the appetizer:

America's Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America's Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants by Chef Paul Kirk and Ardie Davis, includes recipes like Barbecued Pork Loin; Beer-Battered Cod with Tartar Sauce; Barbecued Mutton Ribs; and Buffalo (Bison) Bratwurst with Cheese and Jalapeños.

Cookbook Profile

Beer-Battered Cod with Tartar Sauce

Serves 6 to 8

Smoky Jon's #1 BBQ
2310 Packers Ave. Madison, WI 53704
608-249-RIBS (7427)

When most people think of Madison, Wisconsin, cheeseheads, brats, and beer come to mind. Barbecue aficionados familiar with Madison add "Smoky Jon's."

Smoky Jon Olson, avid hunter and "Madison's All-Time BBQ King," has been serving tender smoky barbecue to the citizens of and visitors to Madison for more than 30 years. Now and then he leaves the restaurant in the capable hands of pitmaster Joel Latham and staff while he networks with fellow barbecuers at contests and National Barbecue Association conferences. That's how we met him.

We like Smoky Jon and his barbecue, but since we haven't tried it for a while, we decided to ask Ardie's friends Ron and Mary Buchholz and their son Geof to pay a visit to Smoky Jon's "inhognito" and give us this candid report.

The exterior of Smoky Jon's leaves no doubt that you're looking at a barbecue joint. Neon and painted signs, with pigs, ribs, and barbecue in a bun will definitely get your attention. Inside, Smoky Jon's "has a rustic North Woods look with pine log walls, rough-cut knotty-pine trim, knotty-pine tongue/groove plank ceilings, and deep burgundy brick pavertype quarry tile floors," as Ron describes it. Awards, a string of small lighted pigs, banners, a Wisconsin "No.1 BBQ" vanity plate, and other memorabilia add to the feel of the joint.

Beer-Battered Cod

Is Smoky Jon good enough to wear the barbecue king title? Yes! The marinated barbecued chicken is a house favorite and won't disappoint. The ribs have just the right kiss of smoke, or "smoky undertone" as Ron aptly puts it, and are tender, juicy, and delicious. If you like naked ribs, as we do, ask for sauce on the side or your ribs will be served slathered with Smoky Jon's sauce. It's good stuff, mind you. We just like to decide how much sauce to enjoy with our ribs. The pulled pork sandwich is served with sauce on the side. It's good enough to stand alone, but a touch of Smoky Jon's sharp, tangy barbecue sauce lends a nice complement.

What also catches our attention at Smoky Jon's is the beer-battered cod. As longtime beer-battered Minnesota walleye pike fans, we knew Smoky Jon would make us equally enthusiastic about his cod, and he did! The dinner comes with four pieces of cod, two sides, and a dinner roll with butter. Put some tartar sauce on the lightly coated seasoned battered fish cooked to tender flakiness and enjoy. Any of the sides go well with it—creamy coleslaw, spicy barbecue baked beans, spicy buttered corn, applesauce, fries, and side salad. We agree with Ron that the best of all the sides, however, is the barbecue baked beans.

Smoky Jon's priority is to serve great barbecue in a welcoming setting with friendly service. He delivers that and throws in a moist, rich, flavorful Chocolate/Cherry Bundt Cake for dessert. It is the only dessert on the menu, but it's worth saving room for a few bites. Order one slice with enough forks for everyone at the table. Our hats are off to Smoky Jon Olson and pitmaster Joel Latham. We thank them for the two recipes.


Beer-Battered Cod with Tartar Sauce

Tartar Sauce Cod

Combine all the tartar sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Cover a cookie sheet with paper towels and top with a wire rack. In a medium pot or a deep-fryer, heat about 3 inches of oil to 365 degrees (use a deep-frying thermometer if you're using a pot).

Meanwhile, mix the flour and cornstarch with the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk in the egg. Slowly add the beer while whisking just until the ingredients are incorporated.

Dip the fish pieces in the batter and place on a plate or the wire rack you will be using to drain the fried fish. If you have some batter left over, you can dip the fish in the batter again after the first coat of batter dries on the fish awaiting frying.

Place the fish pieces, two at a time, in the oil. Cook until the fish is done and the crust is lightly golden, about 4 minutes for 3/4-inch-thick fillets. Remove the fish with tongs and put on the rack to drain. Sprinkle the salt over the hot fish and put the baking sheet in the oven while you cook the other batches. Serve with the tartar sauce.


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This page created June 2009