Thursday, July 21, 2016

Win VIP tix to Texas Monthly BBQ fest

Enter until August 7th.  Click on the banner for the entry form.  Good luck!

Monday, July 11, 2016

More back yard ribs

sampled 7/10/16
Since we enjoyed the ribs we smoked for the party my wife attended so much, I asked her if we should do some more for us the next day.  She agreed.  Unfortunately, when she went to two different Aldi's (which had ribs on sale), they only had one rack available.  Not wanting to just smoke one rack, she got another rack at Albertson's for a little more and we were on.  The difference was the more expensive rack was fully trimmed down to just the spare ribs.  Plus they were smaller spares.  Oh well, might as well get full use out of those coals and smoke.  Especially since most was going into the fridge for later anyway.
We followed the same methods we did on Saturday.  I trimmed down the large untrimmed rack, kept the belly meat, and gave everything a generous coating of North Main All N 1 seasoning.  We loaded up the coals and added oak and pecan from our yard.
Then into the smoker for 3 hours.  My Mrs noted the smoker was running a little hotter than on Saturday, but we kept the cooking times the same.
After 3 hours we had some nice smoked meats.  Next they were wrapped well in foil and into the oven at 250 for another hour and 15 minutes for some tendering.  After that, I slathered on some Dr Pepper BBQ sauce and they went back into the oven for another hour at 150.
The result was some very nice candy ribs.  The sweet of the DP sauce with the spicy and salt of the North Main rub made for some scrumptous eating.  Moisture and tenderness were excellent but they were just a tad overcooked as the bones slipped out easily.  Still, better than chewy ribs.  Good smoke flavor, too.
After eating a few too many, the remainder went into the fridge to enjoy for the rest of this week.
I had some again tonight with some of Vencil Mares' brisket and some Kreuz jalapeno cheese sausage and I can report that the result was one very happy tummy.  I plan to repeat that several more times this week!  When I took the lid off the rib container that had been in the fridge for a day I could still smell the smoke.  Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

By George, I think we have ribs nailed

sampled 7/9/16
click on the photo below, if you dare!
My wife offered to bring some ribs to a party today so we smoked a couple of racks and did things just a little bit differently.  The results were spot on.  We had perfect moisture, texture, and flavor with good smoke penetration.  We've never done any truly bad ribs, but these qualified as great.  Here's our methods.

First, as usual, we had to trim down the racks and cut them in half to fit in our little bullet smoker.  I kept the belly meat separate, but instead of chunking it we went ahead and smoked it, too.  I figured it would be a bit dried out, as it is a smaller piece of meat, but it sure had great flavor.  The only seasoning we used was some North Main BBQ All N 1 seasoning, which we applied liberally.  We didn't bother removing the membrane so no seasoning on that side.
We put one rack and belly meat on the lower rack and the other on the top rack.
We smoked everything over charcoal with liberal additions of dry oak and pecan twigs from our yard.  My Mrs kept the smoke billowing for 3 hours.
This is what we had when we popped the top after 3 hours.
From there we wrapped each piece individually in heavy aluminum foil and put it in a pre-warmed oven at 250 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  We then pulled the ribs, slathered on some Dr Pepper BBQ sauce, then re-wrapped and put them back in the oven for an additional hour and a half at 150 degrees.  Here's the result.
I got to chow down on about half a rack (for quality control, of course) and the rest went over like gangbusters at the party my Mrs went to. They sliced like butter but the meat held onto the bone just perfectly.  Each rib I ate had the classic KCBS bite mark.  They were so good, we plan to do 2 more racks tomorrow, just for us.  Hopefully we can repeat this performance.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Circle A BBQ and more, Grand Saline

sampled 6/9/16 about 12:30 pm
Back in November I noticed there was a new joint moving into the building that used to house Mr. B's BBQ in Grand Saline.  Unfortunately they were not open when I went by.  Same last Sunday when I went past on my way to Lake Fork.  On my way back home I managed to stop and get a snack for the road.  I opted for 3 pork ribs and a couple of slices of brisket.  Everything was overcooked but it was also tender, moist, and flavorful.  The brisket slices were cut very thin and completely crumbled apart.  I asked for fatty brisket but every smidgen of fat had been trimmed away.  The ribs were great big spare ribs with a nice peppery rub.  As I tooled down the road I'd reach in the box and grab a bite and it was all gone before I got to Canton.  That would have been some excellent sandwich meat even though there was no smoke flavor.
They had a tomato based spicy sauce that would have gone well on a sandwich.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

