Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Smoking Sausage

I have smoked brisket, pork ribs, and pork butts so far. It was time to try to make my own sausage. I have been scared to make it. I thought I would f- it up. I have been smoking/cooking quite a few things lately on Sundays and decided it was time to tackle this beast. Amber got me the Kitchenaid attachments one year for Christmas, and I was finally able to use the sausage stuffer.
I found natural hog casing at HEB for under five bucks. You could make a lot of sausage with one package. My plan was to make a few links. I was going to use 50% beef chuck and 50% pork butt. I thought I had grounded up beef chuck leftover from making Italian sausage, but I was wrong. It was pork butt. I need to label stuff before I put them in the freezer. I guess I was going to do an all-pork sausage. I had about seven pounds of pork. I added salt, black pepper, garlic, and crushed red pepper. I pan fried the mixture just to make sure it tasted okay. I was happy with it.
You had to soak the casing for about it an hour before you can stuff it. This part was hard. I was going to make three long links but ended up making only one. Amber had to help. It took forever to fill the whole casing. If I was going to make sausage more often, I would invest in a better setup. I will suck it up for now.
The plan was to give the sausage an oak smoke bath for a few hours. I only put one log in the firebox to start with. The sausage hit an internal temperature of 160 degrees in one hour. My sausage was done already. Dammit. I HATE my smoker. I need to get a new one. It is too small and crappily made. Any recs? For it being my first time, I was kind of proud of myself. The sausage tasted good. The grind was perfect. The casing was snappy. I will try to make a beef one next time and also try to do a creative one soon too. I want more smoke next time and to increase the fat content. I will probably save some brisket fat trimmings and add it to the next mixture. I had a ton of leftover mixture so I have been eating it as breakfast sausage for the next week or so.

I want to give out props to all of the BBQ joints that make their own sausage. It is not easy and is time consuming. I promise I will not be hard on you guys the next time I roll through...

Until next time, happy smoking...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

South Austin BBQ

For whatever reason, we do not eat barbecue very often in our little town of Kyle. We have been to Milt's a handful of times. I think it is because Amber is with me when I am at home, and BBQ is not her first choice. I was excited when South Austin BBQ opened up in Kyle about six months ago. It took over the spot along I-35 where Milt's vacated when they moved. It is a family ran business with John Zamora Sr and Jr. Do not Google just South Austin BBQ. You will never find it. Add Kyle to the search.
Amber and I stopped in for lunch on a Tuesday. There are quite a few options of meat on the menu. Not many places I go to offer plates anymore so I was excited to see a 3-meat plate for twelve bucks. Count me in with moist brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. Amber got a Z-Bowl which is essential Frito pie with no cheese. The brisket was okay. It was falling apart and tasted fine. The ribs had a good flavor and were smoky, but they were dry and looked old. They were closed Sunday and Monday so hopefully I was not fed Saturday's ribs. Although the sausage was on the greasy side, it had a nice texture and snap to the casing. Beans were fine and nothing special to note about the potato salad. You get a huge portion with the Z-Bowl. It will fill you up. I wish it came with cheese. It would have brought everything together better.
I was a little disappointed in this visit. I guess I was expecting great things. I will give South Austin BBQ another shot considering it is so close to our house. I might stop in during the weekend next time. I am changing up my grading system. If I thought the barbecue was average or below average, I am going to lump them together as Other. People get really defensive or go on the offensive when the grade is low. I do not have time for all that shenanigans. The places that are above average deserve a little more recognition for what they are doing. Grade: Other
Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 905 Old HWY 81 N, Kyle, TX 78640
Phone: (512) 262-0568

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Smoked Fried Chicken

Or is it fried smoked chicken?

I love fried chicken. I am a fan of smoked chicken. I came up with the notion to combine the two a long time ago. I just have not had the chance to put this idea into fruition. Recently I found out that a place in Houston that does smoked fried chicken, but no places I can think of does this in the Austin area. Hint, hint.

