The star of Woody’s Smoke Shack is its award- winning barbecue. Fall-off- the-bone baby back ribs, pulled chicken and pork, smoked turkey and ham, tender beef brisket — it’s difficult to choose just one main dish.
Then, you have to pick a side. Woody’s coleslaw (the perfect amount of tang), baked beans (a deep, smokey flavor) and cheesy potatoes (a decadent Iowa favorite), among others, are perfect co-stars.
So we stopped in to see how the restaurant makes its cucumbers and onions salad, a seasonal dish (prepared through October) that sends regulars swooning after each bite — and clamoring to enjoy as much as they can before summer comes to an end.
Champion barbecuer Steve “Woody” Wasson invited us into the Shack’s kitchen to make us a batch of summer’s most popular side. Here’s how he does it.
1. Start with the right ingredients. The cucumber and onion salad doesn’t have many ingredients, so the two main ones have to be top- quality and super-fresh. Wasson heads to the Drake Neighborhood Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings to pick up cucumbers and yellow onions for the salad. Occasionally, he stops by the Downtown Farmers Market as well when demand is high.
2. Slice and dice. Wasson uses two large cucumbers for one small batch of salad. Using a potato peeler, he cuts the skin off most of the cucumber, leaving about half-inch wide sections of skin in-tact, for extra crunch in the salad. Then he slices them into thin discs. The onions are treated the same, quartered and cut into thin strips. When all is sliced, the veggies go into a large bowl together.
3. Add sweet and tart. Next, Wasson adds one cup each white sugar and white vinegar to the sliced cucumbers and onions, then stirs to combine.
4. Spice it up. The final ingredient is a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper. Wasson cautions not to add too much, as it can get too spicy fast.
5. Cover and chill. Once everything is stirred and combined, cover the mixture and put it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. The longer it sits and marinates, the better it will taste, and the softer the cucumbers will get from the vinegar. If you eat it too soon, the sugar will make the salad too sweet.
6. Enjoy. After waiting, enjoy the fruits (or, we mean “veggies”) of your labor. Of course, if you can’t wait that long, head over to Woody’s for a side of your own, or take a batch to go.
Woody's Smoke Shack
Find it: 2511 Cottage Grove Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Info: 277-0005; woodyssmokeshack.com
Try it: A single serving is $1.95, or take home a pint for $6.95 or a quart for $8.95