Grillin with Tommy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 8, 2007

On any given Friday, Tommy Cristwell can be seen out in front of Lily White Cleaners on Cedar Street grilling up Boston butts, slabs of ribs and his famous bacon. A quick drive by and a nose full of his delicious offerings will make almost anyone want to see what he&8217;s got on the grill that day.

He&8217;s been grilling in front of his business for several years. Although doctors asked him to cut back after surgery, Cristwell continued to cook, the only difference is he uses as large capacity conventional cooker instead of a traditional pit.

Cristwell said he can cook up to 50 Boston butts and 100 slabs of ribs in his cooker.

Although he doesn&8217;t make his living by cooking, Cristwell said he keeps at it because he enjoys it. As one of the members of the Butt Masters, a local competition grilling team, Cristwell has honed his skills in making everything from brisket to butts.

Competitions have become a lot more common, especially with coverage from the Food Network, Cristwell said, which has made being in the barbeque business even more of a challenge.

Cristwell and his teammates go to competitions all over the Southeast, including a recent competition two weeks ago in Birmingham where they took away ninth place for their barbeque brisket recipe. Over the years, they have racked up numerous awards on their barbeque.

One of the things about the competitions Cristwell said he likes is that most teams tend to help each other when things go wrong.

Even on Fridays when they aren&8217;t headed off to competition, Cristwell said he gets a hand from his teammates.

Over the years, the recipes have changed some, like trying numerous recipes for sauces before settling on one his regulars say they like.

When people offer advice about how to improve, Cristwell said he is always receptive.

In previous years, Cristwell said he was known for doing more cooking around the area for church groups or people he knew. Now he tries to keep it simple, but he still does special orders for people.

Where Cristwell first learned his barbeque prowess was not too far from Demopolis, when he was in high school. Cristwell said he spent many weekends and days after school at the Twix&Tween in Centerville helping then owner, Bay Ingram, barbeque the old-fashioned way.

Ingram has since passed away, but Cristwell still remembers his early grilling days fondly.

One of the things he is known for around town is what he calls &8220;Wild Boar Bacon.&8221; Although he doesn&8217;t sell it officially, he likes to throw some in when people order a slab of ribs or a Boston butt.

Cristwell said the best thing about the recipe is it is relatively simple and people can even do it at home. He was kind enough to share his secret with us:

Wild Boar Bacon

1 or more packages of thick-cut bacon

red pepper and black pepper as desired

1 bottle cinnamon sugar (you can make your own)

brown sugar

Lay out bacon on preparing surface and sprinkle with black pepper. Add red pepper if desired. The next step is to apply a bottle of cinnamon sugar to both sides. Put bacon in a pan or bowl of brown sugar. Next lay bacon flat on a baking sheet or griddle pan. Cook 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Cool 30 minutes and it is ready to serve.

Editors note: In the Sept. 1 edition of The Times, the recipe for Diabetic-Friendly Banana Pudding was misprinted. It should have read:

Diabetic-Friendly Banana Pudding

1 1.5 oz. package sugar-free instant pudding mix

1 1 oz. package vanilla sugar-free instant pudding mix

5 cups fat free milk

1 8 oz. container low fat sour cream

1 8 oz. container frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed

1/2 box reduced fat Nilla wafers, about 45

7 medium-sized ripe bananas, sliced

Combine pudding mixes and prepare according to package directions, using 5 cups of milk and a wire whisk. Add sour cream and one-third of whipped topping to pudding; stir well. Line a 9×13 baking dish with vanilla wafers; reserve remaining wafers. Arrange bananas over wafers. Pour pudding mixture over bananas. Line edge of dish with wafers, reserving four wafers to crumble and sprinkle on top. Cover and chill. Sprinkle crumbled wafers over topping before serving.

Editors note: In the Sept. 5 edition of The Times in the Serendipity section, the article about the Hale County Animal Shelter should have said the event was the final completion of the project for the Auburn Rural Studio students, but the shelter is not open yet. The Hale County Humane Society plans to have something up and running by this fall.