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UPDATE: Barbecue Crossroads

100 advance copies of Barbecue Crossroads will be sold by Foodways Texas at the Barbecue Symposium April 4-6 as a fund-raiser for the organization.

In stories, recipes, and photographs James Beard Award-winning writer Robb Walsh and acclaimed documentary photographer O. Rufus Lovett take us on a barbecue odyssey from East Texas to the Carolinas and back. In Barbecue Crossroads we meet the “keepers of the flame,” the pitmasters who still use old-fashioned wood-fired pits, and we sample some of their succulent pork shoulders, whole hogs, savory beef, sausage, mutton, and even some barbecued baloney. Recipes for these and the sides dishes, sauces and desserts that come with them are painstakingly recorded and tested.

But Barbecue Crossroads is more than a cookbook, it is a trip back to the roots of our oldest artisan food tradition and a look at how Southern culture is changing. Walsh and Lovett trace the lineage of Southern barbecue backwards through time as they travel across a part of the country where slow-cooked meat has long been part of everyday life.

What they find is not one story, but many. They visit legendary joints that don’t live up to their reputations—and discover unknown places that deserve more attention. They tell us why the corporatizing of agriculture is making it difficult for pitmasters to afford hickory wood or find whole hogs that fit on a pit.

Walsh and Lovett also remind us of myriad ways that race weaves in and out of the barbecue story, from African American cooking techniques and recipes to the tastes of migrant farm workers who ate their barbecue in meat markets, gas stations and convenience stores because they weren’t welcome in restaurants. Walsh and Lovett also expose the ways that barbecue competitions and TV shows are undermining traditional barbecue culture. And they predict that the revival of the community barbecue tradition may well be its salvation.

Barbecue Crossroads will be released April 15 from the University of Texas Press. The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon

See You at the Foodways Texas BBQ Symposium

3rd Annual Foodways Texas Symposium

Save the date: April 4-6, 2013

Our Barbecue, Ourselves, the 3rd Annual Foodways Texas symposium will explore the past, present, and potential of smoked meat in Texas and its intimate connections to Texas cultural history and identity. As we feast on plates from around the state, we’ll consider what we can learn from barbecue as both meal and process. What can both the meat and the dishes served alongside it tell us about our history? How have traditions and techniques from diverse heritages intersected to create today’s Texas barbecue? How is the way we consume barbecue and barbecue culture being affected by changing technologies and food ideologies? Join us in Austin, April 4-6, 2013, as we eat, think, and talk our way from pasture to pit to plate.

Pitmasters and chefs for the weekend include:
Aaron Franklin,Franklin Barbecue, Austin
Bryan Caswell,Reef, Houston
Tiffany Derry, Dallas
Greg Gatlin, Gatlin’s BBQ, Houston
Hugo Ortega,Hugo’s, Houston
Jesse Griffiths,Dai Due, Austin
Justin Fourton,Pecan Lodge, Dallas
Levi Goode,Goode Company, Houston
Patrick Martin,Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Nolensville, TN

Speakers include:
John T Edge, Southern Foodways Alliance, Oxford, MS
Bryan Bracewell, Southside Market & Barbeque, Elgin, Texas
Daniel Delaney, Briskettown, New York
Daniel Vaughn, BBQ Snob, Dallas
Jason Mellard, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas
Jody Horton, Photographer, Austin
Joe Nick Patoski, Wimberley, Texas
Robb Walsh, Houstonia Magazine, Houston
Tim Byres, Smoke Restaurant, Dallas
Toni Tipton-Martin, The Jemima Code, Austin

Schedule
Thursday, April 4th (Franklin Barbecue)
6pm Registration & welcome dinner from Franklin Barbecue

Friday, April 5th (Saengerrunde Hall)
8:30am –
11:30am: Barbecue Sessions

12:00pm: Lunch

2:00pm –
5:00pm: Barbecue Sessions

6:00pm: Booksigning

7:00pm: Dinner (Hausbar Farms)

Saturday, April 6th (University of Texas Campus)
8:30am –
11:30am: Barbecue Sessions

12:00pm: Lunch

2:00pm –
5:00pm: Barbecue Sessions

7:00pm: Dinner

***(Full lineup and final schedule announcement coming soon)

Houston BBQ Fest: Be There!!

