July 26, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Exploring Texas BBQ

smoker
When you talk about Texas food, one of the first things that comes to mind is barbecue, specifically, barbecue beef. After all, Texas is the place of long cattle drives, of cowboys, of chuck wagon cooking on a campfire. But ask a native Texan to define barbecue, and you’ll receive as many answers as there are miles of wide open spaces in Texas. Folks from the east will tell you barbecue means pork shoulder and pork ribs, with a healthy helping of sauce. From the south and along the border? Barbacoa (head of the cow) is popular, served in corn tortillas. In Central Texas, at famed places such as Kreuz Market in Lockhart, pork was smoked simply, with post oak to flavor, never with sauce. German-style sausages were also smoked and enjoyed. And of course, beef brisket was king in West Texas, as it is all over the state. Obviously, Texas barbecue can mean many things, depending on the Texan.

As I just recently purchased a smoker, it seemed only natural, as a native Texas foodie, that I attempt to prepare a sampling of the various barbecued meats from the Lone Star State. In addition, I recently read through Robb Walsh’s “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook”, which excited me with the thoughts of beautifully smoked meats. However, once Foodbuzz contacted to me and let me know I was selected for this month’s 24, 24, 24, a slight panic set in. I had limited experience with the smoker…what had I gotten myself into? In an effort to gain confidence,I immediately re-read Robb Walsh’s book, researched the best ways to smoke the various cuts of meat, requested the advice of several friends, and made a game plan. I organized recipes, did some shopping, sent out invitations to family, and made a schedule, and of course, a menu.

The Menu:

West Texas Brisket

East Texas Pork Shoulder

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

Barbacoa (with tortillas, salsa, cilantro, onions and lime)

Mom’s Texas Potato Salad

Texas Coleslaw

Ancho Barbecue Sauce

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce

East Texas Blackeyed Peas

 

Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

The cooking started Friday evening, and continued almost nonstop until 5 PM Saturday. (Friday night was more passive cooking than anything. I say passive…the barbacoa was in the oven. I should have been able to sleep through the night. But instead, I woke up several times, thinking “Is the oven on? I don’t smell the barbacoa. Oh no, what if I woke up in the morning and it’s been sitting cold in the oven? I’m screwed! Must get up and check.” I’d walk into the kitchen, check on the oven…still on. Peek inside. Looks good. Go back to bed. Repeat several times until 7am.) I started the smoker at about 9am, so I’d have plenty of time to get a good fire going. I had decided to smoke with oak only. Getting the temperature to stay around 250 degrees was a bit tricky at first, but after a while, I learned to combine larger logs with smaller ones at varying times with success. During the day, while babysitting the smoker, I prepared the sauces and side dishes. (My Mom graciously prepared the potato salad and brought it to my house, saving me some considerable time and kitchen space. Her potato salad is a deliciously creamy, mustard and mayo combination that goes with any barbecue.) I was pleased when the meats were coming to temperature on schedule, and everything was just finishing as everyone started to arrive.

We were expecting about 24 people, so we had extra tables and folding chairs all over the house. (I have a lot of tables and chairs – Thanksgiving and Christmas are often celebrated at our house, so I’m prepared.) It was all pretty casual (the norm for our family), so everyone just found a spot to sit and chat until time to eat.

And eat we did! The brisket was flavorful, with a good 1/2 inch ring of smoke around the outside of the meat. The pork shoulder and ribs had a succulent smoke flavor, and the ribs fell away from the bone. The sausages were slightly smoky, but not so much that the smoke covered up the seasonings. Of course, the sauces were enjoyed on every kind of meat. But the barbacoa was the talk of the night. Most had never eaten barbacoa, and a few decided not to try it (I suppose the idea of eating cow head was a bit much for some!), but everyone had questions. “Were there eyeballs?” “Can I see a picture?” “How did you cook it?” And of course, we ate our fill of potato salad, coleslaw, blackeyed peas, and a “Sock It To Me” cake that my sister-in-law brought. My niece brought some strawberry cupcakes, complete with M&Ms on top, that the kids thoroughly enjoyed.  

All in all, I felt it was a successful party. I was glad that my family was so willing to act as guinea pigs in my first big barbecue with the smoker. (But then again, who will turn down free food?) I would have liked for the brisket and pork shoulder to be a bit more moist, so this will be my goal for the next barbecue. My idea to remedy that? More frequent use of a mop – one with a higher oil content. We also prepared way too much potato salad and blackeyed peas – next time, we’ll cut those recipes down by half. (I did share with you a recipe for the blackeyed peas for a smaller crowd.) But after everyone had their fill, I think the conclusion was clear. No matter what kind of Texas barbecue is being served, we love it all. Every last bite.

Barbecue Rub (adapted from Saveur magazine, June/July 2009) – I used this on the brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder.

