brisket

Original Black’s BBQ in Austin

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So you may have heard that Black’s was opening on Riverside. No need to drive out to Lockhart for a bite of delicious Black’s brisket. Unlike Smitty’s, Black’s quality stayed consistent throughout the boom in popularity and Food Network attention, and it continues to be some of the best and easily obtainable (I can’t wait any longer for you, Franklin) Q in town. Thing is, brothers Mark and Mike, grandsons of the original Black, were the ones who decided on Riverside…a move the rest of the family was apparently none too thrilled about. Their uncle, Kent, felt that if Black’s was going to bother to open in Austin, it better be done right. And since Kent is the one with the rights to the name, the Original Black’s BBQ opened 3110 Guadalupe Street right near campus in October of this year. Which means it’s best to go when UT isn’t in session. And there’s no game or festival going on.

A day like Saturday December 27th.

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As expected, The Original Black’s on Guadalupe has everything right down to beef ribs. Links of sausage, original and jalapeño cheddar, were $2.49 a piece. The Pork ribs were the spare cut – the BEST cut – as St. Louis style falls to a close second and baby backs being just a joke meant for those who want sauce over meaty fatty melt in your mouth pig flesh. The point is that Black’s is a pro that doesn’t cater to that which isn’t worth it. Their brisket in Austin is just as delicious as their brisket in Lockhart and their sides are standards. All the pickles you can eat, standard cole slaw, über cheese mac, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, potato salad, etc.

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Our order was a small (single) mac & cheese, a single cole slaw, 6 pork ribs, 1/2 lb brisket mixed, and each of the kinds of sausage. The total came to $53. Black’s had plenty of local beers in cans, including a variety from Austin beer works, various bottled and fountain sodas, and, because this is Austin, Topo Chico. Their prices are more expensive than on their website, gotta figure that’s due to their new space and Austin’s rent. Their brisket was $16.50 a pound and the ribs were about $15 a pound. Their beef ribs were about the same. The sides were cheap at a couple of bucks a piece.

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There’s a lot of BBQ in and around Austin. I used to wait until I really needed that melty meat and drive all the way out to Lockhart, pick my favorite cuts from my favorite places and finish off everything with a $1 ice cream cone from Smitty’s. That and their “ambiance” are just about the only reason I stop in there any more. I no longer have to get out there. I love Micklethwait Craft Meats. They’re incredible, but they’re busy enough now where they’re going to need a brick & mortar stat. I was significantly less than impressed with Stiles Switch. And Aaron Franklin is our city sweet heart, known to be a good guy with great eats, doesn’t even need to be touched on. I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to trying Terry Black’s. But now that I know I can get real Black’s brisket and ribs real close, there’s no rush.

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the aftermath.

Austin Gastro Graze 6: Stiles Switch

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So, I haven’t written a Gastro Graze in a while. We have been trying to cut back on eating out, but the amount of new eateries popping up in Austin hasn’t slowed. Yesterday Chip and I decided to try Stiles Switch, a new local barbecue joint on North Lamar.

Stiles Switch has a nice location with an industrial feel and, best yet, lots of parking. That being said, it was 1:30pm on Saturday…and the place was almost empty. The interior of the restaurant was very clean and well kept, and it has a more established feel than the 10 months it’s been open. The gentlemen behind the counter were very nice, as well. For our lunch, Chip and I decided on BBQ staples: 6 pork ribs, 1/2 pound of brisket, and cole slaw. There wasn’t an option for moist (fatty) or lean on the brisket, and we didn’t notice that they also served sausages until after we’d paid for lunch, so I would go back to try their jalapeño cheddar offering. I generally stay away from chicken at BBQ places, which Stiles does serve, only because of its tendency to be dry. We also got a root beer and an orange soda. The total came to $31, which means they’re a bit pricier than Black’s or Smitty’s out in Lockhart, but that’s the price of not having to drive an hour out of town.

Ribs are a staple when gorging myself on smoked meats. A rub can make or break them; I find Cooper’s to be too black peppery though Chip disagrees. Stiles had a decent rub on their ribs, however, that was a good balance of smokey, sweet, salty, with the flavor of pepper coming through without being over-powering. Our lunch order came with a cup of the Stiles sauce which was…interesting. I’m not a big fan of BBQ sauces, but they seemed to be attempting a new spin. Rather than use a base of ketchup in their sauce, it tasted heavily of canned tomato soup. It was odd to say the least, though not all together bad, but most of it remained when Chip and I finished eating.

Stiles Switch sells two kinds of cole slaw and we got a small serving of each. I’m generally not a fan of mayonnaise based cole slaws, but theirs was tasty and not heavy. Chip felt it seemed to be a very basic slaw, however, and nothing special. The other slaw they served was a lemon vinaigrette variety, which was  flavorful and bright, and a nice change of pace from the usual offering. Stiles also offered potato salad and macaroni & cheese, neither of which Chip or I tried.

