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News / Life / Clark County Life

‘It’s the skill and the art’: Former journalist, TV cooking show host from Vancouver inducted into Barbecue Hall of Fame

Barbecue not just cuisine, but way of life, says former Columbian photo editor Rick Browne

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 6, 2024, 6:07am
6 Photos
Rick Browne, former Columbian photo editor, has been inducted into Kansas City&rsquo;s American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame.
Rick Browne, former Columbian photo editor, has been inducted into Kansas City’s American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame. (Contributed by Rick Browne) Photo Gallery

What do journalism and barbecue have in common? It’s Rick Browne, The Columbian’s photo editor from 1998 to 2003, who was recently granted barbecue’s highest honor: induction into Kansas City’s American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame. Browne, who was also The Columbian’s restaurant reviewer from 2019 to 2020, shares the honor with only three others in the class of 2024. (See the list of honorees at americanroyal.com.) The award puts him cheek to jowl with an elite community of barbecue bigwigs inducted since the hall of fame was founded.

“I think there are 32 of us,” said Browne, 78, who lives in Medford, Ore. “I’m pretty honored because they’re restaurant owners — and I mean special barbecue restaurants, the kind that you drive 150 miles to go to.”

Before Browne became one of the best-known names in the barbecue world, he enjoyed a wide-ranging career as a photojournalist, covering breaking news, business and sports for this publication as well as the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and The Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto, Calif., as well as taking photos for a long list of prestigious publications, including People, Business Week, Forbes and Der Spiegel.

It was journalism that brought Browne to barbecue. Prior to working for The Columbian, he accepted a freelance assignment from a travel magazine for an article about Kansas City, Mo., where barbecue sauce practically runs in people’s veins.

“I met a gal who invited me to come to a barbecue contest just outside of Kansas City,” Browne said. “There were 15 teams competing for cash. She said, ‘This is nothing. You should come back in October for the American Royal Barbecue competition.’ ”

When Browne returned home, he asked the editors to hold off on publishing the story so that he and the writer could go back to Kansas City for the big barbecue event. At the time, the contest drew 350 teams competing for $60,000 in cash prizes. Browne said he was stunned, encountering “this barbecue culture that we knew nothing about.”

That story was the secret sauce that spurred Browne’s lifelong fascination not only with barbecue as a cuisine but also barbecue as a way of life. He appreciates the egalitarian nature of barbecue and said that award-winning flavor is just as likely to come from a humble kettle as a $50,000 grill.

“It doesn’t matter what you cook with. It’s how you cook,” Browne said. “It’s the same with photography. It doesn’t matter how you got the shot. It’s the skill and the art that you use to put it together.”

In 2000, Browne was also awarded an honorary “Ph.B.,” or master of barbecue philosophy by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. His other barbecue credentials are as meaty as a hunk of slow-cooked brisket, covering an expansive career that includes hosting 91 episodes of the cooking and travel series “Barbecue America” that aired from 2003-2009. He was also the creator and executive producer of “Ready, Aim … Grill,” a cooking series for fishermen and hunters that aired from 2006-2009. If you missed Browne’s TV programs, you might have spotted him on “Regis & Kelly,” “CBS Good Morning,” “Fox & Friends,” “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.”

Browne has also written 16 best-selling cookbooks. (He let us share his recipe for Barbecued Bison Wellington to go with this story.) His most recent is “A Century of Restaurants,” profiles of 100 of America’s oldest restaurants, each of which Browne visited personally. He’s been published in at least 15 magazines from Time and Newsweek to Sunset, Good Housekeeping and Bon Appetit. He created Barbecue America, the first national magazine devoted to barbecue. Furthermore, he was just named as the U.S. correspondent for the German grilling and barbecue magazine, FIRE&FOOD.

“It’s a culture. It’s a sport. It’s families getting together and competing,” Browne said. “It’s a love of barbecue. It’s as simple as that.”

Barbecued Bison Wellington

From Rick Browne  Yields four to six servings.

NOTE: This is not an easy or quick recipe to make but the results are awesome and will blow your guests away.

  • Sauce:

1 cup Member’s Mark Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

2 cups beef stock (not broth or bouillon)

¼ tsp. ground garlic

1 tablespoon Member’s Mark butter, cold

  • Mushroom Duxelle:

½ stick Member’s Mark butter

1 tablespoon Member’s Mark organic extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Madeira wine

1 cup finely minced golden oyster mushrooms (or portabello)

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon minced shallots

  • Wellington:

1 (5-6 pound) Bison tenderloin*

4 tablespoons Member’s Mark Sweet Cream butter, melted, divided

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 17.4-ounce package frozen puff pastry

1/2 pound goose liver foie gras, best quality

1 egg

2 teaspoons whole milk

* If you are not a hunter nor have friends who bring back bison (buffalo) you can order a whole tenderloin from Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Company at jhbuffalomeat.com.

Make sure the grill is clean and generously sprayed with nonstick grilling spray. Preheat the barbecue to medium high (375-400 degrees) for direct heating.

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Brush the meat with 3 tablespoons of the melted butter, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the meat on the hot side of the grill and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice, until it reaches an internal temperature of 125-130 degrees for very rare.

Remove the meat from the grill and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes.

On barbecue side burner, heat ½ stick butter and the olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the wine, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and shallots and sauté, stirring, until the liquids have evaporated, and the mushrooms are soft.

At the same time make a wonderful, rich sauce for this dish. Combine the red wine and beef in a saucepan, bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the sauce is reduced to a syrup, then whisk a tablespoon of cold butter into the sauce.

On a floured cutting board, roll out two sheets of the pastry dough to a 12-inch by 14-inch rectangle, large enough to enclose the entire tenderloin, then place the sheet on a clean, flat baking sheet, and place the meat lengthwise in the center of the dough. With a rubber spatula, spread the goose liver foie gras generously (don’t pay the rent that month) on top of the tenderloin, then spoon on the mushroom mixture, gently packing it into the foie gras with your hands.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg and milk. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash, then cover the meat with the second sheet of puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border all around the meat and cutting off any excess pastry. Dip a fork into cold water and press down along the edges to completely seal the dough all around the roast.

Brush the top and four sides of the pastry with the egg wash, tent the roast loosely with foil, and place the baking sheet in the center of the barbecue. Cook for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to about 375 degrees by closing the vents, lowering the gas flames, or cracking open the lid, and cook for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry crust is golden.

Remove the baking sheet from the barbecue, carefully slide the meat onto a large serving platter, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes With an electric knife (so the pastry isn’t crushed) slice the Wellington at the table into 3-inch-thick slices. Transfer the slices to individual plates, being careful not to break the pastry around the meat. Ladle 3 tablespoons of sauce onto each plate then add the Wellington.