Game Day Eats: Kansas City

In the fourth edition of Game Day Eats, we’re visiting the Midwest BBQ capitol of Kansas City as the Packers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs. I spent about a week in Kansas City in 2018 when I was speaking at a conference there and had the chance to eat some incredible barbecue (Arthur Bryant’s) while there. In addition to amazing food, Kansas City has a thriving downtown area, a free streetcar that shuttles you to the various districts and some wonderful historic architecture. The farmers market is a great example of the types of diverse food available in the city. It’s a city well worth visiting and I was excited to revisit Kansas City for a Game Day Eats feature.

Pork Shoulder Burnt Ends | Recipe from Flaming Rooster BBQ

Get the recipe here. I was a little apprehensive about making barbecue in the oven (this is sacrilegious as far as folks with smokers are concerned), but we followed this recipe to use pork shoulder instead of the traditional cut used in burnt ends (beef brisket) and prepared it at a low temperature by slow roasting in the oven rather than in a smoker. While we didn’t have the addition of wood smoke for flavor, we did add a pan of pear juice in the oven while the pork was roasting to create some flavorful steam to add to the flavor. Burnt ends are a dish that is explicitly associated with Kansas City, as they were referenced in the famed 1972 Calvin Trillin article in Playboy Magazine which credited Arthur Bryant’s BBQ as the best barbecue restaurant in the world. The article also described “burned edges”, as such:

“The main course at Bryant’s, as far as I’m concerned, is something that is given away free – the burned edges of the brisket. The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I’m in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges for free.” 

Calvin Trillin, 1972

More than 50 years later, Kansas City still has a reputation as a destination for barbecue. As any BBQ fan would know, barbecue varies widely depending on which U.S. city you’re enjoying it in. The features of Kansas City BBQ in particular are two: you can find virtually any kind of meat barbecued and the sauce is a sweet, tomato and molasses-based sauce.

I slow roasted my pork “ends” in a 225 degree F oven for 5 hours, then upped the temperature to 350 and added barbecue sauce for 30 minutes. Then I added 2 T of brown sugar and turned the oven up to 500. Every 5 or so minutes I would toss the burnt ends so that the sauce would caramelizw on all sides. After about 20 minutes, the pork was sufficiently “burnt”.

We used a Kansas City style dry rub (heavily features brown sugar and paprika for a sweet heat) and finished with a mixture of a homemade barbecue sauce and Sweet Baby Ray’s (what we had on hand already), even though this is a Chicago-based barbecue sauce.

Kansas City Cheesy Corn | Recipe from Ames Tribune

Get the recipe here. Cheesy corn is a popular barbecue side that originated at Jack Stack BBQ in Kansas City in the early 1970s. Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ started as Smoke Stack Barbecue in southern Kansas City in the early 1970s by the Fiorella family of restaurateurs. The restaurant was rated by Zagat as the #1 barbecue house in the country. The cheesy side dish features sweet corn, milk, cream cheese and shredded cheddar complete with smoked meat (often ham or bacon, or both). Like any side dish, it’s meant to complement, but not overpower the main star of the meal – your barbecued meat. I liked how quickly cheesy corn came together on the stovetop. We prepped it and refrigerated until 20 minutes away from being ready to serve the burnt ends and melted the cheddar cheese on top of the corn. Flipping on the broiler for a minute or two ensures a golden brown crust on the cheesy corn, as well.

This side dish is so creamy and cheesy and was such a wonderful complement of texture and flavor to the sweet and crispy burnt ends.

Kansas City Ice Water | Recipe from HyVee

Get the recipe here. I have to admit, it turns out that the Kansas City Ice Water did not even originate in Missouri, but did so in Iowa. Despite this, it’s a simple and refreshing cocktail that combines a vodka soda and a gin and tonic in a cooling and (this is key) approachable clear liquor based-cocktail. There are a variety of twists on the City’s namesake cocktail including using 7-Up, tonic water, or even black tea and tonic water. It *has* to have a citrus garnish (lemon or more true to form, lime). The tie to Kansas City is unknown (perhaps a bartender or the customer who first ordered it had ties to Kansas City?), but it is a refreshing and easy to drink beverage that pairs perfectly with the heavier flavors of barbecue and cheesy corn.

This had the perfect bite of a gin and tonic, but sweetened so slightly by the 7-Up. I think Kansas City might be favorite NFL food team thus far!

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