Dinner is Served

Todd Johns, the co-owner of Plowboys Barbeque, ventures beyond the barbecue pit when cooking for his family

At the restaurant it’s all about vigilant consistency with perpetually monitored time and temp (“low and slow”). At home for the Johns family, however, it’s the exact opposite. We consider our kitchen as a place to be free to create. It’s a refuge of sorts from the daily demands of precise barbecue cooking. And the best part is I get to share that experience with my family.

While I run the restaurants, my wife Audrey directs the catering. So our time together with our two young sons is frequently spent preparing or sharing meals. To that end, we’ve got two approaches to cooking at home. I’ll either forage through the refrigerator and cabinets to come up with something out of our available ingredients—or head online to my guilty pleasure, Pinterest. It’s a fun and virtually limitless resource for recipes to consider. I will often find something that sounds good and riff on what others have done for something unique to our tastes.

When busy scheduling doesn’t allow for cooking at home, we opt for the convenience of local “field trips” to other food makers in K.C.—from Tortilleria San Antonio in K.C.K. to Town Topic in downtown Kansas City.

Our sons have come to appreciate the craft of food versus processed or fast food. They see what goes into the food production in our restaurants and appreciate that same level of quality, effort and ingredients inherent in good chef or cook prepared meals. Even if they don’t go into our business, I want them to appreciate what we do and what honest food should taste like.

The following recipes are some of our family favorites. While they may seem to be all over the place, that’s kind of the point. The best part about cooking at home is you don’t have to have a plan or a reason. Just an appetite, an idea and the right ingredients. And maybe a Pinterest account.

Side Dish

There’s a period of time for every great competition barbecue team where everything clicks. The recipes are perfected, the barbecue is delicious to the pit masters as well as the judges, and awards are commensurate with the talent evident on the plate. That was 2009 for Todd Johns. Together with his brother-in-law, the duo competed in 22 KCBS-sanctioned competitions in seven states that year, winning five championships including American Royal Grand Champion. In September of 2013, after a decade of competitive barbecue and over 500 awards, Johns and his business partner, Todd Johnson, opened Plowboys Barbeque restaurant in Blue Springs. A second location, located downtown at 10th and Main St. followed last year. The heart and success of the Plowboys menu was created in competition for judges across the country, but the fastidious barbecue aficionados of Kansas City are also giving him high marks. A recent USA Today poll recently named Plowboys as having the Best Burnt Ends Sandwich in Missouri and Kansas.

JohnsTodd_40_ALSpinach Salad w/ Salmon and Warm Bacon Dressing


3    tablespoons bacon drippings

2    tablespoons olive oil

1/3  cup red wine vinegar

1    tablespoon Dijon mustard

2    tablespoons honey

Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and cover. Can be placed in fridge and rewarmed later.


4    ounces salmon filet, seasoned & grilled

2    cups spinach

3    fresh strawberries

1    tablespoon dried cranberries

1    tablespoon pecan pieces

1    hard-boiled egg

Mix salad ingredients. Top with warm salmon from the grill and warm bacon dressing.

JohnsTodd_50_ALStuffed Acorn Squash

8    acorn squash

2    cups packaged bread stuffing

3    cups chicken stock

1    pound Jimmy Dean sage sausage

1    small white onion, diced

2-3  carrots, peeled and diced

2    stalks celery, diced

3    cloves garlic

Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté onion, carrot and celery until almost soft. Add sausage and garlic to brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Add warm chicken stock and bread stuffing mix and stir until combined with sausage and vegetables.

Cut just a bit off the bottom of each squash so that it stands flat in a pan. Cut off top and remove seeds and insides. Stuff each squash with the sausage and stuffing mixture. Set top back on squash and back at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.

JohnsTodd_62_ALBuffalo Chicken Poppers

2    dozen large jalapeños, halved, deveined and seeded

3    cups smoked chicken

1/4  cup Frank’s Hot Sauce

2/3  cup chopped celery

8    ounces cream cheese

½    cup blue cheese dressing

½    cup ranch dressing

2    cups cheddar jack cheese, shredded

Chop chicken and blot dry with paper towel. Add Frank’s sauce, chopped celery, and shredded cheese.

Heat cream cheese and both salad dressings in a pan until well blended. Combine chicken and the sauce* and heat in a 9-inch by 12 –inch pan for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chill in refrigerator overnight.

Spoon cooled mixture into the halved jalapeños. Sprinkle additional cheese on top of jalapeños and grill or bake until cheese is melted and peppers are soft.

*This can be made ahead but don’t combine the sauce and chicken mixture until you’re ready to reheat it as the dressing tends to separate.

JohnsTodd_71_ALBanana Pudding

This is a dish I’ve won awards at BBQ contests with. It is my variation of Paula Dean’s recipe. This dessert is very rich, so a little goes a long way. Banana pudding is a great way to finish off some award winning barbecue.

4    bananas, not overly ripe

3    cups whole milk

1    can sweetened condensed milk

Lorna Doone cookies

2    boxes banana-flavored instant pudding

8    ounces cream cheese

12   ounces Cool Whip

Here is my personal secret to great banana pudding. Place two of the bananas on the grill or in a 350-degree oven until the peel is black and the fruit is soft. While fruit is baking, mix milk and pudding until blended. In separate bowl, combine condensed milk with cream cheese until soft. Fold Cool Whip into cream cheese and condensed milk mixture. Set aside.

Remove baked bananas from peel and whisk into pudding until combined. Fold cream cheese mixture into pudding.

Crush cookies and layer serving dishes with cookie crumbles and then a few slices of the remaining fresh bananas. Add layer of pudding. If your serving dishes are tall, additional layers of cookie, banana and pudding may be required. Top with cookie crumbles and fresh banana slices. Chill for at least 30 minutes and serve.