Houston Barbecue Festival
Sunday 24 March 2013 from 1pm-5pm at the Bayou City Event Center–Participating Houston barbecue joints:
• Blake’s BBQ • The Brisket House
• Brooks’ Place BBQ • Burns BBQ
• CorkScrew BBQ • Fainmous BBQ
• Gary Burns Old Fashioned Pit Bar-B-Q
• Gatlin’s BBQ •Gerardo’s
• Lenox Bar-B-Que• Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue
• Ray’s BBQ Shack• Tin Roof BBQ • Virgie’s Bar-B-Que

• Limited availability
• All tickets sold in advance
• No sales at the door

For more information and ticket sales visit HouBBQ.com

Pitmaster: Trent Brooks: Brooks’ Place BBQ

Ask for some crusty meat from the fatty end of a brisket at Brook’s Place in Cypress and you won’t be disappointed. There is one picnic table in front of this barbecue trailer parked in front of an Ace Hardware store at the northwest corner of Barker-Cypress and FM 529 (18020 FM 529, Cypress, TX 77433). But I wouldn’t count on the table being available. Be prepared to eat in your car, or get it to go, but don’t miss this place. The ribs are also excellent. The pulled pork is a little dry, but a good drenching with Texas Pete or some other vinegar pepper sauce will fix that.

Second-generation pitmaster Trent Brooks learned the art of smoke from his dad, who still has a barbecue catering operation headquartered in Acres Homes. You might also find Trent’s wife Norma running the trailer. The place is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm, Sunday 11am to 5 closed Monday and Tuesday. Call 832-893-1682 to see if there’s any brisket left.

Dallas BBQ & Brew Party for Foodways Texas

Suds and Smoke

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, February 25th, 6-9pm
Join Foodways Texas at Deep Ellum Brewing Company for Suds and Smoke on February 25th from 6-9 pm. The evening will be a celebration of smoked food and craft beer and all proceeds will benefit Foodways Texas oral history projects in north Texas.

To add to the festivities, Foodways Texas will give away tickets to our upcoming symposium, Our Barbecue, Ourselves, on April 4-6 and our third annual Barbecue Summer Camp on June 7-9.

Camp Brisket Highlights

Dr. Davey Griffin Cutting Up at Camp Brisket

At the first Camp Brisket on January 11 and 12 at Texas A&M Meat Science Center in College Station, Dr. Davey Griffin helped us understand the mysteries of barbecueing a beef brisket by dissecting one and showing us where the different muscles and fat pockets intersected. Then Dr. Jeff Savell gave a short lecture on knives and put the anatomy lesson to use by showing us how to carve a brisket fresh off the smoker.

The first day, a Friday, was devoted to classroom lectures and demonstrations including a blind taste test between Select, Choice, Prime, Certified Angus and Waygu briskets. On Saturday morning we gathered outside around a bevy of barbecue smokers.

Students at Camp Brisket

Smokers, woods, and the lastest electronic thermometers and gadgets were discussed and demonstrated in an all day cooking session that included a blind taste test of briskets smoked with pecan, oak, mesquite and hickory.

Tickets for the third annual Foodways Texas Barbecue Summer Camp coming up in June sold out shortly after they on sale. And so Foodways Texas and the meat doctors at Texas A&M decided to add another barbecue session during the winter break. Like Barbecue Summer Camp, Camp Brisket was a collaboration between Foodways Texas and the Meat Science Section in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Jeff Savell demonstrates the iGrill app

Barbecue Summer Camp will continue to take a broad approach to barbecue cookery and culture in Texas and beyond, while Camp Brisket focuses specifically on that quintessential Texas smoked meat, the humble brisket, covering topics such as the debate over wrapping or not wrapping the brisket,and much more.

Unwrapped brisket in full glory

Attendees at both camps get a chance to talk barbecue with  pitmasters from around the state of Texas.

