Low and slow

Ahoy hoy, Wizbangers. It might seem a little odd with the target-rich environment conservative leaning bloggers enjoy these days but I’m feeling apolitical this weekend. I’ve been up to my eyeballs at the office for the past few weeks and I’m using the long weekend as a well deserved opportunity to draw flies. So far that includes a two hour, pants-off, under-the-covers nap earlier this afternoon. There are eleven hundred miles of racing on the tube tomorrow and that means one thing for the ol’ Baron – barbecue.

Of course, the basic principle of bbq is to take a sorry, tough hunk of meat and cook it slowly at a low temperature until it’s tender. Brisket is the classic example. I remember back when I was in college this chick asked me to go to a Super Bowl party at one of her friends’ place. When she told me he was barbecuing a brisket, well, how could I say no? We show up about an hour before kickoff – me with a quart or so of my famous million dollar guacamole – and I start looking around for the smoker. Nothing in sight but a gas grill. Oh well, I figure, store bought bbq. Then I notice our host is in the kitchen preoccupied with something.

So I mosey over and sure enough he’s rubbing salt and pepper into an uncooked cryovac brisket. “Uh, dude,” I said, “what time are you planning on serving that brisket?” He assured me it would be ready just after kickoff. Well that’s all I needed to know. Off I went to load up on guacamole, queso, and other fillers. The Baron’s no fool. Told the chick I was with she’d better do the same but she had her mind set on bbq. I explained the hour per pound reality of brisket. Then I watched in bemusement a couple of hours later when he yanked that sixteen pound behemoth off his gas grill and tried to hack through it with the kind of crappy kitchen knife you’d expect a neophyte like him to own. Funnier still was watching my date trying to gnaw her way through one of the black-on-the-outside-pink-on-the-inside “bbq” sandwiches he finally managed to serve.

On the plus side, it was easy to hear the game because everyone was chewing and choking on their shoe leather sandwiches well into the fourth quarter.

Cuts like brisket or pork butt are commodities in my book and I just look for them on sale then stock up the freezer. Since they’re getting cooked for twelve plus hours it doesn’t make sense to pay extra. The problem is that your average supermarket meat counter doesn’t sell some of the cuts I want and they generally don’t have top quality meat for grilling. Having people over for a barbecue means I’m getting up at the crack of freaking dawn and tending a fire all day, having people over for a cookout means 30-45 minutes of grilling at high heat. Marinades and seasoning aside, the key to a memorable cookout is the quality of the meat.

Anyway, there’s a butcher shop near my house that I’ve driven by hundreds of times but never stopped. I rang them earlier this week to confirm they’re open on Saturdays and stopped by today. They’re going to be getting a lot of my business. It’s a true family affair, three generations were there working today. And the meat! USDA Prime beef from Iowa. Magnificent looking strip steaks. Plus they make their own sausage. I generally make my own sausage, but it’s nice to have a place close by where I can pick up some chorizo made with pork butts instead of that everything-but-the-squeal crud sold at the grocery store. They make their own all beef franks too. If you’re in Dallas you need to go to David’s Meat Market, it’s definitely worth the drive.

Now you’re probably putting two and two together right about now and deducing that the Baron isn’t truly barbecuing at all this weekend. Why go to an upscale meat market if you’re cooking low and slow? Guilty as charged, sort of. I went there to pick up a couple of beef tri-tip roasts. They’re ~2.5 pound cuts off the butt end of the sirloin. Pretty decent cuts of meat that get done in just a couple of hours depending on at what temperature they’re cooked. Since it’s a nice cut it can be served medium/medium well. The ones I picked up have nice fat caps so I can cook them a little low and slow for some extra smoke flavor, but I’m only figuring about four hours from when I light the fire until they’re ready to pull off and let rest.

Like I said, I’m feeling lazy this weekend. Hopefully everyone here has got something similar planned. As you savor your delicious grill fare be sure and give thanks to those brave members of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Bon appetit and God Bless America.

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