Bresco Brings the Heat at Cahaba River Fry-Down
The sound of sizzling fryers and the smell of fresh fried catfish were in the air at Railroad Park on Sunday afternoon as Birmingham’s top amateur culinary competition teams threw down at the seventh annual Cahaba River Fry-Down.
Dropping batches of crispy fish-and-chips in two 40 lb. Pitco gas fryers, the Bresco culinary team found itself serving a line of hungry attendees. The catfish, battered with Back Forty’s “Truck Stop Honey” brown ale and Crazy Wanda’s cracker meal, was paired with thick golden Belgian fries and accompanied by a side of fried pork skins and tartar sauce. Back Forty added another curveball, providing bottles of their beer vinegar to help complete the fish-and-chips setup.
Bresco culinary team member and Crazy Wanda’s executive fry cook Russ Griffis said one of the keys to perfect fried fish lies inside the fryer itself.
“I don’t ever turn the fryer up past 350° to avoid burning the oil or the fish,” Griffis said. “At the same time I don’t want it below 350° or else I’m going to get greasy product. 350° is perfect for fried fish.”
Cahaba River Fry-Down Iron Skillet
Those attending the event, which benefits the Cahaba River Society, were given tokens to cast their votes in a variety of different categories, including “best dressed,” “team spirit” and of course “crowd favorite.” The trophy at stake every year is the now-famous Cahaba River Fry-Down iron skillet. Bresco team members nervously watched as people – still munching on beer-battered fish – walked off to the voting tent to name their favorite.
“We’re not dressed up in elaborate costumes or throwing a dance party, but we do feel like we’ve got one of the best entries here as far as the food goes,” Bresco team member Neil Ross said as he glanced over at a group of people trying the pork skins. Seeing the look of satisfaction on their faces, Ross turned back to the fryer. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the votes say.”
As the afternoon turned to evening, an event organizer went from tent to tent to notify teams that the results were tabulated. The various awards were divided among several different teams, and ultimately Team Bresco – which won “Most Creative” in 2014 – walked away empty handed.
Packing the remainder of their equipment into the truck, the members of the team reminded themselves that the event was about having fun and supporting an important cause. Though they didn’t capture an iron skillet this year, the entire crew said they enjoyed themselves and were pretty sure that a lot of people took notice at their culinary skills. Bresco plans to return to the Cahaba River Fry-Down in 2017 and hopes to sweep several categories.