally all went down:

Preheat oven to 375 (Billy’s oven was slow with all the fans going in the trailer, so we baked at 425)

Put these ingredients into a sauce pan:
2 big cans of sliced peaches in heavy syrup
A good pour of Maker’s Mark (maybe ¼ cup?)
1 stick of butter
A hefty sprinkle of ginger powder (maybe 1.5 tsp?)
Boil until begins to thicken, pour into a ½ pan

For the Corncake Crust:

While the peaches are cooking, Mix together:
2 cups cornmeal mix (the kind with cornmeal, flour, and leavening already blended together)
2 eggs
2 c buttermilk
2 c sugar
A little splash of Maker’s Mark (maybe 1 tbl?)

Pour batter evenly over hot fruit.  Bake 30-45 mins, until golden brown and bubbly. 

Just as the magic cobbler came out of the oven, a huge storm was approaching so the park was evacuated, and I didn’t get to even taste it!  Reports were overwhelmingly positive, so I figured I should write it down.

The real takeaway here, and in most of the recipes in this collection, is that just because you don’t have the ingredients listed doesn’t mean you can’t create something just as great or even better than the original recipe.  You just have to take the chance of total humiliation with high confidence.  Good Luck!

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