Big Thunder Ranch BBQ...At Home!
Let’s begin by stating the obvious. I LOVE DISNEYLAND! I venture to say that all of you do as well or you wouldn’t be reading this. For me, the love affair started when I went to Disneyland with my then fiancé, now husband of 36 years, and only gathered steam as our family grew and trips to the parks became a yearly – sometimes a two or three times yearly – event! The atmosphere, the rides, having cotton candy at 9:30 am, (because you can!) chatting while waiting in lines, the just plain silliness of calling to parade characters (SNAILLLLLLLL!!!), and most of all just being together makes it my ultimate happy place. I love the Disney history, admire the vision it took to build a place that is now an iconic destination spot, and love hearing about all of the new plans.
One plan that I DID NOT love hearing about was the possible – I say possible because being the eternal optimist, I am not giving up hope of a last minute reprieve – demise of the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. This delicious and ridiculously plentiful dinner has become a must for our family at least once during each visit. There is just something about gathering at the long picnic table covered with its vinyl tablecloth after a long day and tired feet that just feels so welcoming and good!! I look forward to it every trip and, knowing that it may not be there soon, decided to recreate this experience at home. So “hang on to your hats and glasses” cause this here is going to be the tastiest dinner you have had in a while! Yee haw!!!
To begin with, let’s re-create the menu:
Ribs – I used “Lloyd’s Baby Back”. Yes, you can make your own, but these are delicious and, trust me, you will have enough to do!
Chicken – I used a combination of breasts and drumsticks, which I seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder, covered with foil and put in the fridge overnight.
Sausage – This is my son’s favorite part of the dinner. The waitresses at Big Thunder soon learn to keep this coming and place the bucket right in front of him! We once asked the brand of sausage and were told that it was only sold to restaurants. I used Dibrova – a locally made sausage and everyone seemed to like that, but any good quality fresh sausage will work.
Baked beans – Bush’s vegetarian beans are our favorite.
Corn wheels – Trickier than it sounds! We soon learned that it is virtually impossible to snap the cobs into the two inch wheels that everyone loves. My husband and I put our heads together and found the best method was to place the cob on a cutting board, put a large knife on the spot where you want to cut, and tap the knife with a hammer until it cuts through the cob. Once we got this technique down, the job was done in no time. I cooked the corn wheels in a large pot of boiling water to which I added a stick of butter. Delicious!!!
Corn bread – Marie Callendar's corn bread mix, I love you!!
And last, but certainly not least, cole slaw made from the Big Thunder BBQ’s own recipe. To keep things easy, I used two bags of cole slaw mix containing green and red cabbage and carrots. The recipe can be found here.
Now on to setting up our ranch inspired table! Anyone who knows me or has been to my home for a meal knows that in addition to cooking, I LOVE decorating the table for whichever occasion it may be. I admit to owning MANY sets of dishes (the exact number is a well-kept secret, mostly because it is still growing) and tons of accessories which I use to creating just the right atmosphere. For this occasion, I dug up a checkered tablecloth, (sorry even for the love of Disney, I don’t do vinyl!), my wooden Mickey napkin holder, cast iron pots and stainless steel bowls to serve in, and of course Mason jars to hold ice cold tea, lemonade or soda! Now let’s get cooking.
For any big meal, timing is always the biggest challenge, you want to try and have everything hot and ready at the same time. Here was my gameplan:
- Make the coleslaw in the morning so it has a chance to marinate
- Bake the cornbread so that it has time to cool, but will still be warm when serving
- Cook the corn and let it simmer in the butter/water until ready to serve
- Grill the thicker/bone-in pieces of chicken first as they will take longer.
- Put the ribs in a large foil pan with about an inch of water on the bottom so that they will not burn, cover with foil, put on the grill and heat through until piping hot and delicious! (I have a HUGE grill and was able to fit the chicken, sausages and ribs. If that’s a problem, just heat the ribs in the oven, just as tasty!)
- Make sure the sausages are cooked all the way through and have a nice char on the outside so that they “snap” when you bite into them!
- Heat the beans – duh!
Chow time! Not exactly the same as being at the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, but pretty darn close, and let’s be honest, with everyone you love sitting around the table, eating, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company, it doesn’t get much better than that.Enjoy!