Justin Fourton, pitmaster at Pecan Lodge in Dallas

Meals at Camp Brisket were catered by Long John Silver’s fish and chips restaurant. (Kidding) Actually, we ate the briskets we cooked supplemented by sides and sausages from Fargo’s in Bryan, Slovacek’s in Navasota and Southside Market in Elgin.

Join Us for Camp Brisket

Foodways Texas and Texas A&M Meat Science Center present: Camp Brisket

Vencil's Briskets photo by O. Rufus Lovett

2013 Camp Brisket

January 11-12, 2013
College Station, Texas

We’re trying something new this year in partnership with the Meat Science Section in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University. We will hold a second barbecue camp, Camp Brisket, on January 11-12, 2013. While Barbecue Summer Camp will continue to take a broad approach to barbecue cookery and culture in Texas and beyond, Camp Brisket will specifically focus on that quintessential Texas smoked meat, the humble brisket, covering topics such as the debate over which grades/types of beef to use, types of smokers, wrapping or not wrapping the brisket, and much more. Attendees at both camps will receive direction from professors in the Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science Meat Science Section as well as hear from pitmasters from around the state of Texas regarding some of their basic techniques. We are still working on the program for this first Camp Brisket, so stay tuned for more information.

Tickets go on sale:
Nov 16 – Foodways Texas Members (must be member in good standing by November 2)
Dec 1 – Public

Ticket prices:
$495 – Foodways Texas Members
$550 – Public

*Cost of ticket includes all sessions, talks, and activities as well as lunch and dinner during the event.

For more information.

BBQ Tours R Us

When Springer, the world’s leading science and technology publishing company, hosted a three day conference in Houston, they wanted to see a little slice of Texas, but they only had three hours on a Tuesday night. So I arranged a bus trip around town to drink Texas beer, sample some Q, and look at the pits at some outstanding BBQ joints. Among the conference attendees were visitors from England, Ireland, Denmark, Afghanistan, and Australia–and a good time was had by all.

Book Review: Legends of Texas Barbecue

Many thanks to Brette Sember for her recent review of Legends of Texas Barbecue on the Lonely Planet’s Traveler’s Library blog.

Big Barbecue in Texas

The book starts with a detailed history of how Texas barbecue began (10,000 years ago with the Caddo Indians) and evolved as different peoples came to the area. The sport of barbecue (and it is without question a sport in Texas, verified you see the photos of the trophies that are competed for!) has been influenced by African-Americans, German-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and virtually every large ethnic group that has made an imprint on the state of Texas. Barbecue is a huge cultural institution in the Lone Star State and it seems no celebration is complete without some meat being cooked over a fire. Texans have made a tradition of this, and stories of the “free barbecue for all” festivals at inaugurations and other festivities are simply mind-boggling.

For those who think a gas grill is how you barbecue, the book goes into great detail about the variety of equipment used to produce authentic Texas barbecue. I had never heard of a water smoker nor knew the secrets of the charcoal starter chimney. The personal stories of famous barbecuing Texans will introduce you to the men (and very few women) who live and breathe barbecue in competitions, restaurants, and backyards.

These are the folks who live and breathe barbecue and they share their advice and tips. The photos in the book are pretty fantastic. Cowboy boots? Check. Cowboy hats? Check. Huge, giant pits, and massive barbecue festivals? Yep. Big hair. Most definitely. Crusty, dusty cowboys? For sure. This book shows you that the Texas of legends is very much alive and well and just waiting for you to visit and taste it. The photos of the meat are a visual treat. Rich, succulent, deeply glazed, and cooking amid giant clouds of smoke on dry landscapes, the barbecue in this book really does look like the stuff of fantasies.

Some of the recipes will make you do a double take. One barbecue champion swears that marinating chicken in bottled salad dressing is the key to his success. Many recipes use no sauce whatsoever (which is surprising if you aren’t familiar with the vast geographic divide in barbecue across the country). And if you’re looking for the presidential touch, Ladybird Johnson and Barbara Bush’s recipes for barbecue sauce are included. Country style ribs marinated in orange juice, beer can chicken, pork shoulder, sirloin, barbecued goat, turkey, lamb, barbecued bologna (which apparently tastes like hot dogs), and brisket recipes will get you salivating, but don’t forget the sides! Barbecued cabbage, fried green tomatoes, turnip greens, mashed potato salad (and other potato salad variation), cole slaw, and of course, beans, all sound like they would be perfect next to a nice slab of smoky meat on your plate. You could eat for an entire summer just with this cookbook as your guide.