3 T kosher salt

3 T dark brown sugar

2 T paprika

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

1 ½ T mustard powder

3 T black pepper

1 t ground coriander

1 t ground cumin

 Mix in a jar. Store for up to 6 months.

 

Mop (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

8 oz brown sugar

16 oz canola oil

1 stick butter

8 oz white vinegar

5 oz Worcestershire sauce

Large dash celery salt

6-7 cloves garlic, smashed

3 onions, cut into large pieces

3 lemons, cut in half

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot, and add enough water to bring total about halfway up the pot. Bring to a simmer on the stove. Mop onto meat every 30 minutes to an hour with a basting brush or cotton mop.

 

 

Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

West Texas Brisket

 1 8-10 lb untrimmed beef brisket, cut in half

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Rub brisket generously with rub. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke brisket, fat side up, mopping every 30 minutes, for 6-7 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 185 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice off the fat cap from top, and slice brisket thinly across the grain. Serve with ancho barbecue sauce.

Serves 8-10 people.

 

East Texas Pork Shoulder (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 bone-in pork shoulder roast, 4-5 lbs

6 T barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Season the pork roast with the rub, and wrap with foil or plastic wrap. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke pork, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 4-5 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice or pull pork from the bone, removing big chunks of fat as you go. Serve on sandwich rolls with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 6-8 people.

 

 

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

 6-7 lbs pork spare ribs

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Sprinkle rub over ribs lightly. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke ribs, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 3 1/2 hours or until meat begins to fall off of bones. Remove from heat and tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut ribs apart and serve with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 5-6 people.

 

Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

4 lbs of your favorite fresh bratwurst sausage (I got mine at the meat counter at Sprouts)

Set up smoker for indirect heat with a water pan. Sear sausages over direct heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Move to indirect heat and smoke for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice on diagonal and serve.

 Serves 6-8 people.

 

 Barbacoa is traditionally cooked by wrapping in maguey leaves, banana leaves, foil or a canvas bag, and buried in an earthen pit with hot coals. However, as most of us don’t wish to dig a pit in our yard, (and in the restaurant business, the health department forbids it, save a few places that have been grandfathered), there are alternate ways of cooking the barbacoa. Most no longer use smoke at all. The oven makes a good alternate place to cook the barbacoa.

Barbacoa Tacos

Barbacoa Tacos

 

Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 cow head, skinned and cleaned

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Chili powder to taste

2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters

 8 cups water

Sprinkle cow head all over with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. Rub spices in. Wrap head in aluminum foil (you may need an extra hand for this), and place in large aluminum roaster pans. Place in oven at 250 degrees for 12-24 hours.

barbacoa after cooking

barbacoa after cooking

When barbacoa is done, pull cheek meat off, and remove the jaw bones. You’ll find another large piece of meat inside. Remove any other large chunks of meat you can find. Cut away excess fat and cartilage, but don’t clean the meat too thoroughly. (Some fat in the barbacoa is tasty!) Skin the tongue and break the tongue meat into small pieces as well. Wet the meat with some of the cooking liquid to keep moist. Serve with accompaniments as tacos.

Makes about 4-5 lbs of meat. 

 

Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

 Accompaniments:

Corn tortillas

Lime quarters

Diced onion

Cilantro, chopped

Salsa pequin (recipe follows)

 

Salsa pequin (adapted from TasteofTx.com http://www.tasteoftx.com/recipes/salsa/pequin.html )

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes

2 t garlic powder

1 t kosher salt

4 T dried crushed chile pequin

1 medium onion, quartered

 Add all ingredients together in food processor. Blend until desired consistency. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. (I let it sit overnight.)

 

potato salad

Mom’s Potato Salad (adapted from, well…my Mom!)

30 medium potatoes

30 hard-boiled eggs, 26 diced, 4 sliced

2 c Miracle Whip or mayonnaise

1 c yellow mustard

1 large red onion, diced

2 c diced dill pickles

salt and pepper to taste

A few dashes of paprika

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain water and allow potatoes to cool. Peel and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add potatoes, diced egg, Miracle Whip, mustard, onion, and pickles into a large bowl and gently mix. Salt and pepper to taste and mix. Lay slices of egg on top of potato salad as decoration. Sprinkle with paprika.

Serves about 30.

 coleslaw

Texas Coleslaw

½ c extra-virgin olive oil

½ c white vinegar

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

1 t celery seed

1 t sugar

1 t coarse ground mustard

¼ t cayenne pepper

1 medium head of green cabbage, shredded

3 large carrots, shredded or julienned (I used my julienne peeler)

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

Combine oil,vinegar, salt, pepper, celery seed, sugar, mustard and cayenne. Toss with the cabbage, carrots, apple and onion until well mixed. Allow to mellow in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Makes about 8 cups.

