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The Angels' Food - Knightstown Couple Cooks Up Success
July 16, 2008 - Entering the house, aromas of baked goods and smokey barbecue flavors fill the air. An eight-pound chicken sits on the kitchen counter, smothered with tasty seasonings as it waits to be put into the smoker on the back deck, where it will cook for three hours.
This is a typical scene at the Angel household, especially because Caryn and Dennis Angel spend much of their time cooking and entering various cheesecake and barbecue competitions. When it comes to barbecue, their specialties include chicken, pork, steak, shrimp, beefsteak and ribs.
A Knightstown native, Caryn graduated from Knightstown High School and is currently a logistics manager for DMG World Media. She was inspired by southern cooking, much of which she obtained from her mother, Estelle McDonald.
Dennis, a Holton native, graduated from Edinburgh Community High School and was later stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was an E6 Staff Sergeant in the Army.
It was during the time the couple lived in North Carolina that they got the cooking bug.
“We lived in rural North Carolina,” Dennis said. “There are lots of old cooks down there. Something about how it all works with the indigenous population.” For Caryn, moving away from traditional Hoosier home-style type dishes in favor of something more interesting and different was a must with three young boys in the house.
In an effort to offset traditional meals, Caryn and Dennis began creating their own rubs with spicier flavors that aren’t “too hot.”
“When you got hungry boys running around the house, hamburgers and hotdogs get old real fast,” Caryn said.
As for entering barbecuing competitions, the Angel’s began with a local contest called “The First Annual Great American Cookout” in 2003 where they took first place. Since that time, the pair has entered many competitions in nearby Modoc, and in the fall of 2007, Caryn won Boondocks Farms barbecue contest.
The most recent competition the Angel’s participated in was on Saturday July 12 in Modoc and was called “Grills Gone Wild.” The two took first place for chicken and ribs.
According to Dennis, most guys think barbecue is grilling hamburgers and hotdogs in the backyard. For him, it is totally different.
“I’m cooking meats from 18 to 24 hours and even longer in some cases,” Dennis said. “I use different smoking woods- hickory and mesquite. You’d be surprised at what you can get from say, a pecan wood, or apple wood.”
While Dennis mainly barbecues ribs, pork butts, beef brisket and deer, Caryn prefers seafood. Walking to the beat of a different drum, she once made a shrimp cheesecake for a competition. It was more like an appetizer, Caryn said. Some people loved it and wanted the recipe, other’s didn’t.
When it comes to cheesecakes, the couple has a list of those that they sell to the public including banana split, sugar cream pie, very berry vanilla, extreme turtle, caramel apple and pear tart. Most of the cheesecakes have won competitions, and for between $15 and $21, people can buy them to enjoy at home. And as far as compatibility in the kitchen goes, the couple gets along for the most part.
“We’ve had our moments,” Dennis said. “It’s usually an argument about what I think someone will like. I look at it from the sales side. She looks at it from a different perspective.”
Caryn agreed, and said that interruptions are sometimes and issue and made reference to an earlier incident where she had started making a cheesecake, got interrupted, messed up the recipe and had to start all over.
“He can’t bother me when I’m cooking,” Caryn said. “I can’t handle it.”
When the couple isn’t cooking in the kitchen, they can be found outside on their back patio, even in the winter, smoking or grilling meats. They also have a stack of beehive boxes full of dripping honeycombs that they plan to start selling to Wilson Wines in Modoc for their honey mead wine.
For the Angels, Dennis especially, cooking is becoming more than just a hobby.
“This is a hobby getting ready to turn pro,” Dennis said. “It’s just gotten to that point. At some point, you keep hearing the same things over and over. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
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