This is not a recipe. This post is merely me experimenting and documenting it. You can adapt anything I do to your own personal taste.
Brined chicken
Salt and pepper
Smoked chicken
I brined the chicken overnight in salt and sugar. I did not want the meat to dry out especially with the two-step cooking process. I decided on thighs and legs because they are smaller and easier to deal with than breasts.  I dried the chicken the next day and seasoned them with salt and pepper. Cold smoking is the probably the best way to do it, but my current setup is a piece so I knew it was going to be impossible. I am greedy with smoke flavor so I left the pieces in the smoker for two hours. When I pulled them, the internal temperature was at 160 degrees. In the end it did not matter, but next time, I would remove them from the smoke bath earlier. Frying the chicken will bring the internal temperature higher anyways. 
Louisiana hot sauce and buttermilk dredge
All-purpose flour and cayenne pepper
Chicken ready to be fried
Frying chicken
The chicken rested and cooled down for a little bit. I double dredged the chicken to get a crispier and crunchier texture. The wet ingredients were Louisiana hot sauce and buttermilk and the dry were all-purpose flour and cayenne pepper. I prefer a lot of heat. The coated chicken hung out for 30 minutes on a wire rack before I threw them in the 350 degrees oil. We have an electric stove, and it sucks. We wish we had the choice of gas in our neighborhood. It is tough to maintain a consistent temperature. It took about nine minutes for the pieces to get to a golden brown color. The internal temperature was 180 degrees. I let them dry and cool down on a wire rack.
Smoked & fried chicken

The smoked fried/fried smoked chicken was delicious. There was a ton of flavor. Each bite had a deep smoke taste. The skin was crispy and crunchy. My wife made some homemade mashed potatoes, and I even pickled some jalapeños to complement the meal. It was fun to bring my idea to life. I am not sure I would do this again though. It was just too much work in my opinion. If someone else was doing the cooking, I would gladly eat it.

Until next time, happy smoking...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

King's Hwy Brew & Q

I did a barbecue run to San Antonio on a Tuesday recently. I wanted to try the Tuesday only pastrami beef rib special from The Granary 'Cue & Brew. It was delicious and worth the drive, but I was going to make the most of my time in SA and hit another couple of stops. Emilio Soliz used to be the pitmaster at Two Bros BBQ Market before he went on his own and started Sweet Christi's BBQ (named after his wife). King's Hwy Brew & Q was born when the owners of Taps y Tapas changed their menu, and Emilio took over at the helm. The name King's Hwy comes from the area of Five Points crossing with the El Camino Real or "The Kings Highway." King's Hwy has been open for about five months now.
I was the only customer there when I arrived. It was prime lunch time, but it was also a Tuesday. The menu had quite a few options. Meat by the pound, sandwiches, street tacos, and even tortas (Mexican sandwiches). I ordered some moist brisket, Sweet Tea Glazed pork ribs, and a sausage link with a pork belly taco. When I got my food, everything looked yummy. The brisket was lean which back in the day would bother me. Mistakes happen but a good lean brisket can go a long way. This one was a little dry and chewy. The flavor and smoke were on-point. The brisket could have used a little longer bath in the smoker to render the fat more. It reminded me of the one from Two Bros. The Sweet Tea Glazed pork ribs were really good. The rub with the tender rib meat tasted delicious. The meat could barely stay on the bone, and you noticed the sweet glaze in every bite. There was nothing special about the commercial sausage they use. The casing was snappy and was a good complement on the menu. You guys know I am a sucker for pork belly so I had to get it on a taco. The tortillas are not made in-house but by a local place. The fresh tortilla with the pork belly made for an excellent match. The pork was salty, peppery, and fatty which I love and combine it with some smoke, made for some delicious bites. The taco combo is a great deal. Four tacos and a side for six bucks!
With the name of King's Hwy Brew & Q, you would think the barbecue would be secondary here. It is not. The name should have been the other way around. They did have quite a few numbers of craft beers on tap. It would be definitely a cool place to chill and grab a brew and some quality 'cue. The brunch menu looks tempting. I need to bring my wife here someday for it. I am still surprised at how dead it was at lunch given the quality of the barbecue. I stopped on the way out of town at Smoke Shack BBQ to get a Rueben sandwich. Tasty. #yearofpastrami Grade: B-
Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 1012 N Flores St, San Antonio, TX 78212
Phone: (210) 277-7174


