Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Salt Lick Cookbook

The Salt Lick is a place that holds many fond memories for me.  Back in the mid 70's, I spent one year at U.T. Austin, mostly partying (and I had the G.P.A. to prove it).  The Salt Lick already held legendary status by that time, mainly for their Family Style service.  I don't remember the exact pricing, but as I recall, the deal was they would serve up to 6 people, family style, all you could eat, for $30 or so.  At least twice a month, we would be scouring the dorm trying to find 6 people who had at least $5 and were willing to drive "way out in the country" to Driftwood.   There was never a problem finding folks who wanted to go, but finding folks with $5 was a bit tougher.  Many a night we closed the place down and left so full we didn't need to eat for a day or two after.

I was not much of a rib eater back then, but I could never get enough of their brisket and sausage.  They also had delicious bread, baked fresh, served hot and just about the only side I ever ate.  The trick was not getting filled up on bread and that was difficult because it was so good.

I remember my folks coming down to visit one weekend and I had to take  them out to the Salt Lick (their treat, of course).  We sat on the closed in porch and had a nice visit while we dined on some fine smoked meats.  It was during the spring and the hummingbird feeders were buzzing with activity and my folks were just fascinated.  Soon after that, hummingbird feeders started appearing along the back of their house and that was something they enjoyed to the end of their days. 

Now this was all long before I started getting crazy about BBQ.  I don't have a single photo from back then, except in my head.  The last time I was in Driftwood to eat was back in 2005, but I did just sample them again at the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival last weekend.  Imagine my surprise at receiving an e-mail this week about a new Salt Lick Cookbook and an offer to review it for my blog.  Now I have received offers like that before, but I usually decline in favor of folks like Man Up or Full Custom Gospel because they are doing a lot more with BBQ than I ever will.  I just like to eat.  However this source peaked my interest and I quickly had a PDF version of the book in my in box to peruse.  A few hours later I had read through the whole thing!

First off, this is not really a BBQ book.  It is more of a family cookbook that happens to include some very good BBQ tips and recipes.  The most interesting parts, to me, were the family history and stories of how the Salt Lick came to be.  I remember wondering how that little Japanese lady happened to be running a Texas BBQ joint way out in the country south of Austin.  Well the whole story is right there in the book.  It's a great story.  Only in Texas would you find a recipe for chicken-fried venison prefaced with a story of how little Hisako Roberts knocked down a big buck with a bucket full of pecans then dispatched it with a rock!  The book is full of stories like that, interspersed with family recipes, some familiar, some not, but all tied together by the Roberts family and their hill country BBQ business. 

The BBQ part of the book starts to get serious on page 179.  First off, no, they do not reveal their sauce recipe.  There has to be a little mystery remaining, right?  Pit master Scott Roberts tells you all about brisket, sausage, pork and beef ribs, from how to select the right piece of meat, to carving it up after it's done.  There is a great little BBQ school in just 30 pages or so.  But there is much more.  Chicken, prime rib, turkey, and even desserts like peach cobbler and pecan pie have their own recipes and yummy photos.  There are even step by step photos for some recipes, like pecan pie, which show you each step in the process.  I can promise you I am going to be trying a few of these recipes soon.  Especially the brisket poppers and brisket burgers. 

There are many more photos in the book, not just of food, but of the hill country around Driftwood and historic photos of the Roberts family and their land.  In fact "lavishly illustrated" would be a good term to use, so there it is.  The total runs about 330 pages and a rough guess on the make-up would be about 20% family stories and history, 40% recipes, and 40% photos.  It's a nice mix and an easy ready.  The pictures will make you hungry and the recipes are right there to help you fix that.  The book won't be out til later this year, but you can pre-order now through the Salt Lick website.  I ordered one for myself and look forward to adding it to my bookshelf!

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