 

Ancho Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

1 T olive oil

2 c chopped onion

7 cloves garlic, chopped

1 c ketchup

½ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c brown sugar

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c lemon juice

1 ½ T coarse ground mustard

Salt to taste

 Soak the anchos in water for 30 minutes or until soft. Reserve water. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until wilted. Add ketchup and anchos and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients plus about ½ cup of ancho soaking water, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool. Place in food processor and puree. Before serving, add up to 1 cup of meat drippings and reheat. (do not store sauce with meat drippings)

 Makes about 4 cups.

 

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

2 c pineapple juice

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c wheat-free soy sauce

½ t salt

1 ¼ c ketchup

1 T coarse ground mustard

1 c chopped onion

½ t Chinese five-spice powder

1 ½ T Tabasco sauce

3 T molasses

1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded

 Combine all ingredients in saucepan and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until onion and lemon are soft. Remove lemon, and remove sauce from heat. Allow to cool. Puree sauce in food processor. Reheat before serving.

 Makes about 4 cups.

 

East Texas Blackeyed Peas

4 slices bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 lb fresh or frozen blackeyed peas

2 c chicken broth

water to cover

Heat large saucepan to medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes or until bacon starts to render fat and crisp a little. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft and bacon is cooked through. Add blackeyed peas, chicken broth, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Serves 6-8.

31 Responses to “Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Exploring Texas BBQ”

  1. The food was excellent, some of the best BBQ i remember having. Alta,, (being the sweetheart she is) let me take home a plate for my neighbor, who cant get around in the kitchen well. He is still thanking me today.

  2. Aweseom 24, 24, 24. Look at all the barbecue goodness!!! I want some of the brisket, that is…if you’ve got leftovers. LOL

  3. LOVE IT! I am so happy you put barbacoa on there!! I participated in 24, 24, 24 too, I thought about doing something Texas related but I think you did Texas BBQ much more justice than I could. Looks fantastic.

  4. WOW…I am very very impressed. I do not know where to start!! Everything looks wonderful. BBQ is a fav for my husband and I….We are always chasing the best BBQ…Great Post!!!

  5. Head to tail (literally), this 24 BBQ looks fabulous…congrats! I’ve done these dinners before and they are a lot of work but fun.

  6. Holy Cow Head, Alta! You’re amazing! That looks like the most incredible spread! You are my cooking hero.
    xo
    Cindy

  7. hmmmm, smoked ribs! I fire up my BBQ in the dead of winter for some ribs. Never seen barbacoa before, but it sounds like something I’ll have to give a try sometime. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Congratulations on the FB 24 event selection and your brisket is to die for! Love me some BBQ! The mop sauce looks great too!

  9. Wow everything looks amazing–I have a really big craving for ribs right now!

  10. Oh my Cow head!! Wow! I have never, ever, ever seen anything like that! Thanks for sharing! What a great post!

  11. oh how I wish to be at your awesome BBQ, that is a great feast right there!

  12. Simply amazing! I can smell and taste the yummyness from here!!!

    Now, I have to admit that I was a little taken back with the cow head thing. And I learned something – I didn’t know that barbacoa was cooked cow head meat. But then I thought (out loud, of course), “Well, we eat heads of lettuce, cabbage, head cheese; pig’s snout, pig’s ear, pig’s feet and chitterlings a.k.a. chitlins; ox tail, calf fries, and so many other things that Anthony Boudain eats and I’ve never even heard of. So, why not cows head. Right?? I’m going to have to give that a try if for no other reason than to freak out my daughters.

    Sounds like a great time and spectacular food. I’m going to try them ALL!!!!!

  13. OMG. You had a whole cabeza there! Amazing. You went beyond the call of the 24 post. Delicious meal!

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  15. I linked to this article from a post at BBQ-Brethren . I have so say that this was an extremely well written article, with a lot of useful information, and that in spite of having just eating, I am hungry again! Please consider joining the BBQ-Brethren – I am sure I speak for all, when I say that we would be honored.

  16. Great job Alta! And thanks for letting me use your post on my blog.

  17. That is amazing Alta, you jumped in with both feet. A very impressive meal. I saw your post at BBQ Grail and through the BBQ Brethren had to come and let you know what a great post it was.

  18. Got the link from BBQ Brethern. You did a great job with the food, the pics and the write up. That was one huge undertaking for someone with a new smoker. Please consider joining the Brethern – would love to have you. And continuing pics and descriptions as you progress with your smoker.

  19. Hey, I am another Barbecue Brethren stopping by here to say you did an AWESOME job! That is an awful lot to take on all at once, especially being new to it and all. And you pulled it off! Great work! Pop over to our site and join in the fun if you’d like. Lots of great recipes, great folks and great conversation!

  20. That barbecue is just awesome…

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  22. That brisket looks amazing! And the barbacoa…and the ribs…and everything else…

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