Monday, March 21, 2016

Smoked Brisket Pho

What is phở? It is a Vietnamese soup with rice noodles. The broth is rich and flavorful and typically beef based. I have seen chicken and vegetarian bases. The meat that accompanies pho can be flank, steak, brisket, tripe, meatball, chicken, and even shrimp. I love rice noodles. I order extra noodles almost every time. Growing up, my mom would cook us pho or we would go out and eat it at least twice a month? I love pho. I love smoked brisket. It was time for a mash-up. I have been wanting to make a smoked brisket pho for a while now. We finally had a free weekend where I could spend a chunk of time at home to cook it.

My friends from 44 Farms sent me five pounds of beef bones and a brisket. I split the brisket and was going to use about three pounds of the flat for the pho. I tried to trim a lot of fat away. I did not want a fatty brisket for the pho. I used about half the salt I would use normally and even less for ground pepper. I wanted the broth to shine more than the meat. I also smoked the bones and onion for about an hour to enhance the flavor and to get rid of the impurities that might end up in the broth. I did not season the bones. I pulled the brisket once the internal temperature hit 190 degrees (about four hours). I could have let the temperature go higher, but I wanted the meat to stay together in the soup. I put the brisket aside to rest for at least an hour.
Beef bone from 44 Farms
Brisket from 44 Farms
Light on salt and lighter on pepper
Smoked beef bones and onions
Brisket off the smoker
Profile of the brisket
I threw the bones, onions, sugar, salt, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, cloves, fish sauce, and ginger all into a stock pot and covered the bones with water. I am going to guess I used about six quarts of water. We did not have a big enough pot so I split everything in half into two separate pots. Bring the water to a boil and simmer it. You will have to add water during the process due to evaporation. I am guessing I added another two quarts or so. You can put the ingredients in a mesh bag so it is easier to get out.
After about five hours, I pulled out the bones and combined the broth. I strained it through a mesh colander with a coffee filter. That help get rid of some of the fat as well. You might have to add more salt to the broth depending on how much water evaporated. I bought fresh rice noodles for the soup, but you can buy the dry kind at most grocery stores and boil them in water.
Ladle time
I typically see onion, cilantro, and green onion in the soup when pho is served. I put everything in the bowl first and then ladle in the broth. You can garnish the pho with jalapeño, mint, basil, bean sprouts, and/or lime. You can also dip the meat in hoisin sauce and/or Sriracha. Not this time. It was about the smoked brisket. I thought the meal turned out great. It took a lot of time and effort, but it was worth at least doing it once. It was fun. The brisket was wonderful, and the broth was smoky, rich and had a ton of flavor. Nice depth to it. Even Amber was impressed. It was pho-nomenal.
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons salt
5 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 cloves
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 ginger about 6 inches long broken into pieces
2 onions

Until next time, happy smoking...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

