Friday, October 2, 2009

A Texas Dinner in the Heart of Chicago

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

I'm no expert on smoking a brisket but a few weeks ago I gave it my 2nd go around at it. I was happy with the results, it was like a win in the 1st week of the NFL season, you'll take it and like the results but know there's room for improvement. I rubbed it with a homemade rub and used Jim Goode's BBQ Mop which consisted of butter and bacon-not bad-among other things. When it comes to the four bastions of BBQ everyone knows that Texas and its beef, specifically brisket is 25% of America's BBQ heavens. So there was only one thing to do if I was going to give it my 2nd go at a real Texas smoked BBQ brisket. Do some research in the "Legends of Texas Barbecue" Cookbook by Robb Walsh. This along with his other books make up a series of the best mens cookbooks around as far as I'm concerned. If you are a BBQ man and have a collection of books that doesn't include this one then order yourself a copy right now. Not only are the recipes and cooking tips from world BBQ champions and pitmasters from throughout the state of Texas, but its also a history lesson and has a complete guide to the Texas BBQ trail and every store/butcher you need to know should you ever get in your car and decide to do it up yourself.

a must own for any BBQ head

I never really follow a recipe to the core but instead I take different ingredients and techniques that catch my eye and put them all into one. I decided I would concoct my own rub made up of the different spices that I got from the Central Market in Dallas, TX. I was happy with my chili based rub and thought it would also work real well for chili sauce for hot dogs so it was a successful experiment from that standpoint.

assorted spices for a rub

Jim Goode's BBQ Mop (From Legends of Texas cookbook)

"This mop is so good, you'll be tempted to eat it like soup"

4 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup minced garlic
2 tablespoons Rub
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 pound thin-sliced bacon, finely chopped

Bring the broth to a boil, add the bay leaves and oregano, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion, celery, green pepper, garlic, beef rub, dry mustard, salt, black and white peppers and cayenne. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion wilts. Add the broth, lemon zest and juice, soy sauce, vinegar and oils. Stir to mix.

Cook the bacon until soft, and add the bacon and drippings to the broth. Simmer until reduced by about one quarter, about an hour. Makes 6 cups. Note: You could cut this in half and still have enough to mop your beef with. Its also really good when poured onto the sliced brisket.

mop during simmering


I decided on baked beans and German potato salad to go along with the beef brisket. On top of the slices of brisket I also had cheap hamburger buns along with sliced onions and pickles for brisket sandwiches. As has become my custom for my BBQ beans I start off by sauteing some chopped pieces of bacon until crispy and then remove them. Into the bacon grease goes an assortment of peppers and onions until they become translucent. I then sprinkle a bunch of the rub on the peppers and onions and then pour half can of beer into the pot to deglaze it and unload a couple cans of Bush's baked beans into there along with a half to a whole cup of BBQ sauce and let them cook for 45 minutes.

BBQ Baked Beans Simmering

I used my trusty Texas BBQ book for the German potato salad recipe. One of the reason sausage is so big along with beef in Texas is many of the states settlers were Eastern European and German and they were the ones who started the meat markets that have lasted through generations. A popular side dish for Texas BBQ is German potato salad due to the pitmasters heritage and family recipes from back home made with ingredients readily available here.

German Potato salad is easily my favorite...its got bacon

Like I said up above I really didn't go by a recipe but instead followed the tips that have stuck in my head thru time. Here are a few things to know when smoking your own brisket.

Brisket Tip's

1) The rule of thumb for timing a brisket is 1 hour per pound at 250F, but you have to add another 15 minutes for every time you open the lid or let the fire go below temperature. Most cooks figure 1.5 hours per pound to be safe, or 15 hours for a 10 pound brisket.

2) once you remove the fat cap and allow for shrinkage, a brisket yields about half of the weight you started with, so a 10 lb brisket should yield 5 pounds of meat.

3) I always smoke with a combo of cowboy charcoal and hickory wood, in Texas mesquite is very popular. Make sure not to use too much of either or else your temperature will get too hot. You want to keep it right around 220 degrees.

4) Wrapping a brisket in foil after several hours of smoking yields a tender product with minimum amount of work. I take it a step further and take a tip from Saveur and pour a bottle of beer into the brisket wrapped in foil and let it cook another couple of hours.

limit the amount of times you remove the lid so the temp stays afloat

When the brisket is ready to be removed from the heat simply take it in the foil but be careful not to spill it. The meat is ready when a thermometer reads 185 at the thick end or when a probe is entered with little resistance. Remove the brisket from the foil and discard the foil in the trash. Allow the brisket to sit and cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. If your going to go through the time to make this then make sure you have enough for leftovers. I love a Texas brisket sandwich.

The aroma will have you licking your chops

Sliced Brisket

a Texas dinner plate never leaves an inch of room

and leftovers for brisket sandwiches

Note: Serve sandwiches with sliced pickles and onions on a cheap bun and maybe with some BBQ sauce if that's your style.

-Sampling America's "Micro Fooderies"

On a recent trip to Dallas my uncle brought me back the spices seen above along with some real Texas sausage. I am told that every single market and grocery store in Texas carries some sort of Texas sausage. He was told by a local that Opa's had the best sausage in the state that was available at most grocery stores. Like so many other pit bosses and sausage makers they use recipes that have been in the family for generations on end.

some damn fine sausage

From Opa's website: "What makes Opa's Smoked Meats so irresistable? First, it is the long standing tradition and continued commitment to produce only the finest quality smoked meats. We use authentic German recipes that have been in our family for generations. They call for fresh ingredients including select cuts of beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Not to mention a special blend of spices along with a process that slowly smokes the meat for full flavor. For almost sixty years, the Opa's family has perfected the art of making sausage and other smoked meat products. It's part family tradition, part hard work, and part passion. Put it all together and the end result is 100% delicious. In fact, after just one bite we're confident you'll agree."

Which I completely do. All I did was grill these over fresh charcoal and slathered them in Open Pit BBQ sauce. They also make for a fine sausage sandwich. No need to add peppers and cheese.

Opa!!! Texas, much like Chicago and Wisconsin, loves their sausage

Its a damn shame we don't have anything like these tubes seen below around Chicagoland and it got me thinking that someone should open up a specialty grocery store that carries the roadfood of America all under one roof. A place where you could get Texas sausage found next to South Loisiana Boudin or Door County Cherry Pie or Michigan Blueberry Pie, treats from Hawaii and meats from Alaska. Imagine the selection of soda pop-whatever it is you call it. It would be great.

Texas Smoked Jalapeno Cheese Sausage

Fredericksburg, TX
Website w/ mail order avail.

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