Okay, if you've never been to Texas -- or any of the southern states -- then you have no idea what I mean. Heck!! I had no idea what I meant!!
You see, until my trip to Dallas, I thought I knew about BBQ. We do it all the time at home. And we don't keep it for just the summer time, we BBQ year round. So I head to Dallas with a "show me" attitude that would put a Missourian to shame!! I mean, after all, we have BBQ'd all manner of meat, fish and vegetables. There was nothing I hadn't tried.
BBQ is so much a part of Texas that it's enshrined -- right up there with the two-step, ten gallon hats and longhorns. There are over 1300 BBQ "joints" -- yes, someone actually counted them -- and they range from road side shacks to full service restaurants with views.
And you can find BBQ everywhere. It's the quintessential fund-raiser and an integral part of Texas hospitality from family reunions to political fundraisers. So you know something this important to the lives of your average Texan is going to be fraught with controversy. Rumour has it there's a BBQ joint somewhere in Texas that has the following sign over its front door: "Bar-b-que, sex and death are subjects that provoke intense speculation in most Texans. Of the three, bar-b-cue is probably taken the most seriously." I never saw it myself, but I don't question local folk lore.
One of the first things you discover about BBQ in Texas is that they don't mean the kind of BBQ we do up North. They call that grilling and while they don't actually say it's for the faint of heart, well, you can draw your own conclusions. To be called true bar-be-cue, the meat must be slow cooked in a cooker that closes, holding in the smoke that is the essence of bar-be-cue flavour. And, barbecuing is a long slow process, sometimes taking as much as 24 hours.
The secret recipes for "the best bar-be-cue" are guarded more closely than most countries guard their national treasures. And rightly so, having had some of the "best" in Dallas, I am hooked!!
Most recipes call for slow cooking over some kind of wood chips, usually hickory or mesquite, although pecan and oak are also favourites. The meat is rubbed with dry spices and then basted with a bar-be-cue sauce that ranges in flavour from sweet to spicy.
Beef is the king of the pit, most often the brisket or ribs are used although sausage is also good. As well, you'll find turkey, chicken and pork on most pit menus and in certain areas of Texas you'll find local specialties. East Texas is known for mutton, West Texas offers cabrito (young goat).
And you know another myth I found to be true?? The more run down and "I wouldn't be caught dead in here" a place looks, the more likely it is to serve up some of the best bar-be-cue you've ever tasted!! But don't believe me, try it out for yourself!!
So. You wanna try your own version do you?? I knew you would, so I asked my friend and host for my Dallas trip, Brenda Everroad (a Texan by way of Louisiana) to run me through the paces of an authentic Texas BBQ. Here's what she told me:
Take your brisket and rub your seasonings into it. Place it in a pan and pour enough water into it to come halfway up the side. Cover it with chopped onion. Cook covered overnight at 275F.
The next morning, fire up your grill, add your wood chips, place your brisket over the slow heat, cover and cook several hours. Pour your barbecue sauce over the whole thing and cook 30 to 40 minutes more.
Slice thinly and serve with boiled potatoes and fresh corn on the cob.