Now to the brisket. I am picky about my brisket. It should be moist – but not too moist. Unfortunately, the brisket we had at Stiles was closer to beef jerky than to juicy, tender brisket found at Iron Works or Franklin’s. As you can see on the left side of the picture, this brisket is dry. It was also cut very thick, which only served to make its texture all the more unappetizing. Between the two of us, Chip and I only finished one piece of our 1/2 pound of brisket. The bark was tasty, but was ultimately too tough to enjoy.

Would I return to Stiles Switch? Yes, because I would like to try the sausage, and maybe even give the brisket a second chance, but it won’t be any time soon. Would I recommend it? Probably not. My issue that barbecue is not cheap, and there’s so much competition near and far in this area, that a restaurant really can’t afford to make less than great.

 

Triple Chocolate & Shattered Dreams

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Alright, so “shattered dreams” is a bit over dramatic.

I haven’t been writing lately and I just feel awful. I don’t know what I think. That something will come from all of this? I don’t know. I’m ridiculous. I have been exhausted recently, some weekend  nights sleeping almost 12 hours, getting up in the morning only because I know I have to rouse myself from bed.

I’m not depressed, in fact I have a new job that I like very much. It’s just that said job keeps me very, very busy and by the time I get home I can barely get through the gym and cooking dinner, let alone cooking anything new and interesting.

And it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve been cooking a bit, but mostly making old standards. I’ve been meaning to do Pop Bytes as well, what with the over abundance of movie news for the summer, among other things, but I just…haven’t. Below are some pictures of foods I’ve made recently that I completely had intentions of posting here with recipes, none of which really matter, but keep scrolling and you’ll see the recipe for the triple chocolate cookies I’m baking as we speak. Rock.

Super easy scratch drop cheddar biscuits.

Grilled Pizza with eggplant, mozzarella, and smoked provolone.

Slow roasted Brisket in a red wine reduction with braised & blackened Brussel Sprouts.

Year of the Dragon cupcakes with Lemon-Vanilla center.

And this morning I mastered making poached eggs…

Which I ate with toast, a slice of aged provolone, fresh cherry tomatoes, salt & pepper.

Yum.

So, Triple Chocolate Cookies, yeah?

 This is from the America’s Test Kitchen archives. I was thinking of making chocolate crinkles or crackles or whateverthehell they’re called, but I didn’t like any of the recipes I’ve found. Normally, I have no problem with tweaking a recipe and experimenting, but today I wanted a no brainer.

3 oz. baker’s chocolate

1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) bittersweet chocolate chips. VERY important.

7 TBSPs unsalted butter

2 tsp instant espresso

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

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Okay, so melt the baker’s chocolate, bittersweet chips, and butter together. Either use a double boiler, also known as a glass bowl over a simmer sauce pot of water, or ye olde microwave. You want it to be smooth and shiny. It’s important that the chips are bittersweet here because the chips have an emulsifier in them that helps them keep their shape, and that emulsifier will work the same magic on our cookies. I fucking love science in food!

Set aside the shiny chocolate. Mix the vanilla & instant espresso together, making instant vanilla espresso extract. It smells amazing, and that’s going to be incorporated through your cookies. Awesome. Now set that aside. In a stand mixer, beat the 3 eggs with the sugar for about 4 minutes on medium-high speed. I stupidly forgot to take a picture of this, but the mixture needs to be thicker, white, and almost creamy. While that’s frothing away, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Ready? Set it aside. Once the 4 minutes are up on the eggs and sugar, turn the mixer down to low, you don’t want to break that froth that you’ve made, and add the extract mixture. Then add the chocolate concoction and continue mixing for another 30 seconds on low, until everything is well blended.

Turn off the mixer and fold in the flour mixture, as well as the semi-sweet chocolate chips. The batter is like brownie batter at this point; set it aside for 30-45 minutes and it will thicken quite a bit. No, you don’t have to refrigerate it. Just set it aside. If it’s July and you live in Austin or Phoenix, then you might want to refrigerate the mixture, but otherwise, the counter is fine.

Once thickened, scoop heaping tablespoons of the chocolate goo on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350. I baked mine for 10 minutes and they probably could’ve used a minute or two more, but my oven normally runs warm. Now here’s the hard part: When you take them out you’re going to think “Those aren’t cooked through!” In fact, a toothpick should come out completely coated in browie-cookieness, if you were to test it. The thing is that these cool forever. Well, it feels like forever. So, take out your so-not-done cookies after about 11-12 minutes, and let sit on the cookie sheets  for ten minutes. Then move them to a cooling rack for an additional 30 minutes. You heard me. Finish baking these cookies and then go out and complete all your shopping, because it seems like an eternity for these to finally cool.

Once they are cool, though, you’re rewarded with a soft, chewy, triple chocolate espresso brownie cookie. Does anyone need these? No. Do you have to have them? Yes.