TMBBQ Fire & Smoke - Pitmaster Tim Rattray & Chef John Brand

I have been to a lot of TMBBQ events over the years. Fest, Road Trip, and Behind the Pit Dinner but never Fire & Smoke until now. Photographer whiz/friend Robert Lerma was shooting the event for 44 Farms and invited me along. The event was being held in San Antonio at the new Hotel Emma in the Pearl District. The hotel combines the elements of the old brewery and a classic, refined look into a beautiful, well thought out space. The culinary mash-up involved Pitmaster/owner/chef Tim Rattray of The Granary and Chef John Brand of Supper. Robert and I arrived in San Antonio early so we spent some time at The Granary. We watched and took pictures (of course) of Tim and his staff prepping for the dinner which was pretty cool.
44 Farms strip loins that have been cold smoked and now being seasoned
Loins being grilled on a Big Green Egg
Finished product
Profile view
44 Farms smoked pastrami
Pastrami being wrapped for the event
The Calm
•Carrot 'Elote" + Espelette Crema
•Asparagus + Miso Mustard
•Smoked Sardine + Lemon Curd + Caviar Potato Salad
•Millionaires Bacon + Smoked Dates
•44 Farms Beef Tongue Sandwiches + Pickled Vegetables
•44 Farms Grilled Flank Steak + Yam Neua
•Texas Toast + Barbeque Butter
•Grilled Leeks + Smoked Clam Emulsion + Smoked Sea Salt

•44 Farms Beef Cheek + Charred Eggplant + Corn Pudding
•44 Farms Smoked Oxtail Gravy + Cornbread
•44 Farms Smoked Brisket Pastrami + ‘Kraut Aioli + Rye Crumble
•44 Farms Smoked Grilled NY Strip + Barbeque Béarnaise
•Mushrooms + Braised Greens
•Salt and Vinegar Brussel Sprouts
•Crispy Smoked Quail

•IX-XI 911 Cocktail + El Mayor Tequila Anjeo + Licor 43
•Grilled Lemon Poundcake + Blueberry Violet Sorbet
•Butterscotch Pudding + Coconut Tapioca + Pickled Blackberry
•Whoopie Pies + Dulce De Leche
•Cheddar + Apple + Rosemary Galette
•Chocolate Cream Pie
•Sweet Corn Panna Cotta + Huckleberry Compote + Corn Streusel
Smoked Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Roasted Poblano Pico + Smoked Sea Salt
44 Farms Beef Tongue Sandwiches + Pickled Vegetables
44 Farms Grilled Flank Steak being sliced
44 Farms Grilled Flank Steak + Yam Neua
Smoked Sardine + Lemon Curd + Caviar Potato Salad

Texas Toast
Barbeque Butter
44 Farms Smoked Grilled NY Strip + Barbeque Béarnaise
44 Farms Beef Cheek + Charred Eggplant + Corn Pudding
44 Farms Smoked Oxtail Gravy + Cornbread
Crispy Smoked Quail
44 Farms Smoked Brisket Pastrami being sliced
44 Farms Smoked Brisket Pastrami + 'Kraut Aioli + Rye Crumble
There was a lot of food and a lot of courses to eat. I never heard some of the ingredients. I had to Google them. Events likes these let me step out of my culinary comfort zone. I am not afraid to try things. I am just afraid of spending money on something I might regret. The in-house made Texas toast with barbeque butter was excellent. Tim uses the drippings from briskets/pork butts to make the butter. I wish I could buy that stuff. The beef cheek was wonderful. The tenderness and the richness of the meat with other complex flavors and textures made it memorable. I have no words for the smoked oxtail gravy and cornbread. Just wow. Recently Daniel Vaughn declared that the Friday only pastrami at The Granary was the best in America. I have tried the short rib version (Tuesday only) and thought it was fantastic. The pastrami this night did not disappoint. I enjoyed the balance of the smoke and salt. The crust and the tender meat brought it all together. I need to get down there on a Friday soon. Anyone want to join me?
Guards Porsche Red - a drink with El Mayor Silver Tequila garnished with habanero-infused watermelon ice. Delicious.
Dessert Bar
Pitmaster Tim Rattray + Chef John Brand + Daniel Vaughn
I had a great time at Fire & Smoke. Sure the event is pricey, but it is worth it. Come with an open mind and let your taste buds be blown away. Pitmaster Tim Rattray and Chef John Brand did a phenomenal job in joining forces and creating a menu that combined fine dining and barbecue. Their imagination and skills surprised you each time a dish was brought to the table. You kept wanting more even if you were satiated.

Until next time, happy smoking...