Don’t be surprised if Paul “Awesome Aussie” Mackay greets you at his booth at Happy Harry’s Ribfest with a huge elk-handled knife.
“We keep it around for when they start playing around with us,” he says.
By “playing around,” he means Americans who, upon hearing Mackay’s Australian accent, can’t help but quote the 1986 movie “Crocodile Dundee.”
“When they say, ‘That’s not a knife, THAT’s a knife!’ we pull this thing out! It gets a laugh!” he says.
But Mackay and his crew aren’t just about the giggles. The crew from down under has been in the rib business for 25 years and has earned countless first-place awards at rib festivals around the region, most recently walking away with a first-place finish at Sioux Fall’s fest.
But it’s not just ribs for Mackay. Awesome Aussies mixes their slow roasted ribs with grilled shrimp, something he calls the “original surf and turf.”
“How could we not serve shrimp on the barbie?” he laughs.
He says ribs and shrimp are the perfect combination, but what’s interesting is they involve cooking methods that couldn’t be much different from one another. Here are Mackay’s tips for making the best ribs and shrimp north of Sydney:
For the ribs
Try smoking them with cherry or applewood. It makes for a milder, less pungent flavor than hickory or mesquite wood.
Look for sauces with a fruit twist. He says fruit-based sauces are less acidic and add a sweeter flavor to the meaty rib. He says their Raspberry Chipotle Sauce is a huge hit in Fargo.
“It excites your tastebuds without being crazy hot!” he says.
Think low and slow. Mackay says by far the biggest mistake people make is trying to rush their ribs.
“People need to remember, ribs are a tougher meat. It takes a while for them to tenderize. It takes longer than your think, just slow down!”
Indirect heat is the way to go. Mackay says to heat your woodchips on one side of the grill and the ribs on the opposite side over zero heat. Smoke them for four to five hours (If you must do it in the oven, don’t forget to season the ribs then put it in a 225 degree oven for 2½ hours).
For the shrimp
Grill from frozen. Mackay says grilling from frozen helps the shrimp maintain its moisture.
Cook until it just turns white. Going much longer will make the shrimp tough.
Direct is best. Whereas ribs are low and slow, shrimp is high and fast. Cook them over direct heat for three to five minutes.
Mackay says the meal is topped off perfectly with their Australian cornbread made with creamed corn.
“Oh, it’s so good! It just melts in your mouth!”
And you just know they have the perfect knife with which to cut it.