The final chapter is one you will want to rip out and put in your glove compartment if you’re going to be in Texas. It lists exactly where to go to get authentic Texas barbecue, with details on what to order and what to skip at each joint. Once you’ve seen the photos in this book and dog-eared a few recipes you’ll be imagining yourself at the barebones wooden table of a real Texas barbecue joint with a Coca-Cola sign overhead, digging into some Texas-raised and Texas-smoked beef while a guy in jeans, boots, and cowboy hat gnaws on a bone behind you.

To read about another great Texas cookbook by Walsh focusing on the Mexican influence, check out, The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook.

Brette shared these three recipes from Legends:

Dozier’s Crispy Grilled Ribs

2 cups white vinegar
2 cups vegetable oil
1 rack 3 ½ down pork spareribs (under 3 ½ lbs)
3 tablespoons Billy Pfeffer’s Dry Rub (recipe below)
Barbecue sauce of your choice (optional)

Combine the vinegar and oil in a mixing bowl. Rinse the ribs and pat them dry. Season both sides of the ribs with the dry rub.

Set up your smoker for direct heat. When the coals are gray, spread them out and place the ribs on a grill at least 18 inches above the coals. Cook for 20 minutes, mop with the oil and vinegar mixture, and then flip the ribs over and cook the other side. Light more coals in a chimney starter and replenish the fire after 1 hour. Continue flipping and mopping for roughly 2 hours, or until tender. Serve with barbecue sauce if desired.
Serves 2 to 4.

Billy Pfeffer’s Dry Rub

3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons good paprika
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne
Combine all ingredients and store in a shaker bottle. Makes about ½ cup.

Jalapeño Potato Salad

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
One 3 ½-ounce can pitted black olives, drained
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 jalapeños, seeded and chopped

Place the potatoes in a 3-quart saucepan or Dutch oven and pour in cold water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil. Add the potatoes, olives, scallions, feta cheese, and jalapeños. Toss to mix well. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 6.

Killen Q

Ronnie Killen's New Klose Pit

Ronnie Killen is competing in the “Come and Take It!” BBQ competition this weekend in Gonzales. In July, he cooked in the Moulton Jamboree Cook-off. His team is doing pretty good–they have taken a couple of overall medals. He bought a new pit from Klose which he is still breaking in.

No Ronnie Killen, the owner of Killen’s Steakhouse in Pearland, isn’t chucking it all and going on the cook-off circuit. Killen is improving his equipment and sharpening his Q skills for an upcoming restaurant venture he is calling Killen’s BBB (Barbecue, Burgers & Beer). The idea is to move the steakhouse to a new location in Pearland and return the current restaurant to its original purpose–it was a barbecue joint when he first took it over.

Brisket, ribs and sausage at Killen's

Killen invited me and a couple other of the usual suspects to his restaurant to sample the barbecue the other night. Here’s Eater Houston’s post and another one from culturemap. The consensus at my end of the table was that the baby back ribs were great and the brisket was excellent, but the housemade sausage stole the show. Here’s what J.C. Reid had to say about the links at 29.95.com:

But the stars of the show were the pork-and-beef links made in-house by Killen and staff. High-quality (no filler) pork and beef is ground to a perfect consistency (not too coarse, not too fine), embellished with garlic and other herbs and spices, stuffed into a snappy pork casing and smoked on the pit. These are what barbecue links should be: properly textured with a balanced fat content, well-seasoned and smoked, and a casing with good snap but easy to bite through.

Ronnie Killen is looking to go head to head with the Central Texas guys. And if he can turn out competition quality Q everyday, his new joint could be one of the state’s best. But the devil is in the details, if you know what I mean.