The trip back from Houston

sampled May 23, 2016
As usual we returned from Houston via Lockhart and Taylor.  Despite all the good BBQ we had in Houston, we just had to have some more.  We had lunch on Monday at Black's and for the first time ever I had just an average meal there.  The sausage was very good but there was no smoke flavor in the brisket and the pork rib was under done.
That didn't stop me from getting 2 two pound chunks of frozen brisket for the cooler.  Both were end pieces so I suspect they will warm up just fine.  My buddy Dave from Austin also brought along some cryovac-ed Franklin for us and I swapped him a nice brisket and some beef ribs from Pecan Lodge.
By now the cooler was getting full so I limited myself to just a dozen jalapeno cheese links from Kreuz.
In Taylor we stopped at Vencil Mares' Taylor Cafe where Scott had a sandwich and I grabbed a pound of brisket to go.  Nice to see Mr. Vencil still greeting his customers.  Around the corner we stopped off at Louie Mueller's for a bite of brisket and a dozen jalapeno sausages for my cooler.  I noticed the crew from the Day Tripper TV show were behind the counter getting some footage for a future show there.  I hope Chet and the crew made it to Vencil's too.

My cooler was now  officially filled to the brim.  I even had to scoop out a little ice.  When I got home my Mrs worked her Tetris magic and we managed to get it all into the freezer for some nice eating later this summer.

Houston BBQ Festival 2016

Last week we made it 3 for 3 at the Red Dirt BBQ Festival in Tyler.  This week we made it 4 for 4 at the Houston BBQ Festival.  The folks in Houston seem to have organized the smoothest running event we have been to yet.  Even Texas Monthly could learn some tricks here.
As usual we bought the VIP tickets.  We arrived about 45 minutes early and were 30 or so folks back in the line.  They came down the line with scanners and logged everyone in.  That was followed with a cart carrying the VIP bags, lanyards, and other goodies, and then by a third cart carrying T-shirts.  All we did was get in line and they came around and checked us in.  They even had a drink cart going up and down the line for beverage purchases while we waited.  All as easy as easy gets.  They even provided a small cardboard tray for those who hadn't brought one.  Our beer box trays were bigger, but what a great idea!
At 11:45 they opened the gate and let us in, 15 minutes early!  A nice treat for those of us who arrived early.  Inside we did our usual deal, gathering 5 or 6 samples in our boxes then heading back to a nice covered tent to chow down.
As always, we just had a bite or two from each offering then saved anything we liked to our big ziploc bags.  With 26 joints to sample, and some very generous participants, that amounted to a LOT of food.
As always, sample size and content varied widely.  The photo above is a good example.  Roegel's was handing out whole beef ribs while nearby you got a small cube of brisket and another of pork belly.  A few had sides, many had wild offerings from boudain balls, smoked alligator, pastrami, jalapeno poppers, and more.
Chocolate mousse, fried corn, and all kinds of sausage.
Tri tip, meatloaf stuffed onions, and even some root beer!
All the non-BBQ stuff was fun, but we were there for the brisket, ribs, and sausage.
The transformation of the food at this event has really been quite amazing.  At the first fest 4 years ago the food wasn't nearly this good.  This year I had some outstanding brisket at many different stations, many excellent ribs, and some wonderful sausage of all kinds.  Back in 2013, when we bagged the food we liked, we only had a small portion to bring back.  This year I filled one and a half gallon bags with excellent BBQ after I took my one or two bites from all 26 joints attending.  We managed to get through all 26 in the golden hour.
I am hard pressed to name favorites, but Roegel's beef rib was awesome and so was Killen's brisket and ribs.  Of all the brisket samples, I only dumped one that was tough and undercooked.  Same with the ribs.  While before I was doubtful, I think Houston finally has a BBQ scene that is really worth celebrating.  In fact, we had better BBQ in Houston than we did in Lockhart this trip.  Now that is a change I never thought I'd see!
The long beer lines of past fests were gone.  I think the main change was more workers at the beer tent plus the roaming drink carts which moved inside with the patrons.  
They also didn't have the formalized ID checking that goes on at Red Dirt and creates a whole line problem of its own.  My gray hair was my ID, but I'm sure they were checking the younger folks.  Common sense.
I'll add some photos of food and booths below.  Click on any photo for a larger view.

Houston BBQ Festival 2016 Food pix