BBQ = World Peace

I believe the NH clan did Texas proud Thursday night.  The brisket was tender and the ribs were fall-off-the-bone moist.  Brits, Slovaks, Australians, Czechs and Canadians were gorging on slow-cooked meat saying things like, “So you can get this stuff everywhere in Texas?  Now I see why you like it so much.”  Mrs. NH’s mac ‘n cheese was devoured by the forkful as I informed many of our guests what a brisket is.   Skinny European wives were grabbing nibbles of the tender cut off of the serving tray with no utensils and no shame.

I’m proud.

I’m also glad to have such good friends to come to such a party.  In a moment outside in front of the grill, away from the cacophony of  about 8 kids and twice as many adults, I paused and marveled at just how lucky our family is.  Friends and family are two of the most precious things in life.  Getting to enjoy both while eating BBQ was a trifecta.

Meringue Ghosts and BBQ

I’m cooking ribs and brisket and Mrs. NH is in some sort of a Halloween cookie frenzy.  Pumpkin-orange icing and pointy hooded ghosts abound in the dining room.  We’re finally making good on our promise to have our local friends over for Texas BBQ tomorrow.  The beer is chilling, the ribs are resting and 8lbs. of brisket are primed and ready for the oven.  Between that Mrs. NH’s mac ‘n cheese extravaganza, it should be a helluva Thursday.

Summer Barbeque in the Oven

The temperature hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Prague this weekend and our apartment is on the top floor, with lots of windows and absolutely no A/C.  So, you could say that cranking an oven up to 300° for five hours and 400° for another hour and a half would not be in most families’ plans.  However, we’re not most families.  We are meat loving Texas BBQ freaks by nature.  We miss ribs and brisket.  If we don’t get ribs and brisket, we get cranky.  So, heat be damned, we made ribs and brisket.

I’ve been making Coca-Cola Brisket for years but have finally perfected it.  I have a pretty basic dry rub that I use that consists of paprika, cumin, S&P, garlic and chili powder.  It does the trick for me and doesn’t include any weird (to my palate) aromatics like cinnamon or ginger.  It’s what I imagine cowboys using after rustling cattle all day.  And man, it just works.  That, a 5 pound fatty brisket and a few ounces of Coke and it’s cooking time.

Now this is the part I had to kind of tinker with over the years.  For years I cooked it with the heat too low.  It was always tasty but too tough.  Somewhere I saw a recipe that said I should cook it a 225 F.  Little did I know, that wasn’t hot enough to melt all the fat and make the brisket fork tender – how it should be.  So, I did a little more research online and found that fat melts between 275 and 300 and still keeps the meat moist.  That did it.  The brisket we had this weekend was better than many of the briskets that I sampled on my last swing through Texas.  I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true.  There was just one thing missing – smoke.

However, I took care of the smoke quotient on my second dish, ribs, by cheating with impunity.  I used a bottle of liquid smoke that Fredericksburg Flash and Mrs. Flash had imported on one of their recent trips to Prague.  (To see the more traditional, smoky route taken, check out Scamp’s post here.)  For the ribs, I used the same rub plus a couple of tablespoons of instant coffee and a few dashes of liquid smoke on the ribs.  I put them in a baking dish and poured in a bottle of dark Krušovice beer that I had boiled to reduce by 1/2.  After covering the pan tightly with foil, I put those babies in a 400° oven for 1.5 hours and watched as Ma NH put the finishing touches on some ‘tater salad and doctored a can of baked beans.

The ribs were barely clinging to the bone as I took them out of the oven.  Mrs. NH, not a huge rib fan (she doesn’t like things still on the bone – the McRib demographic?), sampled some of the meat that I pulled off one of the costillas.  She was floored.  I don’t even bother finishing these things on the grill.  The beer and rub give them so much flavor that even a quick dip in BBQ sauce is completely optional.

I congratulated myself loudly through the entire meal.  I think it’s time to have our Prague friends over for an oven BBQ.  This meat combo, Mrs. NH’s potato salad, a cooler of cold beer and a peach pie made with my Grandma’s recipe could make any summer heat tolerable.  Even if you happen to also be standing next to a 400 degree oven.

Cranky Frank’s BBQ – Fredericksburg, TX

I love to cook.  Part of the reason for that is the fact that I love to eat.  What’s more, I really like to eat good stuff.  So, Mrs. NH and I have put our cooking skills to use over the past 5 or so years in order to recreate the flavors from the US that we miss eating.  However, there’s one flavor that we haven’t been able to completely master in our Prague apartment.  That’s barbecue.  We’ve tried and even had some good success with ribs cooked in dark Czech beer and the legendary Coca-Cola brisket.  They hold our cravings at bay.  Well, I should say they did until this last trip to Texas.  Then, darnit, my folks took us to Cranky Frank’s and ruined everything.

Cranky Frank’s, quite simply, is the best Texas BBQ I have ever had.  No, I’m not the biggest Q expert on the planet but I do know the good stuff when I have it.  On our last swing through Texas, we hit the aforementioned Frank’s (Fredericksburg), Rudy’s (Austin), Strack Farms (Spring), and Salt Lick (Dripping Springs).  All had something to love, but honestly, Cranky Frank’s kicked the butt of all of them.

I ate there several years back when it was still Ken Hall BBQ and it wasn’t as good.  This time, it was superlative.  Tender, moist and succulently salty ribs.  Pull apart brisket laced with just enough fat to equal tons of flavor.  And the right “bang” of vinegar in the potato salad to stand up to Frank’s signature sauces.  Smokey beans with a nice, silky texture.  Wow, wow, wow.  It so hurts to write this post from over 3000 miles away.  I topped all of those flavors off with a Lone Star beer (criminally underrated brew, by the way) and haven’t stopped talking about the meal since then.  To add to it, I brought a Cranky Frank’s bumper sticker to a Welshman named Frank who works down the hall from my office.  Lo and behold, he’d been to Fredericksburg but sadly for him, not to Frank’s.

No, that meal hasn’t left my mind since I took the first bite off of those beautifully smoked ribs.  It’s the gold standard of Texas BBQ as far as this blogger is concerned.  The fact that it’s something we can’t replicate at home makes it all the more legendary – and that makes me cranky.

German Beer and Texas BBQ Brisket

It is the last day of  our Easter weekend here (Monday is a national holiday in the majority of European countries) and we’ve used the day to do some spring cleaning.  We also put a big ‘ol beef brisket in the oven this morning, whipped up some homemade mac ‘n cheese and tapped a mini-keg of Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel beer that I received from a friend of a friend.  Here’s what things looked like for an early dinner.  I only wish every weekend ended like this.

Brisket

Just finishing the last of the beer as I post this.